Inquirer Daily News

Nothin' but Net: Rookie class about as bad as expected

By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - This past NBA Draft class was considered the weakest in recent history.

They are living up to the billing.

The season isn't at the quarter pole yet, but this year's rookie crop is not doing much to change perceptions.

The best rookie has unquestionably been Michael Carter-Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers. He was taken out of Syracuse with the 11th overall selection and MCW leads all rookies in scoring, assists, rebounding, steals and minutes.

That last number is particularly important and helps inflate Carter-Williams' numbers. He logs 36 minutes a night and the next closest is at 28.6 minutes per game.

It also boosts Carter-Williams' cause that Sixers coach Brett Brown gave him the keys to a ship with little offensive guidance. That's not a knock on Brown or his schemes. He realized early on that the Sixers' best chance at any success resulted in frenetic, up-tempo offense. It's worked and Carter- Williams is a big reason why.

Victor Oladipo of the Orlando Magic is second to MCW in minutes and scoring. He's third in assists and sixth in rebounding, which is pretty solid for a guard. Most pundits pegged Oladipo as the Rookie of the Year and he's done little to make those people look wrong.

The only other rookie averaging double-digit scoring is Trey Burke of the Utah Jazz. He's only played seven games so forgive us if we don't go too nuts about Burke's performance. Although, he's already proven to make the Jazz better and should continue to do so.

There have been some nice stories too, like Nate Wolters, a second-round pick for the Milwaukee Bucks. He was forced into action because everyone in Milwaukee short of "Laverne and Shirley" was hurt, but since Brandon Knight and Luke Ridnour have returned, Wolters' minutes have dwindled if not evaporated.

Tim Hardaway, Jr. has produced more than expected because the New York Knicks have been dreadful. Same for Mason Plumlee of the Brooklyn Nets. Steven Adams looked good in spurts for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Ben McLemore has been pretty solid in Sacramento.

That's about it. Where are all of the high draft picks?

Anthony Bennett went first overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers and is averaging a whopping 2.1 ppg. He's not cracking the rotation regularly for a team that is 5-12 and underachieving at an alarming rate.

Bennett came into camp overweight after shoulder surgery and has had some problems with the shoulder. He didn't make his first field goal until his fifth NBA game and now talk is that head coach Mike Brown wants him to play small forward after swearing he'd only play the power spot.

A change in position should actually help Bennett get playing time. Alonzo Gee and Earl Clark aren't Larry Bird and Dr. J so there should be more time available there than behind Tristan Thompson. Can he shoot well enough to play small forward? No, but if that's your barometer than Bennett should go into the insurance business.

Otto Porter went third to the Washington Wizards and he's been seen in D.C. about as frequently as Deep Throat was. He hurt his hip flexor in the offseason and is just now ready to return to the lineup. Word is Porter might play Friday, but if the Wizards weren't without Bradley Beal and Al Harrington, would he see the floor? Porter may have a hard time beating out Jan Vesely in the rotation and Vesely's been a punchline more frequently than "to get to the other side."

The Wizards are going to be a playoff team. How could they not be with a 9-9 mark in the Eastern Conference? They'd host a series with that kind of record. How much Porter plays for a postseason contender is a legitimate question.

Cody Zeller was the No. 4 pick and he's the eighth-leading scorer for the Charlotte Bobcats at 4.9 ppg. He's shooting 34 percent from the field and it's not like the Bobcats had seven guys so far ahead of him on the depth chart.

If snakes are common in the desert of Phoenix, Alex Len is a polar bear. Of the 821 minutes the Suns have played this season, Len, the fifth pick, has played 31.

This draft was about long-term promise so to judge in the incubator stage of these careers seems silly. But the reality is that most of these players aren't making significant contributions to teams that could use them.

Looks like it really was that bad of a class.

12/03 13:51:04 ET