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NBA Sunday: 2014-15’s Top Impact Rookie?

Which NBA rookie will make the biggest impact in the 2014-15 season? … What’s the hold up on the highly-anticipated Kevin Love trade?

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The 2014 NBA draft class is the most highly-anticipated class to come along since the 2003 draft brought LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh to the league. The level of excitement was reflected by the fact that the annual NBA summer league in Las Vegas actually had to turn fans away at one point, a first for UNLV’s summer league bash. In a draft class this talented, it can be hard to guess just which rookie will have the biggest impact on his new team,  but Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker, who was the No. 2 overall pick, looks poised to have a stellar rookie season.

“It was real good,” Parker told Basketball Insiders of his summer league experience. “I like that the NBA gets the crowd involved, especially with it being the summer time and the offseason, they still got the fans into it, so it was really exciting.”

Parker played alongside Bucks second-year forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and together they formed one of the best forward combinations in summer league play. Together they averaged 32.6 points, with Parker contributing 15.6 points per game and a team-high 8.2 rebounds per contest.

“I did alright,” Parker said. “I think I did probably 80 percent, if I have to give my grade. It’s just, you’ve got to get into the flow of things a little better. I wasn’t trying to force stuff, but [I need to] just be a little bit smarter, yeah. … It’s going to be real good [playing with Antetokuonmpo]. That’s a guy I can relate to, especially him being young and I’m getting ready to start on my journey on the NBA. I can get a lot of knowledge from him because I’m trying to get to where he is.”

As is typical for Milwaukee in summer league play, the veterans who weren’t taking part in the event still showed up to support their teammates. Parker found Larry Sanders’ advice particularly helpful.

“It’s real good, especially being here with Larry Sanders,” Parker said. “He’s been helping me out, talking to me, helping me get in the swing of things a little bit easier. He’s helping me having a feel of the game, with my awareness, just trying to tell me things that can make it a little bit easier when I play on the floor and it’s stuff, little things.”

Overall, Parker felt the summer league experience really helped him get ready for the faster-paced NBA game.

“I think the concepts, the defensive principles, just getting used to the new style of play, I think that’s where I learned the most [and benefited from] the experience,” Parker said. “I got the experience under my belt. I got pretty familiar with how they are going to play me, and the different defensive principles.”

The Bucks and head coach Jason Kidd have no set role for Parker, and plan to utilize him all over their front court rotation. When asked what he expects his role to be in Milwaukee, Parker says he hopes to contribute a lot and be well-rounded.

“Well, just being able to use all my tools, being able to be on the different areas of the floor, complement different guys,” Parker said of his anticipated role on the team. “I can be able to set ball screens, cross screens, I can make plays, I can also get open for shots, so pretty much trying to be unlimited at this point, working on my game.”

With Kidd at the helm and a roster full of young finishers, Parker should be able to have an impact in a plethora of ways, not just scoring the ball.

“Yeah, just using all my tools” Parker agreed. “I can also start the break too, get the outlet, that’s the luxury of having guys like me, having guys like Johnny [O’Bryant], Giannis. We can dribble up if it’s pressured, hold it and we can get the break started.”

There’s no question that Cleveland Cavaliers swingman Andrew Wiggins, taken ahead of Parker with the top overall pick in the draft, is the player everyone it waiting to see on opening night. That being said, Parker is on a team that had him at the top of their draft board, he’s playing for one of the best floor leaders of all time in Kidd and he has an opportunity to lead the Bucks in scoring if he performs well. There will be plenty of impact players in this year’s draft class, but looking ahead Parker might just be the most likely to win Rookie of the Year.

All Quiet on the Kevin Love Front

The big name in trade talks this summer continues to be Kevin Love, with people around the NBA wondering why the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t yet determined where they will send their All-Star power forward. The Cleveland Cavaliers are not the only team chasing him, as the Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets would love to land him, but the Cavaliers are the prohibitive favorites due to their reported willingness to send Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota as part of a trade.

But there’s a hang-up.

The reason this oft-rumored deal hasn’t gotten done is that the Cavaliers are hesitant to give up Wiggins and the package Minnesota wants unless Love commits to at least the option year he holds for the 2015-16 season. Love wants to be in Cleveland, and on paper a team featuring Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Love might be the best in the Eastern Conference, but nothing is guaranteed. If things don’t go as anticipated, the Cavaliers want assurances that they won’t lose Love just one season after giving up a likely franchise cornerstone to land him. Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer offers the following insight into this issue:

Talking to some NBA executives, that could be a problem. One executive explained how the best move for Love may be to come to the Cavs on the current deal — no changes. He becomes a free agent in 2015, then signs a five-year deal for the maximum (could be more than $100 million) to stay here.

I’m hearing Love will not pick up his option — that he would prefer to go to the Cavs on his current deal, then presumably enjoy being successful playing with LeBron James. Remember, he also has done a commercial with Kyrie Irving. He sees marketing possibilities in Cleveland — along with a chance to win big.

If Love picks up his option for 2015-16 this summer, the most that a team can immediately add is a two-year extension. I know, this gets complicated. The point is there are a variety of reasons for Love to keep his current deal, and then hit the open market in 2015. … I’m hearing the Cavs realize they may have to accept Love’s current deal and gamble on him enjoying playing in Cleveland and with James. Then they will try to sign him for a maximum deal in 2015. So don’t be shocked if a deal is made with his contract situation staying the same.

Love probably gives the Cavaliers their best shot at competing for a championship right away, while waiting for Wiggins to develop might take two or three years. With the clock ticking on James’ prime, the Cavaliers might not want to wait for Wiggins. Still, it’s an awfully big risk to take, and the Cavaliers do like Wiggins quite a bit. That’s why the decision is taking so long. The best package offered for Love thus far is the package from Cleveland, but it’s easy to see why the Cavaliers would want to take their time and make sure they make the best, most informed decision.

Bill Ingram is a Senior NBA Analyst for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA since 1998.

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