The 2014 rookie draft class was one of the deepest draft classes in a while. Potential superstars such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid highlighted an extremely deep class. There have been rookies that have been sidelined by injuries, underperformed, and flat out been ineffective; but what five has lived up to and/or exceeded expectations?
1. K.J. McDaniels: To this point the biggest surprise out of all the rookies has been K.J McDaniels. McDaniels, a second round pick out of Clemson, has been thoroughly impressive this year, averaging ten points and four rebounds a game. Yes, McDaniels plays on a bad team, but he has shown promise on a team that doesn’t have much promise. He also leads rookies in blocks per game, averaging one and a half blocks a game. Thats pretty impressive considering he plays the two guard most of the time. He has room to improve, especially on his three point shot, in which he’s only shooting 33 percent; but the more McDaniels plays and practices, the better he’ll get.
2. Jabari Parker: Second on the list is second overall pick Jabari Parker out of Duke. Coming into the league, it was widely argued who would be a better pro, Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins. To this point, Parker holds the advantage over Wiggins. Parker to this point is averaging just over 12 points a game and just under six rebounds. He’s also shown pretty good instincts on the defensive end, averaging better than one steal a game. The continued development of Parker is shown by how much his scoring totals have increased since the beginning of the season. In his first nine games he scored single digit points four times. In the last 13 games, he’s only scored in the single digits three times. Parker is one of the premiere rookie scorers, and he’ll only continue to get better.
3. Andrew Wiggins: Wiggins, the number one overall pick, comes in at three on this list. Wiggins was thought to have more potential than Jabari Parker, but maybe not as polished at this point in their respective careers. That hypothesis has proven to be correct to this point. Wiggins is averaging just under 12 points and three rebounds a contest. Although he averaging less than a point fewer than Jabari Parker per game, Parker’s field goal percentage is ten percent better. Also, his PER is only 8.68, while Jabari Parker’s is 15.62. Wiggins is a top three rookies and will be a star one day, but right now Jabari Parker is better.
4. Elfrid Payton: Payton, the 10th pick of the draft, was traded on draft day from Philadelphia to Orlando, and he has thrived. Payton didn’t come out of Louisiana-Lafayette as a scoring point guard, but more of a all around guard, and he’s been that. While Payton has only averaged six and a half points a game, he’s also averaged five assists (most among rookies), three rebounds and a steal a game. His versatility and 6’4 frame makes him unique for a point guard. Payton’s game reminds me a lot of Rajon Rondo, and in fact, they have almost identical rookie stats up to this point. Both Payton and Rondo aren’t elite scorers, but are really good passers and can rebound really well for guards. Elfrid Payton has the potential to be a consistent double-double guy throughout his career.
5. Zach LaVine: Coming in last but definitely not least is Zach LaVine. LaVine was drafted 13th overall out of UCLA as an extremely athletic point guard who could score, and he’s been just that. He’s averaging just under nine points. three assists and two rebounds per contest. Him and Elfrid Payton have the two highest ceilings amongst guards in this rookie class due to their size and athleticism. LaVine, who is 6’5, has shown that he can both find the open man and score the ball. His supreme athleticism and size will allow him to develop into a very good point guard that averages a double-double throughout his career, much like Elfrid Payton. He and Andrew Wiggins will be a lethal combo for the Timberwolves in two or three years.