2011 NBA Rookies Already on the Verge of Disappearing from the League
One of the worst labels an NBA player can earn is that of a draft bust. This means that they were a highly touted and greatly hyped college player taken at a decent position in the draft, but they just couldn't cut it on the professional level.
Rather than make numerous All-Star appearances and win awards, they may be forced to head overseas to earn their fortune or begin their career as a studio analyst a few years earlier than planned. Sadly, some of the rookies drafted in 2011 are slowly headed down this road.
Be it because of lack of minutes or just struggling to adapt to the professional level, some of the men taken in the first round of the 2011 draft now have an uphill battle ahead of them. This season, they need to set themselves apart from the rest of their teammates to show their team's coaches and front office that they belong and can be valuable contributors.
The only problem is that these men are the type who need significant minutes in order to be effective, and their team's projected rotation just doesn't allow for them to get more than garbage time.
Take Sacramento Kings guard Jimmer Fredette, for example. Here is a man who led the nation in scoring his senior season at BYU and was taken 10th overall in the draft but whose lack of size and versatility has hampered him in the NBA. Outside of long-range shooting, he has yet to find his niche and now is stuck in a crowded Kings backcourt.
Barring some luck and major turnaround in play, Fredette and some of his draft classmates may very well be out of the NBA by the end of the year.
No. 5: Alec Burks, Utah Jazz
2011-12 Stats: 7.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, .429 FG%, .333 3P%
Now, in Burks' defense, he is not a bad player by any means. His aforementioned numbers were posted in 15.9 minutes per game, so they're fairly respectable as a whole. Yet, at 6'6", 202 pounds and with an underwhelming long-range shot, he struggled to get more significant playing time.
Though Burks has good size for his position and has showed improvement on both sides of the floor this preseason, he still has a lot of work to do his sophomore season if he wants to play a role in Utah's future successes.
In this case, talent can only get Burks so far as the Jazz have third-year man Gordon Hayward and veteran shooter Randy Foye ahead of him on the depth chart. That said, the best thing Burks can do is continue to work on his defense, so that coach Tyrone Corbin could conceivably use him at small forward, where there is little depth behind Marvin Williams.
Otherwise, the man is going to get buried on the bench and slowly become a career reserve, barring an injury to either Hayward or Foye.
No. 4: Marcus Morris, Houston Rockets
2011-12 Stats: 2.4 PPG, 0.9 RPG, .296 FG%
Morris was a fine forward at Kansas, averaging 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while shooting an astounding 57 percent from the field. Once he entered the NBA, however, Morris struggled to adapt and spent a majority of 2011-12 in the D-League, appearing in just 17 games for the Rockets.
He entered the preseason this year looking for a fresh start, but his averaging just eight points and five rebounds over three NBA Summer League games made finding success in the NBA more of an uphill battle.
To add insult to injury, Morris suffered an ankle injury during the preseason and has appeared in just one game thus far. This leaves him at a great disadvantage, seeing as how Patrick Patterson and even rookie Royce White have seen more playing time than him. All in all, the odds of him starting the season back in the D-League are looking greater with each passing day.
That being said, Morris simply has to put up astounding numbers in the D-League to warrant the Rockets giving him another chance. He has good size for the NBA at 6'9", 235 pounds, but his struggles on offense and lack of awareness on defense could bring an early end to his career in the league unless he turns things around fast.
No. 3: Jimmer Fredette, Sacramento Kings
2011-12 Stats: 7.6 PPG, 1.8 APG, .386 FG%, .361 3P%
Fredette took the nation by storm as a college star at Brigham Young University, and his leading the nation in scoring his senior year led to him being a Top-10 pick. However, based on his rookie season alone, it's safe to say that the man got his wake-up call about the NBA being far tougher than the college game.
You see, despite being built like a point guard at 6'2", 195 pounds, Fredette much prefers to be a scorer and doesn't have much of a distribution game.
In college, he only averaged 3.7 assists over four years. Thus, on the professional level, he is an undersized shooting guard without much natural athleticism. This resulted in poor shot selection, and despite playing 18.6 minutes per game his rookie season, his overall performance was underwhelming.
The worst of it is that Fredette has only shown a slight improvement in play this preseason, his highlight performance being a 14-point game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 19.
While he shot 5-of-9 from the field that game, six of his shots were from long range, further proving that the man is little more than a shooter and still has a lot to learn about being an NBA guard.
With Sacramento's backcourt already crowded with Marcus Thornton, Aaron Brooks and Isaiah Thomas, Fredette's chances of making the regular rotation are looking slim, and unless he shows great potential in garbage minutes or in the event of a regular getting injured, his NBA career could be over just as soon as it began.
No. 2: JaJuan Johnson, Houston Rockets
2011-12 Stats: 3.2 PPG, 1.6 RPG
When the then-New Jersey Nets drafted Johnson with the 27th pick in the 2011 draft and subsequently dealt him to the Boston Celtics, it appeared as though the search was complete for Kevin Garnett's eventual successor.
Johnson had great height at 6'10" but was still too skinny at 221 pounds to be a dominant NBA big man. Still, his 20.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game his senior year at Purdue indicated that there was room for potential.
Instead, Johnson was practically a non-factor in Boston's run to the conference semifinals. He only appeared in 36 games and averaged 8.3 minutes per contest and didn't appear in one playoff game. When the Celtics agreed to a sign-and-trade deal with the Houston Rockets for guard Courtney Lee, Johnson was sent to Houston as part of the package.
Now, the man finds himself buried in a sea of power forwards that includes Patrick Patterson, Royce White, Marcus Morris and Jon Brockman. If he gets any playing time at all this season, it will be nothing short of a miracle. If he's still in the league next year or the year after, it will be an even greater one.
No. 1: Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder
2011-12 Stats: 3.1 PPG, 1.6 APG, .321 FG%, .210 3P%
It can't be easy being a rookie on a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder. After all, they're a squad that has continually improved each of the past three seasons on the back of star Kevin Durant and his supporting cast, both in the starting lineup and off the bench.
That said, it's not that surprising that Jackson struggled to get significant minutes his rookie year, despite being a good scoring point guard at Boston College.
In his first NBA season, the former Eagle only managed to get 11.1 minutes per game over 45 games, and given how Oklahoma City is loaded with guards like Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden and Eric Maynor, Jackson is still going to be pretty low on the food chain his sophomore season.
His preseason has been underwhelming, and on top of that, there is no reason that a well-oiled machine like the Thunder would waste minutes on someone just because of their potential. Long story short, the only way Jackson gets any significant playing time in 2012-13 is if Westbrook or Maynor gets injured.
Unless he can somehow find his way onto a team that prides itself on having a high-octane offense, like the Golden State Warriors or Phoenix Suns, then his time in the league is going to be short.