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These NBA rookies Need More Playing Time

Jonathan Kim

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Some NBA rookies need to be eased in, but there are five from the 2018 draft class who aren’t getting enough minutes.

They’ve performed well in limited action and deserve more time to play through mistakes.

Though it’s still mostly about their long-term potential, these rookies can contribute now. They’d also benefit developmentally from additional reps.

 

Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks

It’s understandable why coach Lloyd Pierce has taken it slowly with Kevin Huerter, who missed summer league, saw limited preseason action and checks in at 6’7″, 190 pounds. But now it’s time to set him free based on the comfort level he’s demonstrated early.

One of the draft’s top shooters out of Maryland, Huerter continues to look convincing from behind the arc, having hit 11 of his first 31 threes with a quick, effortless release. And though shooting has been identified as his signature, go-to skill, Huerter’s mix of ball-handling ability and vision translates to valuable secondary playmaking.

He averaged 3.4 assists last year at Maryland, and he’s dished out at least three assists in each of the four games he’s logged 20-plus minutes.

Given the fact that Atlanta is rebuilding and he’s a key piece moving forward, the time is now to let Huerter build confidence.

Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets

Coach James Borrego has gone with his veterans over Miles Bridges, who’s averaging 20.6 minutes per game. He should start stealing some time from Nicolas Batum (32.0 minutes) and Marvin Williams (22.9 minutes).

Bridges gives Charlotte’s lineup some pop of explosiveness, shot-making, and energy.

He’s shooting 67.5 percent inside the arc and 78.1 percent inside 10 feet. In fact, 75 percent of his offense has come off one dribble or less, which suggests he’s sticking to his role off the ball and capitalizing on quality opportunities without forcing.

His versatility also makes him easy to play. A combo forward for his shooting, quickness, and strength, Bridges could even work in short stretches playing the 5 in a smaller lineup.

Charlotte has competed with the same group of frontcourt veterans (Batum, Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller) for years, and though each is serviceable, something always seems to be missing.

Bridges is an obvious building block long term. Based on what he’s shown when given a chance, it’s worth throwing him into the rotation full time now.

 

Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns

Finding Mikal Bridges minutes is challenging with Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Trevor Ariza and TJ Warren on the roster. But the Phoenix Suns must involve the No. 10 pick, who they acquired by trading a future unprotected first-rounder.

He gives the lineup a disciplined, versatile defender capable of matching up with guards, wings and forwards. He’s also making 1.1 threes in limited action, working mostly as an off-ball, spot-up threat. Compared to Jackson, he’s the better fit for Booker and Deandre Ayton, given Bridges’ shooting and ability to score without needing dribbles.

He came alive earlier in the month against the Memphis Grizzlies when he finished with 14 points on 4-of-5 from three. It wouldn’t be surprising if Bridges knocks Jackson, 2017’s No. 4 pick, out of Phoenix’s rotation.

 

Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma City Thunder

Coach Billy Donovan hasn’t given Hamidou Diallo much of a chance despite Alex Abrines and Terrance Ferguson both shooting below 37 percent from the field.

After a strong summer league and promising flashes during preseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s (first) second-round pick put together some quality stretches over the past month. He’s shooting 45.1 percent in 12.8 minutes per game, and that’s while only making 11.1 percent of his catch-and-shoot opportunities.

He’d presumably hit more if given enough minutes to build some rhythm. Regardless, Diallo makes plays with his explosive athleticism, and he’ll need the reps to continue sharpening and expanding his shot creation, shooting and defensive IQ.

 

Mohamed Bamba, Orlando Magic

The No. 6 pick in the draft, Mohamed Bamba ranks No. 14 in minutes per game among rookies.

Nikola Vucevic makes it difficult for coach Steve Clifford, but maybe it’s time that management explores the possibility of moving its starting center.

Bamba’s development should be the priority, and he’s been effective in limited action, shooting 53.8 percent from the floor and blocking 1.7 shots per game.

However, he hasn’t even converted a post up yet, and it’s also clear he plans on making the three-point shot part of his arsenal since he’s already attempted 24.

Bamba needs reps, and with Orlando not realistically expected to compete for a playoff spot, the team should find more than 19.2 minutes per game for its anchor of the future.

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These NBA rookies Need More Playing Time