Growing up: Five sophomores set to take the next step in 2014-15
Burke’s rookie season (12.8 points, 5.7 assists, 3 rebounds) was fairly typical for a young point guard tossed into the fire: his shooting numbers (38 percent overall and 33 percent from deep) were far from ideal, he needed more offensive help than was available to him and he struggled mightily to defend his position. His 6-foot height presents obstacles on both ends – he finished just 44.7 percent of his shots in the basket area and is an easy target for bigger guards to pick on – but his confidence level and comfort factor are bound to improve. New coach Quin Snyder seems to have a firm grasp on his point guard’s strengths and weaknesses, as he’s angling to increase the pace, find early offense and tighten up the the pick-and-roll defense.
Antetokounmpo produced like a teenaged project (6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists) last season while playing a major role on a Bucks team that finished with the league’s worst record. He’s certainly not to blame for all that losing – on the contrary, he was easily the brightest ray of hope during a horrendous season – but it must be acknowledged that the flashes of greatness were not a truly regular occurrence. Antetokounmpo’s career high is a modest 16 points, he struggled to score consistently from anywhere inside the arc, and he was nearly as likely to commit a turnover as register an assist.
Irritated Thunder fans can rejoice that GM Sam Presti has found a transition plan in Adams, a Kiwi center who beat most prognostications by serving as a worthwhile rotation player (3.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 14.8 minutes) as a rookie. A master instigator, Adams is tasked with using his length and athleticism to protect the paint, clear the glass and finish high-percentage opportunities. Generally speaking, he’s proven up to those challenges, albeit in a contained environment. As he develops, Adams will need to find a way to tone down his over-eagerness without throttling his high energy level; that way, he can better avoid both foul trouble and positioning issues.