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January 31, 2012
Rookie Report
The Rest of the Lottery

by Kevin Pelton

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After spending yesterday taking a look at the 10 most valuable rookies, today we're going to consider the lottery picks who didn't make the list. What hasn't gone right so far and how might that change moving forward?

2. Derrick Williams, Minnesota (.477 Win%, 0.5 WARP)
Williams certainly hasn't played poorly, yet he's been overshadowed by both Kyrie Irving and his teammate Ricky Rubio. As efficient as any high scorer in the nation at Arizona, Williams has a middling True Shooting Percentage so far as a pro. He's been effective finishing at the rim, per Hoopdata.com, but has struggled elsewhere in the paint: he's 2-of-20 on shots from 3-15 feet. When I've seen Williams play, he has seemed to have a tough time creating his own shot facing more athletic defenders on the wing. It's challenging to assess Williams' performance by position because of the time he plays in an apositional frontcourt alongside Kevin Love and Anthony Tolliver, where matchups can change from possession to possession. Still, 82games.com shows him shooting an effective 48.9 percent as a power forward and just 43.1 percent as a small forward. That begs the question of whether Williams can ever reach his potential playing on the same team as Love. I suspect Williams will ultimately prove most valuable to the Timberwolves as a trade chip.

4. Tristan Thompson, Cleveland (.412 Win%, 0.0 WARP)
Even the most optimistic Thompson supporter had to concede he was a project when he was drafted. So far, Thompson is a bit ahead of his translated college statistics but still not ready to help the Cavaliers win games. More important are the flashes he's showing as a post scorer. Thompson has been a go-top option for Cleveland's second unit and is honing hook shots and other moves down low. For now, 43.1 percent shooting from the charity stripe has undermined Thompson's efficiency. He's already emerged as a premier weak-side shot blocker and his defense is far ahead of his offense.

6. Jan Vesely, Washington (.328 Win%, -0.3 WARP)
At the moment, Vesely deserves an "incomplete." A hip injury cut short Vesely's crucial practice time in training camp and kept him out for the first seven games of the season, so his stats (through Sunday) reflect just 191 minutes. We'll get a much better read on Vesely's potential now that he's starting at power forward in place of the injured Andray Blatche. Two things that have stood out about Vesely early on: He's enormous for a forward at 6-11, and he might shoot free throws with more arc than anyone in recent NBA history, albeit to little effect (he's 2-of-7 this season).

7. Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte (.442 Win%, 0.2 WARP)
While Biyombo has yet to live up to lofty ACB translations, his game so far has been largely as advertised: impressive at the defensive end, and unpolished on offense. Biyombo is swatting 8.7 percent of opponents' two-point attempts, which is the highest rate of any player with at least 250 minutes (Greg Stiemsma is rejecting a prolific 10.7 percent in more limited action). What sets Biyombo apart is his ambidextrous shot blocking. On one notable play, he contested with his left hand and then was able to block the shot with his right, which is a remarkable feat. Biyombo doesn't really have any offensive moves to speak of besides the dunk right now. That end is very much a work in progress.

8. Brandon Knight, Detroit (.391 Win%, -0.3 WARP)
Knight has spent much of the season starting alongside Rodney Stuckey in the Pistons backcourt, but to characterize him as the point guard in this unit would be something of a misnomer. Because Stuckey spends so much time with the ball in his hands, Knight is often left spotting up on the weak side. That combo has worked fairly well. Knight is making 37.9 percent of his three-point attempts. He's been less effective inside the arc (43.3 percent), and finishing is an area of his game he will have to improve. Knight simply seems to lack the explosive athleticism of the league's top point guards.

10. Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento (.392 Win%, -0.2 WARP)
Sebastian Pruiti wrote an extensive takedown of Fredette's performance for Grantland. From a statistical perspective, the conclusion is simple. Fredette isn't going to provide enough of anything else--certainly not individual defense--to be useful unless he's a dangerous scorer. So far, that has not been the case. Fredette is making 38.0 percent of his triples, but just 35.2 percent on two-point tries. He barely ever gets to the rim and doesn't have much of a midrange game against NBA defenders. Fredette's recent surge has been almost entirely fueled by threes. He's a good enough shooter to pull that game off, especially as he improves in catch-and-shoot situations. But he's going to have to pose some threat to defenders off the drive.

11. Klay Thompson, Golden State (.402 Win%, -0.1 WARP)
I like the way Mark Jackson stuck with Thompson through an early shooting slump, helping his rookie build confidence. That was a nice big-picture move for a coach whose team isn't going anywhere this season. The question is whether Thompson has the skills to repay Jackson's faith. Similar to Fredette, he looks like a specialist at the NBA level. Thompson can knock down an open three, and should eventually become a threat using off-ball screens. But he struggles as an individual defender and isn't a factor on the glass. I suspect Thompson's upside might be sixth man.

12. Alec Burks, Utah (.434 Win%, 0.1 WARP)
We're seeing some of the necessary glimpses of Burks' ability. He's proven more effective than expected as an outside shooter, making 36.4 percent of his rare three-point attempts and 43.0 percent of his long twos. At Colorado, Burks was able to get into the paint frequently and finish around the rim, and those areas reflect where he now needs to improve. Burks has been only decent at the basket and, like so many of his rookie peers, lacks an in-between game.

13. Markieff Morris, Phoenix (.452 Win%, 0.3 WARP)
14. Marcus Morris, Houston (.112 Win%, -0.1 WARP)
A couple weeks in the season, Markieff Morris was as valuable as any rookie outside the top two point guards. Since then, he can't buy a bucket in the paint. Morris is shooting just 46.4 percent at the rim, which is bound to improve despite the fact that he's a tad undersized for an NBA four. In general, Morris has looked preternaturally polished. He runs the pick-and-pop well and has been a threat from beyond the arc (47.4 percent). Morris lacks the upside of many of the players drafted ahead of him, but figures to be a rotation contributor for years to come. As for his twin brother, Marcus has been slowed by the transition to playing on the wing in the NBA. Second-round pick Chandler Parsons took the minutes he could have earned, and Marcus went down to Rio Grande Valley, where he injured his ankle during the D-League Showcase.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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