Kawhi Leonard vitals: 13.5 ppg 9.0 rpg in playoffs
Similar to Jimmy Butler, Leonard became a household name for the defense he played against Lebron James in the post season. His strength, length, and solid shooting attributed to his ability to play different roles for the Spurs.
Year 3 prognosis: Kawhi is surely going to be a key figure in San Antonio's future. He's going to have improve his ball handling ability in order for him to be more than a glorified role player. The Spurs will need him to provide more on the offensive end going forward. This organization is known for being wise with their spending. However due to their core being past their prime they might be forced to pay Leonard top dollar. He's in a good situation to cash out as long as he produces.
Kemba Walker vitals: 17.7 ppg 5.7 apg 2.0 spg
Kemba's performance is one that is hard to judge because he plays for a team in Charlotte that had the 2nd worst record in the entire league. You can hardly blame their struggles on Kemba because he had a solid campaign. He's not only the floor general for this team but his vitals respectively ranked 2, 3, and 2 among sophomores. The Most Outstanding Player of the 2011 NCAA tournament has solid leadership qualities and can have some explosive scoring outbursts but needs to work on his consistency.
Year 3 prognosis: He was the best player on a young team, he'll continue to be that in year 3 even with the addition of Al Jefferson. Al is an established post scorer that Kemba can feed; the threat on the inside should give him space to operate on the perimeter. All Kemba needed was someone of AJ's caliber to free him up on the perimeter and add to his assist totals. Charlotte needs some wins in order for him to max out.
Ricky Rubio vitals: 10.7 ppg 7.3 apg 2.4 spg
Ricky is easily my favorite in this junior class. He's been sub par when shooting the ball, but he's pretty good at everything else he does. He finished 10th in the league in assists playing without anybody that can put the ball in the hoop (leader among sophomores). Rubio was 2nd behind CP3 in steals. His 4 rebounds per game was best for guards in their 2nd year. Besides all of the boring stats, he's simply a very entertaining player to watch; his passes appeared on highlight reels regularly. He possesses some of the best court vision and passing accuracy the NBA has seen in years.
Year 3 prognosis: I expect Ricky to increase the number of dimes he drops in his third year and win total should grow with the return of the best young power forward in the league, Kevin Love, who missed the majority of this past season. The Wolves brought in Kevin Martin, another person that can capitalize off of Ricky's passes. Maxing Ricky out is an easy choice.
Unless either of the players above suffer a major injury or exhibit regression in their games, the organizations they play for will most likely offer them a contract extension starting at the maximum amount allowed 25% of the salary cap which would kick in at the start of the fifth season. In the final part of this series, I'll feature a player who might qualify for a provision in the CBA which allows players to receive more money than his peers. Before I do that though, let's take a glance at some 2011 draftees who aren't on the rookie scale.
The Rules Don't ApplyHere are a couple of 2nd round draft picks who are free to negotiate their next contract shortly without the constraints of the rookie scale because the rookie scale doesn't extend to 2nd rounders. As recently as last month Minnesota center and 2010 2nd round draftee, Nikola Pekovic, signed a 5-year $60 million deal.
Chandler Parsons vitals: 15.5 ppg 5.3 rpg 3.5 apg
Its rare for a team to draft a player in the second round and get more than bench contributions from him. The Houston Rockets, however, might have gotten the best value of the 2011 draft with the 38th pick.
Year 3 prognosis: Chandler played an instrumental role in the recruitment of Dwight Howard. Howard's presence inside should draw help defenders a few more feet away and provide him with easier looks on the perimeter. Parsons is a versatile offensive player whose efficiency is expected to increase this season. A good season will earn him a lot of money on the market if Houston decides to not re-sign him.
Isaiah Thomas vitals: 60th draft pick 13.9 ppg 4.0 apg
Isaiah was the last player selected in the 2011 draft. He's the perfect example of how hard work can pay off. Standing 5'9", he's one of the shortest players in the league. He lead Sacramento in assists last season and is their 2nd leading scorer among returning players.
Year 3 prognosis: With the addition of Greivis Vasquez, there's now cloudy skies for Thomas' future in Sacramento, he's proven he can play in this league though. After how far he has come, I wouldn't doubt his ability to sustain success in this league.