5 non-lottery rookies with a chance to make the most impact

The NBA draft lottery generally consists of some of the league’s future franchise players, but players drafted outside the lottery have proven to be some of the league’s top players as well.

Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo were all non-lottery picks, and Leonard and Green have five championships combined. Antetokounmpo is the league’s reigning MVP.

With the season inching closer, rookies will have a chance to show what they can do. But once the ball is tipped, where a player was drafted doesn’t matter — all that matters is whether he can produce.

Here are five non-lottery players with a chance to make the most impact in their first season.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker — New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans have been winners this offseason, and acquiring Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the draft is just one of their multiple good moves.

Alexander-Walker, a guard out of Virginia Tech, was traded to the Pelicans  from the Atlanta Hawks. The best aspects of Alexander-Walker’s game are his scoring and shooting ability. Last season with Virginia Tech, Alexander-Walker led the Hokies in points per game (16.5) and ranked fifth on the team in three-point percentage (37.4%).

The Pelicans have a host of young talent in Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes and Brandon Ingram. Alexander-Walker should fit seamlessly with his quality offensive game.

In the Las Vegas Summer League, ranked third in points per game (24.3) and shot 41.0% from the field. He also averaged six assists a game, showing his ability to distribute as a potential combo guard off the bench.

Brandon Clarke — Memphis Grizzlies 

Brandon Clarke is built for the modern NBA. A 6-foot-8 forward who can score and defend multiple positions, Clarke has the tools to be one of the best players in this draft class.

He was the Las Vegas Summer League’s MVP, scoring 15 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in the summer league championship game. Clarke averaged 14.7 points a game and 9.8 rebounds in summer league, while also putting up 1.8 blocks.

Clarke played his final college season at Gonzaga last season, transferring from San Jose State. He was Gonzaga’s leader in rebounds (8.6) and blocks (3.2).

With Clarke being a versatile forward, he should fit well with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant next season as the Grizzlies look to build with the young trio.

Grant Williams — Boston Celtics

Grant Williams is a smart player, and his basketball IQ is going to be a reason he earns quality minutes during his rookie year.

Williams, a 6-foot-7 forward out of Tennessee, plays like Draymond Green. He knows how to read defenses, and on defense he’s routinely in the right spot. Williams has the ability to make the right pass, and he has a good enough jumper to keep defenses honest.

During summer league, Williams averaged 13.0 points a game on 47% shooting from the field. He also grabbed 6.0 rebounds a game in five games with the Celtics. With Williams’ smarts and versatility, he’ll be able to help the Celtics be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Kevin Porter Jr. — Cleveland Cavaliers

The last player taken in the first round, Kevin Porter Jr. has a chance to be the biggest steal of the draft.

Porter was suspended by USC in January for “conduct issues,” and he played 21 games with the Trojans. Still, Porter is one of the most skilled offensive players in this draft. With his elite handles, Porter can get any shot he wants.

Porter will join Collin Sexton in the Cavaliers’ backcourt, and both are skilled scorers. Sexton is better at getting to the hoop, but Porter is better at creating space for shots with his dribbling.

As Porter and Sexton grow, it should be interesting to see if the two can lift the Cavs back to the playoffs in a few years.

Eric Paschall — Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors have thrived on versatility throughout their NBA Finals runs, so it’s no surprise they took Eric Paschall in the second round.

Paschall, an athletic forward out of Villanova, has an array of tools in his game. He can handle the ball and take his defender to the hoop; he can shoot and defend. He’s also a solid facilitator. In his last season with the Wildcats, Paschall led the team in rebounds (6.1), and he was second on the team in scoring (16.5).

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While similar to Draymond Green, what’s different about Paschall is that he seems to be a better shooter than Green, and he can also drive to the hoop better.

For the Warriors, having Paschall come off the bench and be a utility player could help them maintain their status as a playoff team in the competitive Western Conference.

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