The NBA can be a weird place, a place where seemingly bad players actually play a lot of minutes. Over the years, many suspect decisions have been made by coaches to give certain players runs when they probably didn’t deserve it. There can be a variety of reasons for this phenomenon to occur. The player could be a youngster that was drafted high and thus management has mandated that he see the floor more than he deserves in order to give him experience. Sometimes coaches have a pet player that they latch onto for unknown and occasionally baffling reasons. At times a player can ride the coattails of strong performances earlier in his career.
Whatever the cause, there is no denying that some NBA players spend more time on the court than they should. It’s often detrimental to their team and must be frustrating for teammates that could be more productive. Plenty of players deserve their playing time and some big minutes. For example, James Harden led the league in minutes per game (MPG) in 2015-16, but he’s one of the most gifted offensive weapons in the NBA. That makes sense, but some MPG numbers simply do not. Here are 15 NBA players that get WAY too much court time:
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15 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Detroit Pistons (36.7 MPG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was fourth in the entire National Basketball Association in MPG in 2015-16. I’ll type that again. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was fourth in the entire National Basketball Association in MPG in 2015-16.
It may be hard to believe, but it’s the truth. Caldwell-Pope played more minutes than Kevin Durant. A big reason for this was the lack of depth at shooting guard in Detroit, but more than 36 MPG is a bit ridiculous. Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy seems to have a thing for Caldwell-Pope, though he’s a pretty mediocre player. Detroit was able to make the playoffs last season, so something had to be working, but Caldwell-Pope simply is not a player that should be in the top five in the league in MPG. In fact, he probably shouldn’t be in the top 50.
14 Monta Ellis, SG, Indiana Pacers (33.8 MPG)
Monta Ellis was a big-time scorer at one point. When he was with Golden State, Ellis posted at least 19 PPG for five straight seasons and even topped 25 points per game in 2009-10.
That was quite a while ago, though, and Ellis simply is not that player anymore. Last season he posted respectable averages of 13.8 PPG and 4.7 APG, but that does not merit a top 30 MPG average. The Pacers did not have a huge dearth at the two spot last season either, making this development all the more confusing.
With solid options like Rodney Stuckey and CJ Miles also on the roster, it’s clear that Ellis could have played less. Frank Vogel, the coach that made these decisions, was fired. Ellis remains a solid offensive sparkplug that is best suited coming off the bench for scoring bursts in limited minutes.
13 Deron Williams, PG, Dallas Mavericks (32.4 MPG)
Some of us remember the days when we actually tried to argue that Deron Williams was as good as or better than Chris Paul. While it was a conversation at the time, it was long ago and Paul remains one of the best players in the league while Williams is a shell of his former self.
The writing was on the wall all the way back in 2011 when Williams was the cause of Jerry Sloan’s retirement. When a player makes the longest-tenured coach in the league quit his job, it’s probably a red flag. The Nets didn’t care, trading for Williams, who immediately appeared to stop liking basketball. Perhaps he never did. Last season, Williams was thrust into major playing time in Dallas due to a lack of options at the position, but that doesn’t make it right.
12 P.J. Tucker, SF, Phoenix Suns (31 MPG)
P.J. Tucker is a solid player, especially on the defensive end. However, 31 MPG seems pretty steep for a guy that averaged just eight points per game. He’s not a scorer, but more of a role player that was given a larger gig simply due to a lack of depth at the position. I mean, the guy got more minutes than LaMarcus Aldridge. Tucker is not a bad player, far from it, but it’s a bad sign for a team if they have to play a role guy more than 30 minutes a night.
Ideally he’d be a bench player that could add toughness and defense spelling a more talented starter at the three. Phoenix signed Jared Dudley in the offseason, so expect to see Tucker’s minutes decrease.
11 Raymond Felton, PG, Dallas Mavericks (27.4 MPG)
Raymond Felton now plays for the Clippers, where he’ll surely see less minutes playing behind Chris Paul, but he saw a lot of court time last season in Dallas. Felton was the fifth overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, but he’s never lived up to such a lofty draft position.
The UNC product has consistently failed to score efficiently on the pro level, shooting less than 42% from the floor for his career, including a 32.7% mark from three-point range.
Well, last season he had even worse numbers than his career averages, as he posted percentages of 40.6% from the field and 28.2% from three. As noted earlier, Dallas simply didn’t have good players to run the point and even the great Rick Carlisle couldn’t get Felton to play well.
10 Roy Hibbert, C, Los Angeles Lakers (23.2 MPG)
Roy Hibbert was once a key piece of an NBA Finals contender when he was with the Indiana Pacers, but those days are long gone. Since then the NBA has gotten more and more geared toward fast-past play and versatile players. Hibbert does not fit that mold. He is strictly a center and a slow one at that. His playing more than 23 MPG last season was a product of the Laker roster more than anything else, as he can’t keep up with most opponents in the modern NBA.
Indiana moved on from him due to their desire to play faster and it definitely helped. The Lakers ended their experiment after one season and Hibbert now plays for the Charlotte Hornets. Don’t expect him to get much run time in his new home.
9 P.J. Hairston, SG, Memphis Grizzlies (19.9 MPG)
P.J. Hairston is the classic case of talent that just can’t put it together from a mental standpoint. He experienced his fair share of troubles during his time at North Carolina, but he was still drafted in the first round thanks to his abilities.
However, he has not been productive on the court during his short NBA career. Hairston played nearly 20 MPG last season despite shooting an abysmal 35.5% from the floor for the Hornets and Grizzlies. His 29.5% mark from distance did not help either. Memphis had major injuries woes toward the end of last season and that surely was a factor in his playing time. Still, this is not a player that will make it much longer in this league if he continues his inefficient ways.
8 Sasha Vujacic, G, New York Knicks (14.9 MPG)
Sasha Vujacic made a name for himself years ago while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, but eventually he wore out his welcome and opted to play overseas. He should have stayed there.
Vujacic got a second chance in the NBA with the New York Knicks thanks to his history with executive Phil Jackson, but he did not impress this time around either. Vujacic played nearly 15 minutes a night for New York last season despite his meager 38.3% shooting percentage. He shot the ball decently from three-point range, but he’s not good enough to earn regular minutes. The Knicks were bad yet again last season, but with new additions to the roster in the offseason, one can’t expect to see “The Machine” on the floor as much in 2016-17.
7 Nik Stauskas, G, Philadelphia 76ers (24.8 MPG)
You could make an entire list out of Philadelphia 76ers players that received too much playing time last season, but Stauskas was especially bad. Let’s go back to the beginning. Sacramento drafted Stauskas way too high in 2014, resulting in the infamous “Nik Rocks!” moment. He didn’t fit on a roster that had a glut of guards, stunting any growth he may have experienced as a rookie.
The ever-opportunistic Sixers saw an opportunity to get more young talent and traded for him before the start of last season. Stauskas seemed to have a solid opportunity to show he can play, but maybe he just can’t. Billed as a great shooter coming out of Michigan, Stauskas shot just 38.5% from the floor and 32.6% from deep.
6 Lance Stephenson, G, Los Angeles Clippers/Memphis Grizzlies (19.9 MPG)
Lance Stephenson seems destined to be best-known as the guy that blew in LeBron James ear during a playoff game. That game came during the one season in which Stephenson was actually a useful player, as he surely has not been since.
He signed a big contract with Charlotte when the Pacers were reluctant to commit to him long-term (another great move by Larry Bird), but he couldn’t even last two years with them. He began last season with the Clippers before being moved to Memphis. He averaged around 15 MPG for the Clippers and saw his minutes balloon to more than 25 per game in Memphis. Again, Memphis was criminally undermanned late last season, but playing Stephenson so much shows how desperate they were.
5 J.R. Smith, SG, Cleveland Cavaliers (30.7 MPG)
J.R. Smith could have been one of the best shooting guards of his generation. We still remember when he burst onto the national scene by draining what seemed like countless three-pointers in the McDonald’s All-American Game. The kid appeared to have it all: the jumper, the handle, the athleticism.
What he did not have, and still does not, is a conscience, at least not when it comes to letting shots fly. Don’t get us wrong, when J.R. is hot, he’s nigh unstoppable. However, he’s also the kind of player that will brick ill-advised shot after ill-advised shot and continue hoisting the rock. His skills have value, but he doesn’t deserve more than 30 MPG. His role should be that as a heat check guy off the bench that gets yanked if he misses his first few shots.
4 Dion Waiters, SG, Oklahoma City Thunder (27.6 MPG)
The tales of Dion Waiters figuring it out last season were grossly exaggerated. Waiters’ biggest problem seems to be that he thinks he’s the best player in the league. His selection with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by Cleveland had disaster written all over it and his tenure there was not exactly a smash hit.
Shipped to OKC in 2014, Waiters received a new lease on life. The Thunder did not have much at the two-guard spot and Waiters had the chance to dial back the poor shots and carve out a significant role. However, we still believe he thinks he was better than both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He didn’t quite crack the 40% mark from the field and didn’t do much else other than shoot, not a good combination.
After playing him more than 25 MPG last season, OKC finally smartened up and let him walk in free agency.
3 Austin Rivers, G, Los Angeles Clippers (21.9 MPG)
Do you remember in little league when the coach played his son all the time even though his son sucked? Welcome to the NBA version of that.
Austin Rivers was once a highly-touted high school star, but since then he has done little else than underwhelm from Duke to New Orleans to Los Angeles. Rivers averaged more than 20 MPG last season, some of that time at point guard despite his apparent allergy to passing. Just google Blake Griffin’s impression of Rivers and it really tells the whole story.
Rivers keeps getting minutes, though, as his father Doc is the head coach and general manager of the Clippers. The team just gave Rivers a new $35 million contract in the offseason, so get used to seeing him.
2 Marcus Morris, F, Detroit Pistons (35.7 MPG)
Marcus Morris didn’t have a bad 2015-16 season, but he averaged the 10th-most MPG in the NBA. He’s not even the best player in the league out of people that look exactly like him (His twin brother Markieff is generally considered to be the better player).
Marcus put up 14.1 PPG and 5.1 RPG and shot respectable percentages, but that doesn’t warrant more minutes than LeBron James. This seems to be another mysterious case of Stan Van Gundy playing a guy a ton, as he did with Caldwell-Pope.
Again, the Pistons made the playoffs last season, but this is still a head-scratcher. Morris should see his minutes decrease in 2016-17, at least if the Pistons want to make it further than the first round of the postseason.
1 Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls (31.8 MPG)
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when Derrick Rose was the Most Valuable Player of the whole league. His well-documented battles with injuries have turned him into a player that doesn’t really resemble that star in Chicago. However, he still received big minutes in The Windy City last season. Rose’s average of more than 16 PPG seems solid at a glance, until you also notice the shooting percentages of 42.7% from the floor and 29.3% from three (and he took more than two threes per game).
Rose can’t seem to function efficiently on the court without the all-world athleticism he once possessed. The Bulls got tired of seeing him pound the ball instead of passing to Jimmy Butler, trading him to the New York Knicks in the offseason.
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