The NBA season is rapidly approaching and the preseason games are well underway. While it might only be a warm up routine for veteran players, the NBA preseason serves as a transitional period for the rookies —a trial by fire, of sorts. Let’s look at three of the best performing rookies.
- Andrew Wiggins
Taken by Cleveland, Wiggins was sent to Minnesota the day his contract became available for trade. Since then, he’s had time to settle in with a Minnesota squad that just lost their centerpiece, Kevin Love. Though he won’t be playing for the stacked and primed-to-win Cleveland team, Wiggins will have an opportunity to play a larger role in Minnesota’s rotation and consequently make a bigger difference.
From the very first preseason game (and even before that), it was clear why this kid was the number one pick. He doesn’t have the polish of an NBA veteran—none of these rookies do—but he’s definitely showing flashes of All-Star talent. His ability to get to the free-throw line has already turned heads (in his debut preseason game, he made it to the charity stripe 10 times, making eight of those attempts). Though his first game was his best, his subsequent performances weren’t bad either. It will definitely be interesting to see Wiggins evolve into an NBA-caliber player.
- Jabari Parker
This former Duke star and Chicago native (voted in 2012 by Sports Illustrated as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James) was taken by the Milwaukee Bucks as the second overall pick. He has also impressed fans and spectators with his ability to draw fouls. On top of that, he’s shown that he can be an aggressive rebounder. The Bucks are understandably excited about adding this rookie and it’s already paid dividends in the preseason games as he’s averaging nearly 14 points and almost five rebounds per game.
What’s really been a stand out factor for this rookie, however, is his likeability. He immediately won over Milwaukee fans by declaring his interest in staying with the team long term. From all reports, he seems to be well-liked by his coaching staff and fellow players, as well as the fans, which bodes well for his success on this team. He’s entering into a team that just had their worst season in franchise history and is in a definite rebuilding stage. However, he’s with a young and talented core, so we can expect to see them grow and improve together, and quite possibly become a force in the Eastern Conference.
- Shabazz Napier
A man with a draft story as interesting as his name, this UConn star was drafted 24th overall by the Charlotte Hornets and then immediately traded to the Miami Heat because, according to several reports, LeBron James was impressed with his play and wanted him in Miami. James then, as we all know, left for Cleveland. Now, Napier is in Miami and, because of James’ departure, will likely be an even bigger help. As a point guard, Napier will be able to contribute to playmaking and overall talent at that position—something that the Heat didn’t need to worry about much with James around (though he’s not a guard, we’ve seen that LeBron has a penchant for playmaking).
So far, Napier’s teammates and critics alike have been impressed with his performances. Though his defense isn’t up to par yet, we can expect to see some improvements (even if slight) in that aspect of his game as he continues to play against professionals. To speak to his strengths: his passing game has been surprisingly accurate and natural for a rookie making this tough transition. On top of his ability to help his teammates, Napier has shown that he has a shot of his own as well. Dwyane Wade has even been quoted saying that the rookie is “Getting better every time he steps on the floor.” And that’s what a team wants from a rookie in the preseason.