We have all seen the struggles of one Austin Rivers this year, and he is not alone. Top ten picks like Bradley Beal and Terrence Ross have had similar struggles, while highly touted players like Jeremy Lamb and Kendall Marshall haven’t even gotten a chance to show what they can do in this league because of the talent in front of them and the holes in their game. Meanwhile, several guys have come into this league and made an instant impact- from Damian Lillard in Portland to Anthony Davis when healthy and Andre Drummond in Detroit.
Coach Williams recently stated that Austin’s struggles now will help him two to three years down the line, basically insinuating that he will be somewhat of a liability between now and then. The question must be asked then, if the Hornets are serious about making a playoff push next season, can they afford to take another 2-3 year project next June when guys like Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson are ready to win now?
Isn’t it possible that Demps goes into next year’s draft looking to get a guy who can help fill a need right away? And if so, how do you know which kind of players make instant impacts and who specifically in this draft fits that mold. Well, I’m glad I asked.
Instant Impact Prototypes
1. Physical Specimen/ Freak Athlete
Tyreke Evans is an example of a player who came into the league with a man’s body, so he was not only able to take a beating, but dish one out as well. The majority of guys, like Rivers, come in undersized and need a couple of years in the weight room before they are really able to handle the physical nature of this game. Meanwhile, physical freaks like Andre Drummond also have the ability to make an instant impact because they can impact the game at the rim. Drummond almost never takes a shot that is not a layup or a dunk, but he makes 6-7 plays a game at the rim on offense and defense and that is enough to qualify as instant impact.
This is kind of a no brainer, as it is only logical that a 22 year old has a better chance of being able to play a game in a league full of grown men than a guy who is just 19 or 20. Darren Collison came into the league after having played and started for four years at UCLA. He understood concepts on both ends of the court, knew how to lead young men, and was fully aware of his own personal strengths and weaknesses at that point. When he got the opportunity, he took advantage of it and played better in his rookie season than most of the guys drafted ahead of him. In fact, in that draft class that had some fantastic young prospects, three of the top six rookies that year (Collison, Marcus Thornton, and Taj Gibson) were upperclassmen who were drafted 21, 24, and 45, showing that you can get some instant impact later in the draft as well.
3. Non-stop Motor
The scouting report said that Kenneth Faried was productive in college and had a non-stop motor, but he was undersized and had a limited ceiling. So even though NBA teams saw a guy like Paul Milsap make them regret on passing on him years earlier, Kenneth Faried fell all the way to #22 and the Manimal has been making teams regret not picking him ever since. Teams miss on this because they don’t think that having a non-stop motor is a developed skill. They think every player has it in them and all they have to do is bring it out of them, but that is not the case. It takes years to develop a skill that silences your mind when it tells you to stop or to play for yourself instead of team, and some guys have it coming into the league. Most guys don’t.
4. Multi-dimensional Scorer
Damian Lillard has sustained his offensive success in his rookie season because he can score in a myriad of ways. Primarily, he is a fantastic jump shooter who hits a ridiculous percentage of his mid-range and deep jump shots, but he is also a guy who can score in the paint and in transition. Most players are one dimensional coming into the league because that one thing that they did in college or high school could not be stopped by the future real estate agents and restaurant managers that they faced at those levels. But when you get to this league, they are going to take away the things you like to do most and if you don’t have something else you can go to, it will be a struggle.
Instant Impact Candidates
1. CJ McCollum, G, Lehigh (Upperclassmen and M-D Scorer)
Almost everybody remembers #2 Duke getting upset by Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA tournament and how Lehigh star CJ McCollum thoroughly outplayed Austin Rivers on that night. The Junior looked savvy and in control all night while the 19 year old Freshman Rivers struggled with his shot and his composure. McCollum will have another year under his belt by the time draft night comes around and from what we have seen early on this season, he has really taken his game to another level. His three-point numbers are through the roof (3.1 makes per game shooting 56%) and his mid-range game has improved each of the last two seasons, going from 27% his sophomore year to 38% last year and 44% this year. His percentages at the rim have also skyrocketed from 36% to 50% last year to 57% this year. He is great off the dribble or in catch and shoot situations, and has put on 32 pounds since coming in as a freshman, so he can handle contact at the rim as well.
2. Alex Poythress, F, Kentucky (Physical Specimen and Non-Stop Motor)
I joked in a prior piece that if you wanted to find Poythress while watching a Kentucky game, just watch for the guy who looks like he should be playing defensive end on Sundays. Poythress just turned 19 three months ago, but he is built like a tank, standing 6 foot 8 and weighing in at a solid 245 pounds. 19-year old Lebron James would look like a string bean standing next to this guy. In fact, the comparison I like better for Poythress is Larry Johnson, who was a man amongst boys during his days at UNLV and took the league by storm when he arrived back in 1991. Poythress is averaging 15 points per game on a young, but talented Kentucky team and is shooting over 67% from the field. He never stops on either end of the court, and when you combine a non-stop motor with a body this powerful, you have a combination that most players would rather avoid than try to stop.
3. Jeff Withey, C, Kansas (Upperclassmen and Non-Stop Motor)
We have all heard that Anthony Davis was so good in the NCAA title game that he won Most Outstanding Player despite going just 1-11 from the field. But do you remember the player who caused his to have such a horrible shooting night? That’s right, it was Jeff Withey, who also gave Jared Sullinger nightmares two nights earlier in that fantastic Final Four held in New Orleans. Withey is a defensive monster who not only has good size but also possesses fantastic foot work for a big and a non-stop motor. Watching him last year was impressive, as we saw him lock down All-American after All-American, averaging 3.6 blocks per game while picking up just 2.5 fouls. This season, he is downright ludicrous, as he is blocking 5.7 shots a game and only picks up .9 fouls per contest. That is Anthony Davis territory. Combine that with a respectable offensive game and you got a guy who can come in right away and give opposing post players nightmares.
4. Patric Young, PF/C (Physical Specimen, Upperclassmen, and Non-Stop Motor)
Patric Young is a guy that I personally have had the privilege of playing against two summers ago at UF, and let me tell you that I have never come across a more impressive physical specimen than this big man from Florida. In the offseason, his workouts include strapping a rope around his waist and pulling full size tractors up and down an empty street in Gainesville. He stands 6’9″, 250 pounds and does not have an ounce of fat on his body. Combine that with a non-stop motor and one of the nastiest on-court dispositions you will ever see and I have the feeling that Young will be being praised this time next year for doing all of the little things that help teams win.
The Missing Piece is a weekly feature that you can find every Saturday only on Hornets247.com. For past articles, click here.