Here's a quick PER review for the 2014-15 rookies. For those unfamiliar with what I'm talking about, rookie PER is an excellent objective indicator of whether a player has a chance of turning into an NBA All-Star. When we took an early look at these numbers in December they were very inauspicious; things gradually improved as the season went on.
The benchmark PER to aim for is 15+ for big men, 13+ for point guards and wing players. If a player is going to turn into a very good player, there's an excellent chance he's going to hit that benchmark as a rookie. Here's some interesting PER findings for notable rookies who played at least a few hundred minutes. Let's start with the two most "experienced" rookies:
Nikola Mirotic was the only rookie who consistently contributed positively the entire season; his PER was 17.9 in 1,654 regular season minutes. A Euroleague veteran and already 24 years old, Mirotic might not have the upside of some of these other rookies, but he already is a good NBA player and should get better.
Nerlens Noel started his rookie year quite poorly, which was a surprise given he really was a second year player. However, he made tremendous strides as the season wore on - Noel has already become a dominate defender - and finished with an acceptable 15.0 PER. He still looks to have as much upside as any player from the 2013 Draft.
Now let's look at the first 10 picks from the 2014 Draft; the numbers aren't that pretty:
Andrew Wiggins initially had a bad couple of months adjusting to the NBA, but like Noel, he showed pronounced improvement as the year went on. Wiggins won Rookie of the Year with a PER of 13.9. I'm not sure he should have been the first pick in the 2014 Draft, but Wiggins certainly looks like he'll someday be an All-Star.
Jabari Parker had a perfectly acceptable 14.5 PER in 738 minutes before he went down with a season-ending knee injury in December. His rookie PER for a combo forward is fine; Parker would be selected in the Top-3 if the draft was done over, even with his injury.
Joel Embiid did not play a single minute and remains as enticing and risky of a prospect as ever.
Aaron Gordon had an 11.4 PER in a rookie season that saw him miss considerable time because of injury. Gordon looks like he will be a fine player, particularly defensively. But his low PER strongly indicates he is unlikely to ever become a star.
Dante Exum had a terrible 5.7 PER. He looks to be a bust. With a PER that low, Utah should try their best to trade Exum now, while he still has some perceived value.
Marcus Smart had an unimpressive 11.0 PER, although he showed the defensive prowess that we expected. It looks like many of us overrated Smart's potential. His offensive deficiencies make it unlikely he will ever reach an All-Star level, but his strong defense makes him a useful, effective player.
Julius Randle was hurt in his first game and did not play the rest of the season.
Nik Stauskas had a tepid 7.5 PER and, unsurprisingly, seems to have been a bad selection with the 8th overall pick in the draft.
Noah Vonleh only played 259 minutes and had a PER of 13.2. It's still too early to get much of a feel for Vonleh's potential.
Elfrid Payton would probably be the first point guard selected if the 2014 Draft was held again; his 13.8 PER was solid and his defensive upside is high. Payton arguably outplayed every player taken before him during his rookie year.
Here are some other notable PER numbers from the rookie class:
Jordan Clarkson was the 46th pick in the 2014 Draft, but he had a very impressive 16.9 PER - an exceptional number for a rookie guard. Any rookie guard who puts up that high of a PER deserves attention. It looks like the Lakers got themselves a second round steal.
Mitch McGary did not play that much for Oklahoma City, only 485 minutes, but he looked good when he was on the floor. He had a 16.6 PER.
Jusuf Nurkic turned heads from the beginning of the season, and finished with a PER of 14.8. He has big-time potential, and missing the PER benchmark by that small a margin is not a big deal. Nurkic would probably go in the top half of the lottery if it were held today.
T.J. Warren quietly showcased his ability in limited minutes for Phoenix and finished with a decent 14.0 PER.