As the 82-game, nearly six-month-long marathon known as the NBA regular season begins this week, the league’s 30 team rosters feature 15 players from the University of Kansas.
In order to get KU basketball fans up to speed on what they should expect from the Jayhawks representing their beloved program at the highest level, we decided to rank KU’s current pros, counting down from No. 15 to No. 1, in terms of which players will be the most interesting to follow in the months to come.
We’ll start it off with Nos. 15-11. These former Kansas standouts probably aren’t going to begin trending on Twitter or make many headlines. Still, some will play key roles on playoff-caliber teams.
And one youngster will try to prove he belongs in the league.
No. 15: Darrell Arthur — Denver Nuggets
If Darrell Arthur was a football player, he’d be an interior lineman whose name never gets called on a broadcast. The 6-foot-9 forward just executes his assignments without much flash or fuss, and to the delight of his coaches, rarely makes mistakes.
While the eighth-year veteran from KU is well respected for his reliability and demeanor, coming off the bench for Denver to grab rebounds and successfully defend pick-and-rolls on the perimeter isn’t the most glamorous role in the NBA, and it’s for those reasons that our list begins with Arthur.
At 28, he’s in the prime of his career, and coming off a season in which he produced 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds as a Nuggets reserve playing 21.7 minutes a game.
Arthur is a more valuable piece than some of the other Jayhawks in the league, but it’s just hard to envision fans stopping what they’re doing to tune in to a Denver game for the purposes of keeping up with his career.
No. 14: Nick Collison — Oklahoma City Thunder
Speaking of professionals, few veterans in the NBA are as respected for their dirty work as much as Nick Collison, aka Mr. Thunder. Entering his 13th season with the franchise, Collison’s gray beard hairs might bring him some grief from his much younger teammates, but the backup to Oklahoma City’s backup big men works so hard and knows the league so well that OKC likes to keep him around as a mentor and occasional fill-in.
The 35-year-old played a career-low 11.8 minutes a game last season, and when he does check into games we won’t see Collison do much more than compete for rebounds, takes some charges and dive on the floor. Still, OKC is embarking on its post-Kevin Durant era, and no player on the roster figures to influence how the Thunder go about handling the challenge ahead in the Western Conference, particularly behind the scenes, more than Russell Westbrook and Collison. Oklahoma City keeps Collison around because of what he brings to the locker room and the organization’s culture, but from a viewing standpoint it’s also entertaining to watch NBA old guys outcompete far superior athletes for a few minutes here and there.
No. 13: Jeff Withey — Utah Jazz
The backup 7-footer isn’t expected to play a ton for Utah, a franchise with a sneaky-deep roster which some around the NBA think will propel the Jazz into the playoffs this season, but Jeff Withey could be poised to make more of an impact on the court this season than he has since he left KU in 2013.
Witney has averaged just 11.0 minutes a game in his three professional seasons, but enters the year as the primary backup for Jazz center Rudy Gobert. It should be interesting to see if Withey can make a leap in his production with more opportunities. Per 36 minutes in 2015-16, the reserve center averaged 11.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks.
Don’t be surprised to see Withey swats or jams show up on social media or highlights shows, particularly when he plays a key part in the Jazz knocking off some of the more renowned teams in the league.
No. 12: Brandon Rush — Minnesota Timberwolves
A few years ago, going from Golden State to Minnesota would’ve seemed like a penthouse-to-outhouse move for Rush, a ninth-year guard. However, his free-agent signing with the Timberwolves this summer couldn’t have come at a better time. The franchise, built around young stars-in-the-making Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, added one of the league’s best coaches, Tom Thibodeau, as well, in the offseason. The perennial lottery team could jump into the playoffs by season’s end, and the organization should only see more progress from there.
Plus, as thrilling as it must’ve been for Rush to play for the back-to-back West champion Warriors, he could contribute a lot more to a young Minnesota roster than he ever would’ve got a chance to do on Golden State’s star-studded perimeter.
Rush played 21.9 minutes a game for the T’wolves during the preseason, averaged 7.1 points and made 12 of his 20 3-pointers. Between his defensive ability and knack for spotting up behind the arc, Rush projects as a solid complimentary bench player for Minnesota.
No. 11: Cheick Diallo — New Orleans Pelicans
The guy barely played at Kansas. How is he going to get any run in the NBA? Actually, that’s what makes Cheick Diallo’s rookie season so intriguing.
Odds are New Orleans, much like KU coach Bill Self, won’t have much use for the 20-year-old off the bat. The 6-foot-9 big is too raw to be relied upon within a rotation at this point. However, the Pelicans seem to like his energy and down-the-road potential. There will be plenty of nights when Diallo doesn’t even suit up for his new team. When he does get spot minutes, they’ll come late in blowouts most likely.
Without a doubt, Diallo is a longterm project. The months ahead will include the first steps he’ll take toward whatever his career becomes: high-energy role player in the paint, highly-rated prep prospect that never met his full potential or somewhere in between? We’ll have to wait a few years to learn the answer.
It’s not exactly LeBron James returning to Cleveland, but NBA free agency provided former Kansas star Cole Aldrich with an opportunity to go home and play for a franchise that means a lot to him.
According to various media reports Sunday, the 6-foot-11 Burnsville, Minn., native agreed to a three-year, $22 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Drafted 11th overall in 2010 after a standout college career with the Jayhawks, Aldrich struggled to earn playing time in his first few seasons in the NBA, before enjoying some breakout success this past year with the Los Angeles Clippers.
After two seasons with Oklahoma City, Aldrich split the 2012-13 season with Houston and Sacramento, then signed with New York in 2013. A year ago, he signed as a free agent with the Clippers, and averaged 5.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 13.3 minutes a game. But even his one relatively effective season in L.A. got off to a bumpy start. Aldrich didn’t check in off the bench in 22 of the team’s first 27 games.
“It’s not easy,” Aldrich said in June of remaining patient while waiting for a legitimate chance to prove he belonged in the NBA. “It’s not. I just tried to see the big picture. The season is long, and you never know when somebody can twist an ankle or, whatever happens, somebody gets sick and somebody’s out for a few games. You’re gonna have to be ready to go in and produce.”
With Los Angeles, Aldrich saw a significant uptick in his minutes following a December quad injury to then-teammate Blake Griffin. The center parlayed the on-court production that followed into a deal with the Timberwolves.
As a teenager, Aldrich starred at Bloomington Jefferson High, roughly 20 minutes away from his new home NBA arena, the Target Center, in downtown Minneapolis.
Now 27, Aldrich, embarking on his seventh season, thinks the best years of his career are ahead of him. He told the Star Tribune playing for the organization he grew up watching will be special.
“You always kind of think it’s a possibility,” Aldrich told the Star Tribune. “You never really know. I’m just really excited.”
Although the Timberwolves haven’t reached the playoffs since Aldrich was a high school freshman, many around the league see the team on the verge of something special, with a pair of young stars in the making — Karl-Anthony Towns and former KU wing Andrew Wiggins — and a new head coach, Tom Thibodeau.
At this juncture, Aldrich projects as a backup big for Minnesota. The Star Tribune reported he’ll likely share minutes inside with Towns and Gorgui Dieng.
Last season, according to basketball-reference.com, Aldrich earned $1.1 million with the Clippers before opting out of his contract to test the open market. He’s set to bring in nearly seven times that much this coming season.
Previously, the burly pivot’s biggest paydays came in the third season of his rookie deal, which paid him $2.4 million for the year. The following season, he made $981,084 with the Knicks.
This summer, the NBA’s salary cap jumped up by roughly $24 million, meaning each franchise has more money to spend than ever before. Players such as Aldrich are reaping the benefits.
Darrell Arthur staying put
Aldrich was the second former Kansas star to cash in on this summer’s league-wide spending spree. Seventh-year forward Darrell Arthur, who won a national championship at KU with Aldrich in 2008, agreed to terms with Denver — electing to stick with the team that he played for the previous three seasons.
The Denver Post reported Arthur’s contract, which like all free-agent deals can’t become official before July 7, will be worth $23 million over three seasons.
While Washington and other franchises showed interest in Arthur, who averaged 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds during the 2015-16 season, The Post reported the Nuggets made him a priority in their free agency plans.
Arthur must enjoy his situation with the Nuggets, because even though his salary increased from $2.8 million last year to $7.6 million this coming season, The Post reported Arthur might have been able to pull in closer to $10 million a year with another organization.
The 28-year-old forward who began his career with Memphis, made a personal best $3.4 million with Denver during the 2014-15 season. He’ll more than double that figure next season.
There never has been a better time to be an NBA free agent.
The league’s salary cap is jumping approximately $24 million dollars this summer, meaning all 30 teams will have room to sign available players to what most expect to be eye-popping and/or head-scratching contracts.
The hysteria officially begins at midnight Thursday for the big names such as Kevin Durant and Al Horford, as well as the league’s role players.
Even though the seven former Kansas players available won’t garner maximum contracts, all of them figure to be on the verge of signing the most lucrative deals of their careers.
Here’s a look at what’s ahead for those Jayhawks — other than constantly listening to Drake and Future’s “Big Rings” while rapping along, “What a time to be alive.”
Age: 27 | Position: Center | Most recent team: L.A. Clippers | Seasons played: Six | 2015-16 key stats: 5.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 59.6% FGs, 13.3 minutes
After playing fewer than 400 total minutes in each of his first four seasons, Cole Aldrich began to carve out a niche for himself as a serviceable backup big man during the past couple of years.
“It just takes an opportunity, and my opportunity took four or five years in,” Aldrich said a few weeks back, while visiting Lawrence. “You get the right opportunity, and for me it was just continue to do what I do, and that was find a way to get better.”
Aldrich played so well in a reserve role for the Los Angeles Clippers this past season, in fact, that he thinks he’s entering the prime of his career, setting up a rather easy decision to opt out of the second year of his contract.
“You kind of look at the situation, and I had to take some time, and you think about what it is,” Aldrich said of leaving $1.2 million on the table to become a free agent, adding he knew the Clippers might have some cap space available to set up a return to L.A.
He is right about that. The Clippers have a little wiggle room thanks to the salary cap jump. But they don’t have as much room to operate as most teams, because more than $63 million of the franchise’s money is tied up in its big three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Should the Clippers keep all of their core in place and successfully bring in a role-playing free agent of note, they might have to part ways with the 6-foot-11 Aldrich if other teams are willing to reward him with a bigger contract. Aldrich played well enough in his one season with Los Angeles to prove he can rebound, defend the paint and finish, setting him up to fit in with any team in need of a second-unit center who eats up space.
L.A. even appears to have a safety net of sorts in place in case it can’t keep Aldrich, by drafting Maryland center Diamond Stone in the second round.
According to L.A. Times reporter Brad Turner the Clippers are interested in bringing Aldrich back, and Orlando and Phoenix have expressed interest, too.
The way Aldrich talked, it sounded like he might prefer to stay with the Clippers. But the NBA is a business, so there is no guarantee it will play out in that fashion.
Age: 28 | Position: Power forward and small forward | Most recent team: Denver | Seasons played: Seven | 2015-16 key stats: 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 45.2% FGs, 38.5% 3’s, 21.7 minutes
A steady veteran forward who does what coaches ask of him and has added some 3-point shooting to his repertoire, Darrell Arthur, like Aldrich, opted out of the second year of his deal.
Moving on from Denver could be a course of action for the 6-foot-9 forward, who has only played for Memphis and the Nuggets since leaving Kansas early as a national champion.
Denver has plenty of cap space to re-sign Arthur if it wants. But if Arthur desires an increased role and a change of scenery, he could leave behind a crowded Nuggets frontcourt that includes Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic.
Arthur’s reputation will keep him employed in the NBA. Where that happens is up to him. As reported earlier this week, Washington is interested in him as a backup to fellow former KU forward Markieff Morris.
Age: 24 | Position: Center | Most recent team: L.A. Lakers | Seasons played: Two | 2015-16 key stats: 3.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 54.8% FGs, 12.7 minutes
Tarik Black serves as a nice reminder to recent KU draft snubs Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr. and Brannen Greene that entering the league as an undrafted free agent can work out in the long run.
The 6-foot-9 post player proved in two years ago in summer league Houston should keep him around. Even when the Rockets waived him during his rookie season in order to go after a veteran, the Los Angeles Lakers quickly claimed him and added Black to their inexperienced core.
However, the fact that L.A. only played Black 12.7 minutes a game during the 2015-16 season makes one wonder how interested the organization is in bringing him back. If the Lakers are married to the idea of keeping him around, they can match any other team’s offer, because Black is a restricted free agent (unlike the rest of the former KU players on this list).
The good news for Black is the Lakers have just two post players under contract for next year: Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. If the once dominant franchise whiffs in free agency on more established big men, re-signing a hard-working, familiar face might appeal. Conversely, should L.A. spend an absurd amount of money on more alluring names, the team might need to bring back Black on an affordable contract to complete the roster.
The real question is: Do other teams value Black as a potential big man?
Age: 30 | Position: Guard | Most recent team: Memphis | Seasons played: Eight | 2015-16 key stats: 10.3 points, 3.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 2.6 rebounds, 41% FGs, 30.9% 3’s, 22.5 minutes
Had Mario Chalmers made it through his eighth NBA season unscathed, he would be the most attractive KU free agent this summer by far. And even while recovering from a ruptured right Achilles tendon, Chalmers could still draw the most interest.
Teams will want to take their time and have their medical staffs make sure vitality still exists in the 6-foot-2 veteran’s knee before OK-ing a deal for Chalmers, but the way he played in Memphis prior to the injury setback will keep him as an intriguing choice for organizations in need of a backup guard who can shoot and distribute.
In his 55 games for the Grizzlies, following a trade from Miami, Chalmers thrived as a sixth man coming off the bench to put up points. Throw in his defensive ability and championship experience while playing with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, and you quickly realize how coveted Chalmers would be to a playoff team in search of backcourt assistance.
Chalmers recently said in an interview he is two weeks ahead of schedule with his knee rehab, and the hope is he would be back at 100 percent before the regular season begins.
Age: 35 | Position: Guard | Most recent team: Atlanta | Seasons played: 13 | 2015-16 key stats: 3.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 38% FGs, 38.7% 3’s, 13.7 minutes
As Hinrich began to find out early this past season with Chicago, there simply isn’t much demand for the veteran guard anymore, in terms of minutes. That notion later became reenforced for Hinrich upon arriving via trade in Atlanta.
The longtime Bull only appeared in 11 of a possible 26 games with the Hawks to close the regular season, averaging a paltry 0.5 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 6.9 minutes.
Those numbers make one wonder about Hinrich’s future in the league. But there will be roster spots to fill in the months ahead for a number of teams. Though 35 and nearly done as an on-court contributor, some organization might find value in having him around the locker room to guide young players and almost serve as a player/assistant coach.
Former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to love Hinrich in Chicago. Could they join up again in Minnesota, with Hinrich helping to bring along youngsters Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins?
Age: 25 | Position: Power forward | Most recent team: Brooklyn | Seasons played: Four | 2015-16 key stats: 4.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 44.7% FGs in 12.9 minutes
The No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Thomas Robinson still hasn’t made his mark in the NBA. A star at KU, Robinson has turned into a nomad backup power forward. So far, the explosive, 6-foot-10 big has played for Sacramento, Houston, Portland, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.
In all likelihood, Robinson will add a sixth team to that list this summer, after opting out of his contract with the Nets. At 25, one would assume his best years in the league are still ahead of him. And Robinson does bring a valuable skill to the floor, to go with his athleticism and energy. The guy competes on the glass.
Robinson didn’t log enough minutes with Brooklyn to qualify as a league leader in such categories, but his defensive and offensive rebound percentages are up there with the best bigs on the planet. He grabbed 27.8% of available defensive boards this past season, which would have ranked him 10th in the NBA had he played more. Even better, Robinson secured 16.4% of possible offensive boards. Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter led the league in that category, at 16.7%.
It seems any team in need of a high-energy rebounder would have to consider Robinson.
Age: 30 | Position: Shooting guard and small forward | Most recent team: Golden State | Seasons played: Eight | 2015-16 key stats: 4.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 42.7% FGs, 41.4% 3’s, 14.7 minutes
Back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, a championship ring and a role on the record-breaking 73-win Warriors. Life has been pretty good for Brandon Rush the past couple of years.
Now Rush’s contract is up, and the free agency hullabaloo in the days ahead could determine his place going forward with the defending Western Conference champs. Golden State values defensive versatility and Rush definitely gives the team that as a backup. But if the Warriors return all of their core perimeter players — Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Shawn Livingston and Harrison Barnes — would they really need Rush?
Rush proved this season, while starting 25 games, he can fill in and mesh well. In December, Rush averaged a season-high 20.3 minutes and put up 5.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists while knocking down 40.5% of his 3-point attempts.
By no means is he a game-changer, but he isn’t going to shoot your team in the foot, either. Whether it’s with the Warriors or another franchise, Rush figures to find a spot as a veteran role player.
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com
It’s not often that the name Darrell Arthur comes up in the buzz surrounding the NBA, but with the season over, the draft complete and free agency revving up at the end of the week, rumors regarding Arthur’s future began swirling Monday.
A few days after reports of the former Kansas forward opting out of the second year of his contract with Denver in order to hit the open market, word out of the nation’s capital is Washington could be a destination for the 6-foot-9 veteran who won a national championship with KU in 2008.
According to a report from CSNAtlantic.com, Arthur is on a “short list” of targets for the Wizards, when teams can start negotiating with free agents on July 1.
Arthur averaged 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 21.7 minutes a game — mostly as a reserve — this past season with the Nuggets, during his third year with the franchise. While his numbers don’t blow you away, Arthur is respected around the league for his work ethic and ability to defend pick-and-roll action as a 6-foot-9 frontcourt player.
What’s more, Arthur hit a career-high 38.5% of his 3-pointers during his seventh season in the league, making 45 shots from downtown, easily beating his previous season-best of 26 3-pointers.
Besides his valuable skills, which likely on their own merit could’ve earned him more than the $2.9 million he just left on the table for next season, the NBA salary cap is rising significantly this summer. Any player in his right mind would opt out of his contract now if he could, because pay raises will be readily available.
If Arthur were to reach a deal with the Wizards, he’d likely serve as a backup at power forward to another Jayhawk, Markieff Morris.
Plus, Washington would probably become a new favorite NBA team for Kansas fans, with four former KU players on the roster: Arthur, Morris, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Drew Gooden.
Of course, it might not work out that way. Most teams looking for a backup power forward, likely would have interest in a 4 who can stretch the floor and move his feet well while defending — inside and out — in the half court.
Arthur’s name certainly won’t be the biggest one on the market this summer, but he is an important role player to watch amid the free agency frenzy.
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com
Although injuries kept him out of 22 games last season, the Denver Nuggets didn’t mind bringing back a trustworthy backup big man in Darrell Arthur.
The former Kansas power forward re-signed with the Nuggets this past summer and now figures to play a significant role for new head coach Mike Malone.
Never one to blow away fans with his stats — Arthur averaged 6.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks, and made 40.4% of his field goals in 2014-15 — the 6-foot-9 post player is known for playing sound defense on the perimeter and interior. Arthur wins over coaches with footwork and effort, not blocks and steals. He is long and knows how to defend the pick-and-roll, which makes him valuable on any roster.
A backup to Denver’s starting power forward, Kenneth Faried, Arthur spoke with the Denver Post about how the Nuggets will change their approach, under Malone, known to be defensive-minded.
“This is the way I was taught to play. I'm pretty sure this is the right way to play basketball,” Arthur said. “He's doing a great job of teaching everyone, not just the young guys. He's refreshing the older guys on positioning on defense. Offense too. But defense leads to great offense, and we've been doing a (heck of a) job during the preseason so far.”
A bruised right knee kept Arthur out of Malone’s lineup most of the preseason, but he was able to play 20 minutes in the Nuggets’ final tuneup. He spoke on media day (before that minor setback) about his frustrations with last season and getting banged up.
"I really can't control the injury thing,” he said. “I’ve been in the gym working on the strength of my legs.”
A role player who understands what he can and can’t bring to an NBA court, Arthur said he will play whatever front court position Malone wants to use him at and revealed he spent the summer trying to become a better 3-point shooter from the corners. A wise move, as the game seems to demand more and more of its big men stretch the floor.
Arthur hit 2 of 5 form 3-point range in his preseason finale. Last season, he only made 23.6% of his attempts from deep (26 of 110, both career highs). In his six previous seasons, he has made just 55 of 201 (27.4%), but he also rarely took 3’s in his first three seasons (0-for-9).
If Arthur can add that 3-point wrinkle to his overall repertoire, maybe he’ll play even more of a factor for the rebuilding Nuggets (30-52 last year).
2015-16 ’Hawks in the NBA Season Previews
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
During the past few days, players for the NBA’s 30 franchises posed for photos, answered questions and took in media day festivities with varying degrees of seriousness.
That means it’s time to get the old ’Hawks in the NBA blog up and firing again. At this moment 19 former Kansas players draw paychecks in The Association, and they all — well, almost all of them — had their moments in the spotlight at media days.
From rookies just getting started, to veterans joining new teams to role players fitting in, here are some of the KU-related social media highlights from around the league.
COLE ALDRICH, L.A. CLIPPERS
CLIFF ALEXANDER, PORTLAND
DARRELL ARTHUR, DENVER
TARIK BLACK, L.A. LAKERS
MARIO CHALMERS, MIAMI
In case you were wondering, “Spo” is Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, and Chalmers’ “new role” will be him coming off the bench.
NICK COLLISON, OKLAHOMA CITY
JOEL EMBIID, PHILADELPHIA
If you were curious about how Joel Embiid is handling his ongoing injury and rehab process, you’re not alone.
Appropriately enough, the injured-for-another-entire-season Embiid wasn’t a part of the 76ers’ media day, according to The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey.
Presumably, he’ll attend a media day and play in the NBA one of these years.
Embiid’s last known whereabouts? Going to see the Pope.
DREW GOODEN, WASHINGTON
Before looking for Drew Gooden content, I thought, What’s that maniac up to?
Well, he’s up to this:
That dude has to be a blast to cover. Rarely not entertaining.
KIRK HINRICH, CHICAGO
BEN MCLEMORE, SACRAMENTO
MARCUS MORRIS, DETROIT
The Pistons’ Twitter account did a tweet Q&A with a number of Detroit players Monday, but apparently Marcus bounced before they could get one rolling with him.
As a side note, ESPN’s NBA folks ranked Marcus Morris as the 191st-best player in the league. So there’s that.
MARKIEFF MORRIS, PHOENIX
By far the biggest ’Hawks in the NBA news to come out of media days was presumably disgruntled forward Markieff Morris putting on a happy face and stating he wants to be in Phoenix.
That’s not what he was saying back in August, when he told The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey: “One thing for sure, I am not going to be there.”
At the time at least, Markieff was hot and bothered about Phoenix shipping his twin brother and roommate Marcus off to the Pistons. He still might be a little sour with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough about that transaction.
SASHA KAUN, CLEVELAND
Sasha Kaun is Russian. Timofey Mozgov is Russion. Hijinks ensued.
KELLY OUBRE JR., WASHINGTON
Looks like Kelly Oubre Jr. loosened up and got comfortable at the Wizards’ media day.
PAUL PIERCE, L.A. CLIPPERS
THOMAS ROBINSON, BROOKLYN
BRANDON RUSH, GOLDEN STATE
Yes, Brandon Rush won an NBA championship with the Warriors. But, no, there isn’t a lot of media interest in him out in Oakland.
Upon posting this blog, Rush hadn't appeared in any Golden State tweets — or, really, anywhere else in the Twitterverse.
ANDREW WIGGINS, MINNESOTA
Unlike Marcus Morris, the 2014-15 Rookie of the Year was able to answer a few questions on Twitter.
JEFF WITHEY, UTAH
When the clock strikes midnight and June turns to July, NBA free agent season officially begins.
With the 2015 draft out of the way, teams can begin attempting to plug the last — or many — holes on their rosters by offering millions of dollars to the players whose previous contracts just expired.
While national attention turns to the rumors and meetings surrounding LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Loves and other marquee names, the coming days and weeks will determine the professional futures of some former Kansas stars, too.
Here is a look at seven Jayhawks in play as free agency begins.
Paul Pierce | Washington | F | age: 37
Pierce might be on his fourth team in four seasons by the time the summer signing frenzy finishes. Now a 17-year league veteran, the former Boston Celtic and one-year Brooklyn Net surprised many last summer by signing on with Washington.
Though the Wizards, who made it to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs as Pierce averaged 14.6 points and 4.2 rebounds this past spring, didn’t expect him to opt out of his deal this summer, the veteran forward decided to give himself some options as he nears retirement.
While D.C. remains a legit candidate to re-sign him, the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston both are reportedly interested in adding the 2008 NBA Finals MVP, who won a title with the Celtics, while playing for now-Clippers coach Doc Rivers.
In a piece from The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg, Wizards coach Randy Wittman remained positive about keeping Pierce in the fold.
“End-of-the-year meetings, talking to him here after the season, I think he was really pleased with the situation that he walked into here, what he was able to help with this team, the future of this team and where we’re headed,” the coach said. “I think those are all great positives. I feel very positive that we’re going to be able to have him back in the fold next year.”
Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer, however, thinks Pierce will chase another title with Rivers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers.
Thomas Robinson | Philadelphia | PF | age: 24
Three years removed from Sacramento taking him with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Robinson likely will join his fifth NBA franchise this summer. The athletic, raw 24-year-old post player experienced a crazy couple days in February, when Portland traded him to Denver, the Nuggets promptly waived him, Brooklyn planned to sign him and Philadelphia snagged him off waivers before he could become an in-season free agent.
The New York Post’s Tim Bontemps reported Brooklyn, who planned to sign Robinson if he cleared waivers, will target him in free agency.
“He could provide energy and rebounding as a low-cost reserve big, an area where the Nets could use help,” Bontemps wrote.
The decision is all Robinson’s, though. Other suitors could emerge, and he’ll likely take the deal that is best for his financial future.
Upon landing with the 76ers, Robinson averaged 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in 18.5 minutes a game.
Cole Aldrich | New York | C | age: 26
While the Knicks figure to actively recruit some bigger available names, Newsday reports Aldrich is one of the Knicks’ own free agents who is likely to return.
Aldrich told the Journal-World a couple weeks ago he didn’t yet know what kind of deals would come his way.
“It’s just nice to get out there again,” he said. “It’s another summer to get better, and that’s all that matters.”
As a young, inexpensive big man coming off a career year (5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds), Aldrich shouldn’t have any trouble finding steady work.
Darrell Arthur | Denver | PF | age: 27
A 6-foot-9 backup big man, Arthur won’t create a lot of buzz, but The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg put the former KU standout on his list of “sleeper” free agents. Some advanced stats, cited by The Post, reveal Arthur’s worth:
“The Denver Nuggets were 9.6 points per 100 possessions better defensively this season with Arthur in the lineup,” Greenberg wrote, “ and he held opponents to 0.9 points per play when he was called on to defend in the post.”
CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore ranked Arthur as the 37th-best available free agent, ahead of Pierce (40th).
Drew Gooden | Washington | PF | age: 33
Gooden has stuck around the league for 13 seasons, so he must be doing something right. The veteran big man reinvented his game to remain relevant and served Washington this past season as a stretch power forward.
Gooden averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in the Wizards’ playoff run. According to The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo, Gooden had a “we’ll see what happens” approach to his free agency.
“I feel like I was a component to help get to where we at right now,” Gooden said. “… Whether I am here or somewhere else, I will continue to get better and fill this role I have taken with the Wizards. I would love for it to be here but if it is not, this is a business and I can swallow that pill, too.”
Jeff Withey | New Orleans | C | age: 25
The Pelicans haven’t used Withey much (9.9 career minutes per game) in his two seasons of service, but that doesn’t mean they want to dump him in the offseason.
The Advocate reported New Orleans would extend a one-year, qualifying offer to Withey, a restricted free agent. If Withey doesn’t find an offer from another franchise for more money, the Pelicans will keep him for next season and he’ll become a true free agent — unrestricted — in 2016. They can retain him for $1.1 million next season in that scenario, or match any offer another team comes up with for the seldom used backup center (2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.0 minutes this past season).
Xavier Henry | L.A. Lakers | G/F | age: 24
Actually, Henry has been a free agent since last December. After a breakout fourth season in 2013-14 (10 points per game), the young swingman ruptured left achilles this past November, cutting his fifth season short. The Lakers then cut Henry in order to sign another former KU player, Tarik Black.
Henry’s history of injury problems might scare away some organizations, and no one will sign him until he’s back healthy and cleared by a team’s medical personnel. If he can get back healthy, though, and recapture the kind of play he displayed almost two years ago, Henry could emerge as a wild card addition that no one is mentioning at this juncture. Considering all the variables, the offseason uncertainty figures to stretch on for months for Henry.
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
It’s official. Thomas Robinson is headed to Denver, meaning the third-year power forward is about to play for his fourth team.
But the deal was not for Wilson Chandler, as early rumors indicated.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday, a few hours before the NBA trade deadline, the former Kansas star is part of a swap between Portland and the Nuggets that landed the Trail Blazers veteran guard Aaron Afflalo to bolster their push toward the postseason.
Drafted by Sacramento, traded to Houston as a rookie, then moved again to Portland before the start of his second year, Robinson turned in some positive moments in a Trail Blazers uniform this season, including a double-double in his first career start. For the most part, though, he never became a factor or a significant part of the rotation.
The 6-foot-10 power forward from KU only played in 32 of 53 games and averaged 3.6 points (a career low) and 4.2 rebounds while hitting 51.6% of his shots in 12.2 minutes a game this season for Portland. He had DNP’s in three of the last five games.
There might be more available minutes for Robinson, a free-agent-to-be, in the Mile High City. The Nuggets have a couple of talented young big men in Kenneth Faried and Jusuf Nurkic starting, but Wojnarowski reported Denver shipped backup post player JaVale McGee to Philadelphia.
Robinson might actually have to beat out another former KU standout for playing time in Denver. Darrell Arthur plays 17.9 minutes a game off the bench and is averaging 7.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 44 appearances.
J.J. Hickson, another Denver backup big, could be another obstacle for Robinson’s minutes — if the Nuggets don’t deal Hickson before the end of the day.
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.
Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.
The first handful of games tip off October 28, marking the start of the 82-game grind.
Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.
Darrell Arthur — Denver Nuggets
6-foot-9 forward | Sixth season
2013-14 numbers: 68 games | 17.1 minutes | 5.9 points | 3.1 rebounds | 39.5 FG% | 85.5 FT%
Did you know Darrell Arthur still plays in the NBA?
If you don’t follow the Association too closely — or the Denver Nuggets, in particular — you might have forgotten about the former Jayhawk, who contributed to the 2008 national championship before leaving Lawrence early to turn pro.
A late first-round pick in 2008, Arthur played four seasons with Memphis before the Grizzlies traded him in the summer of 2013 to Denver. Now in the final season of a three-year contract, Arthur exercised his player option to stick with the Nuggets this past summer.
The backup forward is just quietly making a living (he’ll reportedly make $3,457,149 this year) on a solid team that missed the 2014 playoffs and doesn’t generate much national buzz in the loaded Western Conference.
Arthur might not be highly regarded around the league…
… but it seems people within the Nuggets organization really appreciate him.
A community ambassador for Denver, former Kansas standout Mark Randall told KUsports.com that folks who work for the Nuggets feel like when Arthur gets the ball anywhere form 15 to 19 feet away from the rim, he can knock down jumpers.
“That's huge for us, to be able to have a (post) guy who can step out on the floor and knock that shot down, especially being 6-9,” Randall said.
"Defensively, he's not a liability… He can keep his guy off the boards and he'll go in and mix it up. He's a good one."
Arthur missed 12 games last season with some nagging injuries but told the Denver Post’s Christopher Dempsey recently he enters this season pain-free.
An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, Arthur told the Post he’d like to contribute to Denver’s success and turn that into an extended stay in The Mile-High City:
"I want to go out and do the things that I do. Play defense, bring energy, knock down open shots when I have them; being consistent at those things is the key. Then everything will work itself out."
Playing in the West puts Arthur’s Nuggets at a disadvantage, but if they can stay healthy, they have a shot at making the playoffs.
Denver (11th in the conference last season) won’t surpass the likes of San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers or Golden State. But their rotation — Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Arthur — has the talent to get up and down the floor and score/compete with anyone.
So what do we expect out of Arthur for the 2014-15 season?
Don’t be surprised if he turns out to be a key piece off Denver’s bench who helps push the Nuggets into the top eight out West — and into the league's national conversation.
’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:
By all accounts, Sacramento rookie guard Ben McLemore is doing all he can to become a better NBA player.
Earlier this week, the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones had a story on that very subject. Even on days off — when players have the freedom to do whatever they please — McLemore hits the weights and works on his game.
McLemore spoke with Jones about some of the aspects of his game that he tries to address:
“I was telling coach (Chris) Jent and coach Dee (Brown) the things we’ve been working on I’ve been perfecting out there on the court,” McLemore said. “I’m more comfortable dribbling the ball, coming off screens and handling it and creating shots for myself. I’m definitely comfortable and I want to continue to grow.”
He put some of those skills to use earlier this week, on his way to 18 points against Denver.
Despite his development, McLemore wasn't one of the nine NBA rookies chosen to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge, a showcase game for first- and second-year players at the NBA's upcoming All-Star Weekend, in New Orleans.
McLemore averages 7.9 points and 2.8 rebounds through 45 games this season for the Kings. He's shooting 36.8 percent from the floor. Below is his shot chart. (Red is below the NBA average for that area of the floor, yellow is about average and green is above average.)
Here's the weird thing about McLemore's omission: he is fifth among NBA rookies in scoring. The only first-year players averaging more than the Sacramento shooting guard are Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams, Orlando's Victor Oladipo, Utah's Trey Burke and New York's Tim Hardaway Jr. All five of them made the cut. (Go to BleacherReport.com for a full list of Rising Stars Challenge participants.)
Surely, McLemore must be disappointed about the snub. But the rook seems wise beyond his years in his response to the selections.
Taylor signs on with D-League's Red Claws
Cut by the New Orleans Pelicans last week, Tyshawn Taylor has a new home.
It's just not in the NBA. The D-League's Maine Red Claws announced Thursday they signed the guard out of Kansas and he's expected to join the team on Sunday.
The Red Claws are an affiliate of the Boston Celtics.
Whether Taylor proves himself worthy of a spot in the NBA in the next couple of months — with Boston or another team — remains to be seen. We'll find out in the weeks to come how he responds to a new situation — and one he likely didn't anticipate being in at this point of the season.
Arthur returns to Nuggets lineup
The man known around KU basketball as "Shady" got back on the floor this week for Denver. Darrell Arthur had missed seven games with a strained hip, and played for the first time since Jan. 11 on Wednesday against Charlotte.
Arthur played 17 minutes in his typical role, off the bench, and surpassed his season average (5.7 a game) with seven points for Denver.
The 6-foot-9 forward even buried a three-pointer in the final minute to get the Nuggets within a point, but the Bobcats went on to win.
Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.