Promising NBA Sophomores That Face a Logjam at Their Position
Even though the 2013 NBA Draft Class wasn’t the most memorable in recent years, it still proved to have a decent crop of players that could eventually develop into top tier talents down the line.
Part of that development comes from learning from seasoned veterans, who show these young guns how to survive and thrive in the league.
However, the most vital element to their growth comes from being thrown into the fire, receiving the necessary minutes to make an impact in the game while also gaining valuable experience at the same time.
Many of the incoming sophomores already have a green light when it comes to how much they’ll play this year, however the guys listed below may face a completely different path, and instead be buried on the bench once the season rolls around.
Steven Adams, Thunder, PF
Adams was definitely a pleasant surprise for the Thunder last season, as he brought an old-school type of toughness to the team’s frontcourt and gave them a much needed resurgence to their interior defense.
Going into the offseason, it appeared he had a chance to take the lions share of minutes from longtime starter Kendrick Perkins, but now with the recent drafting of center Mitch McGary, he may wind up in a similar role next season.
How Adam’s minutes get distributed will really be decided by how well McGary and Perkins play in training camp, but regardless of whether he starts or not, it’s doubtful he will get a plethora of time given their logjam at the center position.
Cody Zeller, Hornets, PF
A stat line of 6.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game isn’t anything to get crazy about, but near the end of the season Zeller began to show why he was taken with the fourth pick in the draft, as he posted career highs in points (15) and rebounds (11) and seemed poised to become the team’s power forward of the future.
That was until the Hornets selected Noah Vonleh with their top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft….
Now with Vonleh, Bismack Biyumbo and even new signee Marvin Williams all battling for minutes at the 4, Zeller may be on the outside looking in when it comes to getting playing time, as he faces stiff competition all across the board.
Ryan Kelly, Lakers, PF
My initial thoughts for Ryan Kelly’s role with the Lakers as the offseason unfolded:
Drafting of Julius Randle: Okay, I see him as a potential sixth man that can score points off the bench.
Acquiring Carlos Boozer: Maybe he could still be a quality role player for them….
Signing Ed Davis and Jordan Hill: Why are there so many freaking power forwards on this team?!?!?!
Unless Ryan Kelly grows a few more inches and magically has the ghost of Wilt Chamberlin take over his body, don’t expect to see him play much this season.
Ben McLemore, Kings, SG
Just like Charlotte, Sacramento felt it was best to take a player at the same position for two years in a row (first Ben McLemore and now Nik Stauskas), which means either one will flourish and the other will get moved, or neither will do well at all and this becomes a horrible experiment.
Hold the phone! Head coach Michael Malone has a solution to this problem:
“Ben McLemore has had an unbelievable summer so far. He’s worked very, very hard. He’s gotten better and I know he’s anxious to show that in summer league in Vegas in a couple weeks, but both of those guys [Staukas, McLemore] can play together.”
Yes, you can play two shooting guards together at once, but does anyone really think that two shoot-first guards are capable of orchestrating an offense?
I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Pistons, SG
Although Pope struggled mightily during the 2013-2014 season, he bounced back with a strong summer league performance this offseason, posting averages of 24 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
With sharpshooter Jodie Meeks recently signing a three-year deal with the Pistons, it will be a long time before Caldwell-Pope earns a starting gig again.
Hopefully over time, he’ll be able to take the torch from Meeks and flourish into the same prolific scorer he appeared like in the summer league.
Dennis Schroeder, Hawks, PG
There was tons of hype surrounding the German native before the start of last season, as he showcased superb playmaking skills, a Rondo-like inside game and the potential to be a two-way player given his impressive wingspan and speed.
That notoriety disappeared however once he was designated to a backup point guard role in the regular season, eventually losing his spot in the rotation to Shelvin Mack and also getting shipped to the D-League for a small portion of the year.
Now with Mack receiving a three-year deal this summer, Schroeder may not get another opportunity to prove why he’s worthy of even being on the roster heading into next season. Does anyone else smell a trade brewing?
Nate Wolters, Bucks, PG
Other than Ryan Kelly, Nate Wolters proved to be one of the biggest steals in the second round of last year’s draft, flashing off a team-best 3.22 AST/TO ratio, which was better than elite point guards like Rajon Rondo and Ricky Rubio.
Now Wolters will have to compete against tough competition to earn a spot in the rotation this season, as he’ll be going up against veterans like Kendall Marshall, Jerryd Bayless and Brandon Knight.
It definitely is an uphill battle for the former South Dakota State star to earn the starting gig this year, but given all of the obstacles he’s already overcome, there’s no reason to doubt his chances.
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