Not all rookie environments are created equal.
Just take some of the top names from last season as examples. LaMelo Ball had to fight for minutes in a talented Charlotte backcourt and by the end of the year, he had established his credentials as a star. Much the same with Tyrese Haliburton in Sacramento.
James Wiseman, however, walked into a nearly impossible situation in Golden State and his rookie season was derailed almost before it began.
The best situation isn't just about who gets the most playing time. Not all minutes are conducive to rookie development. It takes the right combination of team culture, coaching and surrounding talent to build the perfect environment for a rookie to thrive.
This upcoming season, a dozen rookies stand out as having a great opportunity to shine.
12. Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic
Wanger is walking into a Magic lineup where he should get plenty of early opportunities. He's a big, physical wing who I think can play above-average defence right away for a forward rotation that's thin behind Jonathan Isaac and Chuma Okeke.
Wagner's offence will be a bigger struggle, however. He was a good transition scorer in college but relied on slashing and off-ball cuts in the half-court. Those looks are far harder to come by in the NBA and I don't think the rest of the Magic roster will be too efficient at creating those easy opportunities for him.
I expect Wagner to be a decent role player as a rookie, but he's walking into a difficult situation. I think it will take more time for him to produce at a lottery pick-level than others higher on this list.
11. Jalen Johnson, Atlanta Hawks
Johnson is an incredible athlete, even by NBA standards, but he's as raw of a prospect as they come.
The Hawks should have some minutes available behind De'Andre Hunter, Danilo Gallinari and John Collins, and I would think Nate McMillian will give Johnson a chance to carve out a role for himself early in the season. The potential of giving Trae Young yet another uber-athletic wing to play with is an exciting proposition.
Given how raw Johnson appears to be, though, expect his minutes to be some of the first trimmed as this team transitions to a playoff rotation in the spring.
10. Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder
Giddey was the exact player I had in mind when mentioning that not all rookie minutes are conducive to development.
It's no secret that the Thunder are in the early stages of a long-term rebuild. I expect OKC to throw Giddey out there as much as possible and happily accept all the mistakes he's bound to make. He's going to need time to acclimate to the speed and physicality of the NBA game, and this season will be the perfect trial run for that growth.
Even with as big of a role as he'll have, I don't expect he'll put up big numbers this season. Giddey is a high-level passer and possesses incredible court vision for a 6-foot-8, 18-year-old, but this roster isn't equipped to make the most out of the looks he creates for them (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander notwithstanding). Expect quite a few of Giddey's highlight passes to end in drops or missed layups.
9. Moses Moody, Golden State Warriors
Moody is the perfect player to contrast with his fellow under-21 Warriors: Wiseman and Jonathan Kuminga.
Kuminga and Wiseman are balls of raw talent. They have elite physical gifts and top-end All-Star potential, but it was always going to take time for Wiseman to be productive at the NBA level and the same should be expected of Kuminga. Moody is a very different case.
He's a perfect Steve Kerr role player. He projects as a great spot-up shooter and a solid scheme defender from day one. Moody knows his role and is very good within it - a necessary trait when playing next to Steph Curry, Draymond Green and, eventually, Klay Thompson.
His ceiling is significantly lower than many lottery picks, but I expect Moody's role to be bigger than either Kuminga or Wiseman's this season as the Warriors start chasing wins.
8. Nyshon "Bones" Hyland, Denver Nuggets
Hyland is the lowest-drafted player on this list, but he is in the perfect position to make an immediate splash in the NBA.
He has a fluid shooting motion and was adept at creating his own looks while at VCU, two things the Nuggets desperately need on the second unit. As Jamal Murray rehabs his ACL, Denver is going to need point guard depth behind Monte Morris and Hyland has a great opportunity early in the season.
It will take time for him to adjust to the physicality of the NBA, but his length should help ease the transition. If things break right, Hyland has the chance to be the breakout star out of this rookie class.
7. James Bouknight, Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets have almost no shooting guard depth on their roster. LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier can play the two - though both are more naturally point guards - the door is wide open for Bouknight to grab those off-guard minutes right away.
The reason he's not higher on this list, though, is because I think the Hornets might ask too much of him.
The main knock on Bouknight pre-draft was inefficiency. He was asked to do everything for the UConn offence and shot just 44.7 percent from the field as a result. The expectation was he would become more efficient at the NBA level because he would be in more of a support role, but I'm not sure that is going to be the case in Charlotte.
Bouknight could be a rookie sensation if everything breaks right but I expect the road to be rocky, at least to open the season.
6. Evan Mobley
Mobley is in a tricky spot.
He's going to play a ton and I really like the frontcourt Cleveland has built with him, Jarrett Allen and Lauri Markkanen. I think he and Markkanen will work well together offensively but I expect a lot of his rookie minutes to come next to Allen as Mobley gets stronger and grows into his ideal center role.
The reason he's down at six is because of the point guard situation. Collin Sexton and Darius Garland are incredibly gifted scorers but neither has shown the ability to create consistent looks for others. Mobley doesn't project as a player who can create for himself - at least not as a rookie - and I think his production will lag behind some others in this class.
The one caveat worth mentioning is the potential for him to play a lot of his minutes with Ricky Rubio on the second unit. Rubio is adept at everything Sexton and Garland are not and, if they develop chemistry, there is a chance for Mobley to be more productive right away than expected.
5. Chris Duarte
Duarte is one of the older lottery picks in recent NBA history so, by default, the expectation is that he will be ready to play right away.
Indiana's rotation only supports that belief. This is a very balanced roster, but the wing depth is concerning. The news that TJ Warren is not recovering as quickly as the team anticipated has only increased the need for Duarte to be a rotation-level player from day one.
Like Moody, I expect Duarte to be an above-average role player very quickly in his rookie season. He might be a jack of all trades and master of none, but that can work in the right situation. Given the uncertainty with Warren, Duarte may get a chance to start before long and I expect he's going to immediately be a key piece for what should be a pretty good Pacers team.
4. Scottie Barnes
Barnes is walking into a perfect situation for a player with his physical gifts and obvious desire to embrace a winning culture. He'll be a productive defender from day one, I don't think anyone questions that. I also don't think anyone is deluded into thinking he'll be an efficient offensive player as a rookie.
His offence will take time to develop but the Raptors knew that when they took him fourth overall. This rotation is well suited to prop up what Barnes already does well and protect his weaknesses from getting exploited.
He will likely start the year coming off the bench, but I firmly expect head coach Nick Nurse will play Barnes with the starters as much as possible. It's a great situation to walk into as a rookie and I think he is going to thrive in Toronto.
3. Jalen Green
Having Green at three may come as a surprise to some; it was to me, anyway. I'll admit I had him at number one in my head initially but, after analyzing the Rockets roster a little closer, I decided to move him down a couple of spots.
Green is, without a doubt, the top priority of the entire Rockets organization, but this roster is still halfway through its youth movement. John Wall and Eric Gordon are still there and, while it appears all parties want to move on, they still present roadblocks to Green having the unfettered run of the ship that this franchise would like to give him. It will also take some time for Green to adjust to playing alongside point-guard-in-progress Kevin Porter Jr.
I have no doubt that Green will have an outstanding rookie season and he's a fully justified co-favourite for Rookie of the Year, but the situation isn't seamless.
2. Davion Mitchell
It's rare that the Kings are a perfect landing spot for a rookie, but I think that is the case for Mitchell. He's joining a very talented backcourt with DeAaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton but he already has an established role as the best defender of the group.
It's difficult to project what Mitchell's rookie stat line will look like but his numbers are less connected to his value than most lottery picks. His 44.7 percent from three at Baylor last season may have been an anomaly but his positive value comes on the other side of the ball. Any offensive production he provides as a rookie will be gravy.
Outside of Green and the final name on this list, I think Mitchell has the best chance in the entire league to make an All-Rookie team.
1. Cade Cunningham
Like Green, Cunningham is the unquestioned foundation of his new franchise. Unlike Green, I think he'll have an easier time taking the reins of the Pistons offence.
Detroit has far more talent than their 20-52 record last season would suggest, and I think they're set up to be quite a bit more competitive this year. Having two capable scorers in the frontcourt in Kelly Olynyk and Jerami Grant will take some of the pressure off Cunningham's shoulders as this roster is already somewhat catered to his strengths.
If there's one fit concern, it's with Killian Hayes. The Pistons still clearly believe that the seventh-overall pick from last year has star potential but I'm not sure that he and Cunningham are best suited to play together. That said, everything points to Cunningham being an elite enough prospect to be able to patch over those imperfections.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.