Gonzaga Bulldogs: 2011 Recruiting Class Paying Massive Dividends for Mark Few & Zags

The Gonzaga Bulldogs have never quite been able to recruit the same level of talent out of high school as the likes of Kentucky, Duke and Kansas, however GU has firmly cemented its place alongside those three schools in the College Basketball hierarchy by recruiting players who not only fit their system and culture, but players that they can develop.

The Zags also tend to find gems on the international market with future NBA players Ronny Turiaf, Kelly Olynyk and Robert Sacre all coming from outside the states. The Zags have two future NBA players on their roster in European big men Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis.

Despite the lack of McDonalds All-Americans, Mark Few has put together impressive recruiting classes in the past. 2007 brought Sacre and another future NBA player in Austin Daye as well as fellow top-100 recruit Steven Gray who flourished as one of the team’s best players.

While the 2011 class didn’t bring the size that 2007’s brought, the group of players to arrive in Spokane in 2011 has helped propel GU to its first Sweet 16 since 2009. This year’s incarnation of Gonzaga may be Mark Few’s best, and could reach the school’s first Final Four. While a lot of this has to do with the Zags’ daunting frontline, featuring a three-headed monster of Karnowski, Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer, a lot of it has to do with the backcourt.

Starting guards, and products of the 2011 recruiting class, Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. have sacrificed a lot in order to make the team better. Both have seen their per-game scoring numbers drop by nearly three points each. Bell Jr. is often tasked with checking the opposition’s best permitted defender while Pangos rarely gets a breather, playing 35 or minutes on 22 occasions this season.

Despite their sacrifices, Pangos and Bell Jr. form one of the best backcourts in the country.

Pangos is an unflappable floor-general who is lethal from three-point land (44.9% this season) and can beat you off the dribble with a potent array of layups and floaters. If Gonzaga weren’t incredibly blessed with a wealth of scoring options, it would surprise no one to see Pangos’ per-game scoring approach 20 points. Oh yeah, he’d probably start on just about every team in the country… including Kentucky.

His backcourt mate Bell Jr. is one of the best defenders in the country. Despite a 6’2” frame that puts him at a height disadvantage, Bell Jr. can lock down almost anyone on the perimeter. Just ask BYU’s Tyler Haws, who despite having a height advantage of three inches and being one of the best scores in the country, struggled mightily against the Zags due to the presence of Bell Jr. Haws’ bread and butter is the contested mid-range jumper, but he managed shooting nights of 6-14, 3-11 and 4-12 against Gonzaga. And oh yeah, Bell Jr. can knock down the three as well. He shot 47.7% as a freshman and still manages a similarly deadly 37.7 clip this season. Similar to Pangos, if GU had fewer weapons or if Bell Jr. were at a bigger school with less firepower, he’d likely be a 15 point-per-game scorer.

In addition to Pangos and Bell Jr., Few also brought in Idaho native Kyle Dranginis as well.  Dranginis operates as the team’s hustle monger off the bench, always challenging for offensive rebounds, loose balls and blocked shots despite being shorter than a good portion of the opposition. He only averages 4.1 points a contest, but if it weren’t for the presence of USC-transfer Byron Wesley, Dranginis would be starting and easily averaging double-figures in points per game. Despite only scoring three points in the team’s round-of-32 win over Iowa, he had a steal, a block, two rebounds and four assists. He fills the stat sheet for the Zags. In win at Sweet Sixteen opponent UCLA in December, Dranginis totaled five points, six rebounds and five assists. He also had a steal and a made three pointer.

Due to freshman Josh Perkins’ broken jaw and Eric McClellan’s acclimation process, Few has largely depended on a backcourt rotation of Pangos, Bell Jr. and Dranginis down the stretch.

In addition to those three, GU’s 2011 recruiting class is also paying dividends elsewhere. Forward Ryan Spangler transferred to Oklahoma to be closer to home and has helped the Sooners to the Sweet Sixteen with 9.9 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per contest. He posted seven double-doubles this season and reached double-figures in rebounding in 12 contests.

The remaining members of the 2011 class have propelled the Zags to a point where they can reach the program’s first final four. They’ve definitely earned it.

Seattle Links: NBA, Michael Bennett, Seahawks, Mariners, Gonzaga

NBA Talent Pool: Why The League Can Sustain Expansion

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)

Langston Galloway

  • 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.

Hassan Whiteside

  • 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.

Tyler Johnson

  • Whiteside’s teammate in Miami, the guard averages 8 points a contest, he dropped 26 in a win over Phoenix.

Recent Signings with Experience

Nate Robinson

  • The 5’9” Robinson brings instant offense as at the point guard spot, averages 11.1 points per game in NBA career.

Michael Beasley

  • 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.

Bernard James

  • 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

Ray Allen

  • 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

Tony Wroten

  • 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.

Miles Plumlee

  • 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.

Robert Covington

  • 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.

David Stockton Destroyed the D-League

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.

Updated NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers: Celtics, Pistons, Heat, Bucks, 76ers, Lakers, Nuggets and Suns

Winners:

Losers:

Coming Soon- The Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA Trade Deadline Losers: Denver Nuggets

Losers: Denver Nuggets

Introducing one the most puzzling teams in the NBA, ladies and gentlemen, the Denver Nuggets!

Puzzling, that’s certainly one way to describe the Nuggets. The team started off with some positive trades, for a rebuilding team (which Denver clearly should be given that they play in the West), then proceeded not to unload a bevy of veterans who could have brought in a return anywhere from decent to sizeable.

First with the good—the Nuggets somehow managed to extract two first-round picks from Cleveland for Timofey Mozgov (the Carmelo Anthony trade, the gift that keeps on giving) earlier in the season.

The Nuggets later traded Aaron Afflalo to Portland for a first-round pick, which is a positive. The team also acquired young players Will Barton, Victor Claver and former fifth overall pick Thomas Robinson in the deal only to waive Claver and Robinson. Essentially, they got Barton and a first-round pick for Afflalo. It’s not outstanding, but it’s not too bad either.

After that, the moves (as well as lack of moves) started to become puzzling.

Denver burned a first-round pick to rid themselves of JaVale McGee’s contract by sending the pick and the center to Philly (one of my trade deadline winners, you can read about that here). For a rebuilding team, ridding themselves of a first-round pick doesn’t make too much sense.

While losing Mozgov, Alonso and McGee would signal a tear-down rebuild in Denver, the team didn’t trade away any of its other veterans who could have fetched some sort of return.

Wilson Chandler’s name was thrown around as a potential trade candidate, but is still on Denver’s roster. Similarly, Ty Lawson could have been moved. While extremely talented, the point guard’s age (27) likely prohibits him from being part of a rebuilding process. Considering the high-returns fellow point guards Reggie Jackson and Michael-Carter Williams fetched in trades, it may have been prudent for Denver to deal the former Tar Heel if they were all-in on rebuilding.

Additionally, over-30 guards Jameer Nelson and Randy Foye could have brought in some kind of return given the pair’s respectively modest salaries.

While Denver could have traded all those players, the team didn’t. It’s as if they have one foot in rebuilding mode with the other firmly planted in the land of contending.

If anything, the fact that Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried are still on the roster, coupled with an attempt to stockpile assets and clear salary means Denver will likely try and reload for next season.

The team’s brass will have its work cut out for them in the offseason. Having major contributors like Lawson, Gallinari, Chandler and Faried in their respective primes signals an intent to win. The presence of veteran role players like Nelson and Foye only reinforce that notion. However, while half of the roster is built for contending, the other half may not be. Younger players like Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris and Barton need major minutes to flourish, they likely wouldn’t get major minutes on a contending team.

Check out Know Hitter’s series on the NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers. The Winners: BostonDetroitMiamiPhiladelphia and Milwaukee. The “Losers”: Los Angeles (Lakers), Phoenix , Denver and coming soon—Minnesota.

YouTube Video of the Day: Charles Barkley Falls Asleep on National Television

One of the better gems from Charles Barkley and the people at NBA TV and Inside the NBA.

NBA Trade Deadline Losers: Phoenix Suns

After compiling 48 wins last season, the Suns brought in Isaiah Thomas to augment current guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. With Bledsoe the only member of the trio still on the roster, it’s safe to say that the Phoenix Suns destroyed their point guard situation.

Phoenix shipped Dragic to the Heat and Thomas to Boston.

What was there return for two point guards capable of scoring 20 points per game? Brandon Knight, Marcus Thornton and some picks.

Both transactions also saw the Suns acquire John Salmons, Kendall Marshall and Danny Granger. However, Salmons and Marshall were both waived, and Granger could still be bought out.

Phoenix did acquire first round picks in 2016, 2017 and 2021, but the cost to acquire those picks was high. The 2016 pick is Cleveland’s and will likely be somewhere in the 20’s. Miami’s pick in 2017 could be in the 20’s as well, if not the late teens. 2021 is the lottery ticket. If the Heat are dreadful at that point, it’ll be a nice consolation prize, albeit an extremely late one.

The Suns also lost recent first-round pick Tyler Ennis in the trade (who also happens to be a point guard), an out-of-favor, but still young and useful center in Miles Plumlee.

Dragic was likely to depart via free agency over the offseason, so maybe the Suns did well to move on from him, but the return they received isn’t exactly outstanding considering what Reggie Jackson was moved for and Dragic’s talent in general.

The return for Thomas is another move that benefits the other team in the trade more than Phoenix. Thomas may not have been a perfect fit with the Suns’ other pieces, but a pick in the mid-to-late 20’s and the expiring contract of Marcus Thornton isn’t exactly anything to write home about—especially considering Thomas’ offensive capability.

The addition of Brandon Knight will help the Suns recover, but they just simply gave up more assets than they acquired.

Check out Know Hitter’s series on the NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers. The Winners: Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The “Losers”: Los Angeles (Lakers), Phoenix and coming soon—Minnesota and Denver.

All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

YouTube Video of the Day: Chuck’s Suspension off the Bench (From Inside the NBA)

Watch and enjoy folks.

NBA Trade Deadline Winners: Celtics, Pistons, Heat, Bucks and 76ers

Here’s a look at Know Hitter’s NBA Trade Deadline Winners.

Boston Celtics.

Detroit Pistons.

Miami Heat.

Milwaukee Bucks. 

Philadelphia 76ers. 

Check back soon for the “losers”.