Under-the-Radar 2013-14 NBA Rookies Guaranteed to Surprise
There are a few NBA rookies every year who make surprise contributions early on. A lot of that has to do with getting the opportunity.
Not all coaches are open to throwing their rookies into the fire—especially those picked later in the draft.
But much of the time, a player out of college just isn't ready physically, fundamentally or mentally.
And then there are those other guys.
The following rookies are a little more low profile, but that could change after this year. These rookies are ready to go, and have found themselves in favorable roster situations.
Tony Snell, Chicago Bulls
It wasn't til late in his junior year that Tony Snell hit NBA radars. He was never a volume scorer or offensive playmaker—but Snell does a few things well that should translate immediately.
He passes the role-player test, which has three requirements for a wing: Shooting, defending and open-floor finishing.
At 6'7'' with a near 7'0'' wingspan and fluid athleticism, Snell has the physical tools built for locking down perimeter scorers.
He also shot over 38 percent from downtown in back-to-back years at New Mexico. He's got excellent touch from outside, particularly as a catch-and-shooter.
Snell is the type of player who can be effective without needing the dribble. And for a team like Chicago in need of role players, Snell can lend his services without disrupting the offensive flow.
He looked like he belonged during summer league, though he'll have to work on converting offense inside the arc.
The Bulls lack depth on the wing with Mike Dunleavy the only other backup. Snell should be a sneaky rookie candidate to get minutes early on, the way Jimmy Butler did for Chicago a couple years ago.
Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets
I'm not sure he'll be competing for any awards, but I predict Mason Plumlee will earn a role on this team as a rookie.
He's by far and away the best athlete the Nets have up front. Unlike Reggie Evans or Andray Blatche, Plumlee moves effortlessly around the floor and sports a 36'' max vertical. He's a glowing target for lobs above the rim, dump passes inside or on fast-break opportunities.
What I loved about Plumlee entering the draft is that he can impact a game without a refined set of skills. He's not much of a post player or shooter, but Plumlee gives you an active 7'0'' body that can run, jump and rebound.
Solomon Hill, Indiana Pacers
At 22 years old after four productive years at Arizona, Solomon Hill is one of the more NBA-ready rookies.
Hill was overlooked throughout the draft process, given he never stood out in one particular area of the game—and he was a senior.
But on the whole, Hill is fundamentally sound from head to toe. He's got the touch to make shots, the agility to shake defenders and the strength to score inside.
He looked good during summer league, knocking down 10-of-15 threes and averaging roughly 12 points a a game.
Hill shouldn't have issues with the physical transition—he's a tough dude with nimble feet and strong, broad shoulders.
The Pacers have two shooting guards in Lance Stephenson and Orlando Johnson as backups on the wing. Hill gives Indiana more size and defensive versatility while offering similar complementary offensive strengths.
I suspect we'll see him make an impact sooner than you'd think.
Dennis Schroeder, Atlanta Hawks
Dennis Schroeder announced himself at this year's Nike Hoops Summit, where he torched team USA—a group filled with premier NBA prospects projected to go top 10 in 2014.
He certainly looks the part a starting pro point guard—at 6'2'', Schroeder has long arms, broad shoulders and blurry quickness.
A natural pass-first point guard, Schroeder excels at running the pick-and-roll and breaking down the defense. And over the past year, he's made noticeable strides as a shooter.
His strengths are all suited for the NBA game. Schroeder isn't a guy who's going to go off for 25 points, but his ability to make things happen with the ball can spark a team or a unit.
With Jeff Teague as the starter, Schroeder may not put up staggering statistics. But unlike most rookies, he should be in line for roughly 20 minutes a game.
And that's enough time for him to make his presence felt. If I had to pick today, I'd go with Schroeder emerging as the top point guard in the class.
Archie Goodwin, Phoenix Suns
Archie Goodwin's bandwagon started to empty early last year. Fans and scouts were hopping off before his first conference game.
After entering his freshman year with top-10 buzz, Goodwin was passed on 28 times in the 2013 NBA draft.
But his style and strengths weren't tailored for the slower, more methodical college game. As a pro, Goodwin should have the chance to make an impact right away, where the spacing and faster tempo match his electric open-floor athleticism.
Goodwin can attack the rim with hostility, and though he currently struggles in traffic, all he needs is a lane or runway to take off from.
Goodwin looked extra motivated and ready to roll during summer league, even knocking down 8-of-13 of his three-point attempts.
There's no doubt he can get to the rack, but if Goodwin starts converting from the perimeter, he can become a dangerous offensive threat.
With Phoenix playing for lottery position once again, expect the coaching staff to throw Goodwin right into the fire. He's a sleeper to finish the year as a top-10 rookie, and emerge as a steal of the 2013 draft.
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
It might not surprise you to see C.J. McCollum getting substantial minutes as a rookie. But it might when he starts lighting it up for 20 points off the bench.
I'm not just thinking reserve or role player—I'm thinking a one-man jolt of offensive firepower.
Sixth man is the perfect fit for McCollum, who's too small to start at shooting guard and lacks the instincts of a point.
But as sixth man, McCollum doesn't need a position. He's simply a scorer. He averaged at least 19 points in four consecutive years in college. He's easily the most polished scoring rookie in his class, which showed during summer league where he dropped 21 a game.
Last year, the high scorer off the bench for Portland was Meyers Leonard at 5.5 a game. McCollum gives the Blazers a player who can generate his own offense from any spot on the floor.
Whether he's working one-on-one in isolation or running off a screen for a catch-and-shoot three, McCollum is a constant threat to put points on the board.
I like McCollum to finish the year as one of only a few rookies to average in double digits. Expect him to compete for plenty of Sixth Man of the Year awards for years to come.
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