7 NBA Players Who Deserve More Playing Time in 2014
Throughout the NBA, players are chomping at the bit for a chance to show what they can do. However, there is only so much playing time to go around, and these select few find themselves wallowing at the end of the bench.
Hopefully, that will change with the new year approaching. After scouring every roster, I have compiled a list of seven players who deserve greater opportunities in 2014.
Whether it's because they could help fill a particular need or they could use the extra burn to further their professional growth, a case will be made for every member of this select group.
I've even given the group its own name: The Seldom-Used Seven (or The Mop-Up Mod Squad, whichever you prefer). All of these players are currently averaging less than 14 minutes per game (or about 3.5 minutes per quarter).
As always, reader participation is encouraged. If there are any questions, concerns or suggestions, please feel free to make yourself heard in the comment section.
Kendall Marshall, PG, Los Angeles Lakers
Kendall Marshall's first step in the right direction was finding a way off of the Phoenix Suns, where he was buried behind the likes of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. After being included in the trade that sent Marcin Gortat to the Wizards, Marshall was subsequently waived by Washington.
The former North Carolina Tar Heel then wowed potential suitors in the D-League by averaging 19.7 points and 9.6 assists per night in seven games with the Delaware 87ers. That performance caught the attention of the Los Angeles Lakers, who quickly signed last year's No. 13 overall pick.
Still, despite having a backcourt ravaged by injuries, the Lakers haven't given Marshall much of an opportunity to strut his stuff. He's played in two games since his acquisition and is averaging five minutes per game.
Marshall isn't a proven commodity by any means, but it's not like the Lakers have a ton of other options. Jordan Farmar is only healthy true point guard on the roster, and he's just returning from a hamstring issue.
At the very least, Marshall should get a lion's share of the minutes as Farmar's backup until Steve Nash and Steve Blake come back. At 22 years old, he still has a lot of potential, and his D-League numbers suggest he's capable of producing when given significant playing time.
At 13-16, the Lakers face long odds of making the playoffs. What are they really risking by giving a chance to someone who could be their point guard of the future?
Jimmer Fredette, SG, Sacramento Kings
Fredette, a former BYU star, is the latest example of a young prospect landing on a team that has no game plan for how to use him. Since being drafted with the No. 10 overall pick in 2011, the Kings guard has watched his playing time dwindle each season.
He averaged 18.6 minutes a game as a rookie. Then, his playing time dropped to 14 minutes per contest in his second season. This year, he's logging a paltry 9.9 minutes a night.
The main reason is the logjam Sacramento has at the guard position. Rookie Ben McLemore and veteran Marcus Thornton absorb most of the minutes at the 2, while the diminutive Isaiah Thomas is getting the bulk of the playing time at point guard.
That leaves Fredette on the outside looking in. At 6'2" and 195 pounds, he is a bit of a 'tweener. He doesn't have the speed to hang with most point men or the size to defend bigger guards.
What Fredette can do is shoot the ball well and put points on the board. He's a career 39 percent three-point shooter and was a prolific scorer during his college days at BYU (22.1 points per game as a junior).
If Sacramento isn't wise enough to carve out some time for him, some team should take a chance on him. With the right opportunity, he could be a poor man's J.J. Redick.
Chris Copeland, SF, Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers signed Chris Copeland away from the New York Knicks in the offseason to provide depth to a team that sorely needed it. He then spent the brunt of the summer recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.
Since fully healing, Copeland has logged double-digit minutes just twice all season. This is despite the fact that the Pacers were without Danny Granger for most of the year. The 29-year-old has played all of 12 minutes combined in the last three games.
Copeland came out of nowhere and turned some heads last season with the Knicks, averaging 8.7 points per game in 15.4 minutes and shooting 42 percent from behind the arc. This season, he's playing around six minutes per game and shooting 37 percent from three.
The Pacers are 19th in the NBA in three-point attempts per game (20.1). They convert 37 percent of those chances, which is good for 11th-best in the league. The team is also 20th in scoring with an average of 98.6 points per game.
Could giving Copeland some extra minutes help improve those numbers? I'd like to think so. As the season progresses, it might be wise for the Pacers to scale back Paul George's and Lance Stephenson's minutes to keep them fresh for the playoffs.
The return of Granger will help with some of that, as would giving Copeland a chance to do what he does best.
MarShon Brooks, SG, Boston Celtics
You may remember MarShon Brooks as the kid who averaged 12.6 points per game in 29.4 minutes as a rookie with the then-New Jersey Nets. Since then, it seems as if the former Providence star has fallen off the face of the planet.
After playing just 12.5 minutes for a star-studded Nets team in his second season, Brooks was traded on draft day to the Boston Celtics. Given the Celtics' commitment to rebuilding, it seemed obvious they would give the 24-year-old some quality minutes, right?
Brooks has played in all of nine games this season and is currently averaging 6.8 minutes per contest. He's stuck behind Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee at the shooting guard position. Once Rajon Rondo returns from his ACL injury, Brooks will consider himself lucky to have had about seven minutes a night.
A trade would benefit Brooks' career greatly, be it one for himself or for someone in front of him on the pecking order. However, if the Celtics could find room for him, the No. 25 overall pick of the 2011 draft could help them too.
Boston is 24th in the NBA with an average of 95 points per game. At the very least, Brooks could provide some scoring off the bench. Lee is contributing 7.3 points per game in 16.6 minutes. Brooks is scoring 3.2 points a game while logging less than half of Lee's playing time.
I'm willing to bet Brooks could be just as productive, maybe even more so, if he were to switch spots on the depth chart with Lee.
Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Houston Rockets
It's hard to pinpoint when Donatas Motiejunas went from intriguing European prospect to the end of the Houston Rockets bench. With the team's injuries up front, you would think this would be the best chance for D-Mo to make an impact.
Greg Smith has been battling a knee injury, while Omer Asik has alternated from being injured to being on the trading block all season. The Turkish big man has been dealing with a thigh injury after spending the brunt of last week as the subject of trade talks.
Surprisingly, the losses of Smith and Asik haven't provoked Houston to use the only other center on the roster not named Dwight Howard. Terrence Jones has been playing the dual role of starting power forward and backup center. The team has also utilized smaller lineups with Chandler Parsons or Omri Casspi at the 4.
That decision has to be a huge blow to Motiejunas' confidence. It's one thing to be stuck on the bench behind two good big men in Howard and Asik, but to not get your number called when there's nobody else left is another thing.
The 23-year-old Lithuanian is averaging just 7.1 minutes per game and has played all of eight minutes combined in the team's last five contests. He hasn't logged double-digit minutes since Dec. 6, when he dropped nine points and three rebounds in 13 minutes on the Golden State Warriors.
While small ball has been Houston's bread and butter for quite some time, the team would benefit from using this opportunity to develop D-Mo. Even when Asik is healthy again, his days in Houston are probably numbered.
Meanwhile, Motiejunas is a strong seven-footer with uncanny quickness and a sneaky outside jumper. Giving him some playing time would give Houston a different look while keeping Jones and Howard from getting burned out.
Reggie Evans, PF, Brooklyn Nets
Like Donatas Motiejunas, Brooklyn's Reggie Evans is another big man you would expect to benefit from an injury-depleted frontcourt. The New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy reported earlier in the week that center Brook Lopez is out for the season with a fractured metatarsal bone in his foot.
That should open the door for the burly Evans to get some minutes at center, right?
Prior to logging 20 minutes against Chicago on Christmas, Evans had found playing time scarce in recent weeks. Coming into the clash with the Bulls, he hadn't played a second in the showdowns with Philadelphia and Indiana (the latter of which came after the Lopez injury).
In fact, Evans has played a total of 63 minutes in all of December thus far.
The knocks on Evans are obvious. He's limited offensively, and at 6'8", he doesn't have the ideal height to play center. His defense is also a little suspect.
However, there aren't many guys who are better at using their frames to own the glass. The 33-year-old averaged 11.1 rebounds per game last season as one of the key members of Brooklyn's second unit. He pulled down 13 boards in the aforementioned battle with the Bulls.
Given the Nets' inconsistency all season, it's hard to read much into Evans' big minutes against Chicago. Is this a sign of things to come, or will Evans fade into obscurity again?
Given Brooklyn's need for someone in the paint, let's hope it's the former instead of the latter.
Anthony Bennett, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers raised a few eyebrows on draft day when they used the No. 1 overall pick on explosive forward Anthony Bennett. For all of Bennett's athletic prowess, there were some glaring weaknesses as well.
First, Bennett was coming off rotator cuff surgery and has struggled staying in shape (according to Yahoo! Sports' Kelly Dwyer). Second, at 6'8" and nearly 260 pounds, the former UNLV standout was a bit of a 'tweener. He was a little undersized to play power forward while also causing concern over whether he could guard small forwards.
Twenty-one games into his rookie season, Bennett has received the early distinction of being the worst No. 1 overall pick in the last 20 years, according to ESPN's Chad Ford, via The Plain Dealer's Jodie Valade:
It's very early...but right now, [Bennett] is looking like the worst in the past 20 years. That includes Greg Oden. Oden was injured all the time, but when he played, he at least looked like a No. 1 pick.
With all due respect to Mr. Ford, Bennett should have the benefit of the doubt. For one, he's a 20-year-old without a clear-cut role or position. He's buried on a depth chart that includes Tristan Thompson at the 4 as well as Alonzo Gee and Earl Clark at the 3.
Currently, he's averaging 2.4 points and two rebounds per game while playing just 10.2 minutes a night. No rookie, especially one as raw as Bennett, is going to look like a world beater in limited playing time. As big of a bust as Oden was, he still managed over 20 minutes a game in two seasons with Portland.
The Cavs can't expect Bennett to grow from the bench. There's only so much you can learn about basketball from watching on the sidelines. At 10-17, the best move for Cleveland is to unleash its top overall pick and see what it has.
It might not be pretty, but it can't possibly be worse than these first two months.