Kentucky ruled the first round on Draft Night with a record-breaking five first-round picks. John Calipari called it the greatest night in Kentucky hoops history, a night when Lexington blue kicked-off the top 30 frenzy and also ended it. With NBA Summer League going on right now, let’s look forward to what we can expect from those five rookies next season:
The franchise is being delivered to D.C. and should make for an exhilarating ride. Remember Chris Paul‘s rookie year in New Orleans? Flip Saunders is going to do the same thing with Wall. Washington fans can expect to see Wall on the floor for around 35 minutes a game because he really has no competition at the point guard spot. Randy Foye and the newly acquired Kirk Hinrich are closer to off-guards and neither one figures much into the Wizards long-term plans. And there is no way Gilbert Arenas takes any of his minutes. Arenas will be lucky to be on the roster by the time the season starts.
Saunders once said pure point guards are “sent from Heaven.” His offense should open up the court for Wall to make plays using the gifts he was blessed with. He did the same in Minnesota for a young Stephon Marbury and in Detroit with Chauncey Billups. The rest of the roster is young and athletic so Wall will find some partners to get out on the break with in guys like Nick Young and Andray Blatche. Smart, they may not be. Fun, they will be.
The No. 1 pick should put up ROY-type numbers and lead the Wizards to around 30-35 wins. Consider that a success. Down the road, Wall has a chance to be the best point guard in the world.
Realistically, Cousins couldn’t have fallen into a better situation. He will be playing big minutes for a team that lacks a frontcourt presence and in a city that is out of the spotlight. There won’t be many distractions in Northern California and he will get all of the touches that he wants, so Cousins won’t have many excuses. Despite the recent trade for Samuel Dalembert, the Kings will probably start Cousins in the middle immediately. Sacramento is about as low-key an NBA city as you will find and hopefully that’ll get Cousins into the gym where he can work on his 16 percent body fat.
Cousins has the same attitude and maturity question marks that Michael Beasley had coming out of college: lazy and immune to coaching. The difference though is that Cousins seems to genuinely love to compete. He’s nasty. Beasley, not so much. Any problems with Tyreke Evans and Cousins? Maybe for the rest of the team trying to get the ball; Evans and Cousins might combine to drop 40 points a game. But for now, those two could be dominant inside and out and I expect Cousins to battle his former teammate for the league’s best rookie. All of a sudden, the Kings have two of the best young princes in the whole league.
The only non-freshman of this group, Patterson is also the only one who is a finished product. Houston will get exactly what he gave Kentucky: a worker who will do anything to earn minutes. He’s going to need to because Houston is a team deep in the frontcourt and looking to get back into the playoffs. Besides last season’s starting tandem of Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes, Yao Ming is on his way back and Houston also has another young forward (Jordan Hill) to develop. Still, I think Patterson should be able to get minutes right away.
He will immediately be their most athletic frontcourt guy- his 11.14 agility time at the combine was tops among bigs- and should contribute a productive 15-20 minutes a game. Houston found success with Carl Landry, another energetic but slightly undersized four man, so it will be much of the same in this situation. His time mingling on the perimeter last year at Kentucky should help him now; that elbow jumper will make him a nice fit next to the Rockets’ other bigs. Patterson doesn’t have much potential beyond being a decent role player, but he aced every pre-draft interview. He will be team-first. Houston won’t ask him to do anything out of his realm, so don’t expect much more than perhaps 8-9 points and 4-5 rebounds a game. Cal had to be happy his top three players are all going into almost perfect situations.
At the 18th pick, Bledsoe fell right around where his draft projection was. Selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he would have certainly been begging for minutes behind Russell Westbrook, Bledsoe now is heading to L.A. to backup Baron Davis. He’s used to it. In his one year at Kentucky, Bledsoe averaged just 2.9 assists a game playing in the same backcourt as Wall. He has a long ways to go before he could be a full-time point. That’s probably going to fit right in with the Clippers. But he has the potential to be one of the best from this class.
Bledsoe can’t expect to play too much next year (of course, it is a given at some point that Davis will either mentally check out and gain 10 pounds or will miss time with an injury). When Bledsoe does play, a backcourt of Eric Gordon and Bledsoe could be very exciting. The Clippers do have a ton of talent and might actually make a playoff push. Whatever the case, Bledsoe probably will see backup minutes at both guard spots. For his sake, lets hope he finds a way out of the Clippers organization pretty soon- not exactly the best place in the world to work on being a selfless point guard.
The ugly duckling of the bunch. Whereas Bledsoe might struggle at times to find a laid-out role in L.A., Orton should do just fine with that…in the D-League. Orton handled this whole process horribly: from ducking his agent and letting his family squabble over how to manage him to his knee issues that date back to high school. It was actually surprising teams were considering Orton in the top 20 at all. He’s lucky that he will get first round money because it is going to take some time for this dude to find the NBA floor. ESPN’s Chad Ford thinks he will spend a lot of time with Orlando’s D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns. I agree. Orton is a good shot-blocker, but the rest of his game is severely lacking.
In his first two summer league games, Orton was ejected in one and shot more air balls than he made in the other. He could make for a decent backup to Dwight Howard but for now, Marcin Gortat – even though he may get traded – is there. Perhaps the ugly duckling reference is too harsh. Perhaps in a few seasons Orton will be serviceable. But, you might as well forget about him for a year or so. Orton won’t be providing much Magic until then.
What do you think? How good can these guys be?
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