20 NBA Rookies Who Will Crack the Starting Lineup in Their Second Season
As a rookie, playing time can be difficult to come across. Should one prove to their coaching staff that they are capable of consistent production, however, the time on the court is likely to see a serious rise.
For quite a few first-year players, the opportunity to see consistent playing time will present itself in 2013. This will be a situation that they cannot blow, as their respective teams will trust them with time as a starter.
Here are 20 players who could fit the bill.
Alec Burks, Utah Jazz
Games Started in 2012: 0 out of 59
In 2012, Alec Burks took a back seat to Gordon Hayward. While Hayward has played very well, he hasn't played to the point where the position is indefinitely his. Neither has any player at the 3.
In other words, Alec Burks will start some games in 2013. The only question is what position he will be playing.
The major hurdle for Burks will be his jump shot, which remains incredibly inconsistent. Should he improve the quality, consistency and form of the shot, however, his dominance in attacking the basket will be enough to warrant a starting spot. There's no reason to expect anything less.
Season Averages: 15.9 MPG—14.01 PER—7.2 PPG—2.3 RPG—43% FG
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Games Started as a Rookie: 0 out of 42
In 2013, expect Jimmy Butler to overtake Ronnie Brewer on the depth chart. In turn, expect Butler to start some games when the Bulls' 2 inevitably goes down with an injury.
A la Ben Gordon, Ray Allen and every other shooting guard to hit Chicago since Michael Jordan.
While many Chicago Bulls fans will keep their fingers crossed and hopes high that they can land a star 2 during the offseason, the likelihood of such an occurrence is rather slim. The salary cap is tight and the 2012 NBA draft may not be as likely to produce a 2 as one may think.
Expect Butler to get the opportunity he rightfully deserves.
Season Averages: 8.5 MPG—12.48 PER—2.6 PPG—1.3 RPG—41% FG
Cory Higgins, Charlotte Bobcats
Games Started as a Rookie: 0 out of 38
For those wondering why Higgins would start in 2013, the answer is simple: Because it's the Bobcats. And that's the only justification necessary.
Higgins is a talented enough a ball-handler to play the point and tall enough to play the 2. He's also a talented shooter who can affect the outcome of a game. Between the potential injuries that always occur, as well as the possibility of another lost season, Higgins will make his way into the starting lineup.
Somehow, some way.
Season Averages: 11.1 MPG—4.17 PER—3.9 PPG—0.9 APG—0.9 RPG
Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento Kings
Games Started as a Rookie: 7 out of 61
I don't like it, nor do I agree with it, but the Sacramento Kings will find a way to slip Jimmer Fredette into their startling lineup. When a team selected a player with the 10th overall draft choice, it's not hard to see why they'd so such a thing.
Whether it's replacing Isaiah Thomas for a game or two, placing Jimmer at the 2 or simply rotating the lineup on a consistent basis, it will be done. Even if it shouldn't be.
Season Averages: 18.6 MPG—10.84 PER—7.6 PPG—1.8 APG—1.2 RPG—36% 3PT
Jordan Hamilton, Denver Nuggets
Games Started in 2012: 2 out of 26
In 2012, the Denver Nuggets' greatest deficiency has been their inability to score the ball in the half court. Jordan Hamilton is the type of player who can cure those woes, as he's a lights-out shooter with deep range.
He can also create for himself off of the dribble, offering a similar skill set to Arron Afflalo. The question will simply be: Which player will go down with another injury and open the door for Hamilton to shine? Arron Afflalo or Danilo Gallinari?
It'll be one of the two. It always is.
Season Averages: 9.9 MPG—14.00 PER—4.4 PPG—2.4 RPG—43% FG
Tobias Harris, Milwaukee Bucks
Games Started in 2012: 9 out of 42
Tobias Harris was an efficient, hard-working player who gave his all for every minute he played. He's also a young, well-rounded player who offers the Bucks a big defensive presence on the perimeter—something they currently lack.
While it may not happen instantly, expect Harris to find his name in the starting lineup should the Bucks start out slowly once again. He's also becoming a bit of a local fan favorite, making the chances of such even more likely.
Season Averages: 11.4 MPG—14.25 PER—5.0 PPG—2.4 RPG—47% FG
Tyler Honeycutt, Sacramento Kings
Games Started in 2012: 0 out of 15
The Sacramento Kings' biggest need remains at the 3. While they could select a player at the position during the 2012 NBA draft, they could also go with someone at the 4. This opens the door quite widely for one of the more promising, yet underutilized, players of this draft class.
Tyler Honeycutt isn't great in one individual category, but solid across the board. While he may have a small sample size, he also has a solid motor and large presence on the perimeter. Only a matter of time before he puts that on display.
Season Averages: 5.9 MPG—1.3 PPG—0.9 RPG—0.3 SPG—33% FG
JaJuan Johnson, Boston Celtics
Games Started in 2012: 0 out of 36
With Kevin Garnett poised to hit free agency and Brandon Bass potentially facing the same fate, former Big Ten Player of the Year JaJuan Johnson may finally get his chance to shine. With KG playing the 5 and Bass undersized, that opportunity will come regardless of who goes where.
Johnson's height and wingspan alone offer the Celtics an upgrade on the interior, as does his offensive prowess. What's most important about his game, however, is his low-post game that is much more polished than the average second-year player.
Season Averages: 8.3 MPG—11.44 PER—3.2 PPG—1.6 RPG—0.4 BPG
Jon Leuer, Milwaukee Bucks
Games Started in 2012: 12 out of 46
Jon Leuer is yet another high-motor player who could easily crack the Bucks' starting lineup. Considering Ersan Ilyasova is poised to hit free agency, the likelihood of such instantly raises.
Leuer is all about effort, as he's not afraid to do the dirty work to get the job done. He is also solid in terms of fundamentals and received a small dose of playing time as a starter in 2012. His all-around game and high efficiency is what will get him the job in 2013.
Season Averages: 12.1 MPG—15.31 PER—4.7 PPG—2.6 RPG—51% FG
DeAndre Liggins, Orlando Magic
Games Started in 2012: 0 out of 17
DeAndre Liggins didn't see much of an opportunity in 2012. With Jason Richardson getting another year older, however, don't be too shocked to see the former Kentucky Wildcat to crack the starting lineup.
Liggins is an excellent perimeter defender who overcomes a lack of offensive fundamentals with his athletic ability and length. He can play well above the rim and gets out well in transition. These factors will be weighed as Jason Richardson potentially misses some time due to injury or fatigue.
Season Averages: 6.8 MPG—8.91 PER—1.9 PPG—0.9 RPG—0.4 SPG—48% FG
Marcus Morris, Houston Rockets
Games Started in 2012: 0 out of 17
Marcus Morris spent the entirety of the 2012 season in Kevin McHale's doghouse. In 2013, expect the highly-touted rookie to get his first fair shake at success in the NBA.
While the potential results could be debated, what cannot be is how talented Morris is. While Chandler Parsons has done nothing to lose the starting job in Houston, Marcus Morris has true star potential.
As much as it may pain Kevin McHale to admit it, it's time to throw caution to the wind and give the former Kansas Jayhawk his chance.
Season Averages: 7.4 MPG—3.85 PER—2.4 PPG—0.9 RPG—30% FG
Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns
Games Started in 2012: 7 out of 66
Markieff Morris was a pleasure to watch in 2012, combining well-honed fundamentals with respect for his opponents. By respect, of course, I'm talking about impeccable anticipation and a "go hard or go home" attitude on both ends of the floor.
In 2013, expect Morris to surpass expectations early and secure the starting job in no time at all. He and Marcin Gortat will make for one of the more promising frontcourts in the NBA as the Suns once again compete for a playoff spot.
Season Averages: 19.5 MPG—12.18 PER—7.4 PPG—4.4 RPG—0.7 BPG—0.7 SPG
Nolan Smith, Portland Trail Blazers
Games Started in 2012: 4 out of 44
In the final five games of the 2012 NBA regular season, Nolan Smith took over the starter's role in Portland and shined in ways that no point guard previously had. Smith averaged 12.8 points, 4.6 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
Furthermore, the Portland Trail Blazers have told Smith that their summer league team will be his to run.
Unless the Portland Trail Blazers are able to sign Deron Williams, Nolan Smith will assume the starter's role at some point in the season. Upon doing so, he'll also prove to be one of the true steals of the draft.
Season Averages: 12.3 MPG—7.82 PER—3.8 PPG—1.4 APG—1.3 RPG—0.4 SPG
Greg Stiemsma, Boston Celtics
Games Started in 2012: 3 out of 66
Greg Stiemsma was outstanding in his rookie season, going from a proficient shot-blocker to one of the more well-rounded rookies in the league. Amongst the improvements was the development of a reliable mid-range game, an increased level of effort on the glass and a display of low-post prowess on D.
With the Celtics still without a true 5 and Kevin Garnett poised to hit free agency, don't be surprised to see Doc Rivers honor those talents by awarding Stiemsma the starting spot.
Season Averages: 13.9 MPG—13.62 PER—2.9 PPG—3.2 RPG—1.5 BPG
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
Games Started in 2012: 25 out of 60
Although Thompson started a large volume of games in 2012, he only did so as a result of an injury to Anderson Varejao. In 2013, Thompson will start at his more natural position, the 4, solely based upon his progress as a player.
At the start of 2012, Thompson was far too raw on offense to warrant consideration as a starter. If he wasn't dunking the ball, he wasn't scoring. Today, however, Thompson has shown glimpses of a more well-rounded game and, as a result, seen increased playing time.
The defensive force is now a well-rounded weapon.
Season Averages: 23.7 MPG—13.37 PER—8.2 PPG—6.5 RPG—3.1 ORPG—1.0 BPG
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
Games Started in 2012: N/A
Although Jonas Valanciunas will technically be a rookie in 2013, he's likely to be thrust into a starting role within no time at all. The opportunity to pair two seven-footers together is reason alone to place him there.
Season Averages: N/A
Nikola Vucevic, Philadelphia 76ers
Games Started in 2012: 15 out of 51
Not only is Spencer Hawes poised to become a free agent, but he's also coming off of a season in which he missed 29 games due to injury. Paired with the fact that Hawes has never averaged starter minutes, the door for NIkola Vucevic to breakthrough as the Sixers' starting center is bigger than one might assume.
During his 15 games in the starter role in 2012, Vucevic showed what he could do. Averages of 14 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game against the Boston Celtics offer evidence to such a claim.
Expect Vucevic to capitalize on injuries or free agency, thus becoming the full-time starter in Philadelphia.
Season Averages: 15.9 MPG—14.33 PER—5.5 PPG—4.8 RPG—0.7 BPG
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
Games Started in 2012: 25 out of 66
In 2012, Kemba Walker started a whole lot of games for the Charlotte Bobcats. The reason he's on this list, however, is because of the fact that his starts came by virtue of an injury to starter D.J. Augustin.
In 2013, Walker will likely take on the role of starter by reason of talent and production. Expect him to thrive in the role as he looks to further prove that he's more of a true point guard than one might expect.
Season Averages: 14.98 PER—27.2 MPG—12.1 PPG—4.4 APG—3.6 RPG—0.9 SPG
Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves
Games Started in 2011: 15 out of 66
After starting just 15 of 66 games in 2011, Derrick Williams will replace Wesley Johnson as the starting 3. His defensive versatility, inside-out scoring and dominant physical ability will be just too much for the underachieving Wesley Johnson to fight off.
While some may feel Williams is more fitting for the 4, he's more than athletic enough to play the 3. He's also shown enough range on his jump shot to score on the perimeter. Evidence was his beautiful shooting against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Season Averages: 21.5 MPG—12.95 PER—8.8 PPG—4.7 RPG—0.5 BPG—0.5 SPG—41% FG
Jordan Williams, New Jersey Nets
Games Started as Rookie: 5 out of 43
Both Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries will hit free agency this summer, leaving the possibility open of one or both of their positions needing a fresh face. While Jordan Williams may not be a household name, don't be shocked to find him in the starting lineup from time to time.
Season Averages: 14.8 MPG—14.53 PER—4.6 PPG—3.6 RPG—51% FG