The NBA’s top 3 rookies are tough to watch (for reasons outside of their control)

The NBA’s top 3 rookies are tough to watch (for reasons outside of their control)

The 2023 NBA Draft was supposedly a three-team draft. The main prize was Victor Wembanyama, with Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson in the trail positions. Regardless of which guard, wing, or big you got, each could be a franchise cornerstone. The caveat is what exactly would they be holding up?

Right now, it’s a bunch of tent cities as the San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Hornets are a combined 15-41. Each team is bottom of the barrel in something, and all of them are going to need reinforcements because it’s ugly.

That’s what the expectations were, yes, but I thought at least one of these guys would be on a semi-frisky squad. The Hornets have LaMelo Ball. Portland gave Jerami Grant a five-year contract and has 2023 Sixth-Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon. Gregg Popovich has to count for a few wins, right?

Alas, a top rookie on a good team is asking too much. Everyone must be mired in development until tanking produces a sufficient No. 2. We mustn’t ever consume the cake; only look at it.

Spurs are must-miss TV

The Spurs have the second-worst record in the league and are on a 14-game losing streak, which would get more airtime if the Detroit Pistons weren’t on a 17-game skid of their own. San Antonio doesn’t play any defense, and I need to be talked into everyone on the roster after Wemby.

“That’s why they’re rebuilding!” I get it, but Keldon Johnson is a glorified role player, Devin Vassell is at best a sixth man, and Jeremy Sochan could be something. What that is I don’t know, so until I do, I’ll reserve judgment.

While Wembanyama is averaging 19, 9, almost 3 blocks, and a steal per game, he’s shooting 43 percent from the field. He’s converting 50 percent of anything that’s not a three, but almost a third of his shots come from deep, and he’s hitting 27 percent from out there. Some of it is because he’s not as strong with the ball as he needs to be and has to settle for threes, and the other part of it is him simply settling for threes.

The spacing around Vic is almost as brutal as the playmaking and it’s especially frustrating to watch a 7-foot-4 athletic specimen without a lob partner. Tre Jones, who doesn’t even start, leads the team in assists (5), and after that it’s Sochan.

Blazer offense is impossibly bad

For a team with talent — Deandre Ayton, Shaedon Sharpe, Brogdon, Grant, Henderson — to score only 105 points per game in this NBA is malpractice. That might rebound when Anfernee Simons returns from injury, but seeing as the best players on this team play the same position, who knows? At least Chauncey Billups is aware of how little this season means and dresses accordingly with his stupid quarter-zips.

Portland might be in the worst position of the three June lottery winners because Henderson currently projects as a guy who’ll need a lot of minutes to be effective. Since returning from injury, he’s been out of the starting lineup, but that also could be due to an inability to guard without mugging the opponent. Henderson averages 4.1 fouls in 25 minutes per game, and it’s kind of hard to develop a feel for the game when you’re religiously in foul trouble.

His shooting splits are abominable, and if I had to pay him a compliment, it would be for his on-the-fly makeover. In addition to new corrective lenses — which one hopes is the reason he’s shooting 34 percent on the season — he also debuted cornrows, too.

Sharpe has shown promise, but there’s not a discernible game plan. He, like the rest of the offense, just kind of floats around until someone tries an off-balance stepback. There’s no reason to have Ayton, who needs structure or a good team to be effective, and even then everybody still hates him.

Same old Charlotte (that’s a bad thing)

Well, would you look at that: Miles Bridges returns and the Hornets still suck. The defense has been a problem for a few years now and the choice to address it by putting everything on Mark Williams is predictably going down in flames. Bridges actually leads the team in rebounds (6.1) after just eight games back.

It’s a tough task for Brandon Miller to get shots, which is alarming considering the perception of Ball. The fourth-year point guard is taking 20 shots per game despite a nearly full complement of scorers surrounding him. Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, Terry Rozier, Miller and Bridges are all capable shooters, and only one of them has missed significant time so far. It might behoove the Hornets’ middling offense if they can tone down the Ball show.

Of the three rookies at the focal point of this piece, Miller is the only one shooting at rate that wouldn’t sink a lineup. He’s making half his attempts from inside the arc, and is just two points shy of 40 percent from deep.

We haven’t seen much else from him because Charlotte doesn’t do much else than score, and they don’t even do that very well. This also is the point when I remind you that Steve Clifford is the coach and he’s about as exhilarating as shopping for tones of beige for your suburbia starter house.

Original source here

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.