The Sixers have been focused on the future at the expense of the present from the moment GM Sam Hinkie took control in the spring of 2013, and this season is yet another example of the philosophy. Five Sixers, representing one-third of the opening-night roster, had never played an NBA regular season game before this season tipped off. That’s more rookies than any other team in the league, though in a practical sense, only four of them will be seeing any action this season, since Joel Embiid remains sidelined. Still, it illustrates just how much more tomorrow counts compared to today as far as Philadelphia is concerned.
It’s tough to make such a conclusion about the team with the next greatest number of rookies, however. Kobe Bryant, at 37 years old, isn’t about to cede the spotlight, even though the Lakers have four first-year players. Julius Randle, were it not for the appearance he made on opening night last year before his season-ending injury, would be the fifth. The purple-and-gold are clearly preparing for a post-Kobe future, even if their longtime star is still very much a part of the team and leads all Lakers in shot attempts so far this season.
The Pelicans clearly have an eye on the future, with Anthony Davis having signed a new five-year extension this summer, but they’re the only team in the NBA without a rookie. That’s cold comfort for injury-plagued New Orleans, which has the same 0-6 record as the Sixers do.
Nearly half the teams in the NBA have a pair of rookies, which makes sense, since that matches the number of rounds in the draft. Still, not every team among the 14 that have two rookies is simply carrying its 2015 draftees. Bucks rookie Damien Inglis was a 2014 draftee, but injury kept him from playing last season. He, like Embiid and Willie Reed of the Nets, have been under contract with NBA teams during the regular season in years past, so technically they have multiple years of service, but they had yet to appear in a regular season game before opening night this year.
Here’s a look at the rookies on each NBA team:
- Celtics — R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey, Terry Rozier
- Jazz — Trey Lyles, Raul Neto, Tibor Pleiss
- Nets — Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough, Willie Reed
- Pacers — Rakeem Christmas, Myles Turner, Joe Young
- Timberwolves — Nemanja Bjelica, Tyus Jones, Karl-Anthony Towns
- Trail Blazers — Cliff Alexander, Pat Connaughton, Luis Montero
- Bucks — Damien Inglis, Rashad Vaughn
- Bulls — Cristiano Felicio, Bobby Portis
- Hawks — Lamar Patterson, Edy Tavares
- Heat — Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow
- Hornets — Aaron Harrison, Frank Kaminsky
- Kings — Willie Cauley-Stein, Duje Dukan
- Knicks — Jerian Grant, Kristaps Porzingis
- Mavericks — Justin Anderson, Salah Mejri
- Nuggets — Nikola Jokic, Emmanuel Mudiay
- Pistons — Darrun Hilliard, Stanley Johnson
- Raptors — Norman Powell, Delon Wright
- Rockets — Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell
- Spurs — Boban Marjanovic, Jonathon Simmons
- Thunder — Josh Huestis, Cameron Payne
- Cavaliers — Sasha Kaun
- Clippers — Branden Dawson
- Grizzlies — Jarell Martin
- Magic — Mario Hezonja
- Suns — Devin Booker
- Warriors — Kevon Looney
- Wizards — Kelly Oubre