The 2014 NBA Draft is in the books, and we already know which teams were winners and which ones were losers. Now, let’s see which players will have the most successful rookie campaigns.
Aside from the top three picks, I don’t know if there is a franchise-changing player in this year’s draft. But who knows? There could be, eventually, but for now we know at least a handful can have immediate impacts in their first year in the Association.
Here’s a look at five NBA rookies that will have an instant impact in 2014:
1. Jabari Parker
Throughout the draft process, Parker has earned praise for being the most NBA-ready player. He could not have landed in a better situation than with the Milwaukee Bucks, where they need an NBA scorer right away.
The Bucks ranked 28th in the league in points per game last season, and now instantly upgrade their starting five with Parker, an elite wing scorer who averaged 19.1 points per game at Duke last season.
2. Dante Exum
Exum slipped out of the top four picks and landed with the Utah Jazz at No. 5, which may wind up being the steal of the draft. Though he remains a bit of an unknown, a 6-foot-6 point guard with the makings of a franchise player definitely has a chance to make the Jazz more competitive in 2014.
Utah ranked 29th in scoring and 26th in assists per game last season, both stats which should be improved with Exum running the offense. First-year Jazz coach Quin Snyder is a former point guard himself and is notorious for developing talent, which might make the selection of Exum all the more perfect.
3. Julius Randle
Randle does not need foot surgery, and if Pau Gasol leaves the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent, Randle could be the team’s starting power forward at the start of the season.
Prior to the draft, Randle was mentioned as a potential top three — even No. 1 — pick. And yeah, players that play for John Calipari at Kentucky tend to be pro-ready. With Steve Nash running the point and a healthy Kobe Bryant, Randle has a chance to be part of the Lakers’ revamped front-court.
4. Doug McDermott
McDermott was one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball history, and finds a perfect home in Chicago where the team needs to find offense to fill potential voids left by Ronnie Brewer, Mike Dunleavy, and Jimmy Butler.
5. Shabazz Napier
Napier, of course, had a Kemba Walker-esque NCAA Tournament with Connecticut, and could potentially be joining LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Even if Nole earns the starting job or the team winds up signing Kyle Lowry, Napier could be a much-needed improvement to the Heat’s aging rotation.
*6. Marcus Smart
If the Boston Celtics send Rajon Rondo out of town, it likely will bring an All-Star to Beantown with Smart running the offense.
If that’s the case, expect Smart to have a major role right away. He was a smart, tough player at Oklahoma State, and can not only facilitate but score when his name is called.