2014-15 NBA Rookies Who Are Already Showing Red Flags
It didn't take long for these 2014-15 NBA rookies to give us something to worry about.
We haven't seen a whole lot of basketball yet from the 2014 draftees, but summer league action gave us an early taste of this exciting and deep class.
For some teams, that taste wasn't as sweet as they would have hoped. From skill deficiencies to positional concerns, these newbies showed us some unnerving traits. In some cases, the team's approach is to blame more than the actual prospect.
Which rookies are already displaying red flags to keep tabs on?
Shabazz Napier: Shooting/Scoring Effectiveness
Summer league results and statistics should always be taken with a grain of salt, so there is hope for Shabazz Napier to turn things around with the Miami Heat.
But he's got a lot of work to do, because it's been quite ugly so far.
The UConn star had intermittent trouble with shooting consistency and overall efficiency in college, and those issues were magnified in both Orlando and Las Vegas. He shot 27 percent in Florida and didn't fare much better in Nevada (28 percent). Whether it was outside the arc, inside the arc or near the hoop, he had trouble executing.
He needs to adapt to the size and playing style of the NBA, especially his shot selection and shooting balance. Napier admitted to ESPN.com's Michael Wallace that the transition from college has been tough:
It’s a big adjustment. I’m unable to do a lot of things I was on the college level. I’ve got to find the adjustments on how to do those things. I’ve still got the college game coming in. We’re learning on the fly, and we’re going to make big mistakes. This is a different game.
Shooting is something he should improve to some degree, and playing alongside big-league teammates rather than summer league players will help. But he's got to improve his shot selection and figure out ways to efficiently score off drives and outside jumpers.
P.J. Hairston: Unreliable Off-The-Court Character
Everybody makes mistakes. They come in all shapes and sizes, and varying degrees.
Unfortunately, P.J. Hairston's blunders off the court have affected others and created distractions.
There were some red flags before the draft (reckless driving, marijuana possession, driving without a license and a separate speeding violation), and now he's got a fresh one this summer.
Fewer than two weeks after being drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, the 6'5" shooting guard was in an altercation with a Durham high school basketball player at a pickup game, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. He allegedly punched the teenager twice.
Leading up to the draft, it seemed like Hairston's previous missteps were safely in the rearview mirror. And then this July 6 incident called his character into question once again.
He's a promising prospect, and hopefully for the Hornets' sake that was his last major episode. But how can they be sure? Hairston's unpredictable behavior could be detrimental to himself and the team.
Dante Exum: Positional Concerns
This red flag isn't really about Dante Exum as a prospect or whether it looks like he could be a great player. In fact, summer league showed that he could be a potent weapon if his perimeter shooting improves.
What we're worried about is the Utah Jazz's implementation of the youngster and how it could hinder his progress.
He spent a lot of time at the 2 spot in Las Vegas, operating alongside returning point guard Trey Burke. It was clear that Exum's not a natural fit as an off-guard, and he admitted it's been a difficult adjustment, per Jody Genessy of the Deseret News:
I think I’m still comfortable at the point. I still want to get the ball in my hands as much as possible. I didn’t get it a lot in my hands these last couple of games...With Coach’s system, it’s open, but there’s been so many times I’ve just gone away from the ball and let Trey take it.
The Jazz may work things out, but right now it's hard not to be worried about the role change screwing up his transition to the NBA. B/R NBA Lead Writer Jonathan Wasserman wonders if Utah is hampering the growth of its most exciting asset:
Is Burke, whose ceiling is a good three stories lower, stealing valuable touches away from Exum early in his career? By sliding Exum off the ball into the corners and on the wing, doesn't that diminish the mismatch his size, athleticism and ball-handling ability present?
If I'm the Jazz, my only concern is playing Exum off the ball hurts his development at the point guard position, which is where he ultimately holds the most potential value.
Are the Jazz mismanaging a potential star?
Aaron Gordon: Offensive Skills, Role
The Orlando Magic used a No. 4 pick on a player whose offensive role is unclear and skill set is far from polished. He was a risk/reward prospect leading up to the draft, and his summer showcased why.
In general, Aaron Gordon has a lot going for him: He's 6'9", smart, incredibly athletic and gifted on the defensive end.
However, the Magic don't really know what they'll get from him offensively, especially in the long term. And that's a bit disconcerting considering how highly they valued him.
Gordon doesn't have the advanced footwork or sheer size to consistently produce in the low post, and his ball skills (particularly outside shooting) aren't nearly promising enough to consider him a true combo forward. Don't forget, he didn't even make half his free throws at Arizona or in summer league.
As with any other young rookie, there's time to improve. But it's often difficult to teach someone the fluidity of effective scoring movements. With a rigid shooting delivery and limited shot-creating skills, Gordon is sending up some early red flags that indicate a potentially turbulent offensive career.
Kyle Anderson: Defensive Matchup Problems
Yes, Kyle Anderson is skilled and versatile offensively. And of course the San Antonio Spurs will find a way to utilize his shooting and passing skills despite his (severe) lack of athleticism.
On defense, though, things may be a bit dicier.
Stoppage was one of the big question marks surrounding the UCLA point-forward prior to the draft, and summer league didn't quell those concerns. There were some stretches where he was tremendously overmatched in the foot-speed department. In just 16 minutes of playing time against the Utah Jazz frontcourt, Anderson picked up five fouls.
Many scouts and media, including myself, have compared Anderson to Boris Diaw, which made his draft-landing spot all the more intriguing. But even Diaw, who is viewed as a lower-tier athlete, has decent foot speed and enough defensive agility to guard dynamic forwards. When it comes to athleticism shortage in forwards, Anderson seems to be in a class all by himself.
Anderson will undoubtedly have trouble guarding small forwards and power forwards in the NBA. Post players will bounce over him, wings will burst around him, and he'll have to rely too much on his long wingspan to make a significant impact.