There’s no need for an NBA Summer League to tell us LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony were going to be NBA stars, but for other, less heralded rookies, it’s a chance to get acquainted with what the NBA is going to be about, slightly.
Top rookies don’t always play in Las Vegas and Orlando, but sometimes, it’s a chance to get a glimpse of a player teams missed and let slip a bit too far – like Tony Parker or Rajon Rondo turned out to be.
Tony Parker, 2001
Being the 28th overall pick in 2001, no one expected Tony Parker to become a point guard with a Finals’ MVP, and probably a place in the hall of fame waiting for him. Parker made the All-Rookie first team after averaging only 9.2 points per game, but in the playoffs, averaging 15.5, showed that there’s a lot more to him than initially thought.
LeBron James, 2003
The number one overall pick of 2003 by the Cleveland Cavaliers, before the headband, the beard, the muscles and also the NBA championship rings. James won rookie of the year that season, averaging 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists.
Dwyane Wade, 2003
Wade was the 5th overall pick in the famous 2003 NBA draft, going to the Miami Heat, where he is still playing today. He played as a point guard during his rookie season, averaging 16.2 points per game, making the All-Rookie first team.
Carmelo Anthony, 2003
Fresh off of winning the NCAA title with Syracuse as a Freshman, Anthony was the number 3 overall pick in 2003, right behind Darko Milicic. He was actually the best scorer of that rookie class, averaging 21 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, making the rookie first team.
Chris Bosh, 2003
It took some time for Chris Bosh, the 4th overall pick in that draft, to find himself offensively in the NBA, averaging 11.5 points and 7.4 rebounds during his rookie year, making the All-Rookie first team.
Dwight Howard, 2004
The number one overall draft pick (straight out of high school) in 2004, Howard didn’t win rookie of the year (Okafor did), ending up on the All-Rookie first team, averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Orlando Magic.
Chris Paul, 2005
Paul was the 4th overall pick in the 2005 draft by the New Orleans Hornets, and ended up winning the rookie of the year award despite being glanced over by a few regretting teams, averaging 16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.
Rajon Rondo, 2006
The 21st overall pick in the 2006 draft, Rajon Rondo made the All-Rookie second team that year, coming off the bench most nights for the tanking Boston Celtics, averaging 6.4 points per game and mostly impressing with his defense.
Kevin Durant, 2007
The moment Portland took Greg Oden with the number one pick in 2007, you knew they made a mistake. Durant averaged 20.3 points per game during his rookie season for the Seattle Supersonics, moving with the franchise to Oklahoma City, winning the rookie of the year award.
Derrick Rose, 2008
The Chicago Bulls weren’t 100% sure they were going to take Rose (Michael Beasley was also an option), but they ended up making the right decision with the number one pick. Rose averaging 16.8 points and 6.3 assists, winning rookie of the year.
Russell Westbrook, 2008
One of the most impressive numbers so far in Westbrook’s career, especially when compared with Rose, is that he hasn’t missed a single game since entering the league as the 4th overall pick. He averaged 15.3 points and 5.3 assists per game, making the All-Rookie first team.
Stephen Curry, 2009
Averaging 17.5 points per game on his rookie season, Curry was an immediate offensive force in the NBA, shooting 43.7% from beyond the arc. He made the All-Rookie first team after being the 7th overall pick by the Golden State Warriors.
James Harden, 2009
Unlike Curry (despite being a higher pick, 3rd overall), James Harden needed more time to become an offensive juggernaut in the NBA, due to being a sixth man for the Thunder. He averaged 9.9 points per game during his rookie season, making the All-Rookie second team.