Jabari Parker’s season ending injury is the latest bad sign for this year’s rookie class. While a third of the way through a rookie season is far too early for any kind of serious assessment, this year’s class has been a big disappointment so far. While there is no need to overreact, there are a few things worth noticing.
First of all, the only two 2014 prominent draftees with a PER around 15 are Parker and Aaron Gordon. Both are injured. The only other rookie (who has played more than a handful of minutes) with an above league average PER is 23 year old Euroleague veteran Nikola Mirotic.
As I constantly stress, rookie PER is probably the easiest way to project chances at future stardom. So far, the returns for this group have not been promising. While there is plenty of time for the numbers to go up, a couple of rookies’ subpar early performances stand out as possible red flags:
Nerlens Noel currently has a PER around 10, despite really being a second year player, and performing well in summer league and preseason. For a big man with excellent defensive skills, Noel’s slow start is quite discouraging; he often has looked completely lost offensively.
Andrew Wiggins has a PER under 10, and like Anthony Bennett last year, such a low mark is pretty much unacceptable for a #1 overall pick. Wiggins certainly has had his moments, but already it is looking like he might have been a reach as the first selection in the draft.
Dante Exum, after playing well the first few games of his pro career, has seen his PER plummet down to 8.5 – a very inauspicious number for a top-5 pick. Exum is obviously young and inexperienced, but as Harlan Schreiber covered last year in regards to Giannis Antetokounmpo, a low PER is not a good sign even if you are a teenager.
Perceptions of a draft class do not really mean anything until the prospects actually play NBA games, and so far most of these rookie performances have been underwhelming. Before we get too excited about the 2015 NBA Draft, it’s worth taking these objective rookie statistics to heart. Drafting the right guy, as always, is hard. Expectations often do not meet reality.