Michigan's NBA Draftees: How Do They Fit? Comment Count

Ace July 3rd, 2014 at 2:02 PM

I promised I'd write a post this week on how Michigan's latest crop of NBA players fit in with their new teams. When I said this, I forgot a fundamental aspect of the NBA offseason—namely, that the post-draft free agency period is complete and utter chaos, so projecting what teams will look like in October can be rather difficult. Adding to the difficulty: two of the three Michigan draftees went to teams whose front office decisions are often summed up with a hearty ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Undeterred, here's my best effort.

Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings

In three of the last four years, the Kings have attempted to pick their shooting guard of the future, first with BYU's Jimmer Fredette in 2011, then Kansas' Ben McLemore in 2013, and now with Stauskas. Fredette is now on the Bulls. In related news, the Kings haven't been very good, winning just 34% of their games in each of the last two seasons. They're also a team with a lot up in the air at the moment: they just signed point guard Darren Collison, making it very likely restricted free agent PG Isaiah Thomas will play elsewhere next season. The Kings have rumored interest in Detroit's Josh Smith and several others; after a very disappointing rookie season, McLemore could even be on the table as trade bait.

It seems unlikely, however, that the Kings would give up on the #7 overall selection from last year's draft so quickly, even with the brutal 7.8 PER McLemore posted last year (the NBA average is 15). Sacramento needs both shooting and bench scoring; Stauskas obviously could provide both, and coming off the bench as a rookie in need of some development, especially defensively, may be the best situation for him anyway. That's how SBNation's Sactown Royalty sees Stauskas getting used in year one:

But the "good news" for the Kings is that their needs are many, including production from their starting shooting guard and wing production from the bench. And this is where Stauskas could potentially help the Kings in a big way.

The drafting of Stauskas is not a death knell for Ben McLemore. Based on how McLemore finished the season, I am guessing that he has at least a slight leg up on Stauskas right now. I'm not saying that the starting job has been given to him by any means. I am saying that he is likely ahead of Stauskas in the here and the now. But when it's all said and done, one of these guys could start and one could get some serious burn off the bench, including in three guard sets. The Kings have a definite need at the positions that Stauskas could fill.

The Kings have a lot of holes left to fill, so this outlook could change dramatically even in the coming hours, depending on what they do with Thomas and McLemore. A Microwave-type role seems ideal for a rookie Stauskas, however, and once he gets used to the NBA game there's a good chance he challenges McLemore for the starting spot at the two.

Mitch McGary, Oklahoma City

McGary has the most obvious fit among Michigan's draftees, though it's one that'll likely have him riding pine for much of his rookie year—not necessarily a bad thing for a guy coming off back surgery. Landing on a great team that doesn't need immediate help up front is a great situation for McGary; he'll be able to ease his way into playing time, and down the road there should be opportunity for much more.

Right now, OKC is pretty much set in the frontcourt. Serge Ibaka is a star, coach Scott Brooks has a baffling affinity for the plodding Kendrick Perkins, Steven Adams had a breakout playoff season as an energy/tough guy with a good deal of untapped potential, and Nick Collison is the wily veteran who provides solid rebounding, defense, and a little scoring touch while possessing the versatility to play the four or the five.

Collison's role is the one McGary projects to best, and given Collison's minutes have waned over the last couple seasons, he'll have an opportunity to carve out a small role on a title contender this year—an Adams/McGary pairing off the bench could be a heck of an energy boost. (Also, a potential riot-starter.)

The real opportunity for playing time should come in 2015-16. Collison and Perkins are both entering the final year of their respective contracts; entering this season at 34 years old, it's unlikely Collison will be back. Perkins should be either gone or in a reduced role; even Brooks finally realized last season that he needed to dial back the big man's minutes. A big man rotation of Ibaka-Adams-McGary should be something to build around for the future—you know, alongside those Durant and Westbrook fellows—and that future may not be far off.

Glenn Robinson III, Minnesota Timberwolves

We're well aware that Robinson needs significant development before he's ready to thrive in the NBA. Not only does his defense need work, he's going to have to improve either his jump shot or ballhandling (preferably both) to be a reliable player in halfcourt sets. GRIII's transition game is the one aspect that won't be questioned from the beginning—he can run, fill a lane, and finish with the best of them.

No matter what, Robinson should have a limited role in his rookie season. He's transitioning from playing the four at Michigan to being a small forward in the NBA, which means guarding a wholly different type of player—most rookies struggle with defense as they get used to the higher level of play, and GRIII will be no different. The Wolves don't have a lot of talent on the wing, but they've got enough to allow a second-rounder to ease his way into the rotation.

While the role should be relatively small regardless, it's tough to project anything further with Minnesota considering the current state of the team. Their superstar power forward, Kevin Love, is going to be traded this offseason; he has a player option for 2015-16 that allows him to opt out of his contract and Minnesota has little-to-no chance of re-signing him, so they must act soon or they'll lose one of the league's most valuable players for nothing. They've been in serious trade talks with Golden State; if those fall through, several other teams will line up for a shot at Love, especially once free agent Carmelo Anthony lands on a squad.

Jordan Morgan, Minnesota Timberwolves (Summer League)

J-Mo's situation is pretty simple. He'll play for Minnesota's summer league team, and in doing so he'll hope to earn a training camp invite from any NBA team and/or impress an overseas squad enough to get a shot for a more guaranteed contract. If Morgan is looking for job security, the latter route is the most preferable.

If that doesn't work out, I think Morgan will land on his feet just fine.



July 3rd, 2014 at 2:36 PM ^

Have always been a fan of Collison, so Stauskas, Darren and Boogie (DeMarcus Cousins) on the same team just made me a fake Sac. Kings fan.

One thing, it kind of bothers me when teams trade stars (Kevin Love this time) because they could leave in free agaency and the team would "get nothing" for them. Technically true, but a lot of the times the flexibility of the freed cap space is worth way more than the bad contracts, bad attitudes, and/or bad play that The T-Wolves might get if they get too trade despearate.


July 3rd, 2014 at 3:01 PM ^

They're trying to get a package centering on David Lee/Klay Thompson from the Warriors. That's a lot more than bad contracts/bad attitudes. Agree that teams in this position don't often get the value back that they give away, but... well, that's probably on the Timberwolves for failing miserably at building a team around Love. Regardless, Love is good enough that they'll get something quite viable in return—too many suitors for them to get left with scraps.


July 3rd, 2014 at 4:08 PM ^

 Maybe I'm underestimating Kevin Love, but I would rather have Klay Thompson, David Lee and draft picks.  Lee is virtually a non-shooting Kevin Love, but that's offset by Klay Thompson who happens to be great at bombing 3's.  Between Rubio and Barea being shot creators, the players around them only have to worry about finiishing more than ball-handling (covering for both Klay's and GR3's big weaknesses)


July 3rd, 2014 at 2:48 PM ^

I don't think he's necessarily that far away.  You don't need a well-rounded all around game to play. Bruce Bowen and Thabo Shefelosa never had them, yet started for title contenders. Looking at them -- I'm not sure you even have to be able to dribble at all.

Robinson has potential to play as a 3&D guy immediately.  He hasn't proven he can do it at the NBA level of course, but he seems to have the tools. If his shot is falling early in the season and he dedicates himself to working hard on D, he could play a bench role right away.  No one thought THJ was going to play such a big role right away either, but he landed on a team where playing time was available. 

Could be the same with Minny - or not.  They are in the midst of a major upheavel.  The bad news here is that Flip Saunders is a pretty terrible coach.  The good news is that Rubio is a great offensive facilitator and seems entrenched there.  The more wings they clear out through trades this summer, the better GR3's chances are.

There is a negative perspective here too though -- 2nd round contracts are not guaranteed and Minnesota has a lot of contracts committed for next year right now...but GR3 has to be considered as a pseudo-1st rounder because of how deep the '14 draft was. I doubt they dump him.


July 3rd, 2014 at 2:58 PM ^

I agree with most of this. Didn't mention the potential for a cut just because it would really surprise me if they did that, especially given what Flip said post-draft about where they had GRIII on their board (coachspeak grain of salt and all that, but they claim they had him pegged as a first-rounder).


July 3rd, 2014 at 3:07 PM ^

A lot of teams probably had a lot of 2nd rounders this year graded as 1st rounders.  Flip's probably not lying and I agree with you it's unlikely Glenn gets cut -- just pointing out that they have a lot of contracts right now.

With Glenn, there was a lot of talk from teams that he was considered in the 1st round. OKC especially, seemed like a missed opportunity for both them and for Glenn.


July 3rd, 2014 at 3:37 PM ^

I basically concur. With the lack of talent on the Timberwolves, and Rubio's passing, I actually think GR3 has the best rookie season of out the Michigan guys, and even battles for ROY. He'll get minutes.


July 3rd, 2014 at 3:53 PM ^

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Only time will tell, but I believe he fits that well in the Minnesota offense. And that just means a second rounder is due to win it.


July 3rd, 2014 at 3:09 PM ^

they'll dump collison or perk off, so it probably doesn't change the equation too dramatically for Mitch.  If anything, it'd open up time for him to have a more defensive/hustle role, as Pau is an offensive-oriented player, unlike any of the guys they have now.


July 3rd, 2014 at 3:26 PM ^

Could you comment on how the draft affects other former Michigan players? Specifically I am curious about the Jazz drafting the anti-Burke in Exum.


July 3rd, 2014 at 4:39 PM ^

Look, those making CP3 comparisons to Trey were nuts.  Almost as nuts as the people comparing Nik to Ray Allen. 

Trey's fate ultimately is as a 3rd guard off the bench or a starter supported by strong defenders and scorers. I've always seen Trey as a guy who will never make an all-star game, but can be a Derek Fisher type game-manager and shooter.  He's a winner. But his biggest hurdle for NBA success is/was defense.  Fisher wasn't tall but he was stout physically and wise. 

To that end - Exum is a nice player to put beside Trey.  He won't be able to shoot yet, but his athleticism could help against some of the tougher defensive matchups (DRose, Westrbrook), freeing Trey to guard the perimeter-oriented shooting guards, where his size limitations aren't an issue. 

 If he's Fisher, he needs a Kobe, and Exum could be that guy.

At face, adding another guard gives Trey more competition and fewer opportunities.  But, we don't know yet if Exum is a tall PG or a pure SG or some combo in between.  The bottom line is that adding talent to the Jazz is helpful to Trey's development.  Even if his scoring and usage dip a bit, his percentages could go up with another scoring threat playing beside him. Last year, he had to do too much and wasn't ready for it.  So his percentages were horrendous.  On the bright side, his turnover rate was fantastic for a rookie in his circumstances.  If Exum can create some opportunities for Trey and suck some defensive attention away, Trey will benefit.


July 6th, 2014 at 8:39 PM ^

<quote>the brutal 7.8 PER McLemore posted last year (the NBA average is 15).</quote>

While average PER is useful, it would also be nice if you could provide the standard deviation of PER, which would really illustrate just how brutal his 7.8 PER is.