University of Kentucky teammates Anthony Davis (left) and MIchael Kidd-Gilchrist followed up their NCAA crown by becoming the top two overall picks in the 2012 NBA Draft (Image |

There was plenty of pre-season hype surrounding the Draft Class of 2012 when the draft was made back in June. The likes of number one pick Anthony Davis and his new New Orleans teammate Austin Rivers (#10 pick), Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (#2), Portland duo Meyers Leonard (#11) and particularly Damian Lillard (#6), and a host of others have already made their mark on the league in the new season.

Davis, slated as the obvious star candidate from the class, didn’t need long to arrive on the scene. Pulled into the US national team after a spate of injuries to other big men, Davis made an impact with his high-flying physical ability and his successful contributions to the Americans’ gold medal triumph. In his first game in the NBA, Davis posted 21 points and seven rebounds, before leaving early in last night’s win over Utah while well on the way to another double-double.

Rivers, by contrast, has been subdued, possibly confused as to where the Hornets want him to play. Touted as New Orleans’ point guard of the future throughout the summer, Eric Gordon’s injury forced Rivers back to his old slot at shooting guard; the ball has, as a result, been taken out of the Duke alum’s capable hands, and he seems lost without it. Rivers is shooting a somewhat forgettable 8% (yes, really) from the field after his first two professional basketball games.

The other highly-drafted duo, Blazers newcomers Lillard and Leonard, have also met with mixed results. The default starting point guard following the departures of Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton in the off-season, the Weber State product has been electrifying so far, including a debut against the Lakers when he became one of just three players ever to record at least 20 points and 10 assists on his NBA debut (Lillard recorded 23 and 11). Leonard, meanwhile, has been forced to wait behind franchise player LaMarcus Aldridge and renaissance man JJ Hickson for a chance in the starting line-up.

Dion Waiters (left) and Bradley Beal, the fourth and third picks respectively, sized up against each other in the NBA’s curtain-raiser last Tuesday (Image | Getty)

Other rookies are breaking through in their own different ways. For Kidd-Gilchrist, in Charlotte’s season-opening victory over Indiana last night, defense and rebounding were his areas of biggest impact. For Washington and Cleveland shooting guards Brad Beal and Dion Waiters, scoring will always be their calling card – and #4 pick Waiters landed the first blow on #3 pick Beal when the Cavaliers beat the Wizards on opening night. Boston rookie Jared Sullinger’s energy, spelling Kevin Garnett, will be key to his playing time. Others, including Thomas Robinson (#5, Sacramento) and Harrison Barnes (#7, Golden State), must be more patient as they seek to make the breakthrough.

Coming off the lockout season and a couple of less-than-spectacular drafts, the NBA needed a class of rookies capable of re-invigorating the youthfulness that the league so thrives on. It’s too early to say for sure, but this group looks like it is capable of doing that.

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