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.
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