Future NBA Studs Stuck on Awful Teams
A certain grouping of the NBA's future stars are stuck toiling away on failing franchises right now.
A likely unfixable problem with the NBA's draft is that the top collegiate players often wind up on the worst current pro teams. However, that hasn't stopped others from standing out and shining bright among the scrap heap of floundering teams.
It has been a rough year for many young studs, with the lone benefits being their paycheck and the opportunity to be showcased.
These players won't turn their franchises around by themselves, as no one in the league can do that on their own. However, they represent hope to their respective fanbases. They are a beacon of hopefully good things to come and are sometimes the only reason tickets are bought and remote controls are tuned to games.
Don't sleep on these young players, but don't rush to the conclusion that they are future studs yet either.
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
A highly-touted No. 7 overall pick this past summer, McLemore has been average for Sacramento. He has had flashes of substance and is averaging 7.7 points per game, but until that field-goal percentage gets up over 40 percent, he can't be taken too seriously.
McLemore is shooting a dreadful 36.4 percent from the field, which means he might not be playing as much for a team that wasn't 22-41 on the year.
Brian Roberts, New Orleans Hornets
Roberts has been somewhat of a savior for the eyes of Hornets fans. Coming from nothing, he has a great story about his journey to the NBA. Unfortunately, Roberts is already 28 years old, so there isn't a ton of time for him to develop further than he already has in his two NBA seasons.
Roberts is averaging nine points and 3.1 assists in 22.3 minutes per game and has shot the lights out for much of the year.
Evan Fournier, Denver Nuggets
Fournier has show glimpses of potential in both his first and second NBA seasons. A talented shooter from all over the floor, the makings are there for a bigger role. However, the Nuggets continue to be not that bad, sitting nine games below .500 in the Western Conference.
Fournier is stuck with only 18.3 minutes per game. He averages 7.7 points right now.
Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
Michael Carter-Williams had the somewhat unfortunate luck of being drafted by a team trying hard to sink.
He wasn't drafted in the top few picks, but still managed to find himself on one of the league's most dreadful teams with the Philadelphia 76ers grabbing him at No. 11.
The already below-average team has since been decimated by the selling of most of his best teammates and now sits at 15-48 on the year.
However, Carter-Williams is still the league's front-runner for Rookie of the Year thanks to his flashy style and all-around game. He is averaging 16.9 points, 6.3 assists, 5.5 rebounds and two steals per game. When those are the kind of numbers you're putting up as a rookie, it is easier to overlook things like his 39.5/27.2/69.9 shooting clips.
There are obvious improvements Carter-Williams will have to make if the 76ers are to be successful as a franchise. However, if all this losing doesn't permanently scar him, he will be an NBA stud in the not-so-distant future.
Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
Also in the Rookie of the Year running is Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo.
Playing for the 19-46 Magic, Oladipo has been getting 31.8 minutes per game and played in 63 of a possible 65 games this year.
Oladipo better illustrates how the draft places elite prospects on poor teams, as he was the No. 2 pick last summer.
While he doesn't have the breathtaking length and size of Michael Carter-Williams, Oladipo is a physical presence on the floor at 6'4" and 215 lbs. He is also having a better shooting year while putting up 13.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, four assists and 1.6 steals per game.
The Magic may not be that far away from being a good team, and hitting on Oladipo is a big reason why. If he is complemented by another piece in this summer's draft, Orlando will have the makings of a true playoff team.
Alec Burks, Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz had very little intentions on winning this season, which is a disappointing outlook for fans to start the year.
However, it has presented players like Alec Burks, and to a lesser extent Trey Burke, with the opportunity to stand out as individuals.
For Burks, it has been a few years of slogging through crowded backcourts with bigger names on teams fighting for a playoff spot. Now, the electric combo guard with a lot of size and athleticism is getting a chance to shine.
At 6'6", Burks is putting up 13.8 points per game, while holding to 44.8/35.7/74.4 shooting clips. What is great to see, and possibly illustrative of his future, is that those percentages are in line with his career numbers, only with an increase of about 10 minutes per game.
The 12th overall pick back in 2011, Burks has taken some time to mature and start visualizing his potential. However, the player is still just 22 and has a lot of years left. He is under contract next year, and will hope to keep this upward trend going to assure himself an extension after that.
Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks
Standing out amidst the cash fire that is the New York Knicks this season has been no easy task. Even Carmelo Anthony has struggled to maintain his individual standing in the league while playing for this team.
The Knicks have won four straight to get to 15 games under .500, sitting at 25-40, 3.5 games out of a fairly meaningless playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
However, Tim Hardaway Jr. has avoided much of the scorn that has accompanied wearing an orange and blue jersey on a nightly basis.
Much of that has to do with Hardaway's style, which includes a lot of three-pointers and dunks. He is averaging just 9.8 points in 22.7 minutes per game, but on any given night, those threes fall and he can go off. Just recently, Hardaway poured in 28 points in 29 minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Hardaway has also avoided a ton of the pressure guys like Otto Porter and Anthony Bennett are dealing with simply by not being a top draft pick. Going at No. 24 last summer should have allowed Hardaway the opportunity to play for a contender. However, it has still afforded him the opportunity to stand out, albeit on a very rocky boat.
Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics
With Jared Sullinger averaging less than 20 minutes in just 45 games last season, this year was something like a second rookie season.
After suffering a season-ending back injury last year, Sullinger came into the year nearing full health. It wasn't long until he earned Brad Stevens' trust and found his way into the starting lineup. There he has stayed since and been occasionally dominant for the poor Boston Celtics.
Boston, like the Philadelphia 76ers, made their intentions known last summer when they sent three of their most important pieces away for a host of draft picks and filler. What that did do was open up a spot for Sullinger to shine.
Now, the stocky power forward is averaging 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game and has played in 58 of a possibly 63 games. Both his health and numbers are indicative of good things to come for Sullinger.
The number of assets Boston has acquired recently will certainly help the franchise move forward and back into relevancy, but Sullinger may be even more responsible for that shift with his individual play.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The league's worst current team, sitting at 13-50 on the year, may have one of its most fascinating players.
Milwaukee Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo isn't getting a ton of playing time, but what he has done with it has been very impressive. In short bursts, the incredibly athletic and scarily long Greek has shown flashes of what could become an incredible two-way player.
His length has led to some great chase-down blocks and general frustration for the opposition at the defensive end.
In 24.3 minutes per game, he is averaging seven points and 4.4 rebounds per game. While those aren't eye-popping numbers like a Michael Carter-Williams is posting, Antetokounmpo's potential can't be denied.
At just 19 years old, he could very well be a future stud in the NBA and the key to turning around the miserable Bucks.
Kendall Marshall, Los Angeles Lakers
Kendall Marshall has been a lot of places since being drafted 13th overall in 2012. He bounced around just looking to earn an opportunity somewhere.
The 22-42 Los Angeles Lakers are the first NBA team to give him an extended look, and they have to be pleased with the results.
Due to a decimating amount of injuries, particularly to their backcourt, the Lakers have been starting Marshall and giving him 30.2 minutes per game. In that time he is averaging 8.5 points, 9.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds.
He has racked up 12 double-doubles this season, including a string of five straight in mid-January.
Marshall will turn 23 this summer and may have to compete with some bigger names for a job next season. However, he has a non-guaranteed 2014-15 contract from Los Angeles for $915,000, which shouldn't be too much of a burden to pick up.
Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
Giving Trey Burke his own spot on this list is a tough overall sell. That 37.4 percent field-goal clip is very distracting.
However, with all Burke is being asked to do for the Utah Jazz as a 21-year-old rookie who kick-started his NBA career with a broken finger, he has been impressive.
Playing 31.1 minutes per game as the starting point guard, Burke has revealed all the traits that made him one of the nation's top collegiate players last year. He has had a strong influence on Utah's offense and developed key relationships with other young Jazz players.
Burke is averaging 12.4 points and 5.4 assists per game and hitting a respectable 33.6 percent of his three-point attempts. There are spots for improvement, for sure. The overall field-goal percentage is still abysmal and he should try to get to the line more.
However, playing for the bottoming-out Jazz, Burke is being handed the keys and allowed fairly free reign over the team. Bumps and hiccups are expected and accepted by Utah.