Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Roundtable: Most Important Rookie, 2014-15

Which rookie will have the biggest impact on their team next year? (

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: Which member of the NBA's incoming rookie class will have the biggest impact in 2013-14?

Not Shabazz Muhammad. Is that too general? Fine. It's coming from left field, but my pick is Jeff Withey, the No. 39 overall selection. The Portland Trail Blazers' center position is far from settled with last season's 80-game starter J.J. Hickson on the free agent market and sophomore Meyers Leonard still a work in progress. No way will Withey be the starter, but he could certainly be making an argument for himself by the All-Star break. Leonard had a strong first year and is on course to be better in 2014-15, but Withey is a fantastic paint protector with the length and positioning to block any short-range shots by opponents. He did as much in two years at Kansas, including a breakout redshirt junior season in which he played a major role in the Jayhawks' march to the NCAA Championship game. Portland's shaky history with big men makes this a leery choice, as does the fact that Withey will play significantly fewer minutes than most rookies, but his intangibles -- inherent footwork and ideal size for shot-blocking -- are things that can make quickly associate a player's name with a team's culture and reputation. It happened in 2012-13 with Larry Sanders in Milwaukee despite questions about his consistency and ability entering the season, not to mention the Bucks' anomalous frontcourt situation. Given even a glimpse at an opportunity, Withey could quickly establish himself as one of the NBA's premier defensive big men, and with Damian Lillard feeding him in the post, he could cause enough commotion on the offensive side of things to warrant a look at a bigger role.

For those of you who say you called Damian Lillard as NBA Rookie of the Year, you're a bunch of bold-faced liars. But that's what wep0-oooooooooo love about the NBA. Picking which rookie will have the best season does not necessarily mean picking the player who will have the best career. We're looking at who can come in and have an immediate impact on their team and the league, and I think Otto Porter has a good chance of doing this.

Porter is not the most athletic rookie or the rookie with the most potential. Yet Porter has good size as a small forward, at 6'8", and while he isn't the best shooter in the class, he knows how to score. He may not stand out in one particular area of his game, but he is a strong all-around player and can make an impact in many aspects of the game. Washington also has John Wall as the face of the team, removing pressure from Porter and giving him a talented point guard to play alongside. Being only 20 years old, Porter has time to develop further, but seeing as most of the players came into the draft as freshmen or sophomores, his age shouldn't be much of a factor and Porter is regarded as an intelligent player anyway. If he can continue to improve his 3-point shooting and rebounding, he should have a solid rookie campaign.

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