Rookie Class Comes In With Big Chip

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The ugly ducklings of the 2013 Draft class aren’t amused.

When Team USA held its annual July minicamp in Las Vegas with a couple dozen invited NBA players, a college star also got the call. Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart – a projected top-five pick in next summer’s draft class, the one the gurus already gloat is lined with gems — was a must-see in Vegas. Team USA didn’t even pretend to look for a diamond-in-the-rough among this year’s crop of NBA rookies.

Perhaps the 76ers’ new center, Nerlens Noel, would have been that hot-shot rookie, but he was rehabbing from ACL surgery. The injury ruined his near-consensus No. 1 status in the 2013 NBA Draft, where he eventually landed at No. 6.

Remember who went No. 1? Anthony Bennett. He probably isn’t on the tip of your tongue, either.

Yet the kid who is projected to be the top pick in next June’s Draft, Andrew Wiggins, already has gone viral in terms of his popularity among NBA teams.

See how this might rub the NBA’s current rookie class the wrong way?

Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel (David Dow/NBAE)

“They have their judgment of us being a weak draft class and that’s fine,” Orlando Magic rookie and No. 2 overall draft pick Victor Oladipo said. “But I feel as one of the players in the draft class, that means they are taking a shot at not only the draft class, but me personally. I’m just going to continue to work hard and just keep getting better.”

Oladipo, an explosive, high-intensity and intelligent shooting guard out of Indiana, broached the topic with his 2013 brethren in New York during the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program. He discovered he wasn’t the only one scratching this itch of disrespect.

“Yeah, that’s definitely been on my mind,” Noel said. “I recall even Oladipo mentioned that as well. Me and him and another couple of guys were talking about how we’re being overlooked. We do have players that will make an impact.”

Oladipo is among the favorites to follow Portland’s Damian Lillard as Rookie of the Year. C.J. McCollom, the No. 10 overall pick by Portland, will have the chance to back up Lillard. No. 9 Trey Burke will take over as Utah’s starting point guard. No. 7 Ben McLemore will get opportunities to shoot the lights out in Sacramento. No. 14 Shabazz Muhammad could get unexpected playing time to prove his worth in Minnesota in the wake of Chase Budinger‘s knee injury. Noel’s season in Philadelphia won’t start until his knee is 100 percent, but the Sixers ultimately see the center as the foundation of their ground-up rebuild. No. 3 Otto Porter will play alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal in Washington.

“We’re taking a lot of criticism,” Porter said. “At the end of the day, we want to be a class that makes a difference. I can only speak for myself, but I’m working hard to make a difference. It’s more motivation. I think we pretty much all knew that they’re saying this and we have to do the opposite.”

At the bottom end of the first round, maybe Germany’s tantalizing point guard Dennis Schroeder (at No. 17) emerges as a star in Atlanta. Potential for Michigan’s long-and-lanky Tim Hardaway Jr. at No. 24 with the Knicks? How about No. 29 Archie Goodwin, the one-year Kentucky Wildcat, who put in an impressive Summer League with the Suns?

Draft classes are pre-judged. And, true, there isn’t an obvious superstar-in-the-making among this one. But who saw Kawhi Leonard as the next face of the San Antonio Spurs at No. 15 in 2011, another draft considered to lack star power at the top (at least outside of Kyrie Irving) and depth at the back end? Who even knew how to pronounce “kah-WHY”? Kenneth Faried, in the same draft at No. 22, is taking charge in Denver. We know now that David West at No. 18 (Class of 2003) was a find. He came 16 spots below Darko Milicic.

Take heed class of 2013. Now it’s time to rise from ugly ducklings to darlings.

“They feel like we’re one of the weakest classes that has been in the NBA Draft, which is fine,” Oladipo said. “Like I said, that is their opinion. But at the end of the day we’re going to use it for fuel. I know I am.”

20 Comments

  1. Oladipo can be ala-Dwyane Wade if he improves this season… and Ben McLemore can be an upgraded Ray Allen in the making….. and Kelly Olynyk could be Dirk 2.0

  2. KingKaash94 says:

    Benny McLemore can be better than Klay Thompson! He can shoot just as well plus he’s more athletic than Thompson! Watch out!

  3. CJ Macollun and Damian Lillard will be considered as how Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars were in there error, small backcourt, but they will get the job done. Small with heart and fierce like a Lion, or pitbull. I”m just saying, my 5 % how i feel, and i am not even a portland fan, strictly Carmelo and the Knicks. And Carmelo will win MVP just has to share the ball more trust your teammates and stop forcing shots when he gets double, the defence will be better with the addition of World Peace.

  4. Cj Macollun I feel will win Rookie of the year, that guy can flat out play, will have to show he can defend the bigger point guards and they will have to defend him as well.

  5. Paul says:

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, he is a hybrid of Ben McLemore (offensively) and Victor Olapido (defensively). That’s a combination that will be a force to reckon with. I can see him outshining some of the players taken ahead of him, he’s a two dimensional player, does it on both sides of the court. Great pick up for Detroit.

  6. ADAM says:

    Nerlens and MC3 startin things over in Philly

  7. J says:

    they aren’t that bad they have these great players (well I think they are great, there is probably more that I don’t mention but these are the players I think will be great)…

    bennett
    oladipo
    porter
    zeller
    len
    noel
    mclemore
    burke
    McCollum
    carter-Williams
    olynyk

    that’s not many but there is some good players there

    • Paul says:

      Of course you would leave out KCP right after I said he is overlooked. Nice one…

      • J says:

        I didn’t read your comment until now
        I don’t know much about kentavious Caldwell-pope I would have put him but as I said I don’t know much about him I think he’s a scorer but I also don’t know how he gets his points 3s slashing what is it
        cool name though

  8. Paul says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how #8 pick, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, continues to get overlooked. In any conversation regarding the 2013 daft, KCP is rarely ever mentioned. They talk about #1,#2,#3,#6, #7,#9,#10,#14,#17..ect. How do you skip #8 KCP and go on talking about Trey Burke, Archie Goodwin, Dennis Shroeder, Tim Hardaway Jr? What makes those guys selected well after KCP more important that KCP isn’t talked about?

  9. Karlo Garcia says:

    I like Mason Plumlee

  10. philaw123 says:

    I was gonna mention Bennett and Wiggins being Canadian too. Add Olynyk to that list. Which is why I can’t figure why they did so poorly in the FIBA qualifier. Maybe too much hype?

  11. tim says:

    naj Cj will win ROY for sure

  12. glenbigdogrobinson13 says:

    Kelly Olynyk will win the Rookie of the year hands down and this so called editor does not even mention him….. what a joke

  13. TO Fan says:

    Ummm… correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins Canadians? So why would they be invited to Team USA camp?

    • RJ says:

      I think he was making the point that Wiggins is getting more attention than most of the guys who are rookies right now, not really relating to team USA camp. He was pretty just much making the point that Bennett was the number 1 pick and isn’t even really getting any attention. I mean these were both clearly structured in this article to be unrelated to the team usa bit.

    • caplannba says:

      You misunderstood. Bennett and Wiggins aren’t mentioned in regards to Team USA. The point was that no one from the 2013 class was invited while a player entering the 2014 draft was; and that Andrew Wiggins, the consensus No. 1 pick next summer, is already more a well-known name than the 2013 No. 1 pick.