NBA Rookies on the Rise


Jan. 10, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey poses with point guard Damian Lillard (0) as Lillard was presented with the Western conference rookie of the month award for December 2012 before the game at the Rose Garden. The Blazers won the game 92-90. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, despite how strong or weak the draft is viewed prior to, there are players that exceed the expectations put on them, and some fail to meet those same expectations.

In this case, five rookies gave their respective teams and fans a reason or two to be optimistic since the June 27 draft. With summer ball wrapped up, some shined, some disappointed, and some sat out due to injury.

Here are five guys to keep an eye on heading into the 2013 NBA season.

1. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic

After being selected No. 2 overall by the Magic, it would typically be hard to say that Oladipo exceeded expectations after just five summer league games. In this case, it isn’t so hard.

Out of Indiana, Oladipo was praised for his motor and defensive ability. Offensively, it was clear that he still had some work to do.

However, in five games with Orlando’s Summer League team, the rookie guard averaged 19 points, 5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 3 steals per contest.

Orlando had Oladipo at point guard quite often throughout the summer, more than likely for experimental purposes. The pure point guard skills may be lacking at this point in time, but if he learned how to score at this rate so quickly, I would not put anything past him.

2. Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are in Brooklyn. Rajon Rondo is back. Doc Rivers is with the Clippers, and Brad Stevens is his replacement.

It is safe to say that the Boston Celtics are in the middle of rebuilding their storied franchise. If Danny Ainge can have things his way, first-round draft pick Kelly Olynyk will be a big part of that process.

Throughout the five games in the Las Vegas Summer League, Olynyk dominated opposing defenses on a consistent basis. Whether it was scoring in the post, knocking down a mid-range jumper, or making a pass to an open teammate, the big man out of Gonzaga showed off his unique skill set for a guy his size.

Olynyk averaged 18 points and 7.8 rebounds per game on 57.8% shooting from the floor. In this case, however, it was not all about the numbers. His overall feel for the game and his ability to understand what defenses were trying to do was remarkable to see.

3. C.J. McCollum, Portland Trailblazers

Most experts projected McCollum to be the premier perimeter scorer out of this year’s draft class, and if this summer is any sign of things to come, they were spot-on.

Despite lacking elite athleticism, quickness, or even size for that matter, McCollum’s strength is his ability to use his craftiness to create his own shot at will. With an array of floaters, step-backs, and various other types of shots, the rookie from Lehigh managed to averaged 21 points per game in his five Summer League Games with the Blazers.

It appears that scouts biggest fear of McCollum may not come to fruition. Some said that the game at the next level may be to fast for a guy his size without the world-class physical attributes. If McCollum can continue to create space for himself at the NBA on the perimeter, his shot-making ability will keep him around for a long career.

4. Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats

Before Zeller’s so-so sophomore season at Indiana, he was the consensus No.1 pick. With a basketball IQ off the charts and a skill set way too polished for a kid his age, the potential was thought to be through the roof.

However, his lack of length and upper body strength proved to be a problem during his second season of college hoops. For this, he fell off the pedestal. Charlotte was thought to be reaching by taking him No.4 in this June’s draft.

Regardless, it appears that the Bobcats may have made a rare good move by selecting Zeller. In his Summer League action, he managed to post a line of 16.4 points and 9.3 rebounds on 52% shooting.

Despite what people have to say about Zeller, and even the Bobcats for that matter, it seems as though they may have gotten one right.

5. Reggie Bullock, Los Angeles Clippers

Reggie Bullock was expected to be a three-point shooting and perimeter defending role player, and that may still be the case. However, in the Clippers’ Summer League he managed to be extremely effective despite shooting poorly from distance.

Bullock lacks offensive creativity, elite athleticism, and most characteristics that make a star. Despite all of that, he found a way to average 18 points per game in his five games by making mid-range jump shots and finishing inside the lane.

While the former Tarheel may not possess the ability to score 25 points on a nightly basis, the Clippers know what they are going to get from him, and they can not be disappointed thus far.