Which Three NBA Rookies Have Seen Their Stock Dip The Most Since The Draft?

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NBA draft picks don’t exactly lose value the way a new car off the lot does, but there is a kernel of truth to the comparison. A lot of teams are able to sell the idea of hope to not only their own fans, but to prospective trade partners through the tantalizing future of draft picks. The unknown carries weight and allows for a wide range of outcomes. Once actualized, the value can drop or rise precipitously based off of the production or flashes of that rookie.

The season still has plenty of time left and cementing any of the following players to this list isn’t totally fair. It’s a window into the now and the perception of each player in where they were drafted and the production/flashes they have showcased so far. A couple of NBA analysts have said that with the abbreviated offseason, lack of a summer league and fewer practices between games that rookie seasons should be viewed differently than other seasons. As true as that may be, it still can be a helpful exercise to get a sense of where players are in their development.

Obi Toppin 

It was fair to question at one point whether Tom Thibodeau’s tunnel vision on veterans was the road block preventing Toppin from flourishing. Quibbling with the lack of minutes is a relatively fair argument, but it’s truly hard to justify a significant role in the front court for the rookie. Toppin has not only failed to impress statistically, but has looked completely lost at times. Against the Detroit Pistons last week he displayed exactly why he is failing to make a true impact.

All rookies have plays that make them look like this, but it has been the norm for Toppin this year. He plays with hesitancy; unsure of whether the open look from deep, or the post position on a smaller defender is the right decision. His effective field goal percentage places him in the bottom third amongst big men in the NBA, and the team has played 4.8 points per possession worse with him on the court. 

The hope for Toppin is mostly that the scheme is not at all tailored to fit his skill set. Often, you’ll find Toppin meandering around the 3-point line or trying to duck in for unsuccessful post up opportunities. Very rarely has he been used as a dive man in the pick and roll. In fact, the team has used Gibson in that role twice as much as Toppin. A more capable ball handler that can take advantage of his rim running abilities will help boost Toppin’s value in year two. 

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Deni Avdija

Avdija was seen as a steal by most analysts considering that the 20-year-old was projected to be selected in the first five picks of the 2020 draft. He slid to the Washington Wizards, which initially seemed to be a seamless fit due to his offensive versatility and size on the wing. So far, that hasn’t necessarily been the case.

Avdija currently ranks amongst the worst in the league with a PER of 9.15 and has struggled to make a mark in nearly every single statistical category. Branded as a “jack of all trades” wing, it’s been discouraging to see him with a lowly usage rate of 12.3. Part of that may be due to the surrounding talent around him. 

Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal soak up so many possessions for the Wizards that having a high octane engine accompanying them isn’t very viable. Even with that being said, Rui Hachimura has taken on the brunt of the scoring duty with the second unit leaving Avdija scrambling for opportunity. Fred Katz of The Athletic identified the issues perfectly

Now, he’s running the second-fewest pick-and-rolls per possession of all the Wizards’ consistent ball-handlers, according to Synergy Sports. Only Hachimura is running fewer — and that’s because Hachimura isn’t anywhere approaching a pick-and-roll ball-handler. Even Bonga is getting more.

But a statistic that extreme could indicate red flags: how much of these habits have to do with Avdija, himself? It’s not like he’s taking the initiative when Westbrook and Beal are on the bench. He just went on a month-long streak without getting to the free-throw line. Role plays a part in that sort of famine, but it’s not everything. How much has to do with Avdija vs. his environment?

The rest of the season may seem to be a bit of a wash for Avdija, but it may behoove the Wizards to prioritize the development of the rookie by getting him more chances to handle the ball.

James Wiseman

Wiseman may be one of the test cases evaluating the merits of taking a center early in the draft. Obviously, we’ve seen success stories but the replaceability of the position should have teams evaluating the worth of taking one high in the lottery. This year he’s found himself stuck between the long-term vision of the Golden State Warriors and the viability of them becoming title contenders when Klay Thompson returns from his injury next season.

The center isn’t just mired in an organization that is trying to toe the line between development and winning, though. He missed a COVID-19 shot that caused him to miss a practice last month and has been routinely scrutinized by the “body language” doctors of the NBA. Having a bit of a bumpy road during a rookie season doesn’t preclude a player from making vast improvements (looking at you Robert Williams), but it does become media fodder when the production is so lackluster. 

Wiseman lacks an identity for what he is going to become in the NBA. He has the size to be an imposing force on the inside, but currently grades out as a subpar post player in the NBA. He is one of the worst 3-point shooters at the position and isn’t taking nearly enough shots at the rim to take advantage of his size. The real issue has been that he has seriously impacted the winning of the Warriors. The team is 14.5 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the court this year, which is incredibly problematic for a team on the boundary on playoff contention.

Avdija and Toppin have the luxury of being in situations where the team can afford bringing them along more slowly. Wiseman’s value could tank next year to a point where he holds little value, so these final few weeks are integral in evaluating his place in the league and on this Golden State Warriors roster.