Rookies Ready to Make an Impact
*Photo via AP
The 2015 NBA Draft provided the public with Jalen Rose’s player comparisons, Jay Bilas marveling at player wingspans (cheers), Adrian Wojnarowski dominating the world and of course, the draftees and their outfits. Now that the new wave of NBA talent has found themselves in new locations, it’s time to figure out how these rookies will fit with their organizations. Majority of rookies will be developed by their respective franchises before they are able to make an impact, but there are a special few who will make an instant impact. For this upcoming season, I have selected five rookies who will have a major impact based on three factors:
1. Overall talent of the rookie’s roster.
2. How NBA ready the player is.
3. How well the rookie fits on their team.
C Jahlil Okafor – Philadelphia 76ers
Jahlil Okafor will be a part of another tanking effort by the Philadelphia 76ers next season. When you look at the Sixers roster, they are looking at another abysmal record this year. With 2014’s first round pick Joel Embiid most likely being out for at least half the season, Okafor will undoubtedly be the number one scorer down low for the 76ers.
Okafor will face double teams and help side defense because he is the only reliable scorer on his team. Even if the opposing team game plans to stop him, I see no reason why he still couldn’t score and score efficiently. He faced similar scenarios at Duke and shot 66 percent from the field at Duke. He could be dominant.
With an NBA ready body and an array of beautiful post moves down low, Jahlil looks poised to put up big time numbers in his rookie season for the 76ers. One of the biggest knocks on Okafor is his defense. However with Nerlens Noel, one of the best young defensive big men playing next to him, Okafor won’t have to guard the opposing team's best post player.
Judging by the 76ers roster, Okafor looks to be the only legitimate offensive weapon which is why he is my favorite for Rookie of the Year.
PG Emmanuel Mudiay – Denver Nuggets
Emmanuel Mudiay will be playing on a very injury prone and mediocre Denver Nuggets team next year. The Nuggets have point guard Ty Lawson, but judging by trade rumors that Lawson has been involved in, Lawson won’t be around much longer. Mudiay is an athletic six-foot-five point guard who excels in finishing at the rim. His skill set is perfect for Denver’s run and gun offense.
Mudiay will also have a duo of good jump shooters he can dish the ball to in Danillo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Mudiay’s game is similar to Dante Exum’s of the Utah Jazz. Whenever I watched Exum, he looked to be forcing his below average three-point jump shot because of lack of shooters and floor spacers around him. Mudiay will not have these problems as Denver’s shooters will keep Mudiay from forcing his below average three-point jumper and open driving lanes.
Mudiay should be able to attack the rim right away at the NBA level along with being a defensive force. With a wingspan of around six-foot-nine and his great athleticism, his long arms should lead to a number of steals and easy transition baskets this season.
This isn’t Mudiay’s first time being a professional. He skipped college and played professional basketball last season in China which should ease his transition. He already knows about the business of professional basketball and I think that will help him to work harder and not take any opportunity for granted.
SF Stanley Johnson – Detroit Pistons
Stanley Johnson is going into an ideal situation with the Detroit Pistons, where there is a major lack of wing production. Other than Reggie Jackson, the Pistons don’t have any dynamic perimeter scorers. Johnson will have the opportunity to start from day one, and be the third scoring option in Detroit.
Johnson has made quite an impression on me as a scorer in the Orlando Summer League this year, scoring 17 points a game and knocking down 50 percent of his three-point attempts. Coming out of Arizona, shooting consistently with range was a major knock on Johnson.
Johnson has NBA small forward height and a NBA ready body at six-foot-seven and 245 pounds. That combination of size and strength should allow him to get into the lane and finish through contact. The size and strength combination will also make him a high level perimeter defender early in his NBA career.
Stanley Johnson has already showed off his defensive ability averaging 2 steals a game in the summer league. He also shut down fellow top pick Justise Winslow in a recent Summer League game. Winslow shot only 33 percent from the field on 5 of 15 shooting where Johnson defended him for a majority of the game.
Stanley Johnson is set for major playing time and should a top two-way rookie. Detroit Vs. Everybody
F/C Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves
It’s hard to talk about impact rookies and not talk about the number one overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns will be playing on an exciting young Minnesota Timberwolves team. Towns should be at worst the third scoring option on the Timberwolves and the number one scoring option in the post.
KAT is on a team that will most likely be pushing the tempo all game with Ricky Rubio at the point and Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine on the wings. If Towns runs the floor well Rubio will have no problem finding him for easy buckets.
Scouts always raved about the versatility of Karl-Anthony Towns even though you didn’t see a lot of it Kentucky. Towns has the ability to step out and knockdown an open three-pointer as well as scoring on the block. He also has the ability to be a screener who can roll to the basket and pop out for jumpers. He will get open off ball screens set for Rubio, who has no problem finding the open man.
Standing six-foot-eleven with a seven-foot-three wingspan, Towns will also provide rim protection on the defensive end, something the Timberwolves didn’t have last year. Towns led the Kentucky Wildcats in blocked shots during his freshman season.
Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders has to be salivating over all the ways Karl-Anthony Towns can affect a basketball game and all the different ways Towns can be used to score offensively. The versatility on both ends of the floor of Karl-Anthony Towns along with improving second year wings, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, will get the Timberwolves to 30 wins, after 16 last season.
F/C Myles Turner – Indiana Pacers
Myles Turner has been labeled as a high risk/reward prospect and with the Indiana Pacers moving Roy Hibbert it looks like the Pacers are all in. With the departure of the Pacers two starting big men Hibbert and David West, Turner will be forced into action and will have to become the number one post scoring option for the Pacers.
Like fellow rookie Stanley Johnson, Turner has made quite the impression in the Orlando Summer League averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks while shooting 66 percent from the field and hitting both the three-pointers in his first two Summer League contests.
Turner has shown the ability to hit his face up jumper from 15-20 feet consistently along with excelling at grabbing offensive rebounds. If Turner is able to get bigger and develop his low post game he could be a huge offensive asset for the Pacers.
On the defensive side of the floor Myles Turner can protect the rim, but has been foul prone. During his first two Summer League games Turner has averaged six and a half fouls in 28 minutes a game. However if Turner can learn to block shots without fouling he will make an impact on defense for the Indiana Pacers.
The ability to stretch the floor and protect the rim is a rare ability. Those two factors will earn Turner playing time and he will contribute immediately to the Indiana Pacers on both ends of the floor.
All stats via NBA.com,