The Rookie Trainwreck

This is a shorter piece as the verdict isn’t very difficult to prove. This draft class is abysmal…

Perhaps I was overzealous. Maybe I was blinded by my unconditional love for the the NBA Draft. Or just maybe I had too much faith in the Cody Zellers and the Kentavious Caldwell-Popes of the world. Nevertheless, the 2013 rookies have been more out of tune than this 11-year-old singing the national anthem.

Well, maybe not THAT out of tune…Jesus.

Look No Further Than PER and VA to Rate These Rookies

For reference, Player Efficiency Ratio (PER) is a well-respected advanced statistic where the average is ratio is 15.0. Generally, the best players in the NBA finish with the highest ratings; for example, the top-3 in PER last season were LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. As of today, just four rookies are above the NBA average PER: Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.37), Trey Burke (15.42), Mason Plumlee (15.71) and Carter-Williams (19.3).

Just as unremarkable, 13 of the 25 rookies that qualify for Hollinger’s Advanced Statistics, players who average 6.09 minutes per game or more, contribute negative value to their teams according to Value Added Rating (VA).

These rookies have been bad. Historically bad.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t any pleasant surprises. Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke are fun to watch. Victor Oladipo shows signs of becoming a future All-Star. Tim Hardaway Jr. has a lot of upside potential on the offense end. Mason Plumlee, Kelly Olynyk and Steven Adams look like future contributors in the paint. Giannis Antetokounmpo, dubbed ‘The Greek Freak’ by Bill Simmons, has massive hands and shows promise. Lastly, we’ve yet to see the former consensus number 1 pick, Nerlens Noel.

Alas, this is where my enthusiasm for the 2013 rookie class comes to a screeching halt.

More Supporting Evidence & Anthony Bennett 

There are 13 rookies with a negative Value Added rating, but none that detracts more value from his team than the 2013 number 1 pick, Anthony Bennett. To put Bennett’s -31.1 VA rating in perspective, LeBron James leads the league with a 309.7 VA.

Quite the juxtaposition! 

Bennett is also dead last in rookie rankings for AST (Assist Ratio: the number of that player’s possessions that end up in an assist), last in PER with a 2.21 rating, last in estimated wins added with -1.0, and second-to-last in true shooting percentage (a stat that incorporates free throw and 3-point percentage).

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ESPN’s Chad Ford recently said about Bennett, “It’s very early, but right now, he’s looking like the worst [No. 1 pick] in the past 20 years.” Remember, the Cavaliers signed Bennett to a multi-year deal worth $22.8 million – all guaranteed money.

Cleveland sports teams just can’t catch a break.

Bennett spoke with the Akron Beacon Journal recently, and when asked about the NBA’s steep learning curve he replied, “I’m still clueless about the whole thing.”

It think Bennett’s quote is representative of this entire draft class.

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For Anthony Bennett, there’s only one song to sing, and one place left to blame…

Bull’s rookie, Tony Snell…or Addams Family veteran, Beetlejuice?

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Any questions, disagreements, or comments communicate with me via Twitter @gregMschwartz

The 2013 Orlando Summer League Awards

Just as the OSL comes to a close, the Las Vegas Summer League begins – what a treat! The Thunder won the Orlando SL “Championship” today, but I don’t think that should have much of a correlation to the regular season… Or could it?

At any rate, here are the OSL awards from this week presented to you by The Corner Triple. To be considered, players must’ve played in at least 4 out of their team’s 5 games. Also, accolades are dually based on their statistical performance as well as how their intangibles (athleticism, vision, composure etc.) will translate to an actual NBA game.

All Orlando Summer League First-Team

C – Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

Andre Drummond

Andre Drummond

Thanks to commenter Jake C, who reminded me that Drummond did play in 4/5 of his team’s games, I’ve added him to the All OSL First-Team over Mason Plumlee. Andre averaged 15.5 points and 14.8 rebounds, and shot 51.9% from the field. If he didn’t miss so many layups he would’ve been near 60%, and if he didn’t shot 33% from the line he would’ve had many more points. Taking it all into consideration, Drummond looks ready to take off.

PF/C – Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics

K.O.

K.O.

I’m not saying he’s going to be the next Dirk Nowitzki, but I do think he has a very unique skill set that resembles aspects of Dirk’s game. He’s not as smooth or quite as good of a shooter, but Kelly has proven that he can play. He averaged 18 points and 7.8 rebounds, and should have a great rookie campaign for the Celtics.

SF/PF – Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets

Terrence Jones

Terrence Jones

Terrence Jones is now ready to produce in the NBA. On the week, Jones averaged 15.8 points on 42.2% from the field, and 7 rebounds per game. If he decides to be as assertive for the Rockets in the regular season as he did this week, he will be one of the most important Rockets off the bench in 2013-14.

SG – Jeremy Lamb, Oklahoma City Thunder

Jeremy Lamb

Jeremy Lamb

Unrelated to his play, I’m pretty sure Lamb added some orange highlights to his hair (see above). This week, Lamb averaged a productive 18.8 points 4 rebounds, and shot 39.1% from the field. He had a dominant 32-point performance against the Sixers (seems like everyones best game was against Philly), and looked like a guy that will continue to improve throughout camp, and become offensive weapon for the Thunder.

PG – Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic

Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo

The Magic played Oladipo at point guard, and although it isn’t his natural position, he played it better than anyone else. Oladpio finished the week by averaging 19 points 5 assists and 3 steals per game. Against the Sixers – his best game – he dominated his matchup against Michael Carter-Williams by turning him over eight times, then hitting a game-winning step-back jumper with 4.4 seconds left to win by 1. Great week for Victor.

Honorable Mention

PF/C – Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets

Mason Plumlee

Mason Plumlee

Mason edged out a few others for honorable mention by finishing with averages of 13.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest. Under the tutelage of the veteran Nets front court, Mason will surely improve and be a productive NBA player. I don’t see him getting many minutes this season because the Nets are so stacked up front, but he’ll get in there when they’re trying to rest guys like Garnett.


Most Interesting Player

C – Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Rudy Gobert and his 9'7'' Standing Reach

Rudy Gobert and his 9’7” Standing Reach

I almost picked him over Mason Plumlee for no reason other than likability, but without further ado I present to you, Frenchman, Rudy Gobert. Rudy Gobert was probably my favorite non-Celtic player of the week. Usually, foreigners with absurd wingspans and huge hands come to the NBA as long-term projects, but not Rudy. Gobert averaged 5.4 points on 52.6% from the field, with 6.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, and should be an effective rim-protector by the middle of the season for the Jazz.

Most Surprising Player

SG/SF – Solomon Hill, Indiana Pacers

Solomon Hill

Solomon Hill

Solomon Hill was a guy who has flown under the radar until this week. One of the most efficient shooters in the OSL, Hill averaged 12 points 5.6 rebounds, shot 48.9% from the field, and 55.6% from three. That’s a pretty great week for an underdog looking for his first contract.

Most Disappointing Player

PG – Trey Burke, Utah Jazz

Trey Burke

Trey Burke

After a brutal week where he averaged just 8.8 points on 24.1% from the field, Trey Burke was very candid in his interview by saying, “It’s a matter of getting my feet under my shot… I’ve been flat. It’s not a matter of not losing confidence in my shot… I just need to get used to the speed of the game. I’m gonna continue to work.” Burke seems to have maintained his sanity, but has an uphill mental battle ahead of him.

Summer League Day 4 – ‘The Olynyk Clinic Continues’

Jazz 98 (2-1) Nets (0-3) 69 – “Burke Sits, Kidd Loses Again”

Trey Burke

Trey Burke

Trey Burke didn’t play in today’s game, and midway through the second quarter he was shown sitting next to the Jazz coaching staff with a calamitous look on his face. In his place was Brazilian National, Raul Neto, who showed an elite-level handle and composure against ball-pressure (7 points and 3 assists 4 rebounds in 19 minutes). Neto hasn’t been allowed to practice with the Jazz at all because of FIBA rules, making his encouraging debut that much more impressive. Veterans, Jeremy Evans and Alec Burks paced the scoring for the Jazz by adding 15 and 14 points respectively.

Chris Wright led the way for the Nets with 20 points on 8-13 from the field, while Mason Plumlee put in a weak effort with 4 points 2 rebounds and a game-worst -27 +/-. It seemed that Mason was bothered by the size of Jazz center, Rudy Gobert, as he only took 4 shots in 25 minutes. Another struggling Net was second year guard, Tyshawn Taylor, who had 10 points on 5-13 shooting with 3 assists and 6 turnovers – not the kind of numbers Kidd is looking for from his potential backup point guard. For now, it appears as though C.J. Watson’s minutes are safe.

I’m not sure who I feel worse for at this point between Trey Burke and Jason Kidd.

Highlights

Thunder (4-0) 74 76ers (0-3) 62 – “Lamb, Licking His Chops”

Jeremy Lamb

Jeremy Lamb

Just when I thought Michael Carter-Williams was “figuring it out,” ironically, it appears as though opposing teams have figured him out. The Thunder defense give him space, and let him shoot himself into the ground as he went 3-16 from the field and 0-4 from behind the arc. He’s now shooting just 15-59 (25.4%) from the field this week. MCW must improve his shot or teams will continue to give him space and protect against his ability to penetrate into the lane. On the bright side for Philly, former Minnesota guard, Rodney Williams, showed off his athletic ability and finished the day with 12 points on 4-7 from the field.

For the Thunder, today was Jeremy Lamb’s breakout party as he poured in 32 points on 10-14 from the field. Despite his 8 turnovers, Lamb looked like a guy who could carry some of the scoring load in the regular season for the Thunder. After Reggie Jackson’s 35 point outburst, and Lamb’s 32 today, the Thunder should feel slightly better about letting Kevin Martin go to Minnesota.

Highlights

Rockets (3-0) 85 Celtics (2-2) 78 – “The Olynyk Clinic Continues”

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Terrence Jones

Terrence Jones had 17 points and grabbed 6 rebounds as the Rockets continued their winning ways against the Olynyk Clinic, and the Celtics. Despite going 3-12 from the field, Jones was 10-14 from the line, and showed his ability to handle the ball and get into the lane. After trading both Royce White and Thomas Robinson this week, the Rockets must feel confident enough for Jones and Donatas Montiejunas to serve as suitable backups for the 3/4 positions.

Unsurprisingly or surprising – whichever you like – Kelly Olynyk once again dominated offensively, by adding 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics. He’s now 31/54 (57.4%) from the field this week. Tony Mitchell had his first stinker of the week going 1-9 from the field and missing all four of his three-point attempts in 19 minutes of action, but I still feel good about his chances to be a Celtic come November. I also like Phil Pressy’s  (6 points 10 assists) chances to make the C’s roster, as he clearly has the offensive instincts to be an NBA point guard.

Lastly, Celtics second-round pick Colton Iverson, pulled down 8 rebounds in 18 minutes of action, but continued to be absent on offense. He has a chance to make the team based solely on his rebounding ability, and he doesn’t show much upside anywhere else. I still can’t figure out why the Celtics traded up to get him…

Highlights

Summer League Day 1: ‘5 Players and 1 Coach To Watch’

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Yesterday was the opening tip at the 2013 Orlando Summer League, and thus the commencement of the 2013-14 NBA season – at least for me and other overly-observent NBA enthusiasts. The chaos of first-round picks striving to live up to lofty expectations, oversees journeymen trying to ‘take their talents’ back to the states, and un-drafted free agents just looking to sneak onto the end of an NBA bench are three reasons that the NBA Summer Leagues a series of turbulent tryouts.

After watching at least one full half of each game, the most exciting team was the Pistons. On the other end of the spectrum, the least interesting, least compelling product was put together by the Miami Heat. It seems as though they are following the old motto, if it aint broke, don’t fix it. But enough about the teams, these are fictitious rosters filled with ’97 Camrys with the occasional Ferrari or Maserati mixed in, and I would much rather focus on the five most intriguing player stories, and one compelling coach story of day 1 in Orlando.

1. Kelly Olynyk/Fab Melo – “Oh, The Juxtaposition”

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Olynyk Clinic

Let’s start off by admitting that there wasn’t one man on this planet who expected this good of a debut from the long-haired Torontonian. We all knew Kaveman Kelly was skilled, smart (finished his degree in Accounting from Gonzaga in three years), and a future Boston cult-athlete, but we didn’t know his first stat line would read 25 and 7 on 9-12.

He used his body well down low, went 2-4 from three, put the ball on the deck and finished with his left, made polished post moves – I could go on and on. Dare I mention early comparisons to Dirk? Obviously, I’m getting ahead of myself, but if Kelly keeps this up Danny Ainge will look like a genius. Unfortunately, if he does become a 15 and 7 guy in his rookie season as he very well could be, the Celtics might not be bad enough to be in the running for Andrew Wiggins – a Cadmean Victory. Here’s the full video of Kelly’s debut – Kelly’s Debut.

Although he’s not a rookie, I need to vent about Fab Melo. He’s really, really lost out there. His clueless defensive positioning, disconcerting shot selection, and soft disposition below the rim make his 9 point 8 rebound 0 turnover stat line a poor indication of his actual performance. He was bailed out twice on two phantom foul calls. One was a contested turnaround 15-footer early in the shot clock that he banked in, fell down and got a call, and the second was a weak take below the rim where he was cleanly swatted by Mo Harkless who is 6’8” – Fab is 7’0”. Lastly, he made a perplexing pass that wasn’t directed toward anyone on his team, but happened to hit the back of Kyle O’Quinn of the Magic, and redirected straight out of bounds.

Fab was practically applying for his pink sheet, but was continually getting bailed out by the refs, and ended with a decent stat line. Enough about Fab and his ironic name. I’d be shocked if he made an NBA roster at any point this season.

2. Andre Drummond – “The Next Shaq?”

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Andre Drummond

Andre Drummond is a physically dominating force who is just now beginning to use his body. Yesterday, he had 12 points, 16 boards (7 offensive), 5 steals, 6 blocks and one of the meanest rim rejections I’ve ever seen (can’t find a video). I used to question his motor and willingness to improve, but after yesterday I have no doubts about the possibility for him to be very, very good.

However, he still has some holes offensely. He was pre-programming his offensive moves rather than reacting to his defender, and he can’t shoot free throws. He was 2-9 from the line, and doesn’t have a pretty stroke/natural rotation so I’m not sure how much he can actually improve. It doesn’t seem like he’ll improve much on his percentage from last season (37.1%), and it’ll be tough for Cheeks to play him late in games . Overall, Drummond has the physical tools to dominate inside, but still needs to figure out how to read his defender… and shoot free throws.

3. Michael Carter-Williams – “Deception in the Box Score”

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Michael Carter-Williams

If you are a Sixer fan looking at the ESPN bottom line, you must be pumped to see what Michael Carter-Williams did yesterday. However, upon further review his performance was more complicated than 26 points 8 assists and 7 Rebounds showing on the bottom line.

He played a lot, had the ball a lot, and did a lot – good and bad. The Good: 26 PTS / 10-11 FT / 8 AST / 7 REB. The Bad:  8-23 FGM-A / 0-6 3PM-A / 9 TO. At times he showed the ability to use his expansive ‘passing angles’ as a tall guard, and other times looked uncomfortable bringing the ball up with a smaller defender. The 76ers will be watching him closely to see if today’s Jekyll and Hyde performance will be a trend, or if MCW can find a consistent rhythm to his game.

4. Trey Burke – “Can Heart Outweigh Size?”

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Trey Burke

T-Burke’s first game as a pro should make Jazz fans a little bit nervous. He didn’t finish anything at the rim, bricked almost every shot (1-12 FGA-M) including a puzzling attempt from about 4 feet beyond the arc early in the shot clock, and didn’t attack his defenders and try to get into the lane. I’d be a little worried about Trey given his inability to score on Myck Kabongo, and even more worried about his utter disappearance with a bigger guy like Scotty Hopson (6’5”) on him.

He showed very little emotion/swagger, didn’t explode off ball screens as he did in college, and just didn’t seem like the Trey we all watched in this year’s NCAA tournament. Salt Lake City should be worried, but alas, it is only one game. Let’s go back to this Trey, and not the one we saw yesterday.

5. Peyton Siva – “A Winner’s Mentality”

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Peyton Siva

What Peyton Siva lacks in height, he more than makes up for in experience and leadership. He quarterbacked the 2013 National Champion Louisville Cardinals, which is something both his teammates and opponents will naturally respect.

In yesterday’s game, Siva didn’t look to shoot much (0-2 FGA-M), but that’s not really his game. In a game with 45 turnovers Siva had just 1, which should be attributed to Viacheslav Kravtsov (took me a while to sound out that one too), who cut to the hoop anticipating a shot by Siva.

With the timely departure of Jose Calderon Siva will be able to step in right behind Brandon Knight, and allow Stuckey to play off the ball more. Ultimately, he’s a proven winner that will get minutes on a team that should contend for a 4 or 5 seed – possibly higher – in the east. With the addition of Josh Smith, and rising young stars in Greg Monroe, and the aforementioned Drummond and Knight, watch out for the Pistons.

5a. Jason Kidd & Lawrence Frank – “The Crutch”

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Law Frank and J-Kidd

First off, it makes sense as to why Jason Kidd hired Lawrence Frank from a resume standpoint, but definitely awkward from a relationship standpoint. Kidd played for Frank for five years, and now Frank is working under Kidd. Weird.

Also, I’m not really sure what Jason Kidd did today as coach of the Brooklyn Nets. He was sitting down most of the time, didn’t draw up plays in the huddle and got a technical foul on a play where his player was fouled… and the refs called it. In the third quarter I finally realized why Jason Kidd wasn’t doing anything, and it’s because Lawrence Frank was doing everything. Whether it was drawing up the plays or the in-game coaching, Frank looked like, well, the Head Coach of the Nets.

The real winner in this whole deal is Kidd. Although he boasts the title of Head Coach, we all know Lawrence will be doing most of the heavy lifting here. Well played, Jason.

Can’t wait for day 2…