Underwhelming rookies… Busts OR too soon to tell?
Every year, there are NBA draftees who do not live up to the hype. Those who get to the NBA and perform below or sometimes well below expectations. NBA busts happen every year. However, sometimes it is too soon to call someone an NBA bust. Maybe they were drafted into a toxic situation. Maybe they need more time to acclimate to NBA level basketball. There are plenty of factors that play into young athletes that do not perform up to the expectations that have been placed on them.
The 2020 NBA Draft Class was widely regarded as less talented than previous draft classes. However, through the young NBA season, we have seen numerous rookies performing above expectations and proving that the 2020 rookie class is as talented if not more than its predecessors. While there are some players who have proven analysts who scoffed at this draft class wrong, there are others who have helped make the case that the 2020 rookie class is inferior to previous years.
A few players who have not performed up to expectations include; Killian Hayes (Detroit Pistons), Deni Avdija (Washington Wizards), Obi Toppin (New York Knicks), Jalen Smith (Phoenix Suns), Devin Vassell (San Antonio Spurs).
Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons
Hayes has been plugged into Detroit’s starting lineup since game one of the pre-season. Obviously, there was a short offseason and unusual training camp so you could easily say that he needs more time to acclimate to the NBA, and I believe he does. However, his play thus far has been concerning. He gets heavy minutes each night but the stats are not where they should be for a point guard. The points are one thing… Okay, he’s not scoring, that’s fine it will come along, but as a true point guard, he needs to be making plays for his teammates and racking up assists. The other night he played 20 minutes and finished with 0 points and 1 assist… He was just running around out there for 20 minutes. Hopefully he can learn a thing or two from DRose and begin to turn things around in year one.
Deni Avdija, Washington Wizards
Deni Avdija slipped a little bit down draft boards landing at #9 to Washington. He has been in the starting lineup for a Wizards team that is now 0–5. Avdija has proven that he can hit the open 3-point shot which is very encouraging, but other than that, he has not found his footing on the offensive end. He is also a major liability defensively. The stereotype of European basketball players is that they are soft, and Deni has lived up to that bill thus far. Like Hayes, he may need more time to acclimate to the NBA’s speed and physicality which is understandable. Overall, Avdija needs to start producing more than just being a spot up 3-point shooter. It is tough to get shots on a team with Russell Westrbook and Bradley Beal, but Avdija needs to find his niche and start helping this Wizards team win games.
Obi Toppin, New York Knicks
Obi has been massively underwhelming through his rookie campaign thus far. He did suffer an injury that has kept him out of the Knicks last few regular season games, but the pre-season and regular season games he has played in, he has not lived up to his draft hype. While he is freakishly athletic which is a surprise to nobody, that seems to be all he has. He has not produced on the offensive end outside of big dunks and catching lobs. He hasn’t really been a help in the offensive or defensive glass either. He, if any rookie should be the one that is most ready to come into the NBA as he is already 22 years old and spent all 4 years at Dayton. Once he comes back from injury, he will be put under a microscope and judgements will be made early on a guy who had so much promise coming out of college.
Jalen Smith, Phoenix Suns
Jalen Smith has only played in 2 of the Sun’s first few regular season games. However, in 10 minutes per game he has not done much of anything. Considering where he was drafted, you would think he would have a larger role. This leads me to believe that he has not shown much in practice to earn his minutes. While the Suns are shooting for a playoff spot and have a fairly deep roster, it is tough for him to break through into the lineup, but he has yet to do anything of significance with the minutes he has been given in the few regular season and preseason games this year.
Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs
A guy who was supposed to be an elite spot-up shooter for the Spurs has not had the impact many predicted. It has not been a shortage of minutes for Vassell. He has been playing 12–17 minutes per game with the Spurs, but is only averaging 3 points. Vassell was highly touted as the best pure shooter in the 2020 draft class and a guy who would come in and have an immediate impact. On a middling Spurs team that is on the brink of a full rebuild if not already, Vassell should be shining. Early on in the season, Vassell looks like just another warm body for Popovich to toss out there and eat up some minutes.