PG: Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles Clippers
Obviously, Bledsoe starts the year off as the primary backup point guard for the LA Clippers. But he’s only just one Baron Davis-injury-away from becoming LA’s starting point guard. While we wish Baron the best for a completely healthy upcoming season, Clippers fans have a lot to look forward to in Bledsoe. At Kentucky, he flew below the radar and was overshadowed by fellow Wildcat John Wall. After Wall was selected first overall in the 2010 draft, Bledsoe was the definite best available point guard in this year’s draft class. He’s got the size, strength, quickness, and a springy step to his compliment his on court play. Often compared to Marcus Banks, I believe NBA scouts set the bar pretty low for Bledsoe as I see him easily being able to surpass Banks’s career.
SG: Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
Despite his demeanor and off the court troubles, Stephenson’s game is very underrated. He proved that this summer in Orlando Summer League as he showed his potential at both the point guard and shooting guard positions. If not for his off-the-court behavior, Stephenson is a definite lock as a first round pick. While he didn’t overly impress anyone at the college level, Stephenson’s style suits the NBA level of play better. Already in legal trouble even before the start of his rookie season, Stephenson’s NBA career remains in question. But one thing’s for certain, behavior aside, Stephenson is absolutely a second round steal that could become a very successful player in this league.
SF: Quincy Pondexter, New Orleans Hornets
To begin the season, Pondexter likely will be buried deep on the Hornets’ depth chart, but by the end of the season watch him find some minutes. With the Hornets’ offseason acquisition of Trevor Ariza, Pondexter’s best bet is to battle for time at the shooting guard position. His competition for backup time is Marco Belinelli, a player who seems he just can’t transition his promising Summer League games to the NBA’s main stage. After getting a good look at Pondexter in Las Vegas, I like the potential I see in him becoming a solid pro.
PF: Derrick Caracter, Los Angeles Lakers
Coming off a very impressive and productive Las Vegas Summer League performance, Derrick Caracter’s stock has definitely soared. Moving forward Caracter is in a great position with the LA Lakers. They have no expectations for him next season, no pressure to produce, and he’ll be practicing against some of the best bigs in the business: Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, Theo Ratliff, and Pau Gasol. Each of these guys can offer experiences, skills, and a give Caracter a lesson on how he can find his niche in the NBA. More likely than not, Caracter will be that young guy that comes in a blowout and goes to work hard, impressing on National TV coverage. He’ll let the world know who he is and what he has to offer in the near future.
C: Hassan Whiteside, Sacramento Kings
When it comes to Hassan Whiteside it’s all about the “what could be”. He’s been my favorite prospect in the past draft class and continues to keep me wondering how good he actually may become. Going into his first year he’s got a lot of obstacles and challenges that await. I’ve talked with a variety of sources that have seen Whiteside and the majority of them give me negative feedback. But I remain on the other side of the fence with Whiteside. He’s young, he’s unpolished, and isn’t ready to step out on the court for consistent contributions, but he’s going to impress once he gets his chances. The majority of his first year will be spent in the Developmental League where he has a chance to grow as pro and develop his defensive minded game. If Whiteside can learn how to be an effective rebounder to go along with his incredible shot blocking ability, he’s going to be an impressive defensive gem down the road.
This is Part 4 of Ross Geiger’s 7-part Blog Series covering the NBA’s most prominent young players. Be sure to be on the lookout for Part 5 that’s coming soon! In the mean time, follow Ross Geiger on Twitter: @RossGeiger.