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View Full Version : The most Disappointing Rookies and Sophomores this season (Insider article)



zn23
01-09-2016, 03:37 PM
Here it is:


Most rookies don't help their teams win. And many players -- including the great Kevin Durant -- have also failed to make a positive impact in Year 2.

At the same time, we want to see lottery picks demonstrate that they are putting it together and fulfilling the hopes that teams and fans hold for them.

Today we'll look at seven highly-touted rookies and sophomores who've been particularly disappointing during the first half of the 2015-16 campaign. (In Part II, we'll examine veteran players who've failed to live up to expectations.)

Struggling rookies

Rocky start in Philly: Jahlil Okafor

The Philadelphia 76ers have been woeful throughout Sam Hinkie's tenure as general manager. And the play of Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft, is one reason we're now witnessing the third straight season of Hinkie Era woe.

While Okafor is averaging nearly 20 points and nine boards per 36 minutes of play, those numbers are the NBA equivalent of empty calories. Philly has been outscored by a staggering 19.2 points per 100 possessions with Okafor on the court.

If any team played an entire season that poorly, it would shatter the all-time record for futility.

And yet with Okafor on the bench, the Sixers have actually put up a respectable net efficiency of -2.5, a bit better than this year's Washington Wizards. So it's perhaps no surprise that Okafor currently ranks dead last in RPM (at -6.90) among all active players.

NBA-ready or not: Emmanuel Mudiay

Mudiay, who skipped college to play professional ball last year in China, was scouted as a more NBA-ready prospect than the typical one-and-done freshman. But it has been a rough adjustment for the Denver rookie so far.

The Nuggets' young point guard has put up by far the lowest true shooting percentage (38.0) of any player in the league, and he has coughed up a devastating number of turnovers -- 4.9 per 36 minutes on the court.

Not only has he compiled the worst offensive RPM (-4.65) of any NBA point guard, but Mudiay's total RPM (-6.15) value exceeds that of only one other player this year: Jahlil Okafor.

Mario Hezonja's ball-handling is just one of his problems so far. Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images Not so super: Mario Hezonja

When the Orlando Magic tabbed Hezonja with the fifth pick of the 2015 draft, they presumably had a player who could immediately strengthen their wing rotation. After all, the 6-foot-8 Croatian had just logged two seasons of solid Euroleague play, and he was a year older than one-and-done prospects like D'Angelo Russell.

But Hezonja hasn't looked much like "Super Mario" in the early going.

While Magic coach Scott Skiles has dutifully played him in 34 of 37 games thus far, Hezonja's on-court impact has been a big net negative. In fact, his offensive RPM (-1.56) and defensive RPM (-2.01) both suggest a level of play below that of the mythical "replacement player."

Offensively, Hezonja has been a turnover machine, giving up the ball on 21.1 percent of all the possessions he has used (one of the highest turnover rates in the league). And although his 3-point shooting stroke is just as sweet as advertised -- he has converted on 41.1 percent from 3-point range -- he has struggled to find other ways to contribute.

Touted as an elite dunker out of FC Barcelona, Super Mario has thrown it down only four times all season. He has also shown a lackluster ability to get to the line, and he's not doing much to set up his teammates, either.

In fairness, though, Hezonja has been averaging only 13 minutes per game for Orlando -- and has even been asked to play out of position on occasion as a point guard off the bench -- so it's perhaps no surprise that he's still finding his way.

Slumping sophomores

No defense: Andrew Wiggins

After winning Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins is already regarded as a star by fans and some NBA personnel, despite some early concerns in the analytics community. Count us among the few holdouts not yet ready to elevate Wiggins to the NBA pantheon.

For starters, many of his key stats have actually dropped from his rookie campaign.

Wiggins is shooting only 43.7 percent from the floor this season and has clicked on just 24.7 percent of shots from 3-point range (down from 31.0 percent a year ago).

Rebounds? Also down. Assists? Down. Blocks? Down. True shooting percentage? You get the idea.

In fact, the Wolves have actually played better this season -- with a better net efficiency -- without Wiggins on the court. And his RPM impact, currently -4.32, ranks a mere 84th among 88 NBA 2-guards.

What's worse, his defense was supposed to be a strong suit, but for the second straight year, it has been a weakness. In defensive RPM, he's actually next-to-last in the league among shooting guards, at -3.76.

Because he's just 20 years old, Wiggins still has plenty of time to figure it out. But if a player's greatness hinges on his ability to make his team more effective on the court, Wiggins has yet to arrive.

One-trick Laker: Julius Randle

Randle is another sophomore who's not yet helping his team win. While he's already a beast on the boards -- grabbing nearly 13 rebounds per 36 minutes -- that's about where his contributions end.

Notably, Randle has struggled to put the ball in the hoop. His 40.9 effective field goal percentage is among the lowest of any NBA power forward, as is his paltry 45.8 true shooting percentage (far below the 53.5 league average). His offensive RPM (-3.19) ranks near the bottom of the league as well.

The Lakers have also played some of their worst defense with Randle on the court. Given his lackluster block rate thus far, only 0.6 per 36 minutes, it's perhaps reasonable to wonder if Randle will ever develop into an above-average interior defender.

Another big problem in Philly: Nerlens Noel

Rivaling Okafor in negative plus-minus impact is Noel, Jahlil's fellow Philadelphia big man. In his sophomore season (after missing the entire 2013-14 season with a knee injury), Noel has actually seen a falloff on multiple fronts.

While the Philly center demonstrated elite defensive proficiency last year -- and averaged over two blocks and two steals per 36 minutes of play -- he has been less effective this season, perhaps due to small injuries and the challenges of playing next to Okafor.

In a particularly telling development, Noel's block rate has fallen off about 40 percent, and his defensive RPM impact is down nearly two points per 100 possessions.

Of course, defense isn't Noel's biggest problem. His offensive RPM of -5.45 is the absolute worst among all NBA big men. In fact, the 76ers score only 88 points per 100 possessions when Noel is on the court, the lowest offensive rating on record for a player with at least 700 on-court minutes.

Yet another subpar Sixer: Nik Stauskas

It may be unseemly at this point to add another young Philadelphia player to our "All-Disappointment Team." But given the Sixers' abysmal 4-34 showing this season, it's perhaps no surprise that they dominate the category.

Stauskas, the 8th pick in the 2014 draft, was acquired from the Sacramento Kings last summer in a trade that most observers felt the 76ers won, in part because Philly also acquired future draft rights in multiple years.

But if the Sixers were counting on Stauskas, the former lottery pick hasn't exactly delivered in Philly. He has actually played worse in many ways than he did in his erratic rookie outing with the Kings last year -- and that's saying something.

Known for his potential as a shooter and passer, he's converting only 35.3 percent of FG attempts and racking up only 1.7 assists in 23 minutes per game.

The advanced stats are even more unflattering: 46.5 true shooting percentage (ranked 59th of 66 NBA shooting guards), 16.7 usage rate (far below league average), -3.15 offensive RPM and -2.52 defensive RPM.

Stauskas' -5.67 total RPM is easily the worst of any non-rookie this season. In fact, Philly would probably be on track for a few more wins this season if they had never added Stauskas to their roster.

Of course, for a team that has been more interested in trying out young talent than winning games, at least Stauskas' struggles have a silver lining -- increasing Philadelphia's odds in the upcoming Ben Simmons lottery (aka, the 2016 NBA draft).

Source : ESPN Insider

Thoughts?

Hawkeye15
01-09-2016, 03:42 PM
Wiggins has disappointed me. He is a good one on one defender, but offers literally nothing on team defense, doesn't rebound, never creates for others, and is a terrible long distance shooting.

Some of it has to do with my absolute hatred at this point for Sam Mitchell and his archaic offense. Like, at what point do you not see teams raping you night after night with floor spacing 3's, before it hits you that you should be doing the same, instead of playing your stud rookie center 19 feet from the rim and running sets for 20 foot contested shots?

But yeah, Wiggins needs to do a lot more than just score the basketball. Part of it is stop taking long 2's, and make a higher percentage of your free throws. Oh, and it's ok to go in there and get a rebound now and then Andrew...

warfelg
01-09-2016, 03:44 PM
3 Sixers listed, and no mention of how they all effect each other. We're actually a little better when one of Noel or Okafor are on the court.

zn23
01-09-2016, 03:49 PM
Wiggins has disappointed me. He is a good one on one defender, but offers literally nothing on team defense, doesn't rebound, never creates for others, and is a terrible long distance shooting.

Some of it has to do with my absolute hatred at this point for Sam Mitchell and his archaic offense. Like, at what point do you not see teams raping you night after night with floor spacing 3's, before it hits you that you should be doing the same, instead of playing your stud rookie center 19 feet from the rim and running sets for 20 foot contested shots?

But yeah, Wiggins needs to do a lot more than just score the basketball. Part of it is stop taking long 2's, and make a higher percentage of your free throws. Oh, and it's ok to go in there and get a rebound now and then Andrew...

I've also been disappointed in his progression. Part of me wants to give him a pass because he's only 20 years old and he's shown flashes of greatness. But his lack of effort on defense is alarming especially since he's freakishly athletic and young.

SLY WILLIAMS
01-09-2016, 03:58 PM
I think sometimes people look too deep in to stats. Jahlil Okafor is 20 years old and the best player on his team. He may have done some knuckleheaded things off the court but he is having a very solid rookie year on a bad team. Okafor is not the problem for Philly. He is a building block to a solution.

5ass
01-09-2016, 04:14 PM
Mario has been a little disappointing, but ill give him a pass for a number of reasons
a) adjustement from euro play to NBA, the guy didn't really even watch many NBA games while in Europe.
b) language barriers
c) playing out of position. He plays at PG (doesn't help his turnover rate, but chould be beneficial in the long run)
d) he isn't playing enough minutes, and Skiles being a hard *** doesn't help him get comfortable out there on the court. FFS if there's one thing I didn't expect to worry about is Mario being scared to shoot, but that's what Skiles has done.

His time will come though. I'm not one to believe you have to give a rookie 17+ shots and 36 mpg for them to develop. Paul George, butler, Leonard, Bledsoe, harden, Millsap, thompson... I can think of more stars that didn't go that route than ones that did.

Chronz
01-09-2016, 04:16 PM
I think sometimes people look too deep in to stats. Jahlil Okafor is 20 years old and the best player on his team. He may have done some knuckleheaded things off the court but he is having a very solid rookie year on a bad team. Okafor is not the problem for Philly. He is a building block to a solution.

I think its the effect hes had on his teammates that hes rated so poorly. Its an awful team but hes not meshing with its best NBA players so hes arguably made a bad team worse (not a great sign for ANY rookie historically). His skillset isn't complimented by anyone but there is truth to him being a hard building block to mesh talent with. You need a floor spacing/defensive minded 4 to fully compliment his deficiencies in those areas, I can count those kind of players on 1 hand. Still, even the elite teams dont need full compliments, just 1 side of the floor should do, but thats why I thought he and Noel could survive. I didn't think they would be so bad on both ends, either Nerlens cant play the 4 defensively (doubtful imo), hes hurt or Okafor truly is that abysmal defensively. He will learn defense in time, even Bogut was a liability his rookie year so I think Okafor can improve rapidly there. But its been a bad experiment so far, I thought the team played better while he was dealing with off the court **** and stayed off the court more.

zn23
01-09-2016, 04:17 PM
As for Emmanuel Mudiay, he's basically going to be another Austin Rivers. He's got athletic ability to be a solid defensive player. But offensively he's a disaster. Glad the Knicks didn't draft him, otherwise they would have been in total shambles.

SLY WILLIAMS
01-09-2016, 04:25 PM
I think its the effect hes had on his teammates that hes rated so poorly. Its an awful team but hes not meshing with its best NBA players so hes arguably made a bad team worse (not a great sign for ANY rookie historically). His skillset isn't complimented by anyone but there is truth to him being a hard building block to mesh talent with. You need a floor spacing/defensive minded 4 to fully compliment his deficiencies in those areas, I can count those kind of players on 1 hand. Still, even the elite teams dont need full compliments, just 1 side of the floor should do, but thats why I thought he and Noel could survive. I didn't think they would be so bad on both ends, either Nerlens cant play the 4 defensively (doubtful imo), hes hurt or Okafor truly is that abysmal defensively. He will learn defense in time, even Bogut was a liability his rookie year so I think Okafor can improve rapidly there. But its been a bad experiment so far, I thought the team played better while he was dealing with off the court **** and stayed off the court more.

I remember some Knicks fans and the media saying the Knicks were better off without Patrick Ewing or that Patrick should be moved to PF in his first two years in the NBA. Okafor is a 20 year old rookie. He will have some rookie growing pains but Philly was a horrible team before he ever got there. If Okafor was in San Antonio a lot of those team "stats" would be positive.

IndyRealist
01-09-2016, 04:28 PM
When a team is bad, everyone looks bad and when a team is good, everyone looks good. The Sixers have a young team and a really bad record, of course their young players look bad. I mean, Lance Stephenson anyone?

mngopher35
01-09-2016, 04:32 PM
Wiggins has disappointed me. He is a good one on one defender, but offers literally nothing on team defense, doesn't rebound, never creates for others, and is a terrible long distance shooting.

Some of it has to do with my absolute hatred at this point for Sam Mitchell and his archaic offense. Like, at what point do you not see teams raping you night after night with floor spacing 3's, before it hits you that you should be doing the same, instead of playing your stud rookie center 19 feet from the rim and running sets for 20 foot contested shots?

But yeah, Wiggins needs to do a lot more than just score the basketball. Part of it is stop taking long 2's, and make a higher percentage of your free throws. Oh, and it's ok to go in there and get a rebound now and then Andrew...

I don't think anyone can stand Mitchell, been complaining all year. Basically the only time I see true engagement/aggression from Wiggins is coming off set plays or when he gets the ball and knows/believes it's his turn. Otherwise when it comes to defense/rebounding/off ball movement etc. he still just seems too content standing and watching.

Overall we need to start teaching him to get the ball for a 3 instead of the long 2 or get him more post ups when we isolate him. It's hard to really blame some of the young guys with the system we run though, can't even tell if they are learning anything useful. Is it being preached to take so many long 2's, like 25-30% are being taken 16ft-3pt by Wiggins/Towns? Feels like it has to be which is just horrible if they make it habit, but so many times that is where Mitchell has them catching it off of motion/set play.

warfelg
01-09-2016, 04:40 PM
I remember some Knicks fans and the media saying the Knicks were better off without Patrick Ewing or that Patrick should be moved to PF in his first two years in the NBA. Okafor is a 20 year old rookie. He will have some rookie growing pains but Philly was a horrible team before he ever got there. If Okafor was in San Antonio a lot of those team "stats" would be positive.

The team around him definitely has a ton to do with it. Look at how poor guys like Canaan, Stauskas, Covington, Grant, Thompson are shooting. Noel and Okafor are doing better with Ish on the team. If the shooters start warming up, this high/low PnR spacing game will work with the two of them.

flea
01-09-2016, 04:54 PM
Okafor will be fine, he's looked good as a scorer in the few games I've seen and his defense was always unfairly maligned (he was pretty good down the stretch at Duke). I think there are still worries that he won't be great at it, but he should be at least average overall defensively when he comes around - big man defense in the NBA is harder and takes longer to develop than everything else, probably including PG play.

As for offense, he's got a pretty good handle and was a good passer last year so I think pairing him with Nerlens could be good for starting and finishing games. But I do agree both of them should see time at the 5 next to a more perimeter oriented forward like Saric. If Nerlens can just hit elbow jumpers their big lineup could work well if they become a defensive-oriented team.

Haven't seen much of the other guys. I guess I'd worry a little about Wiggins but I think he'll find a place. You hope that place looks more like Clyde Drexler than it does Corey Maggette - but even Maggette was a useful (if not at all well-rounded) player at times.

warfelg
01-09-2016, 04:58 PM
Okafor is a fine man defender. The issue with him, is he will never be a great help defender. Unfortunately, help defense from bigs with what everyone thinks makes a good defender.

flea
01-09-2016, 05:20 PM
Okafor is a fine man defender. The issue with him, is he will never be a great help defender. Unfortunately, help defense from bigs with what everyone thinks makes a good defender.

These days it is, along with rebounding. I think he can be functional but he doesn't have the instincts for shot-blocking. You can learn rotations and how teams operate their offenses if you're a heady player though and then play good positional defense. That's how guys like Horford and Zaza are among the better defenders at their spots in spite of not being a shotblocking threat.

Horford is actually kind of the opposite, he's undersized as a 5 and thus can be a liability in man defense so the Hawks play basically a 2-3/3-2 zone hybrid where doubles can come quickly from the perimeter. If he wasn't such a good positional defender (and mobile) it would get shredded. I don't really know what the best way to maximize Okafor is - he's a big body but not an instinctual rebounder either. Maybe a D like the Hawks and Warriors run could work eventually for him.

warfelg
01-09-2016, 05:35 PM
These days it is, along with rebounding. I think he can be functional but he doesn't have the instincts for shot-blocking. You can learn rotations and how teams operate their offenses if you're a heady player though and then play good positional defense. That's how guys like Horford and Zaza are among the better defenders at their spots in spite of not being a shotblocking threat.

Horford is actually kind of the opposite, he's undersized as a 5 and thus can be a liability in man defense so the Hawks play basically a 2-3/3-2 zone hybrid where doubles can come quickly from the perimeter. If he wasn't such a good positional defender (and mobile) it would get shredded. I don't really know what the best way to maximize Okafor is - he's a big body but not an instinctual rebounder either. Maybe a D like the Hawks and Warriors run could work eventually for him.

I don't know the numbers to back this up, and I'm not at home or I would try to find them, but I feel like when we have Grant at the 4 with Okafor, we're better because Grant is a really good weak side shot blocker.

The problem defensively with Noel and Okafor is Noel isn't a weakside shot blocker. He's a rim protecting help defender.

To me it's like the difference between Ibaka and DJordan. Ibaka can come off a man and help block a shot from the wing. Jordan hangs near the paint and watches who's coming for when to block. Grant can rim protect like Ibaka and Noel rim protects like Jordan.