Every year, the players who see significant NBA court time are a little bit different. Some players retire, some enter through the draft and some are just released to free agency or signed from free agency.
This 2019-20 seasons will be no different. We all know about the big-time rookies entering NBA rotations, such as Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett.
In this article, USAbetting highlights six potential rotation players for this season who are flying a little bit more under the radar.
Robert Williams, Boston Celtics
The Celtics’ loss of Al Horford is a big deal. Even though Horford’s box-score numbers never really sparkled in Boston, he was the team’s defensive anchor and a smart, efficient offensive option.
Who is going to replace Horford at center? Right now, the Celtics have Enes Kanter, Robert Williams, Vincent Poirier and Daniel Theis on board. At the moment, none of them appear to be great options as a starting center on a winning team.
I think Williams will at least get a shot in the rotation, if not as a starter. His ceiling is the highest of any of the Celtics’ center options. The 21-year-old big man is very different from Horford, in both good and bad ways. He is a more impressive physical specimen, and a more dominant shot-blocker and rebounder, but he is also still learning the game from a mental standpoint. He isn’t anywhere near Horford as a shooter or passer.
Christian Wood, Detroit Pistons
Wood is certainly talented. In his NBA career, he has averaged 19.2 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes. The problem is, he has only played 503 total minutes spread over three seasons. His numbers in the G-League are always ridiculous, whenever he is sent down.
The 24-year-old big man has never gotten a proper opportunity to show his skills in a consistent rotational role. Character and effort concerns are likely the major issue for him. Wood is not known as a hard worker on or off the court.
In Detroit, the depth behind center Andre Drummond is very thin. The Pistons could use a guy to spell their massive big man with some interior scoring and rebounding.
Edmund Sumner, Indiana Pacers
In the offseason, the Pacers signed Sumner to a three-year, $6.5 million deal. No, it’s not a lot of money, but the fact that Indiana signed him for three years (with the first two guaranteed) despite him playing only 212 NBA minutes is a sign that the team is invested in him.
Sumner is a wiry 6’6” combo guard who plays hard on both ends. Last year, he stuffed the stat sheet in the G-League to the tune of 22.1 points, 3.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.6 blocks per game.
With Pacers star Victor Oladipo out with injury to start the season, Sumner has a potential opening to fill with his defense, length and overall effort.
Nicolo Melli, New Orleans Pelicans
Melli is just now coming back from his knee surgery, but I still think he’ll figure strongly into the Pelicans’ second unit this season.
New Orleans nabbed Melli this offseason after the Italian finished a 12-year career in the EuroLeague, most recently in Turkey. The 28-year-old forward is a strong outside shooter and playmaker at 6’9” and could be a very good complement to more ball-dominant non-shooters such as Lonzo Ball, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Derrick Favors.
Jemerrio Jones, Washington Wizards
The Wizards were among the NBA’s worst teams in the league last season in defensive rating and rebounding percentage. Based on their offseason moves and the injuries that are currently plaguing the squad (C.J. Miles, Ian Mahinmi, Isaiah Thomas, Troy Brown and John Wall are all players who are not expected to be ready for opening night later this month), the team’s problems in those areas might only get worse.
Enter Jones. The 6’5”, 174-pound wing doesn’t look like a ferocious rebounder, but he plays like one. Over 47 games in the G-League last year, the 24-year-old averaged a remarkable 14 rebounds per 36 minutes.
Jones’ calling card is hustle. On a Wizards squad that needs to establish a culture of good effort, head coach Scott Brooks may end up surprising people with how much he plays Jones, especially early on.
Terance Mann, Los Angeles Clippers
Mann is another player who could see more of an opportunity due to injury. Clippers superstar Paul George will be out for the very beginning of the season as he recovers from a shoulder injury. Los Angeles will need someone to fill in his minutes, ideally providing some defense and shot creation.
All reports have indicated that the Clippers’ second-round pick out of Florida State from this summer has looked excellent in training camp. In Los Angeles’ first preseason game, he played 25 minutes and registered eight points, nine rebounds and four assists. The Clippers used him as a key offensive initiator of the second unit.
Don’t be surprised if Mann keeps a rotation spot even when George returns.