First-Round Draft Picks Seeing Limited Minutes

We're familiar with the stories of Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and others from the first round of the 2012 draft who've made significant contributions to their teams this season. Less well-known is what's happened to the five first-rounders who entered tonight having seen fewer than 100 total minutes all year.

The list is a little shorter than it was going into Wednesday, when the Rockets gave 18th overall pick Terrence Jones 29 minutes worth of run in a win against the Kings, pushing his total for the season to 120 minutes. The team had been pleased with Jones' most recent work in the D-League, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, and Jones responded with 14 points and 12 rebounds against Sacramento (Twitter links). Still, Jones had 12 points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes against the Jazz on November 19th and was in the D-League 11 days later, so we'll see what happens this time.

Other teams, particularly those whose playoff fates have been determined, may also start giving minutes to their little-used rookies during the season's final two weeks. Yet even though the rookie-scale contracts that first-round picks must sign to enter the league are some of the most team-friendly pacts in the NBA, it's hard to argue the clubs that drafted these five players are getting their money's worth this year:

  • Royce White, Rockets (No. 16 pick, zero NBA minutes): Most of the guys on this list have been out of the spotlight, but White's back-and-forth with the Rockets over their handling of his psychological ailments has been one of the most well-documented stories in the NBA this season. It's unclear how long White will remain with the team's D-League affiliate, but so far he hasn't been impressive for the Vipers, averaging 10.1 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 25.1 minutes across 14 games.
  • Fab Melo, Celtics (No. 22 pick, 19 NBA minutes): Melo has spent most of the season with Boston's D-League affiliate, appearing in just five NBA contests. His offensive game clearly could use improvement, as he's put up just 9.9 PPG in 26.5 minutes per game for the Maine Red Claws, and the center's work on the boards benefit from an upgrade, too, since he's only pulling down six rebounds per night at the D-League level. Still, the 7'0" Melo has shown a knack for protecting the basket, blocking 3.3 shots per game for the Red Claws.
  • Jared Cunningham, Mavericks (No. 24 pick, 26 NBA minutes): Cunningham is out for the season with tendinitis in his right knee, and hasn't played at any level since a February 13th game for the D-League's Texas Legends. The 6'4" shooting guard only saw action in 15 D-League games before the injury, averaging 15.3 PPG in 34.5 minutes per contest. Cunningham has been outperformed by second-round picks Jae Crowder and Bernard James, both of whom have spent time in the Mavs' rotation.
  • Miles Plumlee, Pacers (No. 26 pick, 46 NBA minutes): Plumlee has appeared in 12 games for the Pacers this year, but no stint lasted as long as six minutes, and none of the games he entered were decided by fewer than 10 points. He's shown a knack for rebounding in 15 D-League games, averaging 10.2 RPG in 30.5 minutes per contest for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and he's totaled 20 rebounds in his limited time on NBA courts — a small sample size, to be sure, but enough to pique curiousity about what he could do if the Pacers gave him more exposure.
  • Jeremy Lamb, Thunder (No. 12 pick, 93 NBA minutes): The only lottery pick on this list, Lamb found himself in a tough place to earn playing time after the James Harden trade sent him to Oklahoma City. The Thunder have taken advantage of their proximity to their wholly owned D-League affiliate in Tulsa, cycling Lamb and others back and forth throughout the season. In 20 games across seven D-League stints this season, Lamb is averaging 21.4 PPG and 5.2 RPG.  

Five more players have seen fewer than 500 minutes this season, though predictably they were all picked late in the first round:

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