The Top 10 NBA Rookie Of The Year Candidates

Is it me or does it seem like this year rookie’s class has gotten no love so far? Everyone is focused on the potential of the class of 2014 with the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and company. Lost in the shuffle is the class of 2013 that consist of people like Victor Oladipo, Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore, Trey Burke and others. These rookies are getting no love, but one of them will win the Rookie of the Year award.

Even if this draft class is weak, the past has shown that, more than likely, whoever wins ROY turns out to be a great player. The past six winners of the Rookie of the Year award include legitimate NBA star power: Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant. So, even if the perception is that the 2013 Draft class was weak, one of these players vying for early ROY consideration will be a superb talent in the NBA.

*** *** ***

PG, Atlanta Hawks
The international scene is always interesting. Dennis Schroeder is a player that fascinates me. Hailing from Germany, Schroeder stands at 6-2 but has an incredible wingspan of 6-8 as a recently-turned 20-year-old. The No. 17 pick in this year’s draft is my dark horse candidate for ROY honors. Even though Schroeder is going to be playing against top competition in the NBA, his confidence remains at a top level. Without ever stepping onto an NBA court, Schroeder has compared his game to the likes of point guard messiahs Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul.

Schroeder has already stood out on an NBA court in the Las Vegas Summer League this past summer. With averages of 10.8 PPG and 5.6 APG, Schroeder showed the ability to lead his team, and there’s even more behind those numbers. Watch the video below and it reveals several dimes that weren’t converted, even though Schroeder was making Rondo-like passes. If these players convert these passes, imagine what Schroeder’s numbers would look like.

From watching more tape on Schroeder, he shows an above average ability to knock down shots from three-point land. He shot 40.2 percent for his German team this past year from downtown, numbers that should translate well to the NBA. Dennis Schroeder is a true point guard in every sense of the position, with Rajon Rondo-like skills that can lead him to the top of the Rookie of the Year voting polls this season.

G/F, Minnesota Timberwolves
Shabazz Muhammad saw his stock drop considerably before the draft. Despite all the drama that occurred during Muhammad’s freshman season at UCLA, Muhammad was still the No. 14 pick in the NBA Draft. Don’t let his mid first-round pick selection fool you though, this kid can flat-out ball. Muhammad averaged 17.9 PPG and 5.2 RPG on 44.3 percent shooting during his lone season at UCLA. Playing in Minnesota with pass wizard Ricky Rubio will greatly help Shabazz Muhammad’s potential to bring home ROY honors.

Muhammad produces a large chunk of his scoring from moving off the ball, post-ups, and coming off curls to nail a midrange jumper. With this being said, Rubio and Muhammad are a match made in heaven for the Timberwolves. Rubio will be able to get Muhammad the ball in positions that give Muhammad a high percentage shot. This game has always been about buckets and that’s exactly what Muhammad excels in. The NBA game will be no different. If things go according to plan, Muhammad will shine thanks to his scoring ability and the lethal passing ability of Ricky Rubio. This plan could wind up with Muhammad winning Rookie of the Year, so keep an eye on Minnesota.

F/C, Boston Celtics
Like most people, I wasn’t very high on Kelly Olynyk coming out of Gonzaga. But after Olynyk’s highly impressive and shocking summer league performance, I reconsidered my previous opinion. In five games at the Orlando Summer League, Olynyk averaged 18.0 PPG and 7.8 RPG on 58 percent shooting. A lot of people still aren’t high on Olynyk, but he does have potential. Armed with a repertoire of post moves, Olynyk has a solid midrange jumper and can even stretch out to the three-point line occasionally.

Olynyk isn’t your banger in the paint, he’s more of a finesse big man. He did play point guard until his junior year in high school, proving that Olynyk has superior instincts compared to other players at his position. Most finesse big men receive heavy criticism and Olynyk may be the same, but he can play. He’s in a position in Boston where he can step up and be the team’s leading big man, since Kevin Garnett is now in Brooklyn. Olynyk’s unique skill-set for a seven-footer makes him a matchup nightmare since he will consistently be dragging opposing PFs and Cs out to the three-point line, leaving the paint wide open for Rajon Rondo. If Olynk can prove that his summer league performance was no fluke than he’s a sure candidate for Rookie of the Year.

PG, Philadelphia 76ers
Michael Carter-Williams was the No. 11 pick by the Philadephia 76ers and was given the keys to Philadephia’s tank when All-Star Jrue Holiday was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans on draft night. Carter-Williams is a product of Syracuse, who averaged 11.9 PPG and 7.3 APG during his sophomore season. He also had 11 double-digit assist games last season, showing his ability to be a true point guard.

Those numbers may not blow anyone’s mind, but Carter-Williams is oozing with potential. Standing at 6-6, he has great size, combined with superb athleticism. This makes Carter-Williams a transition terror, which explains why he averaged nearly three steals per game last season at Syracuse. Besides all these facts, Carter-Williams has been drafted to a team where he is expected to produce from game one. The 76ers have severely stripped their roster of every and any talent (someone save Thad Young please), meaning someone has to score for Philadelphia. Carter-Williams will be starting from day one and will have all season and many minutes to work through any rookie struggles. With a load of minutes coming his way, if Michael Carter-Williams produces in the City of Brotherly Love, he will have some ROY votes thrown his way.

F, Washington Wizards
Going into the 2013 NBA Draft, Otto Porter Jr. was considered one of the safest picks because his skill-set as a small forward transfers easily to the NBA. Porter has good size, with a great ability to knock down midrange jumpers. Porter should fit in nicely with sharpshooter Bradley Beal and explosive point guard John Wall.

Porter has a small frame at 198 pounds, but at only 20 years old, he has time to fill out his body to NBA standards. His long arms and smooth jump shot remind me of Rudy Gay, someone Porter can aim to develop like.

Otto Porter Jr. spent two years at Georgetown before he declared for the NBA Draft. Breaking down his statistics between the two years, it shows a player that improved leaps and bounds from his freshman to sophomore season. Porter took his scoring from 9.7 PPG his freshman year to 16.2 his sophomore year, with his minutes increasing only by about five per game. Porter also vastly improved his three-point shooting from 23 to 42 percent. If Porter can keep shooting the long ball at a high percentage, he will be a tough check with his already lethal midrange jumper. The former Georgetown Hoya should have no problem translating his game to the nation’s capital with the Wizards.

F, Cleveland Cavaliers
The curious case of Anthony Bennett. My jaw dropped and yours did too when David Stern announced that the Cavs selected Anthony Bennett from UNLV with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Bennett is a 6-7, 240-pound forward that averaged 16.1 PPG and 8.1 RPG while also piling up 12 double doubles in 35 contests last year. Bennett was unknown by many basketball fans, but looking at the numbers shows that this kid has potential and the talent to succeed in the NBA. Possessing a 7-1 wingspan, Bennett is very powerful and finishes at the rim with a high percentage. He also possesses the ability to step out and knock down the three-point shot, shooting 38 percentage last season at UNLV. This combination of skill gives Bennett a very unique skill-set that is rare in the NBA.

Anthony Bennett has a lot of hype to live up too, being the No. 1 overall pick. But, he has the skill-set and potential to cause a lot of nightmares for opposing coaches, especially during his rookie season. Expect Anthony Bennett to become a household name by season’s end and possibly bring home Rookie of the Year honors to solidify his No. 1 overall pick status.

G, Portland Trail Blazers
Sigh, I wish I was writing this section on C.J. McCollum with tons of enthusiasm and excitement about his rookie season, but unfortunately I’m not. McCollum fractured his fifth metatarsal bone in his foot during practice last week, which will require surgery and will keep him out indefinitely. Reports are saying that a timetable for his return can’t be determined until post surgery, but common procedure says McCollum will miss about 8-to-10 weeks. More concerning is the fact that this is a reoccurring injury that had McCollum missing most of his senior season at Lehigh where he averaged 23.9 PPG and 5.0 RPG.

If McCollum can return without missing any major chunks of the season, he will be a threat for the Trail Blazers alongside last year’s ROY, Damian Lillard. In five games during the summer league, he showed his mid-major career at Lehigh was no fluke. McCollum averaged 21.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 3.4 APG in five summer league contests. McCollum’s amazing ability to score earned him a spot on this list, even if he’s going to miss significant time due to his broken foot. When McCollum gets on the hardwood, the 6-4 guard will light it up.

SG, Sacramento Kings
Coming off the board at No. 7 to the Sacramento Kings, McLemore’s freshman year at Kansas proved that he deserved the high pick. McLemore’s lone season with Bill Self at Kansas boasted numbers of 15.9 PPG, 5.2 APG and 2.0 RPG in 37 games played. More impressive are McLemore’s shooting statistics: 50 percent from the field, 42 percent from deep and 87 percent from the charity stripe. McLemore is a pure shooter and he’s already drawn comparisons to three-point king Ray Allen.

During his time at Kansas, McLemore was criticized for disappearing for lengths during games and not asserting himself offensively. His current situation with the Sacramento Kings will leave McLemore with plenty of opportunities. McLemore’s deadly offensive repertoire, with the inside presence of DeMarcus Cousins, creates quite the powerful punch in Sacramento. Watching tape of McLemore from the Las Vegas Summer League shows a player with a great jump shot, elite athleticism, the ability to create his own shot at will, and the ability to finish in traffic. These facts leave McLemore as a prime candidate for Rookie of the Year as he aims to bring the Sacramento Kings back to relevance.

PG, Utah Jazz
The season doesn’t need to start for Trey Burke to feel confident about his upcoming rookie campaign, telling HOOPSWORLD, “I definitely think I can potentially get that award. Coming off the season I had last year, I’m a confident player. My confidence is my strength. I definitely think there is a good chance that I could win it.”

Well, say no more, Trey. We agree with you here. In his sophomore season at Michigan, Burke averaged 18.6 PPG, 6.6 APG and 3.2 RPG, and also had an excellent 4.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Impressive numbers on an impressive Michigan squad that went all the way to the National Championship game.

After a draft night trade, Trey Burke wound up joining the Utah Jazz as the No. 9 pick, and he’s already shown the ability to handle being the point guard of a national championship caliber team, so he should have a good transition to the NBA. Burke will be given the green light as the point guard of the Utah Jazz, with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter working in the paint for him. Trey Burke is a ball-dominant point guard that’s landed in a situation that will have him playing major minutes during his rookie season, making him a prime candidate for Rookie of the Year.

G, Orlando Magic
Oladipo is without a doubt the top candidate for Rookie of the Year honors right now. This is a kid that was being compared to Michael Jordan during his time at Indiana. The No. 2 pick of the Orlando Magic, Oladipo finds himself on a team that’s prepared to lose a lot more than win this season. The Magic are in full tank mode, with Oladipo driving the tank for his rookie season.

All things considered, Oladipo will receive heavy playing time during his rookie campaign. During a five-game spurt in the Orlando Summer League this summer, Oladipo averaged 19.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.0 APG and 2.3 SPG. I watched Oladipo’s summer league performance against the Philadelphia 76ers where he was pitted against No. 11 pick, Michael Carter-Williams. Oladipo showed the ability to play the point guard position all game while scoring 24 points to go along with six assists, three rebounds and three steals. Most important was Oladipo’s game-winning shot over the rival rookie to give Orlando the 90-89 victory.

Oladipo is already showing that ability to knock down a game-winning shot, which some players never develop even late into their careers. Add this to Oladipo’s lockdown defense and he’s quite well-rounded already.

On draft night, Oladipo said, “I’m gonna come in and work my butt off and bring a work ethic that they have probably never seen before, because I want it that bad.” On a team where he will be given the greenest of green lights to score, expect Oladipo to explode during his rookie year and take home Rookie of the Year honors.

Who do you think will win ROY?

Follow Drew on Twitter at @Dcorrigan50.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.