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J-rueMykel
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Rookie Watch: Early surprises

One of the challenges NBA scouts and executives face when evaluating draftees is that, for the most part, pro and college basketball are two different games played similarly. Much of the college game is lost in the pros. So players who have difficulty in some aspects of the NCAA game can quickly blossom in the NBA because those particular aspects no longer matter as much.

Similarly, players who excel at one aspect in college often are forced to change their style and, as a result, they bring new talents to the table that were not needed previously. The same thing can happen with players who come over from Europe, as that game can be viewed as similar to college, only with much better players.

All this creates annual surprises, as young guys excel in the NBA landscape much quicker than what would have been thought just six months ago. And of course, it's one reason why any talk of players not being "ready" for the pros because of some particular weakness is typically just silly conversation.

Biggest surprise: College

Andre Drummond, Pistons

Project. That's what Drummond's label was coming out of high school and his one season at Connecticut.

Part of that was because of a suspect motor, part because of a lack of strong fundamentals and overall strength, which kept him from being a consistent impact player at school even though he's huge and agile.

Cut to Detroit, though, and we see him playing with energy and athleticism on almost every play. That part of the game is easier for him now in part because the floor is spaced so much better in the NBA. The game is wider now, and his teammates are pros, not teenagers. So even though the Pistons are a bad team, they still understand the importance of spacing and playing under control.

The games are also officiated tighter in the NBA, meaning Drummond can't be pushed around the same way he was in college. It's a hard concept for fans to digest, but the college game is more physical than the pro game because it is allowed to be. The men in the NBA are stronger, naturally, but the game is cleaner, which allows a player like Drummond, who has not developed "man strength" yet, to make plays inside the paint and above the rim more easily now than before.

This also helps him as a scorer with the ball in his hands. On multiple occasions he has finished a shot that appeared to use more "luck" than skill. But combine all those shots together and you can see that there's some skill that is starting to peek out. Drummond is able to rebound better now too because of the more open game, and when combined with his ability to make shots, he has been the most pleasant surprise of this rookie class.

Biggest surprise: International

Alexey Shved, Timberwolves

At a lunch this summer with Wolves GM David Kahn, I heard all about how good Shved was. The jump from Europe to the NBA is never something that can be taken lightly, as the NBA is faster and far more athletic than the European version. But every season it seems we see a player make the jump look like child's play, and this year that guy is Shved.

Unlike some guys who come to the NBA after a number of years playing professionally overseas, Shved is young, at just 23 years old -- younger than some college draft picks most years. But he plays like a grizzled NBA veteran, full of craft and an understanding of the deeper game.

Watch him patiently dribble while waiting for a cutter, especially whenAndrei Kirilenko is on the court. Shved is also adept at finding someone moving to the rim while he is on the attack, as he keeps his head up and his eyes searching all while hunting the best scoring play for himself or a teammate. This is advanced point guard play -- more advanced than any guard the Wolves have employed other than Ricky Rubio in years.

Shved finds everybody -- cutters, open post players near the rim, same-side shooters and opposite-side snipers waiting for the long pass that most guys don't make. But Shved does, and he does so without ever appearing to be in a rush. This has enabled him to stand out among the rookie guards in this class, as he leads the guards who play significant minutes in both assist and turnover rate.

Shved is struggling as a shooter, but in time he should be at least serviceable. He and Rubio have that, and a lot more, in common. Perhaps most importantly, both guys have proved to be players capable of helping their team win as rookies.

Other observations

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bobcats

Being fast and strong is not enough to be a better-than-average player in this league, most of the time. Fortunately for Bobcats fans and coaches, MKG is also showing off his considerable skill and overall feel.

Harrison Barnes, Warriors

Barnes finally had his breakout game. At home against the Hawks on Wednesday night, he showed his versatile game by scoring in a variety of ways: An excellent jab-and-go-opposite move down the baseline with the smart reverse to avoid Josh Smith. A smooth pull-up jumper in transition. Basket cuts, rim slashes and a spot-up 3, plus a sweet follow-up dunk.

Bradley Beal, Wizards

Beal is competing hard on a bad team, but can't figure out a way to make shots. And figuring it out is what it is all about in this league. When the shot is not falling, as is the case here, shooters keep shooting but scorers resort to other means to get buckets. Finding layups or tips, getting paint buckets and earning trips to the line -- those are all things that scorers think about.

Jeremy Lamb, Thunder

Lamb had about as bad a three minutes as a rookie role player could have the other night in Detroit.

First, he fouled Rodney Stuckey as Stuckey was just calmly dribbling the ball 32 feet from the rim. Two plays later, Lamb got stuck on a screen while guarding Stuckey which enabled him to drive and earn an and-1. Then on consecutive defensive possessions -- one in the half court and one in transition -- Lamb had opportunities to "get big" in the paint and help prevent uncontested layups. Both times he did exactly the opposite, giving up a bucket and another and-1. On his next defensive trip, he was holding Tayshaun Prince before the ball was inbounded from under the basket, which resulted in a foul being called, which meant two free throws because the ball was not yet in play.

Pablo Prigioni, Knicks

The 35-year-old rookie is proving my longtime argument that almost always falls on deaf ears: There are dozens of guys in Europe right now who could fit in well with an NBA team if given a chance.

Brian Roberts, Hornets

I spent about eight weeks with Roberts when he first came out of college and another couple of weeks the following summer. He always looked like an NBA player to me, gifted with speed, toughness and an excellent shot. It has taken awhile, but his time in Europe has only helped polish his game and he has taken advantage of his preseason and regular-season minutes in New Orleans.

Jeffery Taylor, Bobcats

Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said Taylor is being groomed to be another Bruce Bowen-type, though he still has a long way to go to get to even half that level. Taylor's defensive positioning and rotations as the ball flows are sharp, but too often his hands are down as he is in position to contest shots, especially off curls. "Hands up" is something he'll continue to hear frequently from his coaches. Otherwise, what is the point of being long and tall?

Festus Ezeli, Warriors

The big man from Vandy is struggling out of the gate with the speed of his competitors. He is playing very robotically when he has the ball inside, which is allowing defenders to measure him up. Typically, post players get their shots blocked by helpers, guys they don't see coming. But Ezeli is getting his shots in the paint blocked 14 percent of the time, often by his own man. (Greg Monroe, who is similar in size and athleticism, gets his paint shots blocked 5 percent of the time.)

Terrence Ross, Raptors

Ross impressed me this summer with his shooting talent and overall game, but the Ross I've seen thus far has not been on point. He is not looking to be assertive on offense, making the mistake a lot of rookies make of just trying to fit in. That has resulted in Ross oftentimes being a waste of minutes. As of yet, he has not taken a single free throw.

lakeshow22
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Ranking freshman NBA prospects

Every year, the incoming freshman class has a major impact on the draft. This year won't be any different.

Our 2013 NBA Draft Top 100 has a whopping six freshmen projected as one-and-done lottery picks and another seven potential first-rounders. Freshmen have been the rage for NBA scouts since high school seniors were banned from entering the draft in 2007.

In 2007, a record six freshmen -- Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Mike Conley Jr., Brandan Wright,Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young -- were drafted in the lottery.

In 2008, seven freshmen -- Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love, Eric Gordon, Jerryd Bayless and Anthony Randolph -- broke that record.

But since 2008, GMs have cooled a little on the freshman class. In 2009, just two college freshmen -- Tyreke Evans and DeMar DeRozan -- were drafted in the lottery. The 2010 draft had four freshmen going in the lottery: John Wall, Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins andXavier Henry.

The 2011 class had a ton of elite freshmen, but four of them -- Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, Jared Sullinger and Terrence Jones -- all decided to return for their sophomore seasons. That left just three freshmen drafted in the lottery -- Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knightand Tristan Thompson.

Last season saw a bit of a resurgence. The first three players selected in the draft were freshmen, with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal going in order. A total of five freshmen went in the lottery, with Moe Harkless falling just one pick short of the lottery.

The top 12 freshmen

Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Top 100 Rank: 1

Patience, everyone. Noel is often compared with Anthony Davis. Yes, they're both long and athletic and can block shots. But the comparisons really end there. Noel doesn't have the same motor nor does he have the offensive skills of Davis. So why is he ranked No. 1?

For starters, Anthony Davis isn't in this draft class. Right now, there doesn't appear to be a player like Davis who could win multiple MVP awards in his career. This is just a weaker draft. Second, scouts predict Noel could be a dominant shot-blocker in the NBA, regardless of whether his offensive skills ever come around. And the smart money says his offensive skills will improve.

Lastly, people forget that freshmen who turn into great NBA players don't always dominate every game. Derrick Rose got off to a very slow start at Memphis. Blake Griffin was very shaky in his first two high profile matchups his freshman year at Oklahoma. Davis had three points against Penn State in his third game. He scored just six points in a December contest against North Carolina. At the time, my inbox was filled with people saying "Anthony Davis is a poor man's Marcus Camby." "He's too skinny for the NBA." "He has NO offensive game," etc.

To which I say: Remember, we're talking about freshmen.

So when Noel starts the season with just four points and nine rebounds against Maryland we might just want to chill. In his next game, against Duke's Mason Plumlee, a seasoned senior, he had 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists and 4 steals. Not too shabby for an 18-year old kid playing in the second college game of his life.

So yes, he's not going to look like the No. 1 pick for a while ... but scouts can afford to be patient. You should be, too.

Shabazz Muhammad, F, UCLA
Top 100 Rank: 3

On Friday, the NCAA ruled that Muhammad was ineligible for the start of UCLA's season. Whether that ban continues all season is anyone's guess. Even if Muhammad doesn't play one game all season, every NBA scout I spoke with still believes he's a top-three pick. He's got a terrific motor, is a great scorer and is versatile.

In fact, if Noel doesn't improve, I wouldn't be shocked to see Muhammad go No. 1. Plenty of scouts have concerns about Cody Zeller's long-term upside in the NBA. They may feel Muhammad has more sizzle. At this point, I'm not sure it behooves Muhammad to play for UCLA. His draft stock may be better off sitting the season out.

Isaiah Austin, F/C, Baylor
Top 100 Rank: 7

Austin got off to a terrific start in his first game for Baylor, dropping 22 points on Lehigh in just 17 minutes. That's giving scouts hope that Austin won't be the sort of positionless, passive player that both Perry Jones and Quincy Miller were during their freshman seasons at Baylor. One scout I trust says that Austin has a lot of Jonathan Bender in him. If he plays with this aggressiveness all season, he too could have a shot at the No. 1 pick.

Alex Poythress, F, Kentucky
Top 100 Rank: 8

Poythress is a tweener right now, but he's such a special athlete and has so many positives that scouts are willing to overlook his flaws.

If you watched Kentucky's first two games, you saw both his potential and his weaknesses. Against Maryland, he struggled to get into any rhythm, was forcing the issue and didn't seem to really have a position or a role on the team. Against Duke, he was everywhere. He was battling on the boards, making major athletic plays in the paint and stretching the defense with his jumper. If the Poythress we saw against Duke shows up on a regular basis, he's going very, very high.

Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

Top 100 Rank: 9

Adams is a tough, physical big man who is still learning the nuances of the American game. The Kiwi import is earning big minutes from Jamie Dixon right away and already looks like he could step in and play defense in the NBA. His defense alone might get him drafted in the lottery. If he can show some offensive game as well, he's got the talent to be a top-10 pick.

Archie Goodwin, G, Kentucky
Top 100 Rank: 10

Calipari has been comparing Goodwin to a young Russell Westbrook. He has a ton of athletic ability, and no one in college basketball can stay in front of him. But he also seems to have inherited Westbrook's penchant for making bad basketball decisions when he's pressured. Some of the shots Goodwin has taken have been inspired dropped jaws, head shaking or both. Still, Goodwin has elite NBA athlete written all over him. If Calipari can rein him in? Again, top-10 pick.

Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
Top 100 Rank: 14

Bennett may be a bit of a tweener, but few freshmen have his offensive skills and the opportunity to use them. Bennett can score from anywhere on the floor and he's an elite athlete. He scored 22 points in 20 minutes in his first game for the Runnin' Rebels. If he can lead UNLV deep this year and prove he has a position, he's another player who could easily end up in the lottery.

Kyle Anderson, F, UCLA
Top 100 Rank: 18

Anderson may be the toughest player in the draft to peg. He is totally unique. He's a 6-foot-8 point guard who can handle the ball and see things developing with an eerie sixth sense. His lack of lateral quickness (his nickname is SlowMo) and his shaky jumper give teams concern, but the high basketball IQ and the ability to make everyone better are major pluses.

Ben McLemore, G/F, Kansas
Top 100 Rank: 20

McLemore is a bit of a Brandon Rush clone: long, excellent defender; good rebounder; can really shoot the rock. Often plays like he doesn't have confidence. Scouts love the talent, but he's got to show he's willing to do it night in and night out. His first two outings for the Jayhawks are inspiring hope. He has all the tools to be an excellent NBA player.

Rodney Purvis, G, North Carolina State
Top 100 Rank: 29

NC State is loaded with great veterans like C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown and Richard Howellthis year, but some scouts feel the most talented player on the roster might be Purvis. Purvis is a scoring machine who is relentless at getting to the basket. I know a handful of scouts who feel that, after Archie Goodwin, he's the best 2-guard in college basketball. Some scouts are questioning his jumper and lack of elite size for his position, but many think he might be a big-time scorer at the next level.

Willie Cauley-Stein, F/C, Kentucky
Top 100 Rank: 30

Cauley-Stein didn't get nearly the hype that Nerlens Noel did in high school. He was a late bloomer who didn't really start to come into his own until his senior year. But Kentucky has been raving about him since practice started, and after the Wildcats' first two games, it's pretty clear he's going to get a lot of interest from NBA scouts. He's long, a fluid athlete and shows so much potential on the offensive end. Even though he's coming off the bench as a sixth man, I would not be shocked to see Cauley-Stein in the lottery on draft night. There's just too much raw talent there for NBA scouts to pass on him.

Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
Top 100 Rank: 34

There will be a lot of focus on LeBryan Nash this year, but many scouts believe that Smart might be the better pro prospect. He's an elite athlete who can play both backcourt positions. If he can convince NBA teams he's a point guard, he's just a jump shot away from being a lottery pick.

Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Top 100 Rank: 35

Harris is a terrific athlete with a high basketball IQ and an excellent motor. He's tough, defends multiple positions and has shown that right out of the gate he has the green light from Tom Izzo to make things happen. His jump shot is still a work in progress, but after watching him slice and dice KU's defense on Tuesday, many scouts felt he too could end up in the lottery someday.

Best of the rest: Kaleb Tarczewski, C, Arizona; Przemek Karnowski, C, Gonzaga; Grant Jerrett, F, Arizona; Brandon Ashley, F, Arizona; Cameron Ridley, C, Texas; Glenn Robinson III, F, Michigan; Omar Calhoun, SG, UConn; Josh Scott, F/C, Colorado; DaJuan Coleman, F/C, Syracuse; Mitch McGary, F/C, Michigan; Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin; Danuel House, SF, Houston; Rasheed Sulaimon, SG, Duke; Yogi Ferrell, PG, Indiana; Perry Ellis, F, Kansas;Devonta Pollard, SF, Alabama; T.J. Warren, F, North Carolina State; Marcus Paige, PG, North Carolina; Amile Jefferson, F, Duke; Jamari Traylor, PF, Kansas

lakeshow22
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thanks do you got
Iain'tFinnaKnowTho
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that one ^ is the most

that one ^ is the most important. please.... thanks

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