Predicting Which Rookies Will Have the Largest Impact in Year one
NBA training camps open today. Soon, we will get to see how each franchise operates under the ‘New Normal’ circumstances. It will also be our first opportunity to see the 2020 NBA Draft class in action. Whether they were a top pick or undrafted, they are all about to live out their NBA dreams.
Every year, there are players who perform well above expectations in their rookie campaign. On the flip side, there are players who struggle to find their footing in the NBA.
I am going to evaluate which NBA rookies will have the most significant impact on their respective teams and those that could be in for a long, tumultuous rookie season.
Immediate Impact Players
- James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors
Wiseman will get plenty of opportunity to play right from the start. The Warriors have been missing a presence in the paint even during their Championship years. Wiseman will provide defense stability for a Warriors team that will be without one of their best defenders in Klay Thompson. He should be a nice fit next to Draymond Green and allow the Warriors plenty of roster flexibility. The combination of his fit on the roster along with Golden State’s ability to develop their young talent makes Wiseman a prime candidate for rookie of the year. He will not be asked to give them much offensively early on in his career and will utilize his energy on the defensive end for the warriors.
- LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
The #3 overall selection from this draft was highly touted as the best overall prospect by many NBA draft experts and analysts. LaMelo is an elite playmaker on an off the court. He will have an impact on the floor with his ability to create for himself and his teammates. He will also have a very positive impact on the Hornets selling tickets and jerseys. In all seriousness, I think LaMelo will be a triple double threat every night. He has great size and length for a point guard. The only question is whether he can defend multiple positions. He will need to put on some muscle in the NBA, but with NBA nutritionists and trainers, that should not be a problem. I expect him to be at the top of the rookie of the year conversation when all is said and done.
- Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings
One of, if not he most NBA ready prospect in this draft is Tyrese Haliburton. He alongside De’Aaron Fox should wreak havoc for opposing backcourts. Haliburton is a pure point guard who will be able to facilitate the offense and knock down open shots. His form is a bit wonky, but as the saying goes ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ and he shot a high percentage from the 3-point line at Iowa State. I think Tyrese will have a clear positive impact from day one.
- Precious Achiuwa, Miami Heat
I think I will be proven wrong when I listed Precious Achiuwa on my list of potential busts in this draft class. I think he got drafted by the perfect team and will fit right in with the ‘Heat Culture’ in Miami. He will need to earn his playing time with the way the roster is constructed, but he adds depth to a roster that competed for an NBA Championship this past season. Achiuwa will get to learn under Bam Adebayo who has developed his game and thrived in the Heat system as a defensive stopper. Achiuwa projects to be similar. A player that will have a positive impact on defense and whatever he provides offensively is merely a bonus.
- Aaron Nesmith, Boston Celtics
There will always be a place in the NBA for elite perimeter shooters. Aaron Nesmith was regarded as the best pure shooter in this draft class. If his shooting translates to the NBA which I believe it will, he will have a long, impactful career. Nesmith should get plenty of open looks from the 3-point line with the drive and kick threats of Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. If Nesmith can prove his worth on the defensive end of the floor, the Celtics would have a gem with their 2020 draft selection that can make an immediate impact on a contending team.
- Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls
The second youngest prospect in this draft and a surprise pick at #4 by the Chicago Bulls. Patrick Williams has been praised for his high motor and NBA-ready frame. However, as the roster is currently constructed in Chicago, Williams may take a back seat his rookie season. This should benefit him moving forward as he will get to learn the grind of an NBA season from the Bulls veterans. When he does play, he will have more of an impact on the defensive end. He will not be asked, nor will he need to handle the ball or score in this offense. He will benefit greatly from a proven developmental coach in Billy Donovan. Patrick Williams projects to have bright future in Chicago 2 or 3 years down the road.
- Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers
There is no doubt that Okoro is an elite athlete and will have his fair share of highlight plays his rookie season. However, his shooting is below average and will have to show vast improvement if he is going to have a major impact on the Cavaliers. Athleticism will only get you so far in the NBA. He will need to prove that he can defend multiple positions and knock down the open 3-point shot in order to earn enough playing time to make a significant difference in Cleveland.
- Obi Toppin, New York Knicks
Having Toppin on the list of ‘Project Players’ may come as a surprise to most. He is one of the elder prospects from this draft class at 22 years old, so you would think he should come into a situation in New York and have every opportunity to play. However, Toppin comes into a situation with Tom Thibodeau as the Head Coach. Thibodeau is notorious for not giving rookies a lot of playing time. This will limit Toppin’s ability to be an impact player in year one. Knicks fans will have to be patient and look forward to the 2021–22 season to see their #8 overall selection bare fruit.
- Deni Avdija, Washington Wizards
The adjustment from Euro Basketball to the NBA has proven difficult for many international prospects in recent years. There are of course the outlier cases of Luka Doncic that come around once in a blue moon, but Avdija will most likely have some growing pains. He should be one of the first players off the bench in Washington, but I do not see him having any kind of major impact throughout his rookie season. Deni will need to get an NBA season or two under his belt before we see his true potential.
- Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons
Killian Hayes was highly sought-after point guard coming out of this draft. He has an NBA-ready body with great positional size and length. He did show an ability to make plays for himself and his teammates throughout his career in Germany. However, he is one of the youngest prospects from the draft class. That alone tells you he is a project player. He will not be asked to carry a heavy load on offense in his rookie season. He will have the advantage of learning from one of the best point guards to ever do it in Derrick Rose. Killian will be a student of the game in his rookie season and if he succeeds, the Pistons will hand him the keys to the offense moving forward.