NBA / Oct 19, 2009 / 11:23 am

NBA’s Sophomore Slumps and Surprises

2008 NBA Draft

There’s no question that the class of 2008 is front-loaded with talent. And now that the rookie jitters are gone and contract extensions are in sight, how will they fare after a year in the League under their belts? The reality is, a case can be made for almost 30 guys to be on this list in some way. For instance, where do Danilo Gallinari and Roy Hibbert go with such strong coach-backing? It’s still too early to close the book on any of these guys, but so far here are my predictions.

The Good: Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Courtney Lee, Brook Lopez, Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Kevin Love, Anthony Morrow and Anthony Randolph

Rose, Mayo and Westbrook are all three future All-Stars and will each be heavily relied upon for their respective teams’ successes this year. I think the Anthony’s out in the Bay will each have great sophomore years in the League. Morrow is about as deadly as they come for a moving shooter and Randolph is one of the most exciting players in the NBA to watch, hands down. The Warriors might not win too many games this season, but they are going to score a lot of points and these two guys are a main reason why.

The Bad: Alexis Ajinca, Robin Lopez, JaVale McGee and J.R. Giddens

Many, including I, scoffed at the Nuggets decision to send their lone draft pick to the Bobcats in 2008. Charlotte, under Larry Brown‘s suggestions, selected Ajinca and Nuggets’ nation has been content ever since. Ajinca is essentially a cross between Hamed Haddadi and Manute Bol. This comparison alone should eliminate any future discussion about this topic. I think McGee and Lopez can still become strong shot blockers, but nothing about their game excites me if I am a Suns or Wizards fan.

Dark horses: Chris Douglas-Roberts, J.J. Hickson, Nicolas Batum and Jerryd Bayless

Through four games in the preseason, Douglas-Roberts is averaging 18 and close to four boards. With a rookie campaign full of inconsistencies, CDR is now focused and looking more like a seasoned vet than someone fresh out of the second round. Hickson is going to get good time at forward, considering he is currently battling Rob Kurz and Jamario Moon for minutes. He is as strong as anyone the Cavs have in the low post, minus the Diesel; and when his baby-j is on target, he’s as deadly as anyone in the League.

Biggest Surprise: Marreese Speights and Jason Thompson

Speights will surprise a lot people this year. If he does not get buried behind Thaddeus Young and Elton Brand, he can do some damage. Speights has size, athleticism and, along with Young, is the future of the frontcourt for Philly. As for Thompson, he’ll definitely be given the chance to play again this year and should continue to improve.

Biggest Improvement: George Hill

Hill steadily improved over his rookie campaign and played well for the Spurs when Tony Parker went down mid-season to injury spurts. Four games into the preseason and Hill is averaging a hair over 14 points with two assists per game. Look for him to make a push for more minutes and more productivity this year.

Biggest Plateau: D.J. Augustin

The Bobcats re-signed Raymond Felton for another year, which means split time for Augustin. It’s clear that Jordan and Brown believe Augustin is their point guard for the future, but his breakout party might be sidelined until next season. Felton is too good to sit and the Bobcats are not going to turn the reins over to a sophomore just yet.

Best Pick: Westbrook (No. 4)

Westbrook can flat out play and is in the best possible situation for him to prosper as an NBA combo-guard. Imagine if the Thunder can keep their young core intact for the next five years. If they can, you will start to see a swing in powers out West. Having Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and rookie James Harden in your arsenal, just made Oklahoma City a lot more attractive.

Still Undecided: Greg Oden and Joe Alexander

Oden is an interesting case. For whatever reason, I want to see him succeed. He is a nice guy who works hard and generally wants to get better. Unfortunately for him and the Blazers, Oden is a ticking injury-bomb waiting to explode at any moment. If he can give Portland 30 minutes a night without fouling out and throw in a couple blocks, he will be fine. If he doesn’t learn how to correctly defend the post without having Joey Crawford whistle at him (or a bizzaro replacement J.C. at that), it will be another long year for the young Buckeye. As for Joe, I know the Bucks are talking about not picking up your option this season, but just play with more confidence this year.

What do you think?

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  • loons

    brook lopez…built in the tim duncan mold. did i just jinx him?

  • Brown

    I’m assuming the bad starts with Ajinca? You might want to re-check your post as I’m sure it will confuse some readers.

  • http://www.myspace.com/beenobrown BEAN aka BERN BROGDEN

    Robin Lopez, The Good?



  • http://dime fan

    Joe Alexander needs a point guard & he’ll flourish. Augustin is better suited at running the point guard position. Darell Arthur is going to be a sleeper this yr.

  • chitown hoops

    The list doesnt make sense. In the good section you have Rose, love, Mayo, and…..Giddens and Ajinca? Seems like some of the ones in the good section could be pulled out.

  • Bron42 aka Had Springs before Slamball

    wow, what has been up with all these backwards articles lately…Between this and the “draft scout” article, you guys are pretty much mentioning a bunch of stuff we all knew for a few months now.Any original articles or just repeating what other people are saying? I mean joe alexander? Ajinca? really? And what has giddens done that bill walker hasn’t?

  • IGP

    so Ajinca, who is a combo or Haddadi and Manute Bol is good? Dont’ get me wrong, Bol could block shots really well but if that’s your ceiling and that’s good I really gotta try out for some nba teams

  • http://luciannogalasso.tumblr.com Lu Galasso

    Agree with Chitown hoops. Also, gotta mention that Robin Lopez was HORRIBLE last season. Getting Shaq out of the picture doesn’t automatically make him a better player.

    Undecided on Joe Alexander? Really? I think it’s pretty safe to decide that he’s bad.

    One last thing: Hibbert’s a stud. Book it.

  • http://www.petsocietyhelp.com Pet Society Help

    The only future all stars I see in this bunch is Derrick Rose and Michael Beasly.

  • Jack

    The post has an error in it. Alexis Ajinca starts “the bad” section

  • Shrink This

    I worry Joe Alexander needs more than a point guard… He looked completely lost out on the floor last year much of the time. I think he’s a bust.

    CDR has looked good in the preseason though. Hopefully an opportunity to play more minutes is all he needs.

  • Brown

    I said CDR would be a valuable player in the NBA before he was even drafted and I stick by that statement. He might not be the greatest athlete, but he can score in various ways. You can’t teach that.

    Wish he would have slid one more slot down to the Raps in the draft though.

  • Billy Hoyle

    that nigga Greg will do just fine

  • jamesinva

    Oden is having a GREAT preseason. He fouled out last night but watch the tapes, these replacement refs are HORRIBLE calling over 60+ fouls last night (nuggets vs blazers). Anyways Oden went OFF in the 4th, hes finally starting to look like he was worth the #1 pick

  • fah

    Great article bro, really agreed with you points. Oden is going to be huge this year.

  • http://mynba4u.unblog.fr Tinmar

    And what about Batum? In France, everyone think he can be a very strong guy in the future: what do you think?

  • http://www.docksquadsports.com docksquad

    rose takes the leap from good to great this year…

  • http://xgarcia.blogspot.com/ Xavier Garcia

    Nice of you all to ignore Marc Gasol! The kid is always getting underrated.

  • Ryan Anderson

    Where is Ryan Anderson? Guy’s going to have a better year than anyone from the draft other than maybe 6 or 7 players