Newspaper article International New York Times

Batch of 2nd-Year Players Is Now Looking First-Rate

Newspaper article International New York Times

Batch of 2nd-Year Players Is Now Looking First-Rate

Article excerpt

Five players from the 2012 draft have distanced themselves from the pack both in terms of production and potential.

Anthony Bennett's rookie season for the Cleveland Cavaliers has been so ugly that he is being called a bust after a dozen games in the National Basketball Association.

Bennett was a surprise No. 1 overall pick in 2013, drafted ahead of a player considered to have far more potential, Nerlens Noel, and two Indiana University players who were considerably more accomplished, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, among others. In Bennett's first 10 N.B.A. games, he shot 5 for 37 from the field and averaged 1.3 points and 2.5 rebounds a game.

The good news is that it will be nearly impossible for him to remain so ineffective. On Nov. 23, in a loss to San Antonio, Bennett had what would qualify, for him, as a breakout game. He shot 4 for 5 from the field (raising his field-goal percentage to .214 from .135) and finished with 9 points and 5 rebounds.

Bennett's case, after so many other teenagers were able to step right into a man's game, is a stark reminder that the N.B.A. occasionally presents a difficult learning curve.

With that in mind, it is often best to largely ignore a player's rookie season, as he becomes accustomed to the speed of the league, and start paying attention in his second year. A look at the players from the 2012 draft shows that some have stagnated, some have proved unworthy and some have become stars. So far, five players from the class seem to have distanced themselves from the pack in terms of production and potential.

ANTHONY DAVIS, C, NEW ORLEANS After a solid rookie campaign limited to 64 games because of injuries, Davis appears to have justified his status as the top overall choice. His improvements this season are a result of not only an increase in minutes, but also a drastic increase in efficiency. Davis has raised his points, rebounds and blocks per 36 minutes and has become a deadly free- throw shooter. At 3.9 blocks a game, he is on the verge of being the first player to average 4 a game since Dikembe Mutombo in 1995-6.

DAMIAN LILLARD, G, PORTLAND Lillard leads the draft class in nearly every category, so to say he has not improved much from his rookie season is hardly an insult; he had little need to change anything. …

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