This is why we watch Inside the NBA
Also, warning: the language can be a tad NSFW.
This may be one of the better Shaqtins… Enjoy!
The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t a very good basketball team right now. They sit at the bottom of a mostly-bad Northwest division with a 14-48 record. They’re only winning 22.6 percent of their games. There is some light at the end of the tunnel thanks to a young core that includes franchise cornerstone Andrew Wiggins, dunker extraordinaire Zach LaVine and recent first-round draft picks Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad.
While players like LaVine, Dieng and Muhammad (who Minnesota drafted) all have bright futures with the team, the T-Wolves have had their fair share of draft picks that fail to pan out. From Johnny Flynn to Derrick Williams, there have certainly been a few, but there may not be one that stings as much as the missed opportunity in 2010 when the team drafted Wesley Johnson fourth overall.
Johnson averaged 7.7 points per game during his stint in Minnesota (which lasted all of two years). He also chipped in with 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per contest. Those are good numbers, but considering they came from the fourth overall pick, they’re not great. Even Johnson per 36 minutes stats aren’t near the level they should be for a high-lottery pick. Johnson’s per 36 minutes numbers in two seasons in Minnesota: 11.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2 assists.
Johnson and a future first-round pick were flipped to Phoenix in a three-team trade in 2010. The Timberwolves netted three future second-round draft choices. The former Syracuse standout has been with two teams since leaving Minnesota—Phoenix and his current employers, the Lakers—and is still hovering around 10 points per game (9.1 last year, 9.7 this season).
Hindsight is 20-20, but here’s a look at the players Minnesota could have drafted instead of Johnson.
DeMarcus Cousins, 5th Overall Pick. Team: Sacramento Kings.
DeMarcus Cousins has developed from a fouling machine to possibly the best all-around big man in the game.
His scoring average has steadily climbed from 14.1 in his rookie year to 23.4 this season. He has a knack for rebounding, as evidenced by his career 10.5 rebounds per game. The center shoots well from the charity stripe (80%) and blocks nearly two shots per game (1.7).
What could have been with Cousins and Kevin Love. . .
Greg Monroe, 7th Overall Pick. Team: Detroit Pistons.
Another big who would have played esthetically pleasing basketball with Love, Monroe is a highly-skilled big who is adept at both scoring and passing. He’s not too bad of a rebounder either with a 9.2 per game average that isn’t far behind Cousins.
Instead of a Love/Monroe frontline, Minnesota are stuck with watching Monroe team with Andre Drummond to form one of the most complete front courts in the league.
Since his rookie year, Monroe has averaged 15.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest while shooting 49.9% from the field and 70% from the line.
Gordon Hayward, 9th Overall Pick. Team: Utah Jazz.
Former Butler standout Gordon Hayward has developed into the face of the Utah Jazz.
After a rookie campaign in which he only averaged 5.4 points per contest, Hayward has improved every year since, culminating this season with 19.5 points per game to go along with 4.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists.
While Cousins and Monroe represent what could have been at different positions, Hayward plays the same position as Johnson. Hayward’s all-around game and output is likely what Minnesota expected out of Johnson. Hayward recently signed a long-term contract extension with Utah.
Paul George, 10th Overall Pick. Team: Indiana Pacers.
Paul George has developed into one of the best players in the league. The swingman eventually unseated Danny Granger as the face of the Pacers and hasn’t looked back.
He averaged 21.7 points per game last season and is currently recovering from injury. Worst case scenario, he’s back at full strength next season when the Pacers will likely be amongst the East’s elite.
Like so many others on this list, seeing George play with Love and Ricky Rubio would have been something.
Eric Bledsoe, 18th Overall Pick. Team: Los Angeles Clippers.
One of the most athletic players in the league, Bledsoe moved out of Chris Paul’s shadow in LA and into the starting lineup in Phoenix where he has flourished.
The point guard does it all for the Suns with 17.1 points, 6.0 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Ricky Rubio is a flashy, above-average point guard, but Bledsoe surely would have been an upgrade over the Spaniard.
Avery Bradley, 19th Overall Pick. Team: Boston Celtics.
You may have heard about the amount of press Tacoma has received since Avery Bradley was joined by fellow Tacoma-native Isaiah Thomas on the Boston Celtics. It’s fantastic that the two are playing on the same team after growing up in the same city, but since the trade, everyone suddenly knows where Tacoma is, and refer to it on its own without the usual “WA” tag that follows. People are treating it like its Seattle in terms of recognizability. Look, I’m all for press for Tacoma, but if you’re from outside of Washington state (at least before the trade) you have no idea where Tacoma is. Absolutely no clue. Zero.
Anywho, Bradley has steadily improved his game and is now one of the core pieces of a young Celtics squad expected to contend in the near future. The former McDonald’s All-American has poured in 14.4 points per game this season and is a solid defender.
Other Notable Players Who Minnesota Could Have Taken: Larry Sanders (15th), Grevis Vasquez (28th), Hassan Whiteside (33rd) and Lance Stephenson (40th).
All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.
One of the big downsides to NBA expansion, according to some pundits and fan, is the lack of talent. The feeling is that the NBA can’t support another team(s) because of a lack of talent available. The “tanking” theory has only supported this theory.
However, it is possible for the NBA to support another team or teams to field a competitive roster. Recent signings around the league have only supported the theory that the NBA can field new teams from a talent level standpoint. These signings have quickly turned into major contributors, or have experience. There are also a number of quality free agents on the open market as well as a number of examples of players who went from sitting on the end of the bench to contributing in the NBA.
Here’s a look at some of those players:
Recent Signings From Out of Nowhere (Relatively Speaking)
- The Saint Joseph’s product has been a positive for the Knicks with 10.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and one steal per game.
- He’s been a little out of control with his cheap shot on Kelly Olynyk and his take down of Alex Len, but foolish decisions aside, Whiteside is a talented player who has shown he can be productive in the league. Averages 10.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest.
- Whiteside’s teammate in Miami, the guard averages 8 points a contest, he dropped 26 in a win over Phoenix.
Recent Signings with Experience
- The 5’9” Robinson brings instant offense as at the point guard spot, averages 11.1 points per game in NBA career.
- The former number two overall-pick may be more of a role player at this point in time, but he’s a pretty productive part-time player. Miami has gotten good value out of Beasley on a pair of ten-day contracts. The Kansas State standout has scored a respectable 11 points a game in 24.9 minutes per contest.
- James has only ever played for the Mavericks in his NBA career. In Dallas he’s proved himself to be a quality back-up center.
Free Agents/ Available Players
- One of the best pure shooters of all time. Considered signing with a contender this season before choosing to sit the year out.
Back End of the Bench to Quality Contributor
- The Seattle product went from averaging 2.6 points per game in Memphis a couple seasons ago to scoring 16.9 points a game this year with Philadelphia. Is Wroten going to score 17 points a night on every NBA team? Probably not, but his statistical output on a better team is likely to fall closer to his numbers in Philly than his showing in Memphis.
- Went from averaging less than a point per game with Indiana (0.9) to scoring 8.1 points and grabbing 7.8 rebounds a game in Phoenix his second year. Now with Milwaukee, he’s proven that at the very least, he’s a serviceable rotation big.
- Similar to Wroten and Plumlee, Covington was receiving little playing time with his first club (Houston). The wing player moved to Philadelphia where he has flourished, averaging 13 points a contest to go along with 4.7 rebounds a game and a 37.7 shooting percentage from three.
All of these players are either available or were available at a certain point in time.
An expansion team would also have the benefit of having two draft to supplement their roster. One of those picks would likely be in the high lottery. The other pick would likely be near the onset of the second round, providing additional value.
If the success stories of Galloway and Whiteside have taught us anything it’s that there is talent for the NBA to make use of when expansion comes. This isn’t even considering the concept of an expansion draft where the new team would get to pluck unprotected players from other teams’ rosters.
The expansion team would likely find themselves with a young building block to construct a team around al a Giannis Antetokounmpo, Andre Drummond or DeMarcus Cousins.
All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.
Anyone who has watched Gonzaga basketball over the years knows that David Stockton is more of a pass-first point guard. The son of the legendary Hall-of-Famer John Stockton, David got his first taste of NBA action on a 10-day contract with the Sacramento Kings. After totaling one point, two rebounds and an assist in seven minutes of action, the younger Stockton returned to the D-League and promptly destroyed the competition.
During his first game back he totaled 44 points, 10 assists, eight steals and seven rebounds. Did I mention he’s a little under six feet tall?
The second outing brought 37 points, 22 assists (no typo) and five rebounds.
In his third game back he poured in 35 points, nine dimes and eight boards.
If he keeps this up, he’s going to stick with an NBA team at some point. His overall stat-line for the trio of games? 38.7 points per game, 13.7 assists per game and 6.7 rebounds per game. NBA guys generally put up inflated numbers in the D-League, but this is just ridiculous.