rookies with most upside
can someone with insider post Rookie Watch: Who has most upside?
Written by David Thorpe:
Every year, draft experts and fans talk about the choice each team has to make: production versus potential. Performance versus upside.
One classic case: the debate in 2004 about whether the Orlando Magic should draft UConn star Emeka Okafor or high school phenom Dwight Howard.
A team never knows whether a player will reach his potential, and that makes draft night decisions the trickiest and often the most important moments a franchise faces.
The following list takes a fresh look at which of this season's rookies seem to have the most upside six months after the 2009 NBA draft. In other words, if we assume the perfect coach, the perfect system and perfect development, which players have the most potential?
NBA Rookie 50
Check out David Thorpe's 2009-10 rookie rankings. NBA Rookie 50
• Hollinger's stats: Rookie leaders Insider
Note: This is not a prediction of how good I think these players will become. Instead, it's a ranking of who would be the best players if they ever reached their full potential.
1. Earl Clark, Suns | Rookie card
Clark already has an excellent foundation. He is long, strong and athletic, can defend four spots on the floor and is skilled as both a dribbler and passer. Unfortunately, he has been a nonfactor in the NBA.
Many people assumed this would be the case during the draft process, which is why he fell to the Suns at No. 14; he would have been in consideration for a top-three pick were it not for questions about his work ethic and character. Clark has trouble staying locked in the moment, so he'll miss assignments (such as the wide-open 3 he recently gave up to Andres Nocioni after a timeout). And he's so talented that he can get casual about details. Not to mention he still has to work on his shooting and finishing, and concerns about his off-the-court immaturity exist.
In June, I guessed that Clark had about a 50 percent chance to reach about 75 percent of his potential; it seemed unlikely to me that he would ever reach his full potential. As of today, he has a lot of growing to do to get even close to that 75 percent mark.
2. Tyreke Evans, Kings | Rookie card
Evans is the rare talent who is already incredibly productive and still has room to improve. He's also an example of why playing in the right system is so important, as his numbers have improved dramatically since the Kings handed the reins to him.
He gets compared to LeBron James often because at 6-foot-6, he also is so huge for his position. But he's nowhere near the athlete LeBron is, which gives Evans an easy target to shoot for; as works on being more explosive, he'll be better at finishing plays near the rim. Shooting is the other big area of concern, and it has been described in this space before. It's more of a lower-body problem than a release one, so he should have little trouble improving.
Evans is competitive and coachable, and he carries himself maturely on the court, so it seems very likely he'll nearly reach his full potential. If this were a ranking of who will actually become the best player of this class in seven years, he'd be No. 1.
3. Hasheem Thabeet, Grizzlies | Rookie card
The NBA always has valued big men who can run, rebound, finish and block shots. And with good reason: They impact every part of the game. Thabeet can improve in every area because he seems coachable. However, he is missing one ingredient that has me concerned about his upside: a motor that runs hot. Few players who lack what I call a "heartbeat" develop that drive to dominate later in their careers.
But in the spirit of this report, we're assuming that Thabeet develops his knowledge, feel, skill, athleticism and motor. If all those things happen, the NBA will have a 7-3 shot-blocking machine running around who could have a huge impact on the league. There is pressure on Memphis to build its system around Thabeet to ensure his development.
4. Brandon Jennings, Bucks | Rookie card
Jennings' quickness and shot-making plus mental toughness make him hard to slow him down on defense. And today's NBA suits his skill set like never before -- the no-handcheck rule is a gift to guys with jets such as Jennings.
Now, for the development: The evolution of zone defenses will force him to become better at reading actions and defenders. Teams are flooding the ball side with extra defenders, forcing guards to swing the ball quickly and then continue moving it. So Jennings will have to learn how to be able to think like a coach on the floor. It's something he looks likely to master.
5. Rodrigue Beaubois, Mavericks | Rookie card
One of the tricks that scouts use to evaluate upside is the "Who does he play like?" game. For most guys, it's easy; for others, not so much. (See LeBron James.) I think Beaubois falls into the latter category because of his unusual size and skill set -- he has a gigantic wingspan to go with a set of jet engines for legs.
If Beaubois can learn to shoot, that alone will help him become an impact player on this level. But what he needs to improve most are his basketball instincts and feel while using experience to counteract any problems with his instincts. For example, he needs to learn to pick his driving and passing spots better. If he can do that and have more of a rebounding impact, he'll look a lot like Rajon Rondo. Not even five players in the 2009 draft who have played this season can measure up to that.
6. Jrue Holiday, 76ers | Rookie card
Holiday averaged only eight points per game in college, but he has the big body, the disposition to defend and the maturity on the court to be able to run a team. His shot is better than people thought, too. Still, he is the youngest player in the NBA and consequently has a lot to learn about playing in the league and running the point.
He's not a pure scorer like Jennings, Evans and Jonny Flynn, so he has a disadvantage at the 1 because teams will play him for the pass -- and that hurts the offense. Balancing his scoring ability with quarterbacking the offense takes time and experience. The return of Allen Iverson may slow down his development in this area. Holiday has the talent to be a strong starter on a great team, but he can slip into a passive role if he's not being pushed and challenged.
7. DeMar DeRozan, Raptors | Rookie card
DeRozan shares some of Holiday's strengths and faults -- he is happy playing a role and rarely forces the issue. This is an important aspect of his upside -- if his skills improve greatly, as they should, will he learn the necessary mindset to better take advantage of those improved skills?
Blessed with excellent athleticism and size, DeRozan easily could become a solid starter in this league without much improvement, playing off his teammates in the way Courtney Lee did last season for Orlando. But if he's driven to succeed and reach his potential, and learns how to become a go-to scorer, suddenly he'll become a top-three guy on his team.
8. Omri Casspi, Kings | Rookie card
For a guy who has been a pro for years, he still has quite a bit of upside to develop. He's unlikely to improve much as a shooter, considering he's been making about half his 3-point shots since early October, but he has another talent that bears watching: his playmaking ability as a passer.
Casspi is far too raw in this area to be part of a consistent pick-and-roll game as the primary ball handler, but over time I see it as a strong possibility. He has the size and fluidity of Hedo Turkoglu, so imagine what kind of player he could be if he develops his playmaking skills to go with his high-energy game and cold-blooded perimeter shooting.
9 (tie). Jonny Flynn, Wolves and Jeff Teague, Hawks
I put these two together because they're both basically unguardable in one-on-one situations off the dribble. And as they develop their finishing skills with a more diverse array of shots, they will become two of the best dribble-drivers in the game.
But each also needs to have a solid 3-point shot in his arsenals to reach his full potential. They are decent shooters, so with time and practice, they should be able to shoot at least 36 percent from long range. (Flynn is currently at 33 percent; Teague 30 percent.)
10. James Harden, Thunder | Rookie card
To be fair, Harden is this low on the list only because he's already so polished. He has learned to play a smart and crafty game -- and has done so for years -- because he's not superathletic. As I've said before, he plays like a veteran with a steady pace, under control almost all the time.
Sure, Harden can improve his athleticism to some degree, and that would help his overall game, but given the reasons the Thunder drafted him -- his passing skills, shooting and ability to mesh with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook -- the pressure on him to develop into a superstar is just not there; he may never even be an All-Star. But make no mistake, he has the talent to put up big numbers on a championship team.
Honorable mention: Blake Griffin, Clippers | Rookie card
Based on what I saw from Griffin in college and summer league, I'm guessing he would be in the top four of this list if he were healthy. We all remember his motor and physical presence.
Adding a perimeter shot and maybe even a triple-threat game to his half-court offense would add a huge dimension to what he already brings. And because of his combination of quickness and power, he should be able to get to the line frequently. So by learning to be an 80 percent shooter from the line, too, he would be an even more effective scorer.
I didn't find it to be that great of an article
i don't see how Griffins not on that list i know its full potentiol but i don't think Thabeet will ever be much more than a good defender h lacks the killer instinct. maybe im wrong.
this article is rather ambiguous on what it is ranking. Full potential to do what? Just saying full potential to be a great player is too broad.
thorpe + hollinger = ESPN basketball analysts suck
LOL LOL LOL sorry but to say that Jennings and Evans haven't most upside it just CRAZYthey are too much better than all others...besides Balke i don't see many rookies who can be that good in the future like Brandon and Tyreke IS NOW.