6 2014 NBA Draft Picks Likeliest to Get Major Minutes Right Away
A slew of 2014 NBA draft picks will make some sort of impact this upcoming season, but only a select few will see major playing time.
We're talking about studs who are likely to play 25 minutes or more every night as part of their team's starting lineup.
A couple of these elite newcomers are simply good enough to hang in the NBA right away. In other cases, their clubs hardly have a choice roster-wise. They're forced to groom young prospects by feeding them to the wolves on a nightly basis.
Which draftees will log extensive minutes upon entering the league? Find out as we break down the top candidates.
Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls SF
Drafted: No. 11 (via Denver)
2014-15 MPG: 22-25
The possible arrival of Carmelo Anthony could change these projections, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, Doug McDermott is poised to get big minutes for the Chicago Bulls at small forward.
Tom Thibodeau and Co. needed to add shooting production prior to the 2014-15 season, and they acquired a whole bunch of it by drafting the 6'7" Creighton senior.
Unlike many of his 2014 draft peers who are still ironing out their strokes and expanding their range, McDermott is ready to catapult from deep immediately. He shot a blistering 46 percent from beyond the arc during his collegiate career, including 49 percent in his sophomore and junior campaigns. He can confidently and consistently connect from deep range.
Even though he'll be a role player in Chi-town, he's more than just a spot-up shooter. He will create scoring opportunities off cuts and drives, and he has some of the best inside-out footwork you'll find in an NBA newcomer.
The Bulls will minimize his athletic weakness and maximize his defensive ability within their system, thereby justifying substantial playing time.
Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings SG
Drafted: No. 8
2014-15 MPG: 24-30
We won't be far along into the 2014-15 season before Nik Stauskas really earns himself a major role on the Sacramento Kings.
He's simply an upgrade over Ben McLemore in two key categories: shooting and facilitating.
It's not meant as a knock on McLemore, who still could enjoy a bright future as a slash-and-shoot weapon. Rather, it's a statement of how good Stauskas is and how much the Kings need him.
Sac-town finished in the bottom five of the NBA in three-point makes, three-point percentage and assists. Stauskas believes he can help out in each of those areas, as he told reporters:
I know this team has kind of struggled trying to shoot the ball and obviously that’s probably the best part of my game to this point. A lot of times, I would draw attention and that would lead to me kicking for open threes or dunks for our bigs. (At Michigan) we kind of operate only through ball screens so I got a chance to do that a lot this year...And I feel like that’s why I’m pretty confident I can play a little point guard at the next level.
We're predicting Stauskas will quickly garner an important place on the Kings and see close to 30 minutes of playing time per contest.
Dante Exum, Utah Jazz G
Drafted: No. 5
2014-15 MPG: 25-32
Dante Exum will share time at the 2-guard spot with Alec Burks, and he will likely rank behind Trey Burke in the point guard pecking order. But don't worry, he'll get plenty of playing time due to his versatility.
In fact, the Australian youngster's special blend of length and skill is a desired commodity, especially if he quickly grasps the NBA style of play.
Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune explained Exum's value:
He has the size and the versatility to play both spots in the backcourt, so transitioning in with Burke and Burks isn’t thought to be an issue. Exum’s ability to drive the lane and pass the ball will make him valuable in coach Quin Snyder’s offensive scheme. Snyder said the Jazz want to eventually play basketball without defined positions. Last year, Utah had precious few guys who could make plays off the dribble. In that sense, Exum fills a huge need.
Assuming that Exum has made notable, if not significant improvement on his jump shot, he should be one of the most dynamic young guards in the league. He's a flat-out playmaker with scoring instincts and unselfishness.
It's hard to keep pieces like that off the court, even if they're the least-experienced players on the squad.
Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers PF
Drafted: No. 7
2014-15 MPG: 26-33
As long as his foot holds up and it doesn't suddenly require surgery, Julius Randle should get the lion's share of minutes at power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers.
On June 30, general manager Mitch Kupchak told ESPN's Dave McMenamin that he doesn't expect surgery at this point. It looks like the 6'9" youngster will be able to enter training camp in good health.
The Lakers drafted the Kentucky star to be the power forward of the future, and his on-the-job training starts immediately. He certainly has the hard-working mentality and strong playing style to shoulder substantial responsibilities early in his career.
Randle has some polishing to do as a creator and shot-maker, but it's best for him to see big minutes right away and play with Kobe Bryant. He'll get a feel for NBA spacing, defensive positioning and the Lakers offense. Consequently, he will be better-prepared for 2015-16, when L.A. can actually make some noise in the Western Conference.
It might not always be pretty for Randle in 2014-15, but he's up to the challenge.
Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland Cavaliers SG/SF
Drafted: No. 1
2014-15 MPG: 30-33
Although he's not as polished or prepared as Milwaukee Bucks counterpart Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins will still see heavy minutes on the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014-15.
There is some pressure on Wiggins to produce, but he won't have to carry the team. Kyrie Irving is still the clear-cut leader of the club, and pieces like Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson are expected to share the workload.
Canada's favorite phenom will make contributions as a slasher, off-ball cutter and intermittent shooter. And most importantly, he'll use his quickness and length to serve as a valuable defender right out of the gate.
"He will influence the game more on the defensive end as a rookie," said ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi.
While he won't have a rookie year for the ages, he'll get lots of opportunities to grow. The Cavs want to groom their future wing cornerstone, and his two-way impact already begs for playing time.
Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks F
Drafted: No. 2
2014-15 MPG: 30-35
If any 2014 rookie is guaranteed to get abundant playing time, it's Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker.
The franchise has been thirsting for a star scorer of his pedigree for years, so Jason Kidd and Co. will waste no time in showcasing his talents.
At Duke, he delivered a dazzling onslaught of interior scoring and polished perimeter play. He proved that he was ready to take the next step and challenge NBA opponents rather than dominate in college for another year.
The Bucks are getting much more than a talented player, though. Between the ears, Parker is not your average one-and-done standout. This past spring, Denver Nuggets manager of basketball analytics Tommy Balcetis told B/R National NBA Columnist Adam Fromal that Duke's fabulous freshman is mentally ready to compete in the Association:
"All that talent can go out the window if you don't have the right mentality, and I feel like he has the right mentality. He seems to be extremely well-spoken, understands the value of hard work."
From day one, he'll be a go-to scorer and much-needed leader.
Dan O'Brien covers the NBA draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: