Monday, November 28th, 2011 at 10:14 am  |  29 responses

NBA Breakout

Five rookies poised to make a big impact this season.

Originally published in SLAM #153

by Abe Schwadron / @abe_squad

In a relatively weak NBA rookie class, these are the five players poised to make the biggest impact this season:

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland CavaliersKyrie Irving
Irving showed enough glimpses of greatness in his limited time at Duke to earn the No. 1 spot in the ’11 Draft. His 17.5 points per game and 52 percent field-goal shooting might not translate right away at the pro level, but he’ll be given the keys to the franchise in Cleveland, and his feel for the game should have him handing out assists in bunches right away. The 6-2 Irving has sick handles and the vision to put the ball where it needs to go, whether in traffic or out in transition. The frontrunner for Rookie of the Year has the skill set, the opportunity and the upside to prove the Cavs made the right call.

Brandon Knight, Detroit Pistons
Detroit snagged Knight with the No. 8 pick in the Draft, two years after BK became just the third high school junior to win Gatorade National Basketball Player of the Year. The others? LeBron James and Greg Oden. Knight’s ability to play either guard spot, his crunch time confidence and his long arms on a 6-3 frame should have him in the Pistons’ starting lineup by season’s end. And when his opportunity comes, don’t expect him to waste any time. He follows Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose and John Wall in a long line of John Calipari-coached NBA point guards.

Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks
Predictably, Knicks fans booed when Shumpert’s name was called on Draft night. But he’s been one of the summer’s hardest workers and has impressed fans and fellow pros alike with his crazy hops. Shump won’t lead rookies in scoring or assists, but he can help New York with his defensive versatility and his ability to finish above the rim. The 6-5 former Yellow Jacket should contribute up and down the stat sheet even in limited minutes, and he could prove to be the steal of this Draft class.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
Walker led UConn to the NCAA National Championship on the strength of 23 ppg, breaking a handful of ankles along the way. The 6-1 guard is a nightmare in pick-and-roll situations—too fast for a hedge, too shifty for a switch. NBA defenders will quickly learn to stay away from Kemba’s crossover, and his mid-range game is equally as deadly. With the Bobcats, the opportunity is there for Walker to fill it up, and with Michael Jordan available for some friendly advice, he should be in the ROY discussion all season long.

Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves
Athletes like this year’s SLAM Rookie Diarist typically don’t have trouble taking their talents to the next level. The added bonus of playing alongside Kevin Love, who will shoulder most of the rebounding load, should make Williams a stud from game one in  Minnesota’s frontcourt. The Pac-10 Player of the Year last season averaged 19.5 and 8 at Arizona but really got the attention of NBA GMs with his tomahawk dunks during the NCAA Tourney. He’ll be ready to finish on the break from game one. The rest will come.

  • Add a Comment
  • Share
  • RSS

Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • http://nba.com GP23

    Don’t forget Ricky Rubio.

  • http://www.google.com/news BETCATS

    The real key to Kemba Walker will be Stephen Silas. Warrior fans know how great he is at developing guards, and I think Kemba should really be considered a favorite to be rookie of the year.

  • ct


  • ab40

    I think some are going to have trouble with the rough schedule. The rookie wall is going to hit some guys HARD. I hope they don’t get injured in the first weeks with the extremely quick training camps.

  • http://www.nba.com/bulls The Babe

    The no.1 and no.2 pick making an impact? Now that’s doing your homework… Derrick Williams is gonna be great but Minny need to dump some players at the SF/PF cause they have so many of them!

  • buccetz

    Kawhi Leonard will be a hall of famer mark my words

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Love the Stephen shout out, BETCATS!

  • Alan

    Tristan thompson?

  • mike

    marshon brooks

  • Jono

    Fu(k Rubio, go get em Kemba!

  • http://slamonline.com The Black Rick Kamla


  • Groves

    @TBRK… no, he isn’t

  • http://www.slamonline.com J

    kyrie is roy.

  • Ryan

    Nolan Smith is solid and Kyle Singler should surprise by actually making the Pistons’ squad. Hopefully Brandon Knight will be the man Detroit needs at the one.

    But Ricky Rubio is the prospect I’m most excited to see.

  • http://dgcoursereview.com Bro.D.

    By surprise you meant that Detroit is so bad that Singler will actually make it, right?

    I didn’t even think about Stephen Silas and his aptitude with guards, Kemba will definitely not disappoint.

  • http://www.nbadimensions.net/forums jcers

    As a Knicks fan, I love seeing Shump on this list. Dude is hella athletic, and a perfect defensive complement to Chauncey who has trouble with quicker guards. Landry and Shump are two nice young pieces going forward.

  • http://slamonline.com The Black Rick Kamla

    Well just remember where you heard it first, anyways. Also keep an eye out for Reggie Jackson- he wont get any burn on the Thunder roster, but he’ll eventually land on a team that can use him. Beyond talented guard!!!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    Comparing BK to Reke, Rose, and Wall is setting fans up for a big let down…He’ll be pretty solid though.

  • greg

    JIMMER!!!!!!! hes a much better pg than given credit for and will take some minutes from thorton for sure. he wont win roy but he is no JJ Redick

  • http://slamonline.com The Black Rick Kamla

    also if he survives training camp, Andrew Goudelock can (and should) be a huge boost for the Lakers backourt which has been deplete of reliable shooters in the past few. Jimmer is the best all around scorer in this class Goudelock is the BEST shooter. Kid you not, watched him play against Duke…. absolute sniper- beautiful, textbook, consistent form too.

  • LA Huey

    Williams and Knight’s position is too crowded on their own teams and Kyrie is a point guard with a crap team and wearing the top pick Bull’s eye. Kemba’s team has no clear Alpha or go-to-guy. Kemba for ROY.

  • Enigmatic

    Black Rick Kamla – Singler? Nolan Smith? You’re giving cats way too much credit for what they accomplished in college. College success doesn’t always translate well into the L.
    Ask almost every other Duke player we were supposed to “watch out for” over the years.

  • http://slamonline.com The Black Rick Kamla

    ^^ said nothing about Singler….I don’t think he has any discernable talents that will allow him to succeed in the NBA. Nolan Smith on the other hand is the best player in this class imo. He is the good kind of tweener guard. He’s a good enough floor general/leader to take snaps at the 1, and has enough length and slashing/scoring ability to play beside a lead guard- and his ATHLETICISM IS SNEAKY. Either way I expect him to be seeing starters minutes for Portland at the beginning of the season…He and Brandon Roy could lead an extremely potent backcourt

  • Enigmatic

    You’re seriously overrating Smith.
    Yeah, he’s a good player, but best in this class? Not even in this weak class.
    He wasn’t even the best player on his team last year when Irving was healthy.
    He’s not getting much better at 23 years old.
    He’s more polished and NBA ready than many of his counterparts but Walker, Irving, Knight, and others have a much higher ceiling.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Wayno

    I don’t like it when your name is all grey like that Enig…it’s messing with my mind. lol

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    My bad, yo.

  • ?

    Don’t see how Derrick Williams is supposed to break out when he’s a second string to Beasley at sf and has to share minutes with Wes Johnson who is also coming off the bench. He’s also second string to Kevin love at pf and will have to share minutes with Anthony Randoplh who’s also coming of the bench. Timberwolves screwed up big time in the draft they needed a center and should have gone with Enes, but ended up picking a poor man’s David West. KAHNNNNNNNNNNNNNN

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ys6VpgI9BHA datkid

    is irving and knights ceiling higher? i guess. that doesn’t mean that right now smith isn’t better and more versatile than them. He just seems more nba ready to me. PLUS i think he can still get better.

  • http://www.listerblister.blogspot.com rainman10

    Singler is playing in Spain this year