Tag Archives: Nik Stauskas

2014-15 NBA Season Preview: Pacific Division

Pacific Division

1. Los Angeles Clippers

paul griffin jordan clippers

Last season: 57-25 (1st in the Pacific Division, 3rd in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 6 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder

Key Additions:

  • Chris Douglas-Roberts – Free agent signing
  • Jordan Farmar – Free agent signing
  • Spencer Hawes – Free agent signing
  • Ekpe Udoh – Free agent signing
  • C.J. Wilcox – Draft (No. 28 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Joe Ingles – Australian free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Jared Dudley – Traded to the Milwaukee Bucks
  • Danny Granger – Signed with the Miami Heat
  • Ryan Hollins – Signed with the Sacramento Kings
  • Willie Green – Claimed off waivers by the Orlando Magic
  • Darren Collison – Signed with the Sacramento Kings

Season preview – While one team gets embroiled in a controversy related to race (Atlanta), another team is getting out of their racial controversy relatively unscathed. With the Donald Sterling fiasco behind them, and with new ownership, the Clippers look to build on the success from last season. The highest scoring team in the league (107.9 ppg) brings back its main core, while also adding the perimeter shooting of Spencer Hawes and Chris Douglas-Roberts to the mix. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are legit MVP contenders and the Clippers should be in the thick of things when it comes to championship contenders.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Clippers make it to the Finals

Projected 2014-15 Record: 59-23

2. Golden State Warriors

curry thompson splash bros warriors

Last season: 51-31 (2nd in the Pacific Division, 6th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 7 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers

Key Additions:

  • Leandro Barbosa – Free agent signing
  • Shaun Livingston – Free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Steve Blake – Signed with the Portland Trailblazers
  • Jordan Crawford – Unsigned
  • Jermaine O’Neal – Unsigned

Season Preview – Golden State is one of those teams that seems to be on the cusp of becoming an elite team, but is missing that extra “oomph” to get them there. Unfortunately, whatever that oomph is was obtained in the offseason. The Warriors basically bring back the same team from last season. While Curry and Thompson may continue to get better, the rest of the team, for the most part, has already plateaued in terms of skill improvement/refinement. I see the Warriors still being good, but also, still not being good enough.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Warriors reach the 2nd round of the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 50-32

3. Phoenix Suns

dragic bledsoe suns

Last season: 48-34 (3rd in the Pacific Division, 9th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Tyler Ennis – Draft (No. 18 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Isaiah Thomas – Signed and traded from the Sacramento Kings
  • TJ Warren – Draft (No. 14 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Anthony Tolliver – Free agent signing

Key Departures

  • Channing Frye – Signed with the Orlando Magic

Season Preview – The Eric Bledsoe contract situation has the ability to cast a huge shadow on this season for the Suns. After the feel good story that was last season, the Suns appear headed for a fork in the road with this Bledsoe situation. If he signs his 1-year qualifying offer, that could play out any number of ways, with some of those options blowing up in the Suns’ face. The Suns may be forced to trade Bledsoe, in order to keep Goran Dragic, who is an unrestricted free agent in 2015. All in all, I see this Bledsoe situation being too much of a distraction throughout the season for them to continue with what they started last season. Add to that the fact the Suns will no longer be able to sneak up on teams, and you are looking at a team-wide “sophomore slump”. This team will score a ton of points, and will be fun to watch, but will they be able to stop elite team on the other side of the court?

2014-15 will be successful if: The Suns make the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 45-37

4. Sacramento Kings

demarcus cousins kings

Last season: 28-54 (4th in the Pacific Division, 13th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Omri Casspi – Free agent signing
  • Darren Collison – Free agent signing
  • Ryan Hollins – Free agent signing
  • Nik Stauskas – Draft (No. 8 in the 2014 NBA Draft)

Key Departures:

  • Jason Terry – Traded to the Houston Rockets
  • Aaron Gray – Signed with the Detroit Pistons
  • Isaiah Thomas – Signed and traded to the Phoenix Suns

Season Preview – The Kings seem to finally be on the upswing. They are starting to assemble a team around DeMarcus Cousins, with shooters on the outside (Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas) and rugged enforcers/rebounders on the inside (Reggie Evans and Jason Thompson). Rudy Gay will provide further perimeter scoring and Darren Collison will attempt to quarterback the whole thing. They will continue to fall short due to the weakness of the point guard position, but the maturation of Cousins will start to point the ship in the right direction. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kings make a play for Rajon Rondo sometime this season.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Kings surpass 35 wins.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 37-45

5. Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant

Last season: 27-55 (5th in the Pacific Division, 14th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Carlos Boozer – Claimed off amnesty waivers from the Chicago Bulls
  • Ed Davis – Free agent signing
  • Jeremy Lin – Obtained in a trade from the Houston Rockets
  • Julius Randle – Draft (No. 7 in the 2014 NBA Draft)

Key Departures:

  • Pau Gasol – Signed with the Chicago Bulls
  • Chris Kaman – Signed with the Portland Trailblazers
  • Jodie Meeks – Signed with the Detroit Pistons
  • Kendall Marshall – Waived; Claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Bucks
  • Kent Bazemore – Signed with the Atlanta Hawks
  • Jordan Farmar – Signed with the Los Angeles Clippers

Season Preview – As someone who respects Kobe Bryant, this is not how I envisioned his final years. The Lakers are going to struggle, and struggle bad. Kobe may have a couple Kobe games left in him, but Father Time remains unbeaten (unless your name is Timothy Theodore Duncan). The Lakers are loading up on short contracts to coincide with the end of Kobe’s contract. Then, the Lakers will look to do what the Lakers usually do: lure top talent with the auspices of Hollywood glitz. But until then, it will be a lot like Lolo Jones’ performance on Dancing With the Star, which is to say cringe-worthy.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Lakers keep their 2015 first round pick (Top 5 protected; if it’s outside of that range, it goes to Phoenix)

Projected 2014-15 Record: 29-53

Thunder’s Draft Day Options

jerrett roberson adams presti thunder

When it comes to draft picks, a team only has 3 choices: Move up, stay put, or move down (or out) in order to pick up more assets. These are the options facing the Thunder. Last season, with 3 draft picks in hand, they stayed put at 12 (Steven Adams), moved up to 26 from 29 (Andre Roberson), stayed put at 32 (Alex Abrines), and moved up (bought) 40 (Grant Jerrett). With the 21st and 29th pick this season, here’s a look at some of the players the Thunder may target if they move up, stay put, or move down.

Moving Up Into the Top 10

marcus smart joel embiid

As I’ve previously discussed, the Thunder do have some assets that could potentially entice a team to give up their higher draft pick. In addition to the 21st and 29th pick, the Thunder also possess a $6.6 million dollar Traded Player Exception, a bevy of young cheap players, and two expiring contracts (Kendrick Perkins ($9.4M) and Collison($2.2M)). So with all that in hand, how far up can the Thunder move? Well, you can pretty much throw out any chance of moving into the Top 10. The only option I could really see in the Top 10 is Sacramento at 8, but we’d have to probably give up one of our young players (Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson, or Perry Jones) along with the draft picks to do so. If the Thunder make this type of move, it’s because they either love someone a lot or because someone they love (but thought wouldn’t be available) has dropped. There are only 3 players I could see causing this type of jump:

1. Marcus Smart – PG/SG / Oklahoma State / 6’3″ / 227 lbs /So. – Smart is one of those players that is hard to ping on mock drafts. We know he won’t go top 2, but he could possibly go anywhere from 3-10. Smart was tabbed as a Top 5 type player, but the incident with the Texas Tech fan and the fact that he didn’t vastly improve from his freshman year to his sophomore year, has caused some prognosticators to cool a bit on Smart. If he drops past 7, look for the Thunder to try to sneak in at 8 with their 2 draft picks and Reggie Jackson. Chances of this happening: 5%

2. Joel Embiid – C / Kansas / 7’0″ / 250 lbs /Fr. – Embiid’s worst enemies are the ghosts of Greg Oden and Sam Bowie. Especially in a draft that features not one, but two dynamic wing players. Embiid’s latest set back may cause teams to get “fragile center-itis”. Nerlens Noel was slated to go Number 1 last season before he tore his ACL in February 2013. He ended up dropping to 6th and sat out the entire year. If teams in the Top 10 are looking for someone who will play immediately, they may end up passing on Embiid. Chances of this happening: 2%

3. Elfrid Payton – PG / Louisiana Lafayette / 6’4″ / 185 lbs /Jr. – When the season ended, some mock drafts had us taking Payton…at 29! No one has moved up more in this draft process from mid-April to now than Payton. His physical attributes have some people comparing him to Rajon Rondo. Someone who isn’t a great shooter, but can get to any spot he wants on the floor. If you want a point guard than can get into the paint and create havoc from there, Payton is that guy. Chances of this happening: 10%

Moving Up Into the 11-15 Range

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Tournament Michigan State v Michigan

Moving up into this range may be a bit easier and may not necessarily require one of the Thunder young players. Picks 21 and 29 may be enough for someone looking to pick up draft picks later in the draft (with lesser financial implications). Here are 3 players the Thunder may be looking at in this range:

1. Nik Stauskas – SG / Michigan /6’6″ /207 lbs /So. – Stauskas had an extremely successful sophomore year at Michigan and is probably one of the best sharpshooters in the draft. In a league where 3-point shooting is extremely valued, I could see the Thunder trying to move up to take Stauskas. Chances of this happening: 15%

2. Doug McDermott – SF / Creighton /6’7″ /220 lbs /Sr. – McDermott just finished a career in which he ended up in the top 5 of the NCAA career scoring list with 3,150 career points. He is a great shooter and great at creating a shot for himself. His athleticism, or lack there of, may be what limits him professionally. Oklahoma City is rumored to have had McDermott in for a workout. If he slips, he may definitely be a target for the Thunder. Chances of this happening: 25%

3. Gary Harris – SG / Michigan State /6’4″ /205 lbs /So. – With Thabo Sefolosha’s expected departure, the Thunder may be in the market for a SG that can play both ends of the floor. Though Harris may not be a great shooter, he has the tools to be a great defender. He may be someone that the Thunder targets if he falls. Chances of this happening: 20%

Moving Up To The 16-20 Range or Staying Put at 21

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Tournament Michigan State v Michigan

There are about 10 players that could be selected in the 16-21 range. You won’t need too many assets to move up from 21 here, but this range is where the $6.6 million dollar TPE may come into play. Chicago has two picks in this range (16 and 19) and are vying for the services of free agent Carmelo Anthony. They need to get rid of salary and may also be willing to part with one or both of their picks. There also the possibility that the player may fall to the Thunder at 21 anyway. Here are 5 players the Thunder may be targeting at this range:

1. Adreian Payne – PF / Michigan State /6’10” /240 lbs /Sr. – Payne built his game up throughout his tenure at Michigan State, turning himself into a consistent outside shooter, with the ability to also play a little inside. With Nick Collison get older, Payne may prove to be a good replacement for the Thunder. Chances of this happening: 30%

2. TJ Warren – SF / NC State /6’7″ /220 lbs /So. – One of the things missing off the Thunder’s bench was scoring. Lamb looked great at the beginning of the season, but tailed off at the end, hurting the Thunder’s bench production. Warren is the type of player that can score in a variety of ways. He was one of the best scorers in the NCAA (24 ppg) and his game should translate as a bench player. Chances of this happening: 40%

3. Glenn Robinson III – SG/SF / Michigan /6’6″ /211 lbs /So. – Robinson failed to live up to the expectations set for him at the beginning of the season. But the skill set is there to be a great role player. He has solid size for a wing (6’6″) with a 6’9″ wingspan. He does a lot of things good, but nothing great. He could be a decent option to replace Sefolosha in a season or two. Chances of this happening: 40%

4. James Young – SG /Kentucky /6’6″ /215 lbs /Fr. – One of the needs for the Thunder is shooting from the wing position. Young can give you that and can grow into a consistent bench role for the Thunder this season. With Jackson and Lamb’s play making ability, there may be plenty of opportunities for Young to showcase his main skill. Though he may be a liability defensively, he does have the tools to be a good defender. Chances of this happening: 35%

5. Zach Lavine – SG / UCLA /6’6″ /180 lbs /Fr. – A freak athlete in the Gerald Green/Russell Westbrook mold, Lavine may take some time to develop, but may also have too much potential to ignore. If put through the Thunder development plan, Lavine may be a great pick 2 seasons from now. But if the Thunder are looking for immediate dividends, then Lavine may not be the man for this pick. Chances of this happening: 25%

Ultimately, if the Thunder stay within this range, they may be looking for someone who can pay dividends this season, and not a developmental project. They’ll definitely be looking for someone that can either provide scoring from the perimeter or someone to complement the bench.

Picking In The 22-30 Range

kj mcdaniels

This is kind of where it gets interesting. The Thunder can get a player of value in this range (Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones) if they play their cards right. Also, as seen last year, if the Thunder like a player, they aren’t opposed to trade up for a pick by using cash. Here are 3 players the Thunder may be looking at in this range:

1. Clint Capela – PF/C / Switzerland /6’11” /222 lbs – At this point in his career, Capela is a poor man’s Ibaka. He has great athleticisim, but lacks the experience and IQ to put it all together. He’s a project, but he’s also a workable project. He has the tools in place to be very similar to Ibaka defensively. Offensively, though, it’s a different story. It would probably be good if Capela stayed in Europe one more season to further his development before joining the Thunder. Chances of this happening: 50%

2. CJ Wilcox – SG /Washington /6’5″ /201 lbs /Sr. – Wilcox is a great shooter and someone who would benefit playing next to a chaos starter like Russell Westbrook. The Thunder are looking for shooting and if Wilcox is available, they may snatch him up. Chances of this happening: 25%

3. KJ McDaniels – SG/SF /Clemson /6’6″ /196 lbs /Jr. – If the Thunder don’t draft a wing player at 21, look for them to take someone like McDaniels. The 2013-14 ACC Defensive Player of the Year led the ACC in blocks (as a SG/SF) and is probably the best one on one defender in the draft at the wing position. The Thunder may have drafted their wing stopper last season in Andre Roberson, but if they like what they see from McDaniels, I think they may also draft him. Chances of this happening: 45%

Trading Down (Or Buying) Into The 2nd Round

damien inglis

 The Thunder may also either trade down into the 2nd round or buy a 2nd rounder like they did last season. Here are 3 players the Thunder may look at in the 2nd round.

1. Spencer Dinwiddie – PG/SG /Colorado /6’6″ /205 lbs /Jr. – Before tearing his ACL, Dinwiddie was one of the more diverse wings in the NCAA. He could score, shoot, and play-make. The Thunder may take a chance on Dinwiddie as a Tulsa stash to see how he fairs in his recovery. Chances of this happening: 40%

2. Mitch McGary – PF/C /Michigan /6’10” /266 lbs /So. – Before his back injury last season, McGary was seen as a lottery pick after his freshman season. But with him preventing the NBA docs from performing a physical on him, many have begun to label him as damaged goods. But as a project, McGary may be worth the risk. Chances of this happening: 15%

3. Damien Inglis – SF/PF /France /6’9″ /240 lbs – An athletic specimen, Inglis has a 7’3″ wingspan and a very muscular build. His shooting is his biggest flaw, but at only 19 years of age, this is something that can be developed as he ages. He has the potential to be a Boris Diaw type player with his ability to handle the ball and play-make. Chances of this happening: 45%

The Thunder have a ton of options in this draft. With a little bit of chaos swirling around with the impending free agency of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, many teams are trying to set themselves up to have the ability to sign one or both of these free agents. Armed with their assets, the Thunder will look to come out of this draft with a much stronger team than they had before the draft. Whether it’s with their draft picks or with veterans they’ve acquired, the Thunder should head into the 2014-15 season with a more complete team than the one that got ousted in the Western Conference Finals.