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A lot has changed since the last edition of Hoosiers In The NBA: The Golden State Warriors are the new NBA champions, I started a new blog, the 2015 NBA Draft took place, and Noah Vonleh just moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific. As you can see there is a lot to catch up on so I will be breaking this into two parts. Today I will go over how the NBA Draft affected current Hoosiers playing in the NBA and Thursday I will give a more in-depth look on how Vonleh will fit long-term with the Portland Trail Blazers. However, I will go over how the draft affected Vonleh in this part. Buckle up as we dive into four teams’ drafts and then analyze how the new kids on the block will affect four former Hoosiers:
Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:
2014-2015 stats (Charlotte Hornets): 3.3ppg, 3.4rpg, 0.2apg, 0.16spg, 0.36bpg, 0.4tpg, 0.8fpg, 39.5% FG, 38.5% 3FG, 69.2% FT, 10.3mpg. (25 games)
I’ll save most of what I have to say about Vonleh for part 2, but his new team made a very interesting move during the draft. After drafting Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with the 23rd pick, the Blazers packaged him with veteran guard Steve Blake and shipped them to Brooklyn for the 41st pick (which became Pat Connaughton) and center Mason Plumlee. While initially this looked bad for Vonleh, after further consideration I think this may work out very well. With current center Robin Lopez an unrestricted free agent, Plumlee slides right into the starting lineup and avoids having to play power forward (which is the only position Vonleh can play at this time).
I’ll get more into the LaMarcus Aldridge situation on Thursday but the short version is that Vonleh’s playing dramatically increases if Aldridge leaves, with the outside chance of Vonleh even getting to start. Plumlee’s low post play makes him a great match to Vonleh’s shooting range, making them a promising high-low combo. Connaughton provides Portland with another shooter and someone to space the floor so Vonleh can have more wide-open looks from deep. Vonleh’s situation in Portland just looks better and better with every move the Blazers make.
Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:
2014-2015 stats: 7.6ppg, 5.8rpg, 1.6apg, 0.56spg, 0.79bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.5fpg, 46.1% FG, 100.0% 3FG, 77.4% FT, 24.0mpg. (62 games)
While it was a shame we never really got to see him play with Vonleh, Cody Zeller really benefitted from Vonleh’ s departure and was set to be a lock at starting power forward next season (the newly-acquired Spencer Hawes being more of a versatile big man off the bench capable of playing either position and Marvin Williams usually played much better when he was coming off the bench).
Then the Hornets drafted Frank Kaminsky with the ninth overall pick.
Now we’re back in the same situation we had a week ago but this time substitute in Kaminsky for Vonleh. Kaminsky may have played center at Wisconsin but he won’t be playing any other position than power forward in the NBA. Which begs the question: who is the odd man out? Unlike Vonleh, the “too raw to play” argument doesn’t fit Kaminsky and with pressure to win now he will probably be forced to play so management can validate his selection. Al Jefferson is the team leader and franchise player so he’s not going anywhere in the near future and they just acquired Hawes. That leaves Zeller and Williams and I hate to say it but the signs point toward Zeller. Before Vonleh was traded, it was Zeller that management was shopping in order to get a sharpshooting wing. Obviously players get shopped around and remain on their current teams all the time but the drafting of Kaminsky almost seemed like a message. It was a message that Zeller hasn’t proven he has enough range to play power forward for the Hornets.
I really hope I’m wrong because the idea of a Zeller/Kaminsky inside/outside combo in the future sounds very intriguing and is actually plausible when you consider Zeller’s vast improvement on defense and the mismatches he could have against opposing centers because of his athleticism. I just don’t think the Hornets have the patience to keep them together.
Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:
2014-2015 stats: 17.9ppg, 4.2rpg, 4.10apg, 1.67spg, 0.26bpg, 2.8tpg, 2.60fpg, 43.6% FG, 33.9% 3FG, 81.9% FT, 35.7mpg. (72 games)
Don’t let the fact that both Orlando Magic draftees Mario Hezonja and Tyler Harvey are listed as shooting guards fool you: Victor Oladipo’s starting spot is not in danger. In fact, both of them make his life easier for different reasons.
Hezonja is an excellent shooter and immediately becomes one of the Magic’s best three-point shooters. It will take a couple of games for opposing teams to adjust but when they recognize him as a threat from deep it will create wider driving lanes for Oladipo and fellow guard Elfrid Payton. While both (especially Oladipo) are improving their shooting range, their best offensive weapon is their ability to get to the basket. Hezonja will immediately become a great pick-and-roll partner for both guards, especially Oladipo as Hezonja is also really skilled at getting to the basket thus letting them switch between roles on multiple pick-and-rolls. Also, because he is 6’8” and athletic, he should be able to slide into the small forward position and play right alongside Oladipo.
As a late second round pick, Harvey never posed a threat to Oladipo’s starting spot but he may end up helping Oladipo a lot. Oladipo averaged 38.5 minutes per game after the All-Star break, putting quite a few unnecessary miles on his legs. While Oladipo is always in fantastic shape, you could tell by the end of the season he was running out of gas as his shooting percentage went down (40.2% during the final 10 games) and his turnovers increased (averaged 3.4 turnovers over the final 10 games). If Harvey can provide some scoring while Oladipo is on the bench, it should be able to keep him fresh enough over the course of the season to let him finish the season strong and even maintain his performance level if the Magic are able to make the playoffs.
Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:
2014-2015 stats: 13.4ppg, 2.61rpg, 3.8apg, 0.82spg, 0.23bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.4fpg, 41.1% FG, 44.8% 3FG, 80.5% FT, 33.1mpg. (61 games)
The New Orleans Pelicans had only one draft pick, thanks to the Omar Asik trade, of which they used on Branden Dawson. However that was short-lived as Dawson was trade away to the Los Angeles Clippers for cash. While a future draft pick would have been nicer, trading away Dawson for cash was a decent deal for the Pelicans. New Orleans is in win-now mode with Anthony Davis ready to make his claim as the best player in the NBA and roster spots should be reserved for veteran role players that can help Davis lead this team to a deep playoff run.
One of those guys is former Hoosier Eric Gordon, who earlier this month opted-in to the final year of his contract which is worth 15.5 million. The decision was a no-brainer for Gordon but to the Pelicans it will be seen as bad news financially. However, if Gordon plays all of next season at a similar level to how he performed in the playoffs, I’m sure all will be forgiven.