As the NBA heads into its first full week and collectors try to identify the 2015-16 NBA rookie cards that might rise above the rest, we wanted to get some insight from someone who covers the league on a regular basis. NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper was up for the challenge.
We chatted via email with the veteran NBA writer and commentator about the newcomers, possible breakout players—and also about what next year’s Hall of Fame election may bring.
SC Daily: The mystery at the start of a new season for collectors is which rookies will become big stars quickly and provide some highlight type moments to create a buzz. Give us your three or four players who are in the right situation to do that.
SHC: If you’re looking for immediate impact as opposed to the best chance for becoming a big star in the long-term, start with Jahlil Okafor. His size, post game and instant opening in Philadelphia makes him the perfect example of talent meeting opportunity. The 76ers are desperate for scoring, and Okafor can deliver points.
Emmanuel Mudiay is more raw, but the Nuggets are handing him the ball from Day 1 and he will deliver the highlight-type moments you mention. He is big, fast, athletic and plays for a team that wants to push the ball.
Mario Hezonja has a tougher road to immediate impact because he needs to fit into a reserve role in Orlando alongside established players and other top prospects, but he will generate a buzz. He will make the highlights.
D’Angelo Russell has a similar situation on the same roster as Kobe Bryant, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, but playing for the Lakers means playing with a spotlight no matter how bad the team is. Being a Laker means the buzz comes to you.
SC Daily: Are there a couple of guys who will likely be brought along slowly but in a year or two may emerge and wind up having very long careers?
SHC: Most every front office agrees Karl-Anthony Towns is going to have the best career. He just does not appear to be as ready to make the same impact as some others as a rookie and also plays with Andrew Wiggins. I don’t think it’s that Towns will be brought along slowly – he will play a lot as a rookie – as much as Wiggins will get most of the scoring opportunities in Minnesota.
Myles Turner of the Pacers belongs in this category. I like his future, but it looks at the start of the season like 2015-16 will be an adjustment period. I think a lot of players from this rookie class will have long careers. My sense is that we will one day look back on the 2015 draft and find little in the way of superstars but good returns as far as the number of players who had good runs.
SC Daily: Which younger veteran players are coaches and GMs talking about now who haven’t made a huge impact to this point but are ready to take the proverbial next step this season?
SHC: A few names fit that description. Watch Giannis Antetokounmpo with the Bucks. He could be the breakout player this season. Reggie Jackson is positioned to make a big jump in his first full season with the Pistons. Some teams put Jackson teammate Andre Drummond on the list, but Drummond finished second in rebounding and ninth in blocks last season. It seems like he already took that next step, although maybe now it will look more like the huge impact you mention if the Pistons make a playoff push.
This question can turn into semantics in that way. Just like Rudy Gobert in Utah. It looks like he could have a big season… unless 2014-15 was his breakout.
SC Daily: Let’s step away from the current season and talk about the next Hall of Fame election, which can sometimes affect card and autograph prices. Who are the best bets to be inducted into the 2016 Hall of Fame class?
The Answer is the answer to your question. Allen Iverson is the best bet and the only thing close to a safe bet. He is the single big name from the NBA eligible to be on the ballot for the first time. He has a good chance of making it to Springfield, but I don’t rate him as an automatic the way some people assume AI is a lock.
After Iverson, you get into carryover candidates with credible cases but also needing more support from voters: Tim Hardaway, Kevin Johnson and Chris Webber.