Roundtable: Assessing the rookies (cont'd)
Thomsen: Andrew Nicholson is a skilled big man who played four years at St. Bonaventure. His new team, Orlando, is likely to spend the next four months cutting salary and trading as much of its roster as possible, giving Nicholson plenty of opportunities to put up numbers. At the end of the season, he'll probably look much better than a No. 19 pick.
Jenkins: Royce White (No. 16) seems to have lottery-level skills, the rare forward who can play big or small, and is as happy passing and rebounding as scoring. Some front offices were scared off by his social anxiety disorder, and rightly so, given the working conditions of NBA players. But after pick No. 10, every player is a risk to some degree, and with White the potential for reward is massive.
Mannix: Perry Jones was widely considered a high lottery pick had he come out as a freshman in 2011. And a so-so second season at Baylor dropped him all the way to No. 28? Jones isn't flawless, but he is a near 7-footer who oozes natural talent. There will be no pressure on Jones in Oklahoma City, where he will get daily lessons in toughness from Kendrick Perkins and in work ethic from superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In a few years Jones could be a starter, and a very good one at that.
Forrester: Jared Sullinger. The former Ohio State star may not have the athleticism of some of the 20 players selected before him, but he knows how to score in the paint and handle himself well on the boards, commodities every team prizes. His back issues are a concern, which is a big reason why he dropped in the draft. But a home with the Celtics will allow Sullinger to learn the league and work through any back issues gradually, without the pressure to be the man from opening night. And with Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett in his ear, Sullinger couldn't have better mentors.
Thomsen: As long as he is healthy it's going to be Davis. He's a team-minded player who is obsessed with defense. He's going to be spectacular in the open floor and his offensive skills are certain to improve. He won't be a traditional center, but he's likely to become an athletic power forward who leads by example, and his teammates on the Olympic team loved him. No rookie has more to look forward to than Davis.
Jenkins: Davis. He will be a franchise cornerstone and perennial All-Star because he can do everything NBA teams ask from their big men. On defense, he can anchor the paint, protect the rim, bother guards on the pick-and-roll and scramble back to the post. On offense, he can score inside, dive to the hoop and also pop out for mid-range jumpers. Like Garnett before him, he is the prototypical power forward for this era.
Mannix: Davis, no question. He's a transcendent, franchise-changing talent. Let Williams mold him and let him develop some chemistry with Austin Rivers and Gordon, and soon he will rank as one of the best big men in the league.
Forrester: Davis. Big men who can take away the paint from an opponent are NBA gold, and it's the type of talent around which eras are built. Davis has that promise, thanks to his shot-blocking and rebounding. At age 19, he'll be getting by on his physical gifts a bit more than his savvy as a rookie. But as he learns the league and finds a comfort zone with his teammates, Davis is going to be a nightmare for any players slashing into the lane and any big men a step slow defending him. If teams are smart, they'll log their wins against the Hornets now, because New Orleans is headed for a long stay as a playoff team.