Sometimes the only thing guaranteed about the NBA is the guaranteed contracts players sign during free agency. Things such as role, playing time, importance to the team, etc. can all seemingly change at the drop of a dime.
Today we’ll take a look at seven guys who, as we approach the season’s three-week mark, are currently spending much more time on the bench than they have in recent years. For some, it could mean the beginning of being the odd man out while others are simply trying to adjust to a new system.
Let’s take a look at the guys riding the pine more than usual:
Kenneth Faried, Forward, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are overflowing with young, talented big men and Faried’s minutes have started to decline as those guys have taken on larger roles. To be fair, despite the reduced playing time, Faried is currently averaging 13.6 rebounds Per 36 minutes – which is by far the highest in his six-year career.
Greg Monroe, Center, Milwaukee Bucks
You’ll have to go back to Monroe’s rookie campaign, in 2011, to find a time when the big man put up less than 10.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. It’s no secret Monroe’s tenure in Milwaukee has been filled with inconsistency and trade rumors, which ultimately cost the big man his role in the starting lineup last season – a role he’s been unable to reclaim since.
Enes Kanter, Center, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kanter’s Per 36 minute points per game average over the past three seasons is well over 20. However, the big man has been unable to secure a larger role in the Thunder’s nightly rotation. Part of this is due to the presence of hard-nosed center Steven Adams and a lot of it is due to Kanter’s lack of defensive ability. But still, the Thunder are paying Kanter over $16 million annually and he’s currently receiving less than 20 minutes of court time.
Jahlil Okafor, Center, Philadelphia 76ers
Okafor flirted with the Rookie of the Year award last season and seemed to be one of the Sixers’ building blocks. But with the emergence of center Joel Embiid and the selection of Ben Simmons with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, there have been rumors about Okafor possibly being involved in a trade to clear up the logjam in Philly.
Zach Randolph, Forward, Memphis Grizzlies
At the current rate, Randolph will be in the mix for Sixth Man of the Year this season. However, his reduction of playing time also signals how much the league has evolved since he was considered the Grizzlies’ franchise player.
Willie Cauley-Stein, Forward-Center, Sacramento Kings
Cauley-Stein was a regular in departed head coach George Karl’s lineup as a rookie last season, but the transition to Dave Joerger’s system hasn’t been as smooth early on. The sophomore jinx may be in play here for Cauley-Stein, whose name has recently surfaced in trade rumors.
Jordan Hill, Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves
The T’Wolves are undoubtedly second-year center Karl-Anthony Towns’ team, so Hill wasn’t expected to play heavy minutes. However, double-digit minutes were expected for a guy who started 68 games the past two seasons – especially on a young squad needing veteran leadership.
The season is still very early, but these situations are worth watching. Next week we’ll take a look at some guys that are far exceeding their minutes from previous seasons. Stay tuned.
Andrew Bogut was Bitter, At First, After Trade to Dallas
The Golden State Warriors have dominated the league the past two seasons, reaching the NBA Finals in both campaigns and snagging a championship in 2015. Last year’s unit missed out on a repeat title performance after giving up a 3-1 lead and losing in Game 7 of the Finals on their home court.
Over the summer, the Warriors made wholesale changes in order to accommodate the arrival of former league MVP Kevin Durant via free agency. Role players on those previously successful teams such as Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Harrison Barnes, Brandon Rush, Leandro Barbosa and Marreese Speights are now donning new uniforms.
Bogut was traded by Golden State to the Mavericks in order to help create the cap room needed to sign Durant. Bogut spent four seasons with the Warriors as their starting center and
“I mean there’s no doubt it’s disappointing to leave one of the best teams — record-wise, those last two years. … You leave a team like that and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bogut told USA Today. “It was bitter in a way. I wasn’t mad at anybody about it. I understood it completely. I’m not stupid.
“But yeah, you’re disappointed leaving guys who you battled for a championship with, and guys where everyone understood their role and it was just fun to play and be a part of that team because every day you came into work and everyone kind of knew their role and accepted it. It was just cool to be part of that every day. It was just automatic. You didn’t have to do any extra [expletive]. That was probably the [most fun] part of it, was it was just so automatic for two years.”
Through six contests with Dallas, Bogut is averaging 10.8 rebounds, which is the most he’s posted since 2011. The veteran center is also averaging 26 minutes per game, after two seasons of averaging less than 25 per night.
Bogut missed Games 6 and 7 of last season’s Finals due to bone bruises in his knee and many link the Cleveland Cavaliers’ epic comeback in the series to his absence. There are times when Bogut believes the gang would still be intact if they were able to win the title this past June.
“I think so,” Bogut said. “I mean like I said, I think the move was to go a lot more long term, but we went to (seven) games in the NBA Finals … up 3-1, we’re a couple of minutes away (from winning it all) in Game 6 and Kyrie (Irving) hits a hell of a shot in Game 7. That’s the way it goes. But (the Cavs) were on the same side the year before.
“We (the Warriors) peaked pretty quickly. For us to go from the second round (of the playoffs in 2013) to first-round elimination (in 2014) and (Warriors coach Steve) Kerr comes in and wins a championship, nobody expected that. People thought it was going to be (the Warriors) having your battles, maybe go second round, then conference finals and lose. But we got there. That’s sport, man. They saw a vision where they wanted to get one of the best players in the world (in Durant), and they already had the best player in the world, and that’s the way it goes.”
Bogut is averaging 3.7 points and 10.8 rebounds in 26 minutes of action for the Mavericks through six contests.
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN
NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener
Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.
“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”
That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.
While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.
Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.
While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.
Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).
While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.
Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.
Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).
“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”
Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.
Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.
“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.
For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.
“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”
Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.
The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.
Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics
Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.
Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.
Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.
In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.
Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.
“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.
“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”
The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.
“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.
“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”
Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.
“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”
The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.
“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”
Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.
“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.
“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”
Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.
“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.
“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”
While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.
“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.
“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”
Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.
Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.
Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.
“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.
“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”
You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.
Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.
“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?
“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”
Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.
“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”