After such a promising start, the NBA's 2016-17 Rookie Class has fallen far short of expectations compared to previous years. In fact, over the past eight or nine seasons, the overall production from the rookie players has dropped significantly outside of maybe one or two draft classes. The 2008-09 star-studded class, featuring Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, Goran Dragic, and DeAndre Jordan, is one of the two amazing draft classes in recent memory. Also, the 2009-10 class gave us Stephen Curry, James Harden, DeMar Derozan, Blake Griffin, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague, and Brandon Jennings.
Those classes aside, it has been a tough road for NBA rookies since 2012. And the easiest way to see the overall production of a draft class is the total number of win shares that the class provides, as a whole. The record for a rookie draft class is 100.1 win shares, that was the 2008 class. In 2012, the win shares was 73.5, followed by consecutive seasons of a decline, going down in 2013 to 44.5, 47.6 in 2014, 69.6 in 2015, and finally, just 36.4 from this most recent class, the worst win share total of a rookie class, ever.
That is partially to blame from the weaker draft class combined with the top overall pick, Ben Simmons, who ended up not playing a single minute during his rookie season after he injured his foot just before the season began. From the top down, the entire rookie class this past season has been a work-in-progress. The only thing that can be considered a good thing is that Joel Embiid and Dario Saric are considered to be rookies since they haven't played any games until this season, upgrading the entire class. However, since we are just talking about those players taken in the 2016 draft, we are not going to give them any consideration. The same goes for another popular name, Willy Hernangomez, a former 2015 draft pick from Spain.
So let's take a look at the eight players already starting to fail and the seven guys who are painting a bright future for themselves.
15 Failing: David Michineau, G, Los Angeles Clippers
David Michineau began his career being traded before anyone had enough time to learn how to even spell his last name. The New Orleans Pelicans drafted him with the 39th overall selection last summer before immediately trading him to the Los Angeles Clippers, where he wound up joining for the 2016 NBA Summer League.
During his five games in the Orlando Summer League, David managed to only average 8.2 points, 4.2 assists, and 1.2 rebounds per game while shooting an insanely low 28.8% from the field. He failed to impress anyone within the Clippers organization which led to his departure from the league, at least for now. He ended up signing shortly after the summer with the Hyeres-Toulon, a French pro basketball team, in France, his home country. It was a one-year deal but with the Clippers expressing their concerns that he is not ready yet, he might end up staying over there for a while, if not forever.
14 Future Star: Dragan Bender, PF/C, Phoenix Suns
Dragan Bender is one of only four NBA players that are 19 years old. He is the youngest active player in the entire league today, however, easily beating out Brandon Ingram by two and a half months. That means that his statistics from this past season are meaningless because of one reason, future potential.
The Phoenix Suns used their 4th pick in the draft last year to take him, knowing he was not going to be very helpful right away. He has a lot of growing to do but when the 7'1" center does reach his potential, many NBA analysts are saying that he might be the best player in the league because he is a versatile big man, not just a rebounding shot-blocker that stays under the basket. Bender is actually a great corner three point shooter and could even grow a few inches in the next year or so making him all but impossible to defend.
He has the tools to become the next Kristaps Porzingis, only taller, faster, and a better shooter. Scary, isn't it?
13 Failing: Deyonta Davis, C, Memphis Grizzlies
One of the hardest things to watch is when a potential first round selection attends the draft and does not get selected near the spot most people projected him to go. In the case of Deyonta Davis, he was projected to go around the middle of the first round, going as high as 13th overall. But he was expected to be taken before the 20th pick. There is nothing more heartbreaking than watching the live draft constantly show Davis in the green room and his face as he continued to remain undrafted as the picks reached near the end of the first round.
He ended up going 31st overall, the first pick of the second round, by the Boston Celtics, who then traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies, making him only the second player to ever be in the green room of the NBA draft and not be taken in the first round.
As of right now, he is not ready for the NBA and should have stayed at Michigan State one more season before making the leap. His numbers also do not paint a very intriguing picture as he barely mustered 1.6 points and 1.7 rebounds per game, in 36 games, while only grabbing 6.6 minutes on average.
12 Future Star: Jamal Murray, SG, Denver Nuggets
One of the greatest parts of the NBA season is the final month because players are fighting for a chance to showcase their skills one last time before the offseason. Some players might be free agents and will be searching for a new home while many will be released from attrition. But the most unnoticeable group of players during that time are rookies. The rookies are the ones that rise to the occasion and Jamal Murray is just another in a long line of former University of Kentucky players to really perform in the league's final few weeks.
Outside of maybe five or six games, Jamal Murray was a scoring superstar and he even dropped 30 and 27 points in two of the final four games. He even added a double double, with 10 points and 10 assists. Those final few performances helped to show off a positive future for the Denver Nuggets, who are heading in the right direction with him behind the guard position, whether it is point or shooting guard.
11 Failing: Kay Felder, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Before we dive into the numbers, can we just say that when the 5'9" Kay Felder recorded his vertical leap during the 2016 NBA Draft Combine, no one expected him to hit the 44 inch mark, the second highest vertical in combine history.
But, as they say, then the whistle blew and the game started, and he was a puppy dog lost in the spotlights of playing in LeBron James shadow. King James is not a bad guy, he is a great teammate, but he is also an intimidating figure. So when Kay Felder got his shot, he seemed almost scared to make a move at times. He was mostly trying to not screw up, which, in turn, made him play the worst basketball of his career this past season. He spent time in the D-League, being recalled to the Cavaliers on April 10th.
The Cavaliers saw that Felder was simply not ready to be at this level and went out and got Deron Williams to take over for the backup point guard role. That cost Felder valuable playing time and left him with a rookie season with a 4.0 point, 1.4 assist, and 1 rebound per game average.
10 Future Star: Jaylen Brown, SF, Boston Celtics
Regardless of how they finish the season, the Boston Celtics already have the Brooklyn Nets first round pick, which should be the top overall pick, giving them another year at selecting one of the most talented amateur basketball players in the world. Last year they used the third pick to get Jaylen Brown, who has not earned himself any Rookie of the Year nominations but that is only because he is a project, not a quick fix.
The Celtics have smartly used Brown this season, slowly bringing him into the picture on a nightly basis until he earned himself a starting role. That is the moment a rookie has made it. Whenever a rookie gets himself put into the starting five during a meaningful season like the Celtics are having this year, it is a pretty big deal. The league should be worried because Jaylen has shown highlights of what he can do this season but has played like a caged animal just waiting to bust free.
9 Failing: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, SF, Philadelphia 76ers
By the time the Philadelphia 76ers reached March of 2017, their season was over and they started to lose, a lot. They finished the year losing 20 of their final 27 games, making fans believe they were tanking to get themselves into a better draft position. If you look at how bad they were in that stretch, you would agree, it looked like tanking.
It got to the point where they were playing guys like rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who had some great games down the stretch, all in losing efforts. His production was nice but it did not matter because the team kept losing anyways. No one knows what to expect next season but the French rookie might be a candidate for the D-League to help him improve his overall game, especially with all of the 76ers injured players, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, returning into the starting lineup.
8 Future Star: Brandon Ingram, SF, Los Angeles Lakers
Since the beginning of the NBA Draft's Lottery Era, from 1985 until the most recent draft last summer, if you were drafted in the top two spots, chances are you would have an immediate impact for the franchise that decided to draft you. It is not often that you see a player get selected second overall and struggle to become an immediate Rookie of the Year candidate.
Brandon Ingram is one of those special players that will continue to get better each and every season in the league. We all just have to give him some time to mature and learn the NBA because he is on the brink of something bigger for himself.
Most critics actually considered this season a bust for him when you take a look at his overall numbers. But when you break it down to a monthly snapshot, you see something else. You see how much he improved each month, across the board. For example, he went from 6.7 points per game in October to 13.2 in the final two months of the season, March and two games in April.
7 Failing: A.J. Hammons, C, Dallas Mavericks
A.J. Hammons came into the 2016 NBA Draft with enough talent and natural abilities that he could have been considered a lottery pick . In fact, his 7'0" frame helped him turn in a terrific final season in college, at Purdue, where he was named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year in 2016. But then scouts had trouble figuring out his future growth and development and whether or not he even had enough potential to justify a draft pick. He might have peaked in college with that Defensive Player of the Year award. That should have been enough of a red flag for the Dallas Mavericks to avoid him at all costs but they took a gamble on him anyways.
Now, they are claiming that he is a work-in-progress, a player that they are slowly developing into a stud. That is the easiest way to avoid taking ownership for making a bad draft day choice. In his 22 games this past year, he averaged 2.2 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks per game, while shooting 40.5% from the field. He got more minutes than a ton of the other low performing rookies from the same draft class and still managed to struggle.
6 Future Star: Buddy Hield, SG, Sacramento Kings
The New Orleans Pelicans are horrible at drafting amateur players and evaluating future potential. Outside of David West, J.R. Smith, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis, and Buddy Hield, the Pelicans have wasted their draft picks, all 18 of them since 2003. That is one of the worst in the NBA. But one player that they did not waste a single dime on was Buddy Hield, the sharp shooting guard from Oklahoma whom they traded to Sacramento as part of the DeMarcus Cousins deal.
His minutes slowly increased throughout the season, and so did his scoring. He dropped 18 points just a few weeks into the season and reminded the fans just how good he can be. But when they traded him to Sacramento, it let him really fly freely and open up his game. He averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game with the Kings, and even had a 30 point masterpiece towards the end of the season.
His future in the league is going to be determined by the talent around him because he is an open court scorer that loves to shoot high percentage shots. If he is the main star, he will falter in Sacramento, trust us.
5 Failing: Georges Niang, PF, Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers had just one draft pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and they decided to use it on Iowa State's Georges Niang, a 6'8" power forward. Unfortunately, they did not seem to need him very much, if at all, during his rookie season and ended up sending him to their D-League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, three different times.
Between the constant moving around between the NBA and the D-League, Georges Niang found time to get into 23 games with the Pacers, averaging four minutes, 0.9 points, 0.7 rebounds, and no blocks per game. His numbers look horrible and it is even worse when you realize that almost every single time he played, it was garbage time. He might get more playing time next season if Paul George gets traded this summer, otherwise, he might end up out of a job.
4 Future Star: Ivica Zubac, C, Los Angeles Lakers
As the season progressed, it was evident that the Los Angeles Lakers have one of the biggest potential superstars and it was not their second overall pick Brandon Ingram. It was from their second round pick, Ivica Zubac, the 19-year old Croatian phenom that has matured in the matter of a few months already. He has exploded into a future star already, way ahead of schedule. He was originally just another European basketball player that no one really knew about until he scored 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds against Denver in January. That was the moment we all were introduced to the Lakers future center.
He is not perfect by any means but he has the potential for greatness. His hands are great and his soft touch helps guide him on the offensive side of the court and during fast breaks. Some of his best qualities come from his abilities in the post, as he has already shown just how dangerous he can be, shooting high percentage shots consistently. So, although Brandon Ingram is going to earn more money over the next couple of years, Ivica Zubac could turn into the better of the two.
3 Failing: Malachi Richardson, SG, Sacramento Kings
Now that the season is over, NBA teams have been able to grade their players and take a long hard look at what the future holds for each and every one of them. In the case of the Sacramento Kings rookies, Malachi Richardson just might be the worst first round pick they have had in many years.
It is too early to say for sure but after just 22 games, things are not looking bright for the young guards future in California. He was selected 22nd overall and yet only managed to play in 22 games? The only time he even played meaningful minutes was between January 20th and February 15th, where he played 16 games, averaging 10.3 minutes. However, he only managed to get 3.9 points and 1.2 rebounds per game on tremendous 41.8% shooting percentage.
The former Syracuse guard has a chance to make a future for himself in the league, he just needs to start making shots. He is a true shooting guard and his only job is to make shots, so when he is missing them, he is almost useless to a franchise.
2 Future Star: Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks
At the 2016 NBA draft, the Milwaukee Bucks went with Thon Maker with their top pick, 10th overall, instead of the future candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon. After interviewing with coaches and scouts, Malcolm Brogdon was probably the most impressive rookie prospect heading into the draft but the one thing that hurt him more than anything else was his age. He entered the draft as the third oldest player and it seemed to cause teams to keep away from him at first.
During the first month and a half of the season, he was above average at times but was not the same player he turned into until December. His run started on New Year's Eve when he recorded a triple double against the Chicago Bulls, scoring 15 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds, in a big win for Milwaukee.
By the end of the season, it became very evident who was the best player from the 2016 draft class, and it wasn't anyone taken in the top of the draft either.
1 Failing: Ben Simmons, SF/PF, Philadelphia 76ers
Some guys have all the luck, good or bad. It does not just go one way either. For Ben Simmons, that luck is bad. During the Philadelphia 76ers final practice of spring training last year, he suffered a right foot fracture that wound up costing him his entire first year in the league. The initial recovery plans would have seen him return just after the All-Star break but the 76ers decided against it and shut him down for the rest of the season to not further aggravate the injury.
So what makes him failing if he never even played a single minute during his rookie season? The most important season for a NBA player is their first one. It is when they break themselves of old habits and build themselves back up, into professional athletes. The only thing he learned was the mental part of the game from the sidelines. He missed so much that he is already behind and he has not even begun to play. He is an incredible talent but since he has not played yet, we just have to take the words of all the talent scouts and analysts.
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