Top Rookies To Watch for in 2013-14

BOSTON – Twists, turns, trades and surprises. Those four words do a great job of describing what took place during the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27.

No one knew what to expect that night. The No. 1 pick was up in the air, and nearly every team had discussed trading its pick.

With the belief that there was no franchise-changing talent available to be selected, teams simply wanted to land the player they had rated the highest. Boston, Orlando, Cleveland, Charlotte and Philadelphia all believe they accomplished that goal, and here’s why you should pay attention to their top picks this season.

Kelly Olynyk ● Power Forward ● Boston Celtics

Kelly Olynyk

One of the 16 trades made on draft night included the Boston Celtics, who moved up to No. 13 to grab Kelly Olynyk. The move caught many people off guard, but the Celtics got their man.

Danny Ainge spoke to the media with a smile following the pick. He felt fortunate to have landed Olynyk, who he described as, “a 7-footer that can shoot and pass and think.”

Every NBA executive talks up their draft picks on draft night, but Ainge was simply speaking the truth. Olynyk proved as much during the Orlando Pro Summer League, where he showcased all of the skills Ainge had described.

Olynyk’s well-rounded game helped him finish fourth in Orlando in scoring with 18.0 points per game and fifth in the league in rebounding with 7.8 rebounds per game. He racked up those numbers while torching the nets to the tune of 57.8 percent shooting, and he committed one or less turnovers in three of his five games.

Olynyk made a lasting impression in Orlando and there’s no doubt that the league will be on the lookout for him. He has the potential to be a great role player for the Celtics next season, and that is exactly what they want him to be.

Victor Oladipo ● Guard ● Orlando Magic

Victor Oladipo

There may not have been any player who headed into this year’s NBA Draft with as much hype as Victor Oladipo. Some talk had him going No. 1 overall to either the Cleveland Cavaliers or a team that traded up to get him. Instead, he fell to the Orlando Magic at No. 2, and Central Florida couldn’t be any happier.

Oladipo is an explosive perimeter player whose outside shot continues to develop. As that shot develops, he’s going to become an extremely dangerous player at both ends of the court.

The 6-foot-5 guard is already a force at the defensive end, having averaged 2.2 steals per game as a junior at Indiana. He also led the Orlando Pro Summer League in that category, as he ripped an average of 3.0 steals a game. He also averaged 19.0 PPG and dished out 5.0 assists per game in Orlando.

Oladipo will continue to grow as a pro, and it’s a guarantee that you’ll enjoy watching him play.

Anthony Bennett ● Forward ● Cleveland Cavaliers

Anthony Bennett

Nearly every jaw dropped after watching David Stern announce the No. 1 overall pick: Anthony Bennett out of UNLV.

It had been known for quite some time that the big man had the skill set to warrant a top overall draft slot. However, Bennett had suffered an injury over the summer and had put on weight. There really wasn’t much buzz surrounding him going to Cleveland.

The Cavaliers shocked us all by drafting him first overall and adding him to a nice crop of young players on their roster. He joins Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson to round out Cleveland’s talented 22-and-under group.

Bennett is 6-foot-8 and weighs 240 pounds, but he’s agile enough to play small forward. He also possesses a solid mid-range game that will cause nightmare matchups for opponents.

No one is sure which position he’ll play for the Cavs, but the assumption is that he’ll be productive at either small forward or power forward. This kid is a prime athlete who deserves to be watched closely next season.

Cody Zeller ● Center ● Charlotte Bobcats

Cody Zeller

Tyler Zeller came into the NBA last season and had a solid rookie season with Cleveland. Now it’s time for his brother, Cody, to make a splash with Charlotte.

The Bobcats selected Cody Zeller with the fourth overall pick in this season’s draft. Some believe that slot was too high, but Zeller is working hard to dispel those notions.

The younger Zeller was one of the top players in the Las Vegas Summer League, finishing in the top 15 in scoring (16.3 PPG) and sixth in rebounding (9.3 RPG). He was one of the most frequent shooters in the league, yet still finished with one of the league’s better field goal percentages at 52.0 percent.

Charlotte is relying on Zeller to become a centerpiece moving forward. He has great athleticism, can shoot, attacks the glass well and is pretty seasoned. The Bobcats may not be very good this season, but with ample playing time, Zeller could be.

Michael Carter-Williams ● Point Guard ● Philadelphia 76ers

Michael Carter-Williams

Michael Carter-Williams, the 11th overall pick by the 76ers, will instantly become the NBA’s tallest and longest starting point guard when he takes the floor on opening night. The Hamilton, Mass. native stands at 6-foot-6 and has a wingspan of more than 6-foot-7. Those are forward-type numbers.

What’s even better for Philadelphia is that Carter-Williams possesses that size in addition to point guard vision and ball-handling abilities. As a sophomore at Syracuse, Carter-Williams finished third in the country in assists with 7.7 per game.

Passing is certainly Carter-Williams’ offensive strength. He shot very poorly both at Syracuse and during the Vegas Summer League, but he possesses the speed and athleticism to get to the rim. Philadelphia will need to expand his range and body strength in the coming years.

The Sixers are in a complete rebuilding phase and as a result, Carter-Williams will be given the keys to their car. He may not finish with the most efficient numbers next season, but he will certainly be a player to look out for when Philly comes to town.

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