Every year before the NBA Draft, through countless hours of analyzing, GMs are ultimately left guessing which player would be best for his organization. The most common words or phrases thrown around are “potential” and “high ceiling.” There are players who had better college careers than others, but because of a lack of athleticism, they get overlooked. There are indicators that help in evaluating players, but it is rare to be certain of a strong NBA player until he steps foot on an NBA court.
Sometimes GMs are absolutely right, and other times they couldn’t be more wrong (Kwame Brown, anyone?). But they receive the most scrutiny when they choose a player with a lottery pick and he turns out to be anything but a formidable player. It’s hard to judge these particular players even after their first year in the NBA, but seeing the draft class of 2012 play one full year and then a month and a half into this season, evaluations can be made more accurately.
In this list, just as my feature earlier today on the five best from the 2012 class, these players had to be taken in the lottery. At the end of the day, you can’t hold lottery picks and second rounders to the same standards. You just can’t — guaranteed contracts, roster spots, expectations… it all factors in. Upon saying that, here are the five worst sophomores in the NBA this season.
*We all know Kendall Marshall would normally make this list. He’s already been banished to the D-League. But we’re sticking with players that are actually playing for NBA teams this year, and Marshall has yet to step foot on an NBA court in 2013-14.*
[RELATED: The 5 Best Sophomores In The NBA]
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5. JEREMY LAMB
Jeremy Lamb faced scrutiny and unfair expectations coming into his rookie season. After being a part of the James Harden trade, Lamb, with the help of Kevin Martin, was expected to take some of the scoring load off Kevin Durant. Lamb did not live up the expectations and was assigned to the D-League. He only played in 23 games his rookie year.
Now that Lamb is a sophomore and Martin is gone, he has had a bigger role for the Thunder. He has played in all 21 games of the season so far, collecting 20 minutes a night. He’s averaging 9.4 PPG and is shooting 47 percent from the field. This is fine, if he weren’t the 12th overall pick a year earlier. Also with Thabo Sefolosha only scoring 6.4 points a night, Lamb should be contributing more to the scoring load placed on Durant and Westbrook. Playing with two strong players like Durant and Westbrook, he should be taking advantage of the opportunities that come when double-teams are thrown at those elite players. A 14.85 PER in his second year doesn’t exactly leave warm fuzzies in your stomach as a GM looking for a shooting guard for the future. Luckily for the UConn product, OKC desperately needs his shooting and scoring off the pine, so he’s going to get minutes no matter what this year.
4. THOMAS ROBINSON
The fourth overall pick, Thomas Robinson, has been in the league for less than a season and a half but has already played for three teams (Houston, Sacramento and now Portland). If a player is drafted fourth and traded by the All-Star break, normally it’s pretty strong evidence the GM has made a mistake. The first problem with Robinson’s situation is that he wasn’t a great fit on the Sacramento Kings (the team that drafted him) in the first place. The team was filled with young and some would say selfish players, who were getting used to finishing towards the bottom every season. Not exactly a great environment for a rookie to come into. Robinson was freakishly athletic for his height, but wasn’t able to develop to the standards placed on him during his rookie season.
Robinson was traded to the Rockets in late February of 2012 and in the offseason was dealt to the Trail Blazers. Being traded twice in less than six months is not an ideal way to start your NBA career. But now that Robinson has landed in Portland, he is stuck playing behind All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. In one sense this is good for Robinson to learn from a very talented player, but in another sense, he’s barely playing at all (11.7 minutes) on a playoff contender.
Robinson’s best stats are his points per game (5.3) and rebounds per game (3.6), which aren’t terrible (if you’re being optimistic) considering the minutes he gets a night. Robinson’s PER is at 15.47, which is right around the league average. But that is exactly the word you don’t want to use for the No. 4 draft pick in his second year: average.
So far, Robinson has shown he can be an average player against league backups, but between the trades and the lack of opportunities in Portland this year, that’s about all he’s shown.
3. TERRENCE ROSS
The No. 8 overall pick is a part of Toronto’s rotation, seeing around 20 minutes a night in every game this season. But his 10.24 PER and 6.9 PPG isn’t really helping the Raptors grab the Atlantic title in a down year for the division. Ross has to step up and produce better numbers for his position and role on the team.
With Rudy Gay traded, that should make for more of an opportunity for Ross to step up. It will be easier to get the ball because now DeMar DeRozan is the only one dominating it with Gay gone. In fact, in the Raptors’ last two games, Ross averaged 33 minutes and scored a combined 25 points, with six three-pointers. Ross also has a competent point guard in Kyle Lowry to help deliver him more opportunities. But for right now, his ineffecient 40 percent field goal shooting isn’t getting it done, especially when you consider he creates virtually nothing for his teammates. (In 93 games so far in the NBA, Ross has just 65 assists.)
2. AUSTIN RIVERS
Austin Rivers hasn’t been criticized as much this year, mostly because he’s suddenly playing in one of the deepest backcourts in the league. It’s like the front office of the Pelicans was taking advice from James Dolan and Isiah Thomas on how to put together as many ball-dominant guards as possible. So with Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon playing on the same team, a young, inefficient guard will not get many reps.
When Rivers does play he reminds us why he isn’t living up to the 10th overall pick standards. Through 13 games this season, he is shooting 36 percent from the field and is barely a threat from deep, having made just three triples all year. Granted he hasn’t taken many shots from behind the arc, but he isn’t exactly playing himself into a more prominent role.
Much of the hype that Rivers had coming out of high school had died down when he entered the draft, but he was still expected to be better. Rivers’ potential struggles were masked by his ability to get hot and push his team toward an offensive explosion in a short amount of time. Now he is stuck watching the offense play out from the sideline.
1. MEYERS LEONARD
I think an easy number one is Meyers Leonard. His expectations coming into the NBA weren’t necessarily as high as the others listed, but being the No. 11 overall pick should garner at least a backup position in your second year. Leonard is third on the center depth chart of the Trail Blazers. He has only played in four games this season after playing in 69 and averaging 17.5 minutes a night last year. Now he is lucky if he even sees the floor.
A lottery pick — especially an athletic, seven-footer — shouldn’t lose the backup center position to Joel Freeland. He should also step up and play big when the starting center, Robin Lopez, isn’t having that great of a year. His numbers can’t even be used as defense for his play because he has only checked in to a game four times this year. He will definitely have to do some growing in the near future if he wants to keep his job in the NBA.
For Leonard, Portland may not be the place for him. He may have to go to a team with a smart veteran big man to learn from, where there will be an opportunity to play and learn how to contribute in the post night-in and night-out. Last season he only averaged 3.7 RPG, but despite all of this, I haven’t lost hope for Meyers Leonard. However, for the foreseeable future, it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
What do you think?
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