By NIKITA DUBNOV
This is the second part of a two-part series. Part One appeared in last Wednesday’s paper.
Last Wednesday, the first installment of my top seven rookies to watch column was published in the Sun. That piece ranked my picks for the seven to four positions (Marcus Smart, Bruno Caboclo, Shabazz Napier and Nerlens Noel). Today, we get to see who wins the bronze, silver and gold of my favorite rookies for the 2014-2015 season.
Just to reiterate my reason for this list — this is not a list of my rankings of who will win the rookie of the year award this year. This is actually a list of my favorite new players to join the National Basketball Association.
The time has come. Here are the winners:
3) Doug McDermott, SF, Chicago Bulls
McDermott gets the third place chip because he can score. He can score a lot. He led all NCAA Division 1 players in scoring with 26.7 points per game. The Bulls don’t necessarily need that type of scoring with all their other offensive weapons, but McDermott will certainly fit into the roster extremely well. As of now, Mike Dunleavy is starting in the small forward spot, but with a little more experience, McDermott is sure to be taking the role very soon. The Creighton product is big and can score the ball in the paint. However, his shooting touch from the NBA 3-point range is the highlight of his offensive talents. Look for McDermott to get a lot of open looks for easy buckets this season with the rest of the Bulls offense passing and taking moving the ball inside frequently. It is almost too easy to picture guys like Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler taking it to the paint and then kicking the ball out to a wide open McDermott on the perimeter. Chicago’s bigs are also exceptional passers, which will only help the youngster’s opportunities on the perimeter. McDermott complements what may very well be the most complete roster in the league (barring any freak injuries). Out of all the players on this list, McDermott is certainly in the best situation in terms of who he is surrounded by. Chicago has a lot of smart players on the roster and is led by one of the best coaches in the NBA. McDermott is in the right place to be an immediate winner and to grow as a big time NBA player.
2) Elfrid Payton, PG, Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic certainly won in the rookie point guard department. It seemed like Payton could have gone earlier, but the Magic were lucky to get him as through a trade for the 10th pick. Payton also seemed to come out of nowhere to become one of the best all-around players from this year’s draft. He will be a stat sheet stuffer, with an emphasis on some fancy assists he will likely pick up from superb passing ability. He is young, quick, active and is a great team leader. Payton’s defense only adds to his complete package. He seems like the closest thing the NBA now has to Rajon Rondo, except for Rondo himself. As Payton develops, he needs to put on some pounds and improve his shot, but those are minor milestones on his road to an illustrious NBA career. Payton is also my sleeper fantasy pick for this season, as he will be Orlando’s primary point guard option. Plus, he has cool hair and an interesting name. That never hurts. All of those attributes make Elfrid Payton my second favorite rookie coming into the 2014-2015 season.
1) Jabari Parker, SF, Milwaukee Bucks
Do not feel sorry for Jabari. He is stuck in Milwaukee, but he is the real deal that can carry the Bucks to the next level. I truly believe that people underestimate what Parker could do in the NBA. He is not as unique a player as Elfrid Payton, but Jabari Parker gets my top spot of favorite rookies for one major reason: his offensive game looks deadly. Parker was able to display the dominant play of an NBA veteran in the preseason. He looks quick, he can utilize all dimension of his offensive game and he has some stellar moves that will certainly land him on highlight reels on a nightly basis. He was able to display a super quick and effective step-back jumper and some strong moves in the paint during the preseason. The Carmelo Anthony comparison is warranted. In fact, I think that Parker has a chance to exceed Melo’s NBA success. Unfortunately, that comparison is also accurate on the defensive end. That is the main criticism of Parker’s game. However, he is young and he can learn to take pride in his defense. The Bucks are a really young team, and with an inexperienced Jason Kidd running the show, basketball in Milwaukee may not be too prominent for several more seasons. Parker is missing the success in the environment around him to rapidly improve on his game (something that a guy like Doug McDermott has available to him), but he is a smart and athletic young player that can be expected to carry his team this season and in the future. With all that being said, Parker is the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award this season for good reason. Whether that happens or not, Jabari Parker has the most upside out of all the rookies in the 2014-2015 season. He will go on to have a prominent career in the NBA.
That is my complete list of my favorite NBA rookies this NBA season. I see these seven players having important impacts on their respective teams and on the league. There may be other guys from this year’s rookie class that will have greater success on the court besides the ones I listed. Most notably, Andrew Wiggins is bound to live up to a good deal of the hype, but I just do not feel exceptionally excited about his arrival in the league. The players on this are ones to watch for as they transition into their NBA careers.