Updated: Jan 3, 2021
The 2020-2021 rookie draft class seems to have been an under valued commodity through just over a week of games as many have shown the ability to already contribute, while others have shown true NBA superstardom potential. These are the most intriguing young players so far through this very young season.
1) Precious Achiuwa (No. 20 Overall Miami Heat): This year's #20 pick, Precious Achiuwa, was sort of an unknown commodity among scouts coming into this draft. His extraordinary athleticism and motor were evident while at Memphis, but his potential seemed to be capped by his lack of offensive diversity. While his statistics do not jump off the page (7.3 pts/game and 3.8 rebs/game) his affect on the game has been much more. He has taken on such defensive assignments as Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, and not only held his own, he was forcing them into turnovers. Coach Erik Spoelstra has already found confidence in him by playing him in crunch time and has been rewarded with outstanding decision making. Superstar? Not offensively. Defensive Player of the Year? Potentially in time. All-Defensive team? I would bet at least 2.
2) James Wiseman (No. 2 Overall Golden State Warriors): James Wiseman is a physical specimen rarely seen on the planet, let alone on a NBA basketball court. At 7'0" tall and 245 pounds he towers over the court while his natural athleticism dominates the game. He has, more than once, taken a rebound, done his best 1991 Shaquille O'Neal impression, and gone coast-to-coast. On top of that, he has made 5-8 3PT shots, blocked six opponents, and averaged 5.8 boards a game while only playing 23 minutes a night. His floor game is more developed than originally thought, his jump shot extends much farther than he had shown, and his rim protection is exactly what the Warriors need when Draymond returns. Superstar? Looks like it.
3) Cole Anthony (No. 15 Overall Orlando Magic): Cole Anthony has had quite the scouts ride since arriving last year at Chapel Hill to attend North Carolina University. Originally thought to be a top 5 pick, Anthony had a very inefficient year at UNC which led to his draft stock falling to the #15 spot. While he still remains fairly inefficient, his box scores are full. He averages over four rebounds and four assists per game in a measly 17 minutes a night. He would get more playing time if it were not for Markelle Fultz's quick ascension to looking like a #1 overall pick and potential All-Star. Anthony plays hard and looks to get teammates involved. It isn't hard to argue that being a back-up for a few seasons could allow him to work on shot selection and shooting form. All-Star? Probaly not? 12 year vet? Maybe. Young trade asset? Yup.
4) Payton Pritchard (No. 26 Overall Boston Celtics): Who in the hell is Payton Pritchard? I spent some time reading Wikipedia just to gain some semblance of knowledge. As with a lot of players in this draft, a lack of an NCAA tournament adjusted the ability of these players to get recognition. Out of Oregon Pritchard finished in the Top 5 of voting for The Naismith Award. He came from an unheralded high school, yet managed to win 3 state championships in the state of Oregon. He has won where ever he has played and he is already helping the Celtics win. With Kemba Walker sidelined with a knee injury, Pritchard has admirably filled the PG duties for the second unit even earning late game confidence from coach Brad Stevens. The Celtics will need him to continue his play if they truly intend on competing with the likes of Milwaukee and Brooklyn. Superstar? Not a chance. 12 year vet? 50/50. Fun player to watch? 100%.
5) Patrick Williams (No. 4 Overall Chicago Bulls): Patrick Williams was a bit of a shock when he got drafted 4th overall on draft night. While an elite athletic talent, he spent his lone season at Florida State University coming off the bench as a spark plug. Now starting with the Bulls, Williams still shows his motor, but his shooting has been better than advertised and defensively he is a menace. He is averaging just over 10 points per game, but it is his natural ability to block shots with 90% FT and 50% 3PT shooting splits is really intriguing. He won't have as much access to shots as some rookies because he shares the court with Zach Lavine and Colby White, but his natural energy should fuel a solid statistical season. Superstar? Probably not. All-Star? Potentially. 12 year vet? Assuredly.
Pistons Rookie Recap: For my Pistons fans our 3 first round picks showed promise this week. Here are some truths about the next generation of "Bad Boys".
Killian Hayes: 10 points an 8 assists against the Hawks was a good sign, but against a terrible defender in Trae Young. His athleticism is obvious and his passing vision is there. Shooting is erratic outside of free throws. Needs confidence and time. Hayes suffered a sprained ankle against the Warriors, although he was not missed having only amassed one assist in 17 minutes.
Saddiq Bey: Got his first start against the Hawks this week and came out firing with some offensive aggression, despite finishing 3-11 from the floor. His shot found its mark much more often against the Warriors seeing as he shot 3-5 from the 3PT line. He is much better offensively when he is facing the basket. His interior touch has left much to be desired and when he has his back to the basket he looks as uncomfortable as Andre Drummond used to.
Isaiah Stewart: The biggest supposed "project" of this Pistons draft class and the player that made the most noise on Pistons Twitter was Isaiah Stewart drafted out of the University of Washington. In his first nine minutes he had six rebounds and that was the precursor to all the minutes he has played thus far. Of all these players, he definitely has the most "Bad Boy" persona and he enjoys it. His jump shot doesn't look bad and potentially could be developed to league average over time. His quick feet, nose for rebounds, and nasty disposition reminds this fan of the franchise's best days and Rick Mahorn.
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