HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – There’s one sure thing that we learned from last season’s rookie class: Kyrie Irving is a stud and will be a top-five point guard in due time.
The Rookie of the Year dealt with a shoulder injury late in the season, but was otherwise terrific in leading the Cleveland Cavaliers back to relevance just one year after LeBron James‘ departure. Ricky Rubio, of course, brought excitement to Minnesota before injuring his knee in early March.
But what of the other members of the 2011-12 rookie class? While there were some solid contributions on good teams made by the likes of Kenneth Faried, Kawhi Leonard, and Iman Shumpert, the class as a whole didn’t make much of an impact.
It’s much too early to judge last year’s rookies, though, as their first season came under some unique circumstances. First, the lockout canceled Summer League and kept them from working out with their teams for the five months following the draft. Then, they got an abbreviated training camp and little practice time in a condensed season.
So, while the summer after your rookie year is always important, this summer is absolutely huge for next year’s sophomores. They’ve got a taste of the league and know where they need to improve. Most important, they had Summer League and the opportunity to use team facilities and keep in contact with their coaches.
Jimmer Fredette was one of the most hyped members of last year’s rookie class, but shot just 39 percent in his first season with the Kings. Going into his second season, Fredette has a lot to prove if he wants to have a long NBA career.
Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune spoke with Fredette about the challenges of that lockout season and how the 6-foot- guard is preparing for his sophomore campaign…
Kings’ potential and having something to prove to Sacramento: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I’ve been in that position a lot. But, like I said, one thing that is good about me is, I’ve got better every single year at BYU and in high school. I think that’s going to happen soon. Same thing in the NBA. I work hard in the offseason to be a better play and be in good condition. But, also, going through a year knowing what you can and can’t do always helps you out. So, I’m excited to get out there and prove a lot of critics wrong. I don’t listen to it too much, but I know they’re out there. I know there are some out there.
Good to get the 2011-12 lockout season out of the way: Yeah. It was a tough year for ourselves as a Kings organization. Just with everything that went on and the lockout — everyone wasn’t used to that, myself especially. Then going into training camp, having everything be kind of crazy and get a coaching change right away. It was definitely tough. There was just a bunch of stuff going on around our team. I’m excited to have a full Summer League and then have a full training camp this year and show everybody that I can go out there and play, and I think that’ll be very, very beneficial to our whole team and myself to be able to do that and compete for a spot.
Fredette goes on to say that he plans on being a more aggressive and “fearless” scorer in his second season. So when the season starts in 78 days and we tune into the Kings on late-night League Pass, he’ll be one of the sophomores to keep an eye on.
What other second-year guys do you think might make the leap after a shaky rookie year?