The NBA Draft has finally come to pass, and there were plenty of high-profile selections made along the way as usual. Most of these rookies are going to be thrown straight into the fire of an NBA team, and expected to contribute at least something in their first season in the pros. Of course, the rosters that they play on will vary greatly, as some will have the advent of a high-quality supporting cast, and others will not.
One thing was certain after observing the outcome of the draft; the one-and-done in college basketball is now fully entrenched, and is affecting the NBA game. A record 16 freshmen were drafted in the 1st round. More than ever before, the pro game is expecting players with just a single year of college basketball experience to come in and make an impact against the best players in the world. There's certainly a lot of talent at the college level, and the players certainly want to get to the NBA as soon as they possibly can, but does the risky strategy pay off for the teams drafting them? It all depends on the player in question.
Ranked below are 8 NBA rookies who will succeed with their new team, and 7 who will fail miserably.
15 Malik Monk - Charlotte Hornets (Succeed)
One of the very latest Calipari minions from Kentucky to hop on the one-and-done train, Monk actually has a very good chance to succeed at the pro level with the Hornets. While the team that drafted him may not be very good, Monk's selling points also include his shooting, which means that he'll have to rely less on his teammates to make him good than he would otherwise, with a different skill set.
It's unlikely that Monk is single-handedly able to land the Hornets in contention for a deep playoff run, but he's an important piece to the puzzle of the future. The former SEC Player Of The Year is going to be a great shooter in the NBA, and could ultimately turn into one of the premier scorers in the league, if he hits on the full extent of his potential.
14 Luke Kennard - Detroit Pistons (Fail)
While there is some reason to be optimistic about Kennard's chances in the NBA, we've seen the same kind of skill set fail before from a Duke player. He's not a one-and-done, having played a pair of seasons for the Blue Devils, but in this case it probably won't help him become a better player in the pros.
Kennard's skill set is that of a shooter and fundamental defensive player. While that may pay dividends for a better prospect, he's a bit undersized for the NBA level as it stands now, and won't get the minutes necessary to hit the scoring total that the Pistons will want. Best case scenario, he'll probably be a poor man's J.J. Redick as a shooter off the bench, but as the 12th overall pick he's going to be underwhelming.
13 Justin Jackson - Portland Trail Blazers (Succeed)
Taken with the 15th overall selection by the Trail Blazers, and then subsequently traded to the Kings, Jackson may be one of the most underrated prospects in the entire draft. A stellar three seasons at the North Carolina saw Jackson produce consistently for the Tar Heels, and it culminated with him taking home ACC Player Of The Year honors last season.
The Kings may be in complete rebuild mode, but between the acquisition of Buddy Hield last season, and their picks from this draft, they're actually off to a good start with the roster overhaul. Jackson is a long forward who has the potential to be a big-time scorer who can run the floor with ease. There's a lot to like here, even if his progress won't help out in the win column for Sacramento in the early going.
12 Harry Giles - Sacramento Kings (Fail)
Another acquisition for the Kings via the same trade with the Trail Blazers, Giles is an interesting case. He's one of the most talented players in this draft class for sure, but the knock on him lies with his injury history. It's simply unlikely that someone with such extensive problems staying healthy is ever going to reach their full potential.
Giles played a single season at Duke, and he never got to show himself as a force that could take over, as he played just over 11 minutes per game. His health is going to be a concern as long as he's in the NBA ranks, and he really should have proved that he can stay on the court for a full year at the college level. He'll face an uphill battle in the pros, and it's the one Kings pick in this draft that has a real chance of falling flat.
11 Josh Hart - Utah Jazz (Succeed)
An integral part of the Villanova National Championship team from 2016, Hart is going to be a better NBA player than the consensus scouting report says. He barely snuck into the 1st round, taken 30th overall by the Jazz, and then traded to the Lakers, but it's going to be worth it for them. Hart was (shockingly, in this day and age) a four-year player for the Wildcats, and improved significantly every season, until he took home Big East Player Of The Year Honors last year.
He's a cerebral, yet athletic player who has a varied enough skill set to succeed in the NBA for a long time. While he may never be a frontline star, Hart is the perfect player on a team like the Lakers, who are rebuilding around a young core of players. His all-around game stands a good chance to make an impact, and be there for a long time.
10 Lauri Markkanen - Chicago Bulls (Fail)
Widely considered to be one of, if not the single best shooter in the draft, Markkanen is certainly an interesting prospect with some ridiculous measurables. A 7-footer who can shoot with the best of them is going to turn heads. The Bulls ended up trading or Markkanen as a part of the Jimmy Butler trade, and they clearly believe that he can be a key piece to a rebuild, along with Kris Dunn and Zach LeVine, both of whom they acquired from the Timberwolves in exchange.
Markkanen has the looks of a stretch 4, but he'll have to prove that he's able to rebound effectively at the pro level. There's little doubt that his shooting touch will persist, but a player taken at 7th-overall needs to have a complete skill set in order to be worth the pick. On what is likely to be a mediocre (at best) team in Chicago next season, Markkanen may face a tough task.
9 Dennis Smith Jr. - Dallas Mavericks (Succeed)
A great pick for the Mavericks, and one that could pay dividends immediately. Smith is absolutely one of the best point guards in the class, and Dallas is going to need one for the future. In his lone season at North Carolina State, Smith dominated on the floor, and proved why he was such a highly-touted prospect.
With the Mavericks already hoping to form a core around Nerlens Noel and Harrison Barnes, Smith fits perfectly into that equation for the long-term. He'll run the point, and as a strong passer, he'll be able to open up the rest of the offense. As with all players entering the NBA below the age of 20, it may take a while for him to hit his peak potential, but the payoff will be well worth it for the Mavericks.
8 Jonathan Isaac - Orlando Magic (Fail)
It's easy to fall in love with Isaac's upside. There's no question that the Florida State product has the potential to be a very good, if not elite player. Though built slight at 19-years-old, he could easily add muscle and be a force as a rangy forward with a true jump shot. There's a lot to like here, but playing for the perennially terrible Magic is sure to put a damper on some of these projections.
The fact is that Isaac is not very polished right now, and he's going into a pretty bad situation to improve his game. Orlando has been one of the worst teams in the league for years now, and they have little in the way of quality players that Isaac can learn from. The potential is there, but this isn't the right circumstance for him to develop.
7 Jarrett Allen - Brooklyn Nets (Succeed)
Allen may need some polish before he really hits his stride, but he could end up being the best all-around big in this draft class. He's an intense player who can shot-block and rebound with authority, and he also has the speed to contribute on fast breaks. Though drafted by the Nets, who are far from an ideal team to go to, expectations will be low, and with Brook Lopez gone, Allen will be the main presence in the paint.
The acquisition of point guard D'Angelo Russell should help Allen by giving him a consistent passer to rely on, in order to further develop his offensive game. Allen stands a good chance to be one of the better young big-men in the league in the next few years. Good pick for the Nets, as they look to rebuild.
6 Jayson Tatum - Boston Celtics (Fail)
While Tatum may perceived as being one of the most NBA-ready players in this draft class, he's entering a crowded Celtics roster, which doesn't give him a clear role. He's going to have to vie for playing time in the early going, and prove that he's worth the minutes. As a 3rd-overall pick, there are real questions about his upside as well, and how he projects long-term.
Tatum may not be the star-caliber player that is expected from a player in this draft position. If that is the case, it's hard to say that the Celtics made the right selection, with presumably better options on the board for the selection. Only time will tell, but Tatum may not live up to the expectations.
5 Markelle Fultz - Philadelphia 76ers (Succeed)
In a bold move, the Sixers traded up from the 3rd pick to the 1st pick to select Fultz, and presumably complete the trio of players that they will need to win a title somewhere down the line. There's no question about it; Fultz was the consensus best guard in the draft, and has the most upside as well.
Though he only spent a single year on a mediocre Washington team for college, he proved why he got the majority of the draft accolades. Fultz is a quick, smart player with great court awareness and passing ability. He's fits perfectly in Philly's system, that now has last year's 1st round pick Ben Simmons, alongside generational (but often hurt) big-man Joel Embiid. This is a combination that should work out for the best for Fultz.
4 Frank Ntilikina - New York Knicks (Fail)
The Knicks have been the laughing stock of the NBA for the past few seasons now, and as of this writing, the Phil Jackson experiment has reached the end of its rope. This pick isn't likely to help matters, and Ntilikina is going to have a rough go of it in New York. There's no doubt that he has some upside, some say a lot actually, but this is not the best situation to develop an international player, with all of the roster shuffling that is bound to happen over the next year or so.
Maybe Ntilikina can make do somewhere else, but it's definitely not going to be for the Knicks. As a point guard, supplementary weapons are of the upmost importance, and he really doesn't have any in New York, especially if Carmelo Anthony is on the move.
3 De'Aaron Fox - Sacramento Kings (Succeed)
He was the best pick for the Kings, in what was a strong overall draft. Fox has the potential to be one of the league's best point guards someday. He's a cerebral player who can shred opposing defenses with his passing, and contribute sufficiently as a point-scorer. Some believe he may even be the best player in the entire draft.
He'll be penciled in as the starter at point guard immediately in Sacramento, and he'll be able to begin establishing chemistry with the team's young core. It's going to take a few years to get on track, but ultimately Fox and the Kings are looking to be a big potential threat once the rebuild gets into full swing.
2 Lonzo Ball - Los Angeles Lakers (Fail)
The Lakers really had no choice but to draft Ball with the 2nd overall pick, but this selection comes with a ton of question marks attached to it. He has funky shot mechanics and a slight build. He definitely will need to spend time refining his offensive game, and hitting the weight room, but despite this, there's a lot to like.
Ball is a fluid passer, and has shown that he can already lead a team. The Lakers, fresh off of getting rid of D'Angelo Russell, are in need of a point guard for the future. Ball has a much higher ceiling than Russell, but also a decidedly lower floor. He isn't the lock to be a star that some people claim, and there could be pitfalls that he'll have to avoid. It's not at all a guarantee, and living up to the 2nd overall pick will be difficult.
That's to say nothing of his father, and Big Baller Brand founder LaVar Ball. Call him a creative business mogul, egotistical jerk, or the biggest troll in America right now, LaVar gets people to pay attention to his son. That may not be the best possible thing now that Lonzo is in the NBA, but the Ball family has already laid their cards on the table, and they'll be looking at ending up as either celebrity stardom, or a colossal bust.
1 Josh Jackson - Phoenix Suns (Succeed)
The best two-way player in the draft, Jackson is going to have a stellar career if he stays on the Suns. It's a young team already, but has the benefit of featuring a few established players at the same time. Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe have put together a solid foundation for another young player to come in and excel. That's exactly what Jackson will do.
His defensive game will show itself first, but offensive improvement won't be far behind. Jackson was one of the few players in the draft who wouldn't have stranded to benefit from playing multiple years at the college level. He's NBA-ready now, and in three years or so is going to be one of the game's elite players. With his combination of defensive and offensive ability, Jackson will be one of the most exciting young players to watch next season.
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