PBT’s Top 10 NBA Stories of 2014, No. 6: Heralded and disappointing draft class

4 Comments

The 2014 NBA draft class was hyped as the best in a decade – since 2003, when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and several other key contributors joined the league.

No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins and No. 2 pick Jabari Parker were supposed to create a rookie rivalry, and selections late into the first round seemed to provide good value. This draft class claimed both star power and depth.

But the early returns are pretty dim.

The 2014-15 rookie class is on pace to produce the second-fewest win shares per league game ever. Only the 1957-58 class ranked lower in the stat, which – although meaningless as a number – is useful in comparing rookie classes across eras where the league’s size and schedule varied.

image

(The league’s first few seasons are not included in the chart, because a disproportionately high number of players were rookies, and their high combined contributions would have distorted the scale.)

To be fair, it’d be reasonable to predict rookies tend to improve more within a season than other players. After all, they have the most to learn.

So, there’s still hope the 2014-15 class becomes more competitive between now and April.

However, some key rookies are either hurt or behind the eight ball thanks to previous injures. Most of the top 10 picks are out or have missed significant time:

1. Andrew Wiggins

2. Jabari Parker (injured earlier this month and lost for season)

3. Joel Embiid (injured before the draft and likely out all season)

4. Aaron Gordon (fractured foot last month and out indefinitely)

5. Dante Exum

6. Marcus Smart (missed 13 games due to injury)

7. Julius Randle (injured in his first game and lost for season)

8. Nik Stauskas

9. Noah Vonleh (injured in preseason and too far behind to contribute)

10. Elfrid Payton

This is why Wiggins is an overwhelming favorite for Rookie of the Year. It’s telling that his top competition, Nikola Mirotic, wasn’t even drafted this year. The Bulls rookie was selected in 2011 and signed with Chicago this offseason.

Don’t completely give up on the 2014 draft class, but it’s not too early to lower expectations.