The NBA season tips off on Tuesday evening and a number of former Wolverines will be involved in the 2014-15 season. With five Michigan players drafted in the past two seasons, we’ll feature a regular NBA roundup to track their progress throughout the season.
Robinson makes the cut
.Glenn Robinson III faced a tenuous situation after being selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves as a second round pick. Second round picks don’t have guaranteed contracts and his status was up in the air, especially after a summer filled with roster moves as the Wolves shipped out Kevin Love. Robinson eventually signed a guaranteed contract with the Wolves before training camp, but still had to make the roster.
“Whatever happens happens,” Robinson told the Star Tribune on Friday. “That’s the mentality I have. I control what I can control and I think that I’ve been playing well in practice and the games. Who knows what is going to happen, but I’ve done all I can do.”
It came down to the final day, but it appears Robinson did just that. The Wolves are planning to buy JJ Barea out of his contract to free up the final 15th roster spot for Robinson.
Robinson could still spend some time in the NBA D-League this season in order to accelerate his development, but making the Timberwolves roster is an achievement. Robinson still faces an uphill battle for playing time as the Minnesota roster also features Andrew Wiggins, Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad and Robbie Hummel at the wing positions.
Robinson averaged 10 minutes, four points and two rebounds per game during five exhibition contests. The Timberwolves open the season on Wednesday at Memphis.
Stauskas will come off the bench
Nik Stauskas had a solid preseason, averaging 9.7 points per game and shooting 39.1% from three-point range, but he’s expected to come off the bench for the Kings to start the season.
“He has a competitive spirit and fight about him, but getting stronger in the weight room is going to help him out because he can get through the length and demands of the season,” Malone told Sactown Royalty. “He’s a shooter, he knows how to play. He hit some big shots down the stretch of that Laker game for us to come back and win; hit a big three.”
For Stauskas, the more difficult transition has been on the defensive end of the floor.
“Knows how to play, but he’s got to be more than just an offensive player,” Malone said. “He’s got to be able to guard his position on the other end, then when he’s open I want him to shoot it and not hesitate and then be aggressive and look to make plays.”
The Kings will host the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday to open the season.
Phil Jackson says Hardaway has bright future
Tim Hardaway Jr. was one of the big surprises of the 2013 NBA Draft class and will face steep expectations during his sophomore slate. Hardaway and the Knicks are adjusting to new head coach Derek Fisher and the triangle offense.
Hardaway averaged 13.1 points per game in preseason play, earning one start, and is building off of a very impressive Summer League performance. Knicks President Phil Jackson spoke favorably about Hardaway at the start of camp.
“In most colleges, defense is not really emphasized and the idea is for your player to outscore his opponent. That’s why playing defense in the NBA is such a challenge for a young player like Tim Hardaway Jr,” Jackson said. “He has the aptitude and the desire to be aggressive on defense, and during his rookie season he’s gained a certain familiarity with the guys he has to guard, so we expect marked improvement from him in this area.”
Jackson’s scouting report of Hardaway sounds similar to his role at Michigan, but he expects an improved player this season.
“Tim’s shooting touch has never been questioned, but he has a tendency to stand around and wait for somebody to kick him the ball so he can launch 3-pointers. Tim also has trouble finishing with his left hand,” Jackson said. “Like Shane, Tim’s summer-league experience gives him a head start on learning the offense, which is a significant advantage. Also, Tim is two inches taller than his listed 6-6, which also enables him to play some small forward. I expect that with his talents and his work ethic, sooner rather than later Tim will become an excellent all-around player in this league.”
Hardaway and the Knicks will open their season at home on Wednesday against the Bulls before traveling to Cleveland to face LeBron James in his first game back home.
Trey Burke ready to breakout?
Trey Burke was named to the All-NBA Rookie Team after a successful rookie season, but his offseason was a bit rocky. First, the Jazz raised some eyebrows by drafting Dante Exum, another player projected to play point guard, despite having Burke on the roster. Then on the eve of training camp, nude photos of Burke leaked on the internet and brought the wrong sort of attention immediately before the season.
However, Burke has put everything behind him to start preseason play. He averaged 15.9 points per game and shot an impressive 47% from three-point range. He also played well enough for the Jazz to exercise the third-year team option on his contract.
Burke, like many of Michigan’s other young players in the NBA, has been focused on his defense.
“The thing that was really good about his game today, in my opinion, was … he defended, which he’s starting to do,” new head coach Quin Snyder told the Deseret News after a preseason game. “It’s starting to become who he is.”
“(Coach) kind of challenged me when he first got the job at the beginning of the summer to get better in that area,” Burke said. “He said I would be a much better player if I was more active on the defensive end, specifically on pick-and-roll situations.”
Mitch McGary has been sidelined throughout the preseason with a broken foot, but he was still able to enjoy the Oklahoma City Thunder Halloween party. McGary was initially expected to miss six weeks with his foot injury, setting his expected return date sometime in late November.