It’s always fun to wax poetic about what an NBA rookie could be. There’s also little challenge in saying “Anthony Davis will probably win Rookie of the Year.” As such, we’ve combed through the 2012 NBA rooks, coming up with this list of 10 under-the-radar names who will make their presence felt this year. Could be an eventual spot in the starting rotation, or it could be shouldering some crucial substitution minutes, but make no mistake: the following players will pay major dividends for the teams that drafted them.
Royce White, Houston Rockets – His anxiety disorder is well-documented; one has to wonder if he would have been a top-10 pick without it. There’s little that the power forward out of Iowa State can’t do, but what stands out is his passing ability: White led his Cyclones team in assists, and is drawing comparisons to an in-shape Boris Diaw for his diverse skill set.
Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics – Should start over Brandon Bass by the All-Star game. Sullinger brings a polished back-to-the-basket game, one that should complement KG’s infatuation with the midrange game rather nicely.
Tony Wroton, Memphis Grizzlies – Won’t crack the starting rotation in Memphis, but Wroton is a talented two-guard with the ball-handling necessary to play point and the size needed to play the two. His outside shooting leaves a lot to be desired, but he should make a name coming off of Memphis’s bench.
Perry Jones, Oklahoma City Thunder – Jones got a bad rap at Baylor for not blossoming into the super-duper star that many had envisioned. Luckily for him, he’ll be an after-after thought on an OKC squad with title aspirations, able to carve out a niche without the pressures of being the B.M.O.C. Trust us, you will see Jones on multiple SportsCenter Top 10’s this year, begging the question: how the hell did the Thunder get so lucky?
Fab Melo, Boston Celtics – Melo was one of college basketball’s more polarizing players last year; for all of the hype that he brought to Syracuse’s defense, his stats never seemed to reflect much more than a role player. Regardless, you can’t teach the size that Melo has, and he’s more than willing to throw his body around. And with Kevin Garnett as his mentor, we could see him blossom into something of a Tyson Chandler 2.0.
Doron Lamb, Milwaukee Bucks – The high scorer in Kentucky’s championship-winning game, Lamb flew under the radar thanks to an incredibly deep Wildcat squad that produced six (!!) NBA draft picks. He’ll be a perfect option off the bench for a Bucks team in desperate need of some depth.
Tyler Zeller, Cleveland Cavaliers – The best center in the 2012 draft fell a couple of notches because of a perceived lack of upside. While he isn’t the athletic freak that, say, Andre Drummond is, Zeller’s polished inside-and-out game will make him a great running mate for Kyrie Irving for years to come. Don’t be surprised to see Zeller make one or two All-Star games before it’s all said and done.
Marquis Teague, Chicago Bulls – Teague and Kirk Heinrich have some mighty big shoes to fill. Look for the former to play much, much better than the veteran. Quick and athletic enough to carve his way to the basket, Teague will hold the fort down until Rose comes back for a late season playoff push.
Jae Crowder, Dallas Mavericks – The second-rounder out of Marquette has looked like a revelation in preseason games, making up for his lack of size and athleticism with strength and smart shot selection. Look for a very high shot percentage for his position, great defense and some heat on Shawn Marion to hold onto that starting spot.
Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets – Drafted in the first round of 2011 but making his NBA debut this season, the young Lithuanian has been a force during the Summer League circuit and during preseason play. Much more offensively capable than Houston’s other young big man, Omer Asik.