This year's rookie class caught a lot of flak for being really bad, but the truth is that the long-term outlook of the 2013 NBA Draft class is significantly better than most people think. This is certainly the case in terms of star potential, when judged through the objective lens of PER.
Obviously, the top of the draft was largely a disaster, as I went over last month. But Nerlens Noel is still likely going to be an excellent NBA player, and the same can be said of Victor Oladipo. My guess is both those guys end up being All-Stars, and the top players from this draft.
But there are other players that showed real long-term promise. The important thing to remember is that every draft (yes, even the 2000 Draft) ends up producing at least 3 All-Stars, and there is no reason to think that this draft class will be any different.
Michael Carter-Williams had an erratic but exciting rookie campaign, and finished with a solid 15.5 PER. Meanwhile, Trey Burke's 12.6 PER was slightly below the benchmark I like to see - but since he is a promising young point guard his mediocre PER is more forgivable. It seems quite possible that Carter-Williams or Burke could play in an All-Star game some day.
There were also several rookie big men who put up decent to exceptional numbers in limited minutes. The most impressive of the bunch was Mason Plumlee, who had one of the best rookie years - in terms of PER - that we have seen in the last decade. If he can continue to have such efficiency when his minutes increase, Plumlee will become a very valuable player.
Gorgui Dieng, Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Withey also posted 15+ PERs and showed flashes of excellence. Obviously, all three of these players could go either way at this point, but in all likelihood at least one of them will have a good NBA career.
And we have said nothing of other potentially solid NBA players like Steven Adams, Nate Wolters, Tim Hardaway, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rudy Gobert - just to name a few.
The jury is still out on most young players in their first and second years in the league. If they do not hit the 15/13 PER rookie benchmark they are unlikely to ever become exceptional, but they can still have substantive value somewhere down the line. A few unmentioned rookies that we hardly noticed this year are likely to "come out of nowhere" sooner or later (look at what Troy Daniels did for Houston the other night.)
Improvement in the NBA, for the large majority of its players, is an interesting and somewhat random thing. So much is based on timing and the system a player finds himself in. Only the truly exceptional players seem to be able to rise above this fact consistently. But there will be other guys from the 2013 Draft class that surely will end up having a sizable NBA impact, we just don't know who they are yet.
Probably the rookie with the hardest expectations to fill going forward will be Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak started the season so well that he got everybody in the NBA excited, but as Harlan Schreiber skillfully pointed out, his low PER tells another story. The Bucks might be wise to try to trade Antetokounmpo this Summer, when his value is probably at its highest (obviously that is unlikely to happen.)
Ten years from now the 2013 NBA Draft will likely to be regarded as having been relatively weak, but not an outright disaster like the 2000 Draft. However, it does not appear as promising as the 2014 Draft. I will talk more about that subject soon.