The rookie class of 2020 entered the NBA with plenty of hype but faced much uncertainty and other related issues due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The group was not afforded the opportunity of a summer league, and had a truncated training camp and preseason schedule due to the nature of the 72-game schedule that year. Certainly, the class had its fair share of hurdles it had to overcome.
Since then, several players have emerged and had tremendous starts to their careers, including NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton. Elsewhere, others have needed additional time to get going due to various factors.
Now, with the class entering its third year in the NBA, several players — including some high draft picks — have yet to really take off and are still looking to find their footing. The class is extension eligible next summer, and many still need to prove themselves.
As a result, we decided to take a look at some of those draftees that enter the 2022-23 campaign with a lot to prove for their respective teams ahead of such an important season.
Killian Hayes, Detroit Pistons
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Hayes enters the 2022-23 season with high expectations after an inconsistent run with the Pistons over his first two years in the NBA. The upcoming season will likely go a long way in terms of Hayes finding his place on the roster.
The seventh pick was viewed as a raw prospect that would need some time to develop. His shooting has been inconsistent and he has yet to show improvement in that department. He has also dealt with various injuries that have limited him.
Hayes, after playing just 17 games as a rookie and 66 games last season, still has plenty of time to turn things around. He has certainly had a tough start to his career but will need to come out of the gate strong this year as the Pistons look to take the next step.
The Pistons have drafted well under Troy Weaver but Hayes still remains a question mark. With the team adding other young and promising guards in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, Hayes must take a step forward this season to prove himself in the backcourt.
Aaron Nesmith, Indiana Pacers
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After two years in Boston, Nesmith was traded to the Pacers in the deal involving Malcolm Brogdon last month. He played sparingly with the Celtics — averaging 4.2 points and 2.2 rebounds in 12.7 minutes over 98 games — and they opted to move him
The 14th pick will now have the opportunity to log significant playing time with a Pacers team building toward the future. His addition gives the Pacers another young player to their core, joining the likes of Tyrese Haliburton, Chris Duarte, Bennedict Mathurin, Isaiah Jackson and others.
In a sense, the 2022-23 season will be the first real chance for Nesmith to prove himself and it will likely be a key year for his growth and development. He was seldom used on a title-contending team in Boston but now has a fresh start that should help him break out.
Aleksej Pokusevski, Oklahoma City Thunder
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As far as players on this list, Pokusevski was the lowest-drafted player at No. 17 but still enters the 2022-23 season with equally high expectations after a couple of up-and-down seasons with the Thunder.
He is averaging 7.8 points, five rebounds and 2.2 assists in 106 games to this point. He has shown flashes of what he can be but has yet to put it together on a consistent basis. However, he ended last season on a high note, averaging 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds after March 1.
The team was dealt a tremendous blow with the injury to Chet Holmgren, but it will be looking for others to step up, including Pokusevski. For a team looking to take its next step, OKC will need everyone to show improvement with Pokusevski among them.
For more coverage on the Thunder, visit Thunder Wire
Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls
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The fourth pick had a strong first season in the NBA with the Bulls, earning All-Rookie second-team honors after averaging 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds. However, Williams was limited to just 17 games last season after suffering a wrist injury on Oct. 28.
Williams returned to play the final 12 games of the regular season. He showed flashes during that span, including a career-high 35-point performance in the season finale. He eventually started for the Bulls in the playoffs and had a solid showing.
Now that he is fully healthy and ready to go, Williams will have high expectations entering the season on a team that has playoff aspirations. The jury is still out on whether or not he can live up to being a top-five pick, but we should know a lot more after this season.
For more coverage on the Bulls, visit Bulls Wire
James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors
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Wiseman, the No. 2 pick, last played in the NBA on April 10, 2021, when he suffered a torn right meniscus. He underwent surgery five days later and has since experienced a tumultuous rehabilitation process.
He made good progress in his recovery but suffered a setback and needed a second procedure in December to clean up loose bodies in his knee. He was eventually cleared to play with Santa Cruz in March, the Warriors‘ NBA G League affiliate, and logged three appearances before knee swelling forced the team to shut him down.
Wiseman did not play for the rest of the season.
He eventually returned to play in four games with the Warriors in the Las Vegas Summer League last month, averaging 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and two blocks. He is healthy again and enters the season projected to be a significant member of the Warriors’ rotation.
With just 39 games under his belt, Wiseman will be counted on in a major way for a team looking to defend its title. The case can be made that Wiseman has the most to gain with a productive 2022-23 campaign of any player in the class, and he will be looking to prove himself.
For more coverage on the Warriors, visit Warriors Wire