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Some rookies come into the NBA and have the red carpet laid out for them. They were drafted high, and they’re going to get every opportunity to make good on the organization’s financial and basketball commitment to them.

In other words, Ben Simmons is going to play for the 76ers. A lot. Brandon Ingram will do the same for the Lakers. Kris Dunn, whether he starts or comes off the bench behind Ricky Rubio, is going to have the ball in his hands 30 minutes a night for the Wolves. ( This is a breakdown of 15 rookies who are likely to get major minutes in their first season).

What we’re talking about here is the opposite — rookies who likely won’t see major playing time in at least the early going this season. There are a lot of reasons for this: Draft position, depth of rotation, and frankly, a lot of coaches and veterans simply don’t trust rookies until they prove above and beyond that they deserve that trust. And that takes time.

So, all of that said, let’s look at the 15 rookies who could end up watching a lot of basketball this year:

(Note: Joel Embiid, despite being a rookie, is not included as this was kept to just the 2016 draft class. Dario Saric is also not included, but there are some Sixers!)

Damian Jones (C), Golden State Warriors

No. 30 Pick history: 10-year average of 9.5 minutes over 36 games. Petteri Koponen (2007) only player to not play.

Jimmy Butler is the biggest success story from the 30th-pick slot over the last 10 years, but even he wasn’t a big contributor right away. He played about half of his rookie season and didn’t even see double-digit minutes on a nightly basis. The most notable contributor over the last decade at No. 30 in his rookie campaign is probably Festus Ezeli (78 games, 41 starts, 14.4 mpg).

Coach tendency: We don’t really have one here with Steve Kerr. He played James Michael McAdoo (undrafted rookie) 15 games in 2014-15. First-round pick and fellow 30th pick Kevon Looney only played in five games in his rookie season in 2015-16 after recovering from hip surgery. Kerr will likely play a rookie if he feels the kid can contribute, but this team has different methods of bringing the young guys along.

Playing opportunity: There could be some real playing opportunity here just from the randomness of the position. The Warriors are starting Zaza Pachulia, and while we know they love to go small, they still need depth at the position to get through the grind of 82 games. McAdoo and Anderson Varejao will certainly get time at center. Maybe even David West in certain matchups. Also, the Warriors have invited JaVale McGee to camp so anything is possible.

Prediction: I still don’t see Jones playing a lot. He’s recovering from a pectoral injury that will keep him from starting training camp. That could put him too far behind to end up earning consistent minutes. I’d be shocked if he plays more than 30 games and/or significant minutes at any point as a rookie.

Dejounte Murray (PG), San Antonio Spurs

No. 29 Pick history: 10-year average of 12.6 minutes over 29 games.

Cory Joseph is the biggest success story of the 29th pick over the last decade, and while he has turned into a solid rotational player, he barely played as a rookie (9.2 minutes per game, 29 games). Five of the 10 guys from this slot are already out of the league (Daniel Orton, Marquis Teague, Mardy Collins, D.J. White and Alando Tucker).

Coach tendency: Gregg Popovich will play rookies if they can contribute. The biggest thing he preaches is people in the organization getting over themselves, and you can’t be a coach ignoring rookies if you’re going to preach that. Kawhi Leonard played right away, but that’s a special case. Nobody is expecting Dejounte Murray to be close to that level right away.

Playing opportunity: There won’t be a lot of opportunity. The Spurs have Tony Parker and Patty Mills. Manu Ginobili will play some lead guard at times. Don’t be surprised if Argentinean point guard Nicolas Laprovittola makes the team and takes third place on the point guard depth chart.

Prediction: Dejounte Murray was always going to be a project for the Spurs. He’ll get plenty of chances in Austin in the D-League, but he is unlikely to see even 20 NBA games as a rookie.

Skal Labissiere (PF), Sacramento Kings

No. 28 Pick history: 10-year average of 9.9 minutes over 50 games.

The two biggest successes from pick 28 are definitely Norris Cole and Tiago Splitter. Splitter didn’t come over right away, which makes his rookie season a little trickier to judge, but he did appear in 60 games for 12.3 minutes a night. Cole, on the other hand, was a big contributor on a championship team as a rookie. He was the backup point guard for the Miami Heat and played 19.4 minutes per night in 65 games (66-game season).

Coach tendency: In Dave Joerger’s three years in Memphis, he didn’t give a ton of time to rookies, especially first-round picks. We’re going to throw last year out because the Grizzlies were beyond injured. But in 2013-14, Joerger played rookie Nick Calathes 16.5 minutes per game over 71 games while Jamaal Franklin (7.7 mpg, 21 games) sat on the bench. In 2014-15, Jordan Adams (8.3 mpg, 30 games) barely sniffed the court. Joerger will likely rely on veterans in his first season in Sacramento.

Playing opportunity: The Sacramento Kings have a very crowded frontcourt. DeMarcus Cousins will obviously get heavy minutes. Rudy Gay will see time at the stretch-4 if he’s not traded. Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos will get a lot of backup big-man minutes, and Cauley-Stein may even start next to Cousins. The Kings also brought in Anthony Tolliver to add depth and he’ll earn some playing time. There isn’t much time for rookie big men.

Prediction: The Kings may not experiment with time for one rookie big man (unless injuries run amok), let alone two, and Georgios Papagiannis will be fighting for time as well. Labissiere should see lots of D-League minutes and if he does play for the Kings, expect less than 10 minutes a night for roughly 40 games.

skal-getty.jpgSkal Labissiere has a crowded frontcourt in Sacramento. Getty Images

Pascal Siakam (PF), Toronto Raptors

No. 27 Pick history: 10-year average of 14.4 minutes over 58 games. Bogdan Bogdanovic (2014) hasn’t come over yet.

There have been some real players at No. 27 over the last decade. Rudy Gobert is the biggest prize on many levels, but guys like DeMarre Carroll, Arron Afflalo and Darrell Arthur are also good role players found late in the first-round. Most recently, the Lakers surprised a lot of people by taking Larry Nance, Jr. at the end of the first round and he already looks to be a nice role player. Jordan Crawford had the highest minutes average as a rookie (24.5 in 42 games), but Arthur’s 76 games and 19.3 minutes per night made him the top contributing rookie. You’ll remember that Gobert only appeared in 45 games and played 9.6 minutes per night.

Coach tendency: Dwane Casey played the young guys when he coached the Minnesota Timberwolves over a decade ago. Since joining the Toronto Raptors, he hasn’t hesitated to play rookies who can play right away. Jonas Valanciunas played 23.9 minutes per game over 62 games (57 starts) and Terrence Ross got 17 minutes a night over 73 games — both in 2012-13. Bruno Caboclo only received 23 total minutes as a rookie, but he was always going to be a long-term project. Delon Wright played sparingly, but he was also behind Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph.

Playing opportunity: That said, unless injuries pop up, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for Pascal Siakam right away. The Raptors have Patrick Patterson and Jared Sullinger as the primary power forwards. You’ll see DeMarre Carroll play some stretch-4. And we may even see another Raptors rookie big play in small doses at the 4.

Prediction: I think Pascal Siakam ends up getting the Bruno Caboclo treatment. He’ll have chances in the D-League, but he’s unlikely to break triple digits in total minutes for the season unless some bad stuff happens.

Brice Johnson (PF), Los Angeles Clippers

No. 25 Pick history: 10-year average of 12 minutes over 36 games.

The biggest success here is clearly Nicolas Batum. He played right away for the Portland Trail Blazers, starting 76 of the 79 games he played in as a rookie while averaging 18.4 minutes. Guys like Roddy Beaubois and MarShon Brooks had fun flashes their rookie seasons; Brooks ended up playing nearly 30 minutes per night, while Beaubois only averaged 12.5 minutes despite those fun stretches. Guys like Shannon Brown, Morris Almond and Dominique Jones barely played. Reggie Bullock was a 25th pick under Doc Rivers and seemed to be forgotten as most rookies are for him with the Clippers.

Coach tendency: Let me sum it up in .gif form:

In other words, Doc doesn’t like dumb mistakes. So he doesn’t like rookies.

Playing opportunity: The Clippers are loaded with veterans inside, just like Doc prefers it. Brice Johnson isn’t playing over Blake Griffin, Marreese Speights, Luc Mbah a Moute or Brandon Bass. If the Clippers are smart, they’ll try to find real time to get Brice Johnson developing in the D-League. Most likely, he’s coming up with cool celebrations and reacting to DeAndre Jordan baptizing other big men at the rim from the bench.

Prediction: 40 games and no more than 8 minutes per game. Even that seems generous, and it has little to do with Johnson.

Malik Beasley (SG), Denver Nuggets

No. 19 Pick history: 10-year average of 11.4 minutes over 53 games.

This pick has some real success stories like Jeff Teague and Avery Bradley, along with Tobias Harris, Gary Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Jerian Grant last year with the Kincks. The biggest contributor as a rookie was either Grant (16.6 mpg, 76 games) or Nicholson (16.7 mpg, 75 games). This slot is usually a slow starter.

Coach tendency: Between his season-and-a-third in Sacramento and his one year in Denver, Michael Malone isn’t a stranger to playing the young guys on a rebuilding team. If a rookie can play within the team concept, Malone will be giddy to mold him on the court. He played Ben McLemore all 82 games (26.7 mpg) and he wasn’t any good. He played Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic without hesitation last season and both were very important to the development of this roster.

Playing opportunity: This Nuggets’ depth chart is crowded. Malik Beasley has to take minutes away from either Gary Harris, Will Barton or Jamal Murray. Unless he’s a lights-out shooter and can play great defense as a rookie, he may end up at the end of the bench just because of the depth he’s behind.

Prediction: I don’t think we see much of Beasley as a rookie. 35 games, 9 minutes per game.

Henry Ellenson (PF), Detroit Pistons

No. 18 Pick history: 10-year average of 13.6 minutes over 46 games.

There are a couple of good players from the No. 18 slot over the last 10 years, but this hasn’t been a very consistent pick for production. Eric Bledsoe and Ty Lawson were taken at 18, but the next best player has been… Marco Belinelli? JaVale McGee? Terrence Jones? Sam Dekker’s six minutes over three games last season hurts the averages here, but there isn’t much to go off anyway. Bledsoe’s 22.7 minutes per game over 81 games is the biggest contribution as a rookie from the 18th slot.

Coach tendency: Like a lot of the top coaches around the NBA, if Stan Van Gundy thinks you can play as a rookie then you’ll play as a rookie. He didn’t have any trouble giving Dwyane Wade minutes (34.9 mpg) as a rookie. He played Courtney Lee 25.2 minutes per game as a rookie. He gave Stanley Johnson 23.1 minutes per game last season. Van Gundy just wants guys on the court who do the right thing.

Playing opportunity: It’s certainly a crowded frontcourt in the Motor City. Andre Drummond will play the bulk of the minutes at center. They’ve got Tobias Harris as the power forward. Marcus Morris can slide over to play some 4. They signed Jon Leuer this offseason to replace Anthony Tolliver. They also brought in Boban Marjanovic, and SVG already loves the communication defensively when Arron Baynes is on the court.

Prediction: I don’t think Henry Ellenson plays a whole lot this season. 40 games, 7 minutes per game seems right as a rookie.

Juan Hernangomez (PF), Denver Nuggets

No. 15 Pick history: 10-year average of 17.8 minutes over 60 games.

Sometimes you find a franchise-changing gem like Kawhi Leonard or Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 15 in the draft, and sometimes you end up with Cedric Simmons, Austin Daye or Adreian Payne. The Kawhi-Giannis fortune is pretty rare halfway through the first round and you’re not grabbing a ton of guys who can play right away. Leonard (24 mpg, 64 games), Maurice Harkless (26 mpg, 76 games), and Giannis (24.6 mpg, 77 games) were the biggest contributors right away.

Coach tendency: Between his season-and-a-third in Sacramento and his one year in Denver, Michael Malone isn’t a stranger to playing the young guys on a rebuilding team. If a rookie can play within the team concept, Malone will be giddy to mold him on the court. He played Ben McLemore all 82 games (26.7 mpg) and he wasn’t any good. He played Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic without hesitation last season and both were very important to the development of this roster.

Playing opportunity: Much like with Malik Beasley, I’m failing to find where Juan Hernangomez gets playing time immediately as a rookie. Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur and the Danilo Gallinari/Wilson Chandler stretch-4 stints will consume a lot of PF minutes. Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic will hold down the center position.

Prediction: I love the pick but I think he takes a couple years to get consistent minutes. 35 games and 8 minutes per game as a rookie.

Georgios Papagiannis (PF), Sacramento Kings

No. 13 Pick history: 10-year average of 19.6 minutes over 63 games.

Some very solid players and Kendall Marshall have been in this slot over the last 10 years. The latest two, Devin Booker and Zach LaVine, have been electrifying at times and have the potential to be big-time players. Guys like Markieff Morris and Kelly Olynyk can have great value on the court as well. Brandon Rush (24 mpg, 75 games) and Olynyk (20 mpg, 70 games) were nice contributors right away. LaVine (24.7 mpg, 77 games) and Booker (27.7 mpg, 76 games) are the biggest rookie contributors at 13.

Coach tendency: As stated earlier, in Dave Joerger’s three years he hasn’t given a ton of time to rookies, especially first-round picks. I don’t really see an exception being made here.

Playing opportunity: This is all the same as Skal Labissiere’s outlook. With Cousins entrenched and Rudy Gay seeing time at the stretch-4, not to mention Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos, there isn’t a ton of opportunity for a rookie big man in Sac.

Prediction: I don’t see a lot of minutes headed Georgios Papagiannis’ way as a rookie, and honestly, it’s still hard to figure out what Vlade Divac was thinking with this pick. Papagiannis maybe plays 30 games and probably not even double-digit minutes for an average.

Taurean Prince (SF), Atlanta Hawks

No. 12 Pick history: 10-year average of 15.2 minutes over 59 games. Dario Saric (2014) comes over this season.

You will get your Hilton Armstrong or Xavier Henry or Jeremy Lamb with this pick, but there are also some really good role players, as well. Thaddeus Young, Alec Burks and Steven Adams are No. 12 pick alums. Gerald Henderson is in there, too, as is Jason Thompson. And with the way Trey Lyles looked after the first month or so as a rookie, this slot in the draft got a lot stronger. The biggest contributor as a rookie is definitely Jason Thompson (28.1 mpg, 82 games).

Coach tendency: I wouldn’t say Mike Budenholzer loves the idea of playing rookies right away. Dennis Schroder played sparingly (13.1 mpg, 49 games) during his rookie season, and Budenholzer was so over trying to see if Adreian Payne could even be a long-term project for the Atlanta Hawks that he shipped Payne to Minnesota halfway through his rookie season. Last year, they moved their pick for Tim Hardaway Jr.

Playing opportunity: Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore and Thabo Sefolosha are the main wings for the Hawks. Maybe Mike Scott will play a little small forward, as well. After that, the trio of DeAndre Bembry, Taurean Prince and Hardaway will split the remaining wing minutes. Someone will be able to carpe that diem.

Prediction: I like Bembry and Hardaway to end up with the minutes split over Taurean Green right away. I think Green logs somewhere around 50 games and 10 minutes per game as a rookie.

Domantas Sabonis (C), Oklahoma City Thunder

No. 11 Pick history: 10-year average of 18.1 minutes over 55 games.

Klay Thompson is the best of the last decade at No. 11 and we have good role players like JJ Redick and Myles Turner. Doug McDermott had a great second season after looking irrelevant as a rookie. But this is also littered with guys like Acie Law and Terrence Williams. Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year at this slot but he’s also turned out to be … well … not very good since then. Biggest contributor was MCW at 34.5 minutes per game for 70 games as a rookie.

Coach tendency: Billy Donovan has just one year in the NBA coaching ranks but he was open to playing Cameron Payne in stretches last season. Once he got a veteran alternative in Randy Foye, though, those minutes dried up for the rookie point guard.

Playing opportunity: It’s a crowded frontcourt. Steven Adams and Enes Kanter are the main minutes grabbers. They also have Mitch McGary (sometimes), Ersan Ilyasova and Nick Collison. This doesn’t mean Domantas Sabonis can’t get time but he’s probably more of a project.

Prediction: I don’t expect a ton of playing time for him his rookie season unless he’s a good defender right away. Look for a lot of D-League development chances, though. 50 games, 12 minutes per game as a rookie.

Dragan Bender (C), Phoenix Suns

No. 4 Pick history: 10-year average of 25.1 minutes over 68 games.

There are some pretty incredible No. 4 picks over the last decade, and then there’s Tyrus Thomas and Wes Johnson. Russell Westbrook was the fourth pick. Tyreke Evans was Rookie of the Year from this spot. Kristap Porzingis set the basketball world on fire for much of his rookie season. Mike Conley, Aaron Gordon and Tristan Thompson are some important players as well. The biggest No. 4 pick contributor? Evans played a lot as a rookie with 37.2 minutes per game in 72 games. Westbrook also cracked 30 minutes per game (32.5) and played in all 82.

Coach tendency: We got a glimpse into Earl Watson playing Devin Booker a lot down the stretch of last season, but he was an interim coach and the Phoenix Suns were a dumpster factory at that point, so what did he have to lose? Still, Watson will probably be open to playing rookies right away.

Playing opportunity: We’re not sure how much the Suns will go with the dual-center combo of Alex Len and Tyson Chandler, but Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic from last season are gone. That leaves guys like Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker possibly playing some stretch-4. Either Marquesse Chriss or Dragan Bender will be able to find time if they’re competent.

Prediction: I think Chriss is more likely to grab time as a rookie than Bender is. So that probably leaves Bender around 65 games and 15 minutes per night.


Source: CBS Sports / 12 NBA first-rounders likely to struggle for playing time in rookie year