Every year before the NBA Draft, through countless hours of analyzing, GMs are ultimately left guessing which player would be best for his organization. The most common words or phrases thrown around are “potential” and “high ceiling.” There are players who had better college careers than others, but because of a lack of athleticism, they get overlooked. There are indicators that help in evaluating players, but it is rare to be certain of a strong NBA player until he steps foot on an NBA court.
Sometimes GMs are absolutely right, and other times they couldn’t be more wrong (Kwame Brown, anyone?). But they receive the most scrutiny when they choose a player with a lottery pick and he turns out to be anything but a formidable player. It’s hard to judge these particular players even after their first year in the NBA, but seeing the draft class of 2012 play one full year and then a month and a half into this season, evaluations can be made more accurately.
In this list, just as my feature earlier today on the five best from the 2012 class, these players had to be taken in the lottery. At the end of the day, you can’t hold lottery picks and second rounders to the same standards. You just can’t — guaranteed contracts, roster spots, expectations… it all factors in. Upon saying that, here are the five worst sophomores in the NBA this season.
*We all know Kendall Marshall would normally make this list. He’s already been banished to the D-League. But we’re sticking with players that are actually playing for NBA teams this year, and Marshall has yet to step foot on an NBA court in 2013-14.*
[RELATED: The 5 Best Sophomores In The NBA]
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5. JEREMY LAMB
Jeremy Lamb faced scrutiny and unfair expectations coming into his rookie season. After being a part of the James Harden trade, Lamb, with the help of Kevin Martin, was expected to take some of the scoring load off Kevin Durant. Lamb did not live up the expectations and was assigned to the D-League. He only played in 23 games his rookie year.
Now that Lamb is a sophomore and Martin is gone, he has had a bigger role for the Thunder. He has played in all 21 games of the season so far, collecting 20 minutes a night. He’s averaging 9.4 PPG and is shooting 47 percent from the field. This is fine, if he weren’t the 12th overall pick a year earlier. Also with Thabo Sefolosha only scoring 6.4 points a night, Lamb should be contributing more to the scoring load placed on Durant and Westbrook. Playing with two strong players like Durant and Westbrook, he should be taking advantage of the opportunities that come when double-teams are thrown at those elite players. A 14.85 PER in his second year doesn’t exactly leave warm fuzzies in your stomach as a GM looking for a shooting guard for the future. Luckily for the UConn product, OKC desperately needs his shooting and scoring off the pine, so he’s going to get minutes no matter what this year.
4. THOMAS ROBINSON
The fourth overall pick, Thomas Robinson, has been in the league for less than a season and a half but has already played for three teams (Houston, Sacramento and now Portland). If a player is drafted fourth and traded by the All-Star break, normally it’s pretty strong evidence the GM has made a mistake. The first problem with Robinson’s situation is that he wasn’t a great fit on the Sacramento Kings (the team that drafted him) in the first place. The team was filled with young and some would say selfish players, who were getting used to finishing towards the bottom every season. Not exactly a great environment for a rookie to come into. Robinson was freakishly athletic for his height, but wasn’t able to develop to the standards placed on him during his rookie season.
Robinson was traded to the Rockets in late February of 2012 and in the offseason was dealt to the Trail Blazers. Being traded twice in less than six months is not an ideal way to start your NBA career. But now that Robinson has landed in Portland, he is stuck playing behind All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. In one sense this is good for Robinson to learn from a very talented player, but in another sense, he’s barely playing at all (11.7 minutes) on a playoff contender.
Robinson’s best stats are his points per game (5.3) and rebounds per game (3.6), which aren’t terrible (if you’re being optimistic) considering the minutes he gets a night. Robinson’s PER is at 15.47, which is right around the league average. But that is exactly the word you don’t want to use for the No. 4 draft pick in his second year: average.
So far, Robinson has shown he can be an average player against league backups, but between the trades and the lack of opportunities in Portland this year, that’s about all he’s shown.