NBA

Top 6 NBA Rookies with Something to Prove in 2010-11

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Every year the NBA draft has players who overachieve.  Most second-round picks who end up being successful in the league usually say their slip in the draft motivated them to be better.  Just look at players like Carlos Boozer, Gilbert Arenas, Paul Milsap, and Michael Redd.  All players that every team passed on before having their name called.

The motivation doesn’t just apply to second-rounders though.  Some players have their draft stock take a hit for no apparent reason, like Paul Pierce and Caron Butler.  Others have “character issues” that causes them to fall, like Zach Randolph.

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In this article we’ll tell you the six players that will use their draft position as extra motivation to stick it to the teams that passed on them.

1. DeMarcus Cousins – Fifth Overall

Teams He’ll Punish: Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, and Minnesota Timberwolves

DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins showed that he was a beast throughout his freshman year at Kentucky.  He showed it again in individual workouts before the draft.  Then to drive the point home, he was arguably the best player in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Add to that the fact that his peers think he’s one of the favorites to have the best career, and you have a situation where Cousins will be punishing at least three of the teams that passed on him.

The 76ers grabbed Evan Turner, who looked less than spectacular in Orlando during Summer League.  Then they traded for a big, Spencer Hawes, when they could have just drafted Boogie.  With how fickle Philadelphia fans are, don’t be surprised if they really start questioning the move to draft Turner, who plays the same position as Andre Iguodala, once they see how good Cousins is.

The New Jersey Nets grabbed another uber-talented big in Derrick Favors.  It also looks like they may be able to turn Favors into Carmelo Anthony, which would certainly make them players in the East.  While we have Favors and Cousins rated very similarly, we don’t think Cousins will give a pass to the Nets for passing on him.

The Timberwolves took Wes Johnson, who by all accounts is ready to play right away.  However, they ended up dealing Al Jefferson, leaving a hole at power forward or center, both of which Cousins could have filled.  We expect Cousins to really play with a chip on his shoulder when he visits the Timberwolves on opening night, so show them how big of a mistake they made.

2. Paul George – 10th Overall

Team He’ll Punish: Utah Jazz

We’ve caught a bit of hell for calling Gordon Hayward one of the most likely rookies to disappoint in their first season.  However, the biggest reason we feel he’ll disappoint is because the Jazz passed on Paul George to select him.  If the Jazz wanted a wing why not take the most talented wing available?

George has the skill set that NBA execs go crazy for.  Great size, huge wingspan, scores in a variety of ways, automatic from the stripe, and makes his teammates better.  There is absolutely nothing not to like about George, but apparently the Jazz saw something.

Our guess is that George will use the Jazz passing on him for motivation all season long.  When he’s tearing it up for the Pacers, Jazz fans will be left wondering what could have been.

Even if he isn’t great at arcade basketball.

3. Xavier Henry – 12th Overall

Teams He’ll Punish: Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, and Indiana Pacers

Xavier Henry was largely considered the best wing player in this class before his only college season tipped off.  At Kansas he failed to put up really gawdy numbers like some expected, but that was due in large part to the depth of his team at Kansas.  Seeing him sit in the Green Room at Madison Square Garden for 11 picks before hearing his name called was not something many draft analysts expected.

We’re sure that Henry didn’t expect it either.  After all the Clippers, Jazz, and Pacers all took wing players over him, despite his obvious fit with the teams.  The Clippers took Al-Farouq Aminu, who is more of a tweener, despite the fact that Henry fits the needs of the team better.

The Jazz took Hayward, which we’ve said enough about.  Then the Pacers took George, who played at a smaller school and didn’t come into the draft with nearly the hype Henry did.

In our opinion Henry will be the Caron Butler or Paul Pierce of this draft.  Now that he’s in camp on time he’ll have time to gel with his teammates, and in five years we’ll look back and say, “Wow, how did 11 teams pass on him?”

4. Patrick Patterson – 14th Overall

Teams He’ll Punish: Detroit Pistons, Utah Jazz, and Toronto Raptors

Patrick Patterson was one of five incredibly talented players at the University of Kentucky.  As a junior he scored the ball from the post and outside, all while maintaining a great knack for the ball.

However, he heard his name come off the board at the end of the lottery.  Being a lottery pick is a wonderful accomplishment, but being the ninth player who can play power forward off the board is insulting.

The Pistons took Greg Monroe, a very talented player out of Georgetown.  Much has been written about Monroe’s lack of drive.  When evaluating a player the numbers are important, but heart is something that doesn’t show up in box scores.  If we were drafting in the lottery, we aren’t taking a player who cruises for stretches like Monroe, we’re taking the absolute pit bull in Patrick Patterson.

We hated the Jazz’s pick.  There, we said it.

Yes, Patterson is sort of Milsapian, but he shoots better from the perimeter and would have been impossible to defend in pick-and-roll situations with Deron Williams.  This would have let Milsap continue to come off the bench and add energy, or let the Jazz go small with both Patterson and Milsap without losing much on the glass.

The Raptors took Ed Davis with the departure of Chris Bosh a near certainty.  Again, for our value, take the proven player in Patterson instead of Davis.  The recent injury to Davis only solidifies the point.

5. James Anderson – 20th Overall

Teams He’ll Punish: Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Chicago Bulls, and Boston Celtics

As far as NBA-ready players go James Anderson has to be near the top of the list.  Add to that the fact that he went behind some players we aren’t nearly as sold on, and he makes this list with ease.  Anderson is in the mold of Richard Hamilton or Paul Pierce, they don’t get their numbers in flashy ways, but you blink and they’ve put up 20 points.

The Bucks took a flier on Larry Sanders when they could have added a complimentary scorer to Brandon Jennings.  The team is young, so we understand the reasoning, but we think Anderson will be a 10-year vet who contributes from day one.

The Timberwolves took Luke Babbitt before shipping him to Portland.  While Babbit is a great shooter, and above average athlete, we just don’t see him being more productive than Anderson.

Chicago traded the pick, but in our opinion should have kept it to take Anderson.  A backcourt of Anderson and Derrick Rose would be very versatile, and the Bulls could really use a perimeter scorer, which he would have brought to the table immediately.

Boston’s pick is harder to criticize because they need to turn an eye to the future.  Avery Bradley is a lock-down defender, something Anderson isn’t.

However, the idea of Anderson refining his scoring behind Pierce and Ray Allen is something we wish Danny Ainge would have thought of when making the pick.  Anderson already is a versatile scorer, but learning from two of the best would have put him over the top.

6. Damion James – 24th Overall

Teams He’ll Make Pay: Portland Trailblazers, New Orleans Hornets, and San Antonio Spurs

Much like James Anderson, Damion James is coming into the league ready to contribute.  During the beginning of the college season James was seen as the front runner for player of the year, but as his team started to falter his chances slid.  At seasons end James averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds, very impressive in the Big 12.

The Trailblazers are a team looking to make the jump to a contender, and James could have helped them in that transition.  Instead, the Blazers added more perimeter-based players in first round of the draft, Elliot Williams and Luke Babbitt.  While Williams and Babbitt may be ready to contribute, it’s hard to see what hole they fill for the Blazers.

The Hornets selected two forwards late in the first round after moving Cole Aldrich to the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Both players they selected, Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter, were considered early second-round picks by draft day, so both appear to be reaches.

It’s hard to say that Brackins will be able to produce more than James, especially considering James has a better skill set to play the three than Brackins.

San Antonio would have been the perfect destination for James.  He would have been able to play both the three and the four, and learn the winning culture from all the Spurs veterans.

The Spurs, however, opted for an NBA ready shooting guard, so they must be worried about the health of Manu Ginobili more than their front court depth.