Playing big minutes key to developing All-Star talent

Maurice Harkless and Chris Kaman - USA TODAY Sports

If Maurice Harkless and the Magic's other youngsters are to become All-Stars one day, they'll need to play bigger minutes.

A team needs All-Stars in order to contend for an NBA championship. The fact that stars rule this league is inescapable. And if the Orlando Magic want to return to championship contention, it'll need at least one All-Star, a franchise-level talent. They can acquire that talent via trade, sign it in free agency, or develop it from within. And at present, the first two options look far more likely than the third.

In breaking down the 2013 NBA All-Star rosters, SLC Dunk, which covers the Utah Jazz for SB Nation, found that most of the honorees logged significant minutes immediately upon entering the league. Specifically, the players averaged 27.7 minutes in their first seasons, 33.1 in their second, 35.5 in their third, and 36.6 in each of their fourth and fifth seasons.

Bringing those numbers to bear on Orlando's youngsters doesn't offer hope that any will blossom into All-Stars. Second-year center Nikola Vučević is the closest, averaging 32.1 minutes per game as a full-time starter. But the Magic's rookies haven't cracked coach Jacque Vaughn's rotation in a major way: Maurice Harkless is playing 15.8 minutes per game, while Andrew Nicholson has averaged 14.6.

Experts pegged Harkless, 19, as a long-term prospect; he may not contribute immediately, due to his rawness, but within a few years he could become one of the top players in his draft class. Around the time of the 2012 NBA Draft, one analyst compared his case to that of Jrue Holiday, the Philadelphia 76ers point guard who was the youngest player in his draft class. The NBA announced Thursday that Holiday made his first All-Star team, and his presence offers to believers in the comparison between the two players some hope that Harkless could make similar strides as he develops. But Holiday played 24.2 minutes per game as a rookie and became a full-time starter in his second season, averaging 35.4 minutes per game.

Sooner or later, Harkless and Nicholson are going to have to play major minutes if they are to develop, regardless of whether those minutes help them grow into All-Stars-caliber talents. Keep an eye on their minutes going forward, especially after the NBA trading deadline, which deadline could give Orlando the opportunity to clear the players ahead of them in Vaughn's rotation, and into their second seasons.

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