7 NBA Players Who Desperately Need More Minutes for Their Team to Thrive
Some NBA teams have a key player who needs to be on the court more often.
These competitors might not have the pedigree of a prolific scorer or dominant post player, but their increased role is paramount to the team's prosperity.
In a couple cases, it's a speedy guard who can jolt the backcourt. For other franchises, it's a blue-collar big man willing to plug the middle and serve as a glue guy. There are several underachieving Eastern Conference units that must restructure the distribution of minutes.
Which ballers around the Association need more playing time in order for their team to thrive?
Pablo Prigioni, New York Knicks PG
2013-14 MPG: 18.1
There are a lot of things wrong with the New York Knicks these days, but Pablo Prigioni isn't one of them.
In each phase of the game, he performs the little tasks that give the squad a fighting chance.
He turns up the heat defensively on opposing guards, throwing off their rhythm and thereby slowing down the entire attack. Prigioni's instincts and unwavering effort as a stopper are sorely missed when he's not on the floor: The Knicks surrender 111.8 points per 100 possessions when he sits, according to 82games.com.
The Argentinian veteran isn't a dynamic slasher, shot creator or athlete. But New York doesn't need that from him. It needs more of his leadership, half-court traffic control and distribution.
Did I mention he's shooting 46 percent from distance?
It's time for him to play at least 20 minutes a game.
Evan Fournier, Denver Nuggets SG
2013-14 MPG: 13.9
As the only true shooting guard off the bench for the Denver Nuggets, Evan Fournier is a key reserve who could bring the club to a different level if he's given the chance.
In addition to being an excellent outside shooting option with a solid handle, the second-year pro has been highly effective on the defensive end.
Fournier is holding opponents to 32.7 percent shooting, according to Synergy Sports, as his 6'6" frame and awareness have made him one of Denver's most successful defenders. Whenever he checks into the game, he makes sure he's in an optimal position to steer foes away.
The Nuggets still have a ways to go to establish themselves defensively, so inserting a two-way threat like Fournier more regularly would help Brian Shaw achieve the kind of point differential he's looking for.
Right now, Fournier is barely seeing more playing time than he did as a rookie, and that's limiting his development and (more importantly) the team's progress
Luigi Datome, Detroit Pistons SF
2013-14 MPG: 7.4
Maurice Cheeks' Detroit Pistons are far from a pushover, yet they're 6-8 and currently stuck in a negative point differential.
I'm not calling for a gargantuan shift in the rotation. Just more opportunities for newcomer Luigi Datome, who has shown potential during his brief stints with the team.
His perimeter shooting has started off cold, but we're expecting him to heat up as the season unfolds. His long-range skills will help stretch defenses and make them pay for collapsing on the bigs.
Datome can't hold the Pistons together by himself, so Detroit can't muster a winning streak simply by quadrupling his playing time.
However, if Cheeks can be more consistent in his minutes distribution, it will allow Datome to find a comfortable rhythm and provide the team with another power forward in addition to Kyle Singler.
Gustavo Ayon, Atlanta Hawks C
2013-14 MPG: 18.4
While Gustavo Ayon doesn't provide enough firepower to warrant 30-plus minutes, the Atlanta Hawks need to start playing him more.
But if he's not a great athlete or a prolific rebounder, then why should he spend more time on the court?
Because his timing and location are perfect. The Hawks are simply a better team when he's in the lineup.
Ayon's work away from the ball to find high-percentage opportunities has yielded an individual field-goal percentage of 68 percent and a collective 123.6 points per 100 possessions while he's in the game (per 82games.com). If that's not enough, he features some of Atlanta's best help-side defense.
The Hawks would reap the benefits of bumping him closer to 25 minutes per contest.
Daniel Orton, Philadelphia 76ers C
2013-14 MPG: 14.5
Although he won't ever be a star in the Philadelphia 76ers' attack, Daniel Orton is an underutilized big man who can help improve the low-post outlook of the rebuilding team.
The 6'10" 2010 first-round pick has struggled at times to even stay in the NBA, but Philly presents a legitimate avenue for success. And in turn, Orton offers the Sixers a chance to bolster the interior.
Through 11 games, Orton is holding opponents to 31 percent shooting on post-ups and allowing 0.89 points per possession overall, according to Synergy Sports.
Even when Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes return to the lineup, Orton should be spending more than 14.5 minutes on the floor. He can give the Sixers the depth they need to be competitive in the Atlantic.
Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic PF
2013-14 MPG: 19.1
With a well-polished set of low-post skills and a reliable jumper, Andrew Nicholson is one of the most useful players on the Orlando Magic.
Although his lack of mobility and explosiveness isn't conducive for a starter's share of playing time, he should still be eclipsing 20 minutes routinely. Instead, he's getting irregular stints.
Nicholson's rebounding, shooting touch and low-post efficiency shouldn't be downplayed. In games where he saw 25-plus minutes, Orlando is 3-2. When he plays less than that, the Magic are 1-7.
There's no one on his squad with the same combination of interior footwork and smooth shooting accuracy. If Jacque Vaughn wants to give himself the best angle for victory, he should make use of this unique weapon for more than half the game.
Phil Pressey, Boston Celtics PG
2013-14 MPG: 13.0
Until Rajon Rondo returns for the Boston Celtics, Phil Pressey is the only true point guard Brad Stevens has to work with.
In limited playing time, the rookie's activity has been noticeable, and anytime he's seen more than 20 minutes, he's dished at least four assists. His latest chunk of production came in Boston's win over the Charlotte Bobcats, when Pressey tossed eight assists and snatched three steals.
Why not give Pressey responsibilities like that every night, especially when the Celtics are trying to build authentic depth for the future? As long as he maintains prudent shot selection, Boston will be doing itself a favor in the short and long-term.
He's only 5'11", but his speed, hustle and decisive passing accuracy serve to empower the whole unit.
Follow Dan O'Brien on Twitter: @DanielO_BR
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