2013 First-Rounders Struggling For Playing Time

Anthony Bennett has been historically unproductive this season for the Cavaliers, whose surprise decision to draft the UNLV forward first overall this past June is looking increasingly worse. He’s bounced between small forward and power forward, averaging 10.4 minutes per game. The native of Canada went 0-for-15 over his first four games and is shooting a miserable 26.9% for the season, leading to calls for the Cavaliers to send him on assignment to the D-League.

He clearly has the highest profile of all of the 2013 first-round picks who are struggling to make their marks, and while his playing time is limited, he’s logging more minutes per game than seven other first-rounders from this past June. Technically, there are 10 other first-rounders, though it’s not really fair to count Nerlens Noel, who’s been out all season rehabbing a torn ACL, and Lucas Nogueira and Livio Jean-Charles, who signed with overseas teams. None of those three have begun their NBA careers.

Bennett and the rest of the underperforming first-round picks probably wish they could go back and get a fresh start to NBA life themselves. Here’s each 2013 first-rounder averaging fewer MPG than Bennett so far, sorted by the amount of playing time they’ve seen:

  • 14. Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves (3.8 MPG) — The last pick of the lottery is seeing the sort of playing time usually reserved for second-rounders and undrafted signees. He just returned from an eight-day D-League assignment, where he averaged 24.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest.
  • 21. Gorgui Dieng, Timberwolves (5.3 MPG) — The former Louisville center has been spared a D-League assignment, unlike the other 2013 first-rounder on his team, but he’s hit the court only slightly more often than Muhammad. The draft-night trade that sent Rookie of the Year candidate Trey Burke to Utah for Dieng and Muhammad is looking like an unfortunate one for Flip Saunders and Minnesota.
  • 30. Nemanja Nedovic, Warriors (6.4 MPG) — It’s no surprise to see the final pick of the first round on this list, as Golden State apparently isn’t confident he can solve its backup point guard dilemma.
  • 5. Alex Len, Suns (6.8 MPG) — Injury has helped keep the center’s playing time to a minimum, as he’s appeared in just nine games so far. The emergence of Miles Plumlee has made it tough for even a healthy Len to find minutes, though perhaps he could work his way into the rotation if the Suns trade Channing Frye.
  • 19. Sergey Karasev, Cavaliers (8.1 MPG) — It wouldn’t have taken much for the rookie to stake a claim to the starting small forward spot in Cleveland, but he couldn’t beat out any of the team’s other subpar options prior to the Luol Deng trade. Karasev has averaged 14.7 points per game during a pair of D-League assignments.
  • 26. Andre Roberson, Thunder (8.7 MPG) — His minutes have been up and down, and though he’s made four starts, all of which were victories for Oklahoma City, Roberson made his second trip to the D-League last week.
  • 23. Solomon Hill, Pacers (9.0 MPG) — The small forward expressed his displeasure with his D-League assignment, and the team probably won’t send him down again, even though he’s appeared in only four NBA games since the start of December.
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