10 NBA Freshmen We Can’t Wait a Year to See

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The first two weeks of the 2011-12 NBA season have already been canceled, and with each passing day in which a resolution hasn't been made, more time is lost. Even if you've only followed the lockout with a passing interest, you know there's a possibility that the entire season could be lost. That would result in the year-long delay of numerous captivating storylines, such as whether or not LeBron can finally win a title, the Mavs can repeat, or some of the league's most anticipated rookies can fulfill expectations. The players listed below have demonstrated the most promise, but are putting their careers on hold for the time being.

  1. Derrick Williams, Minnesota

    A standout sophomore season — in which he won Pac-10 Player of the Year — and a highly productive tournament performance secured Williams' position as a top-two pick. Standing 6-foot-9, 250-lbs with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, he possesses the physical talent and skills to thrive as a forward in the league. His excellent footwork supplements his incredible leaping ability, which produced an abundance of highlight material during his two seasons at Arizona. When he wasn't posting up or slashing to the basket, he was hitting 57% of his three point attempts, an astounding number for a player at his position. Of course, as of now, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley are still on the Timberwolves' roster, so it remains to be seen where and how much Williams will play in the beginning.

  2. Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento

    Compared to past elite sharpshooters such as Mark Price, Jimmer will bring immediate excitement to Kings fans (whether they're in Sacramento or Anaheim). He led the nation in scoring during his senior season, shooting just below 40% from behind the arc while attempting 8.5 per game. From the foul line, he shot just below 90% — in Mark Price's stratosphere. Even with a rotation of Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and Francisco Garcia, it will difficult for Paul Westphal to keep such a proficient scorer on the bench for long periods of time.

  3. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland

    Since the unceremonious departure of LeBron James, Cleveland fans have needed something about which to be optimistic. Irving will not only be the Cavs' new floor general, but their new franchise player. The success of the team over the next few years will hinge on his development, which, best case scenario, could resemble the career of Chris Paul. He has the unique speed, vision, and decision-making ability possessed by the league's elite point guards, and has the jump shot to keep defenses honest. Given that he played just 11 games during his freshman year at Duke, he's still an unproven commodity. But, for the Cavs, he was the obvious choice.

  4. Enes Kanter, Utah

    Kanter is also an unproven commodity, as he didn't play at all during his one year at Kentucky because he received $33,000 in benefits from a European basketball club. But NBA teams are always willing to take a risk on big bodies. The 6-foot-11, 260-pound Turk combines strength with finesses, and, despite his lack of experience, is already as intelligent as many NBA centers. If he develops as expected, he should provide both a solid offensive and defensive presence, which will come in handy in the deep Western Conference. He's the perfect fit for the Jazz, who haven't had a legitimate All-Star center since Mark Eaton.

  5. Jan Vesely, Washington

    Tall, rangy Euros have been hit and miss in the NBA draft since the craze took hold with the emergence of Dirk Nowitzki. Vesely may be different because of his strength and athleticism, which enable him to score on the break and over competent defenders. His shot is improving with each season, supplementing his excellent ability to get to the basket. An exciting player, he'll fit right in offensively with John Wall and JaVale McGee. On the defensive end, he'll bolster a unit that was among the worst in the league last season. The 21-year-old isn't entirely green, so he should see the floor early and often.

  6. Kemba Walker, Charlotte

    Michael Jordan, whose leadership skills resulted in six championships, wanted a player with similar qualities to anchor the Bobcats over the next decade. Walker's draft stock surged after he led Connecticut to the national championship last spring. Despite being just 6-foot-1, scouts marveled at his tenacity and ability to get to the basket. He'll immediately be one of the quickest players in the league, giving defenders nightmares with his ability to create space. There are, however, questions about whether or not he can run an offense, as shoot-first point guards are rarely successful in the NBA. He'll have to improve his distribution skills and scoring efficiency to realize his potential in Charlotte.

  7. Brandon Knight, Detroit

    Instead of possibly leading Kentucky to a national championship, Knight opted to forgo his sophomore season to take the risky plunge into the NBA, choosing not worry about the impending work stoppage. With the extra time to prepare, he can work on perfecting his point guard skills, which will be desperately needed by the Pistons. In addition to being blessed with exceptional athleticism, he also boasts a tremendous work ethic — he earned a 4.0 GPA in college — and the intangibles required for a floor general. He performs well in the clutch, as evidenced by his two game-winners in the NCAA tournament. He may not be the next Isiah, but he may evoke some warm memories from the late '80s.

  8. Tristan Thompson, Cleveland

    While Irving facilitates the offense, Thompson will do a little bit of everything else. The Cavs were criticized by many of their fans for reaching for him at No. 4, but, with time, they will likely come to appreciate what he brings to the table. A good athlete with a big wingspan, he can score in transition, rebound and disrupt shots around the basket on defense. Although he lacks the size to play consistently down low, he won't hesitate to scrap against bigger post players. Bringing that kind of energy consistently — if he's willing to do it — will set the tone for the rest of the young Cavs players.

  9. Klay Thompson, Golden State

    The Warriors certainly value scoring. Thompson will become the club's second sharpshooting second-generation NBA player, as he'll team up with emerging star Steph Curry. During Thompson's junior season at Washington State, he connected on just below 40% of his three-point attempts while hitting just fewer than three per game. He's a perfect fit for the system, and makes Monta Ellis even more expendable — stay tuned for a possible Ellis trade if the owners and players ever reach an agreement.

  10. MarShon Brooks, New Jersey

    One of the sleepers of the draft, Brooks made headlines during the summer when he scored 48 points during a Nike Pro-City tournament game in New York City — that kind of scoring is why the Nets took a flyer on him with the 25th pick. During his senior season at Providence, he averaged 24.6 ppg on 48% shooting, ranking as one of the most proficient scorers in the country. An inside-outside threat, he has little trouble creating his own shot, as evidenced by his 43-point performance against Georgetown and 52-point game against Notre Dame last season. Playing alongside Deron Williams should ease his transition from the Big East to the NBA, providing him the opportunity to make a few highlights in the process.

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