Hoosiers In The NBA: Williams and Vonleh Impress In Summer League

Welcome to offseason coverage of Hoosiers In The NBA! Today I will be recapping how former Hoosiers performed during Summer League play. Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

Though often overlooked, the NBA Summer League is a very fascinating part of the NBA season. It’s a unique setting that helps introduce new names to NBA fans and offers teams a chance to develop its unproven players in an exhibition-game format.

The NBA Summer League caters to two different groups of players. For rookies and some inexperienced second/third-year players, the Summer League is a place to grow your skills and make the transition to playing meaningful minutes during the course of the NBA season. We’ll call this “Group A”, and this group is allowed to be themselves and make mistakes as long as they learn from them.

However for the other group (which we’ll call “Group B”) the margin for error is nowhere near as big. This group consists of players not currently on an NBA roster, either because they played in the NBA Development League (D-League) last year or they just went undrafted. For these players this is basically a tryout for the team they are playing for and if they don’t give the coaches a reason to invest time and training into them, they’ll get pushed aside in favor of those already signed immediately.

Indiana University saw four former players (one in Group A and three in Group B) participate in NBA Summer League this year so for this edition of Hoosiers In The NBA I’m going to take a look at each player’s overall performance and decide whether or not they succeeded in meeting their necessary goals.

Noah Vonleh, Portland Trail Blazers

Summer League Stats: 12.0ppg, 8.8rpg, 1.2apg, 0.75spg, 0.75bpg, 2.8tpg, 3.3fpg, 46.3% FG, 23.1% 3FG, 70.0% FT, 31.5mpg (4 games)

Even though he fits into Group A, Noah Vonleh had quite a bit of pressure heading into the NBA Summer League. After very minimal improvement over the course of last season, Vonleh had to show some substantial progress and dominate in Las Vegas.

While the final stats won’t blow anyone away, Vonleh actually did show some improvement and was able to dominate for short stretches of specific games. He scored double-digit points in all four games he played and recorded three double-doubles. His shooting percentages weren’t that special but it was great to see him be more assertive as he attempted 10.3 field goal attempts per game after attempting just 3.6 per game last season in the NBA. Lastly, he demonstrated his dominant rebounding ability by ranking seventh overall in rebounds per game. Overall, it was great Summer League for Vonleh and Portland Trail Blazer fans can feel optimistic about the big man’s future again.

Troy Williams, Phoenix Suns

Summer League Stats: 12.3ppg, 4.3rpg, 0.3apg, 1.67spg, 1.5tpg, 2.7fpg, 54.3% FG, 26.3% 3FG, 79.2% FT, 22.2mpg (6 games)

Being a part of Group B means that you have to keep the coach’s attention at all time or you’ll lose it to one of the players who already has a guaranteed a spot on the roster. The fact that Troy Williams was able to keep his coaches invested in him after an unspectacular start to Summer League play is nothing short of incredible.

Williams endured a tough first three games (4.3 points per game) but was able to shine during the Phoenix Suns’ tournament run, averaging 20.3 points per game over his last three games. He was able to shift roles as he went from a role player willing to do anything during the first half of Summer League play to a great slasher and scorer over the second half of Summer League play.

A roster spot on the Phoenix Suns didn’t seem very likely at the beginning of July, but now Williams has a really good shot to make the team and if he doesn’t there should be a few NBA teams that took notice and will give Williams a shot.

Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, Brooklyn Nets

Summer League Stats: 8.8ppg, 1.5rpg, 1.8apg, 0.75spg, 0.25bpg, 2.3tpg, 0.8fpg, 43.8% FG, 18.2% 3FG, 71.4% FT, 17.0mpg (4 games)

If Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell was in Group A, this would have been considered a passable Summer League performance, but the problem is that he belongs to Group B.

Don’t get me wrong, Ferrell was good during his time on the floor but he needed to be great. He did surprising well on two-point shots but was abysmal on three-point shots (what he’ll need to rely on if he plays in the NBA). Also his assist numbers were much too low, even when you take into account the number of minutes he played and how many of those minutes he was actually the main ball handler.

There is still a good chance he could end up on an NBA D-League team this season, but the idea of Ferrell being on an NBA roster next season seems to be miniscule.

Verdell Jones, NBA D-League Select Team

Summer League Stats: 5.2ppg, 0.8rpg, 1.0apg, 0.75spg, 1.5tpg, 1.0fpg, 53.8% FG, 50.0% 3FG, 85.7% FT, 11.2mpg (4 games)

With all the excitement surrounding Williams and Ferrell in their quest to make an NBA roster, another former Hoosier was almost completely overshadowed.

As a member of the NBA D-League Select Team, Verdell Jones had a great start to Summer League after a 12-point, three-rebound, three-assist performance in just 19 minutes. Unfortunately that would be the highest point of his experience as he proceeded to only play a total of 27 minutes over his other three appearances and totaled a combined nine points. While it was nice to see him get this opportunity, don’t expect to hear anything regarding him playing for an NBA team.

Mistakes In Maui And How The Hoosiers Can Learn From Them

After starting the season with three dominating wins, the Indiana Hoosiers traveled to Hawaii hoping to add some games against top-tier opponents to their resume. Unfortunately the Hoosiers never got a chance to face the best teams as the Hoosiers stumbled to a 1-2 record and a sixth place finish in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

The Hoosiers lost in the first round of the tournament to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 82-78 and thus were placed in the loser’s bracket for the rest of the trip. The two consolation games ended up being a 83-73 win over the St. John’s Red Storm and a 72-69 loss to the UNLV Rebels.

While the two losses hurt, it was how the Hoosiers lost those games that hurt the most and felt all too familiar.

All of the defensive improvement the Hoosiers showed during their first three games of the season vanished as opponents were able to score at ease, especially on post-ups and drives to the basket. The Hoosiers allowed 50 points in the first half to the Demon Deacons, 42 points in the second half to the Red Storm, and 41 points in the first half to the Rebels. In the case of the two losses, the Hoosiers did make defensive improvements at the start of the second half only to fall short when it came to the closing minutes.

Now while there was some troubling play this past week it doesn’t mean the Hoosiers are doomed to repeat what happened last season. In fact, if the whole team embraces reviewing these games and learns from their mistakes, the season will still have a lot of promise. Here are some of the mistakes that need correcting:

Consistent aggression: The Hoosiers played some of their most inspired defense during the first 10 minutes of the second half against the Demon Deacons. They contested every post-up and never allowed guards the opportunity to drive to the basket. However, whether it was fatigue or playing scared and trying not to lose the lead, the Hoosiers went away from that aggressive play. For a team that tries to wear out their opponent with their pace, I think the switch in mindsets (from being the trailing team to the team with the lead) is what tripped them up the most. Many teams become a lot less aggressive when they have the lead because aggressive play can lead to mistakes. However, despite the possibility of mistakes, aggressive play also puts a ton of pressure on the team that is trailing to be even more aggressive, thus making the opposing team likely to make even more mistakes. If the Hoosiers can continue to play their pace even when they have the lead they can make it harder for teams to come back on them.

Situational defense: I think we all learned this past week that this Hoosier team isn’t going to be a top 25 defense this season but that is OK. The Hoosiers don’t have to be defensively brilliant to reach their ceiling; they just have to focus on which situations require them to play to the best of their ability. Most of those situations occur in the final four minutes of games where a lot of Big Ten games will be won or lost. Knowing the situation is probably the biggest improvement this team can make. In the Wake Forest game, the Demon Deacons were able to drive to the basket simply because a defender was more focused on preventing a pass to the post than cutting off the driving lane to the basket. Preventing driving lanes is one of the best ways to stall out an offense that needs to score quickly and forces the opponent to rely more on jumpshots, which percentage-wise is an advantage for the defense. Knowing how to position yourself in those situations will require a lot of practicing and drills but it will make end-of-games situations a bit more favorable.

Crunch-time offense: This was maybe the most surprising development that happened in Maui. A lot of people expected the defense to be a recurring problem but several times the offense stagnated and thus let opposing teams take advantage of the Hoosiers’ suspect defense. The Indiana offense thrives on ball movement but more often than not the ball was only in one person’s hands for the majority of its late-game possessions and when the ball did move it was more for the sake of just moving the ball instead of trying to get someone open. Again I’m not sure if this has to due with nerves or not, but because the offense stops scoring in crunch time it places a lot of pressure on the defense to hold the lead or keep the deficit small. Some late-game plays may need to be drawn up during practice specifically for these types of situations going forward as it seems the Hoosiers can’t play at their usual pace during crunch time and thus feel uncomfortable in those situations.

There is no doubt in my mind that the coaching staff is already drilling the players on how to improve in these areas. As long as the players learn and implement these lessons going forward this team will be fine. After all, it’s only November.

Stats From The Boxscore:

Due to the drastically different play of some Hoosiers during this tournament, I decided to use this edition of Stats From The Boxscore to highlight some of the main players’ averages during the past three games and compare them to their first three games. There will be no analysis; this will just be for those who are curious about how differently some key Hoosiers played this last week.

  • Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell
    • First three games: 16.7ppg, 7.3rpg, 7.0apg, 1.33spg, 2.7tpg, 1.3fpg, 52.8% FG, 37.5% 3FG, 85.7% FT, 30.0mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 14.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 7.0apg, 1.33spg, 2.3tpg, 1.3fpg, 40.6% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 73.7% FT, 35.0mpg.
  • James Blackmon Jr.
    • First three games: 18.7ppg, 5.3rpg, 3.0apg, 0.67spg, 3.0tpg, 0.7fpg, 55.3% FG, 55.0% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 24.7mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 10.0ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.3apg, 1.67spg, 0.33bpg, 4.0tpg, 2.7fpg, 39.3% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 66.7% FT, 23.0mpg.
  • Troy Williams
    • First three games: 13.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 2.7apg, 1.67spg, 0.67bpg, 2.3tpg, 2.7fpg, 53.3% FG, 25.0% 3FG, 50.0% FT, 26.0mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 10.7ppg, 6.0rpg, 3.3apg, 2.33spg, 1.00bpg, 3.3tpg, 2.0fpg, 54.5% FG, 40.0% 3FG, 75.0% FT, 27.3mpg.
  • Thomas Bryant
    • First three games: 13.0ppg, 7.3rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 1.67bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.3fpg, 80.0% FG, 20.0% 3FG, 66.7% FT, 22.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 11.3ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 1.33bpg, 1.3tpg, 2.7fpg, 60.0% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 55.6% FT, 25.0mpg.
  • Max Bielfeldt
    • First three games: 7.3ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.00spg, 0.33bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.0fpg, 53.3% FG, 33.3% 3FG, 83.3% FT, 17.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 9.7ppg,  3.0rpg, 0.7apg, 1.00spg, 0.33bpg, 1.3tpg, 3.3fpg, 80.0% FG, 66.7% 3FG, 25.0% FT, 20.0mpg.
  • Colin Hartman
    • First three games: 2.7ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.0apg, 1.67spg, 0.7tpg, 2.7fpg, 36.4% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 18.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 3.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 0.7apg, 0.67spg, 0.67bpg, 1.3tpg, 3.7fpg, 42.9% FG, 42.9% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 17.7mpg.
  • Rob Johnson
    • First three games: 7.0ppg, 2.3rpg, 3.3apg, 0.33spg, 2.7tpg, 2.3fpg, 53.3% FG, 50.0% 3FG, 16.7mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 7.0ppg, 2.0rpg, 3.0apg, 1.0tpg, 1.3fpg, 38.9% FG, 50.0% 3FG, 42.9% FT, 22.7mpg.
  • Nick Zeisloft
    • First three games: 9.0ppg, 1.3rpg, 1.0apg, 0.33spg, 0.33bpg, 0.3tpg, 1.3fpg, 64.3% FG, 64.3% 3FG, 19.3mpg.
    • Three games in Maui: 9.3ppg, 2.7rpg, 0.7apg, 0.33bpg, 1.0tpg, 0.7fpg, 56.3% FG, 57.1% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 20.3mpg.

Hoosiers In the NBA: Everyone’s Goals Entering the 2015-2016 Season

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

Welcome to a new season of Hoosiers In the NBA! Just like Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller (who were the main focus back when this was just called Zeller and Oladipo Watch) this column is entering its third season. Also just like them, I hope I am able to improve upon the progress I made last season and I hope you all continue to enjoy reading it. For this week’s addition, I’ll begin by posting each ex-Hoosier’s previous season stats and their preseason stats this year. I’ll also go over everyone’s goals for the upcoming season as well as how I think they can attain those goals. Finally, I’ll give my statistical projections for each Hoosier. Now, let’s take a look at the players we will be following this season and what they are trying to accomplish:

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

2014-2015 stats: 13.4ppg, 2.6rpg, 3.8apg, 0.82spg, 0.23bpg, 2.0tpg, 2.4fpg, 41.1% FG, 44.8% 3FG, 80.5% FT, 33.1mpg. (61 games)

2015 Preseason stats: 13.4ppg, 2.2rpg, 1.6apg, 1.00spg, 0.6tpg, 2.0fpg, 34.0% FG, 32.0% 3FG, 78.6% FT, 24.4mpg. (5 games)

This season’s goals:

  • Stay healthy
  • Continue to shoot around 40% from three-point range
  • Have the occasional throwback game when the team needs it

How to obtain those goals: Some things you can’t control and that can be especially true when it comes to injuries. However, one way Gordon can avoid injuries is to not take too any unnecessary risks. By this I mean don’t go diving out of bounds to save a loose ball. I know some people may disagree with what I am saying, but Gordon is a bigger asset to the Pelicans healthy than sitting on the bench. Of course that example is circumstantial. If that loose ball occurred in the final minute of a game in late March with New Orleans fighting for playoff positioning, then Gordon should take the risk and dive for that loose ball. It’s those throw away loose balls in the middle of the second quarter in December that he should avoid altogether.

Gordon is very important to this Pelicans team, as he is basically the team’s best guard and arguably their second best player at the moment. With Tyreke Evans out a couple months and Jrue Holiday being put on a minutes restriction, Gordon needs to be healthy and play well these first few months so the Pelicans don’t fall behind early in the season. That means Gordon may have to reach back and play aggressively (drive to the basket, generate more free throws) for the first few months so any and all unnecessary risks need to be eliminated. When Evans returns and Holiday is off his minutes restriction, Gordon can reprise his role from last season, a knockdown three-point shooter. Last season was a career year from behind the arc and while I doubt he will near 45% again this year, as long as he doesn’t neglect that part of his game the first part of the season when he’s playing more aggressively, he should find his stroke and average around 40% for the rest of the season.

Predicted stats: 14.3ppg, 3.1rpg, 4.2apg, 46% FG, 40% 3FG, 83% FT.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

2014-2015 stats: 17.9ppg, 4.2rpg, 4.1apg, 1.67spg, 0.26bpg, 2.8tpg, 2.6fpg, 43.6% FG, 33.9% 3FG, 81.9% FT, 35.7mpg. (72 games)

2015 Preseason stats: 10.1ppg, 3.9rpg, 2.6apg, 1.38spg, 0.25bpg, 1.1tpg, 2.1fpg, 47.6% FG, 40.9% 3FG, 66.7% FT, 24.3mpg. (8 games)

This season’s goals:

  • Improve on defense
  • Become a more efficient offensive player/better three-point shooter
  • Cut down on the turnovers

How to obtain those goals: Coming into the NBA, it was thought that Oladipo was guaranteed to be a great defensive player who could become a great overall player if he developed his offensive game. Two years in and it turned out that the opposite was true. Oladipo has blown away expectations offensively, nearly averaging 18 points in his sophomore campaign and shooting decently from three-point range until a late-season slump brought down his shooting average. It has actually been the defensive side of his game that has troubled Oladipo. To a lot of people’s surprise, the Orlando Magic actually gave up 4.6 less points per 100 possessions when Oladipo was off the floor than they did when he was on the floor. Part of the reason has been that Oladipo has focused more on the offensive side of the ball because the Magic had a very hard time scoring for most of the season, but he no longer has that excuse. In addition to rookie Mario Hezonja and an improving Elfrid Payton likely to make the offense more lethal, the Magic brought in new head coach Scott Skiles, who is one of the better defensive NBA coaches in the league. Oladipo needs to learn everything he can from Skiles and regain his defensive form, because if he does he has the potential to become the superstar this team needs.

While Oladipo has been a successful offensive player, there are still a few things he needs to fix. He still needs to be a more consistent shooter. While not as bad as his rookie season, Oladipo still had far too many games where he just kept putting up brick after brick. That leads me to the other part of his game that needs fixing: forced turnovers. Oladipo improved a lot in terms of ball security last season, but he can improve even more this season. Part of that is realizing that while it doesn’t show up as a turnover on the stat sheet, a bad shot is basically the same thing as a turnover. Oladipo needs to play more disciplined offensively and if he can do that he will become a more efficient scorer.

Predicted stats: 18.6ppg, 5.1rpg, 4.7apg, 48% FG, 37% 3FG, 84% FT.

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)

2015 Preseason stats: 6.4ppg, 7.9rpg, 0.4apg, 0.29spg, 0.43bpg, 0.9tpg, 2.3fpg, 44.2% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 53.8% FT, 22.6mpg. (7 games)

This season’s goals:

  • Continue to learn the game
  • Continue to develop the three-point shot
  • Take advantage of every opportunity

How to obtain those goals: Although the goals I laid out for Vonleh may seem silly, you need to remember that this guy, or should I say kid, isn’t even old enough to legally drink. Vonleh just turned 20 years old two months ago, making him around the same age as many of this year’s rookies. For the most part he still is a rookie after he wasted away on the Hornets bench neither being good enough to play in the NBA but at the same time too talented to play in the NBA’s D-League. While Vonleh is still a backup in Portland, his role is much more different and much more beneficial for his growth. He will be a part of the Trail Blazer’s second team lineup and will routinely see 10-15 minutes each game against other team’s first and second unit players. This should help develop Vonleh more than when he was just playing in garbage time, when you can’t guarantee that the opponent will be going all out, especially if they are the ones with the big lead. Vonleh needs to take advantage of this opportunity so that when he eventually gets his chance at starting he will have experience playing against high-level competition.

That brings us to Vonleh’s game. The former Big Ten Freshman of the Year was a lottery pick in 2014 for his upside, especially as a rebounder and a three-point shooter. While last season was a disappointing year for Vonleh, he did confirm to everyone that his rebounding skills will easily transfer to the NBA, averaging nearly 12 rebounds when adjusted to 40 minutes per game. Now he needs to work on his outside shot. While he didn’t shoot badly from behind the arc, it’s the fact that we don’t have that much of a sample size to judge him. Vonleh’s potential to stretch the floor makes him a valuable player, and if Vonleh wants to be starting by the end of this season or the start of next season, he’ll need to prove that he can consistently hit three-pointers, which means he needs to focus on that part of his game in practice until shooting threes becomes natural for him.

Predicted stats: 5.1ppg, 5.7rpg, 0.8apg, 48% FG, 35% 3FG, 71% FT.

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)

2015 Preseason stats: 7.4ppg, 5.6rpg, 1.5apg, 0.88spg, 0.25bpg, 1.0tpg, 2.3fpg, 60.6% FG, 66.7% 3FG, 57.7% FT, 22.1mpg. (8 games)

This season’s goals:

  • Continue last season’s defensive improvement
  • Become a more reliable offensive player
  • Find your niche on the team

How to obtain those goals: Just like Oladipo, Zeller has also defied expectations, but for the exact opposite reason. Expected to be an offensive threat who would struggle to defend bigger players, Zeller ranked as one of the 25 best defensive players in the NBA according to Defensive Plus-Minus (+2.5). Subjective and complicated stats aside, Coach Steve Clifford, a coach who values defense heavily, is expected to still start Zeller at power forward even after an offseason where the Hornets brought in big men such as Frank Kaminsky, Tyler Hansbrough, and Spencer Hawes. Despite each one likely being an upgrade over Zeller offensively, Zeller’s defense is so crucial for the Hornets that Clifford will live with Zeller’s offensive shortcomings. Now that speaks volumes of a players defensive skill.

Now about those offensive shortcomings. Zeller holds the Indiana University record for best career shooting percentage. While college performance doesn’t always translate to NBA performance, there is a big drop off from being a 59% shooter in college to being a 44% shooter in the NBA. Those scouting reports that talked about Zeller struggling against bigger players were correct, but it has been bigger defenders that have given Zeller problems. Last season, Zeller shot better away from the basket than he did under the basket. You read that correctly: Zeller made 46.1% of his shots last season but when only counting layup attempts he shot 42.6%. Zeller has two options, either he bulks up and continues to try and battle in the post, or he can finally use his range to good use and become a stretch-four or a stretch-five. This is the season Zeller has to choose and it seems he has chosen the stretch big man route which I think is for the best. While it would be great to see Zeller dominate the post like he did back when he was donning the candy stripe pants, Zeller knows his niche in the NBA is currently his defense, as his athleticism and mobility let him guard both traditional and stretch power forwards. Bulking up would only slow him down and take away from his defensive versatility. If Zeller can start knocking down threes (he hit only one three last season but he hit dozens of 20-footers), we may start to see Zeller’s full potential.

Predicted stats: 9.2ppg, 7.4rpg, 2.0apg, 54% FG, 33% 3FG, 79% FT.

Hoosiers In The NBA: How Noah Vonleh Fits In Portland

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course doing this is completely optional but is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

Welcome to part 2 of the inaugural edition of Hoosiers In The NBA! If you missed part 1, which detailed how the 2015 NBA Draft affected teams that currently have former Hoosiers on the roster, you can click here to read about it. Unlike prior editions this one will be structured a little bit differently than usual as we are only focusing on one Hoosier, Noah Vonleh. These will take a more traditional column approach and will be announced ahead of time usually on my regular Monday column. Without further ado, let’s dive into Vonleh’s new situation and try gauge how it will work out:

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written Wednesday night so a couple of things have changed since then, such as some players having signed with other teams.)

Things in Portland are in flux. After two seasons of being legit title contenders in the brutal western conference, the Trail Blazers might be thinking that their window has closed at least for their current group of players. The trade that brought Vonleh to Portland, and sent Nicolas Batum to the Charlotte Hornets, was the first domino. Now with LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, and Arron Afflalo all free agents and all garnering interest from other teams, there is a real possibility that next season’s Blazers will be radically different from the team of the past two seasons.

Now could some or maybe all of them return to Rip City? Probably unlikely considering the moves the Blazers have or are on the verge of making. In addition to trading for Vonleh, the Blazers have also acquired Gerald Henderson (part of the same trade as Vonleh), Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton via trade. They’ve also already signed small forward Al-Farouq Aminu to a four-year $30 million contract. Add in the fact that Portland is close to giving their young and promising point guard Damian Lillard the max contract and it’s quite easy to see that the Blazers are looking to the future.

All of this sounds really promising for Vonleh, who is looking for a chance to bounce back after a lost rookie season. Vonleh spent most of last year sitting at the end of the bench, only getting to see the court if the game was a blowout. Hornets Coach Steve Clifford called Vonleh “too raw” to be on the court. Yet his most-developed skills (rebounding and three-point shooting) were so valuable that the Hornets had to have him on the roster when their big men started getting injured one after another. I know at times last season it sounded like I was criticizing the Hornets for their usage of Vonleh but the reality is they were forced due to unfortunate circumstances. If Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, and Cody Zeller never got injured, Vonleh would have played 30 minutes a night in the NBA D-League getting valuable playing time and developing his in-game skills. Sometimes you’re drafted into the wrong situation and what you need is a do-over. Portland is Vonleh’s do-over.

What’s most exciting about Vonleh being a Blazer is him partnering up with Lillard in the pick-and-roll game. Lillard is an awesome pick-and-roll ball-handler, being able to drive and shoot threes at a high level. This versatility matches Vonleh’s, who has a decent post game and a developing jump shot. Lillard’s also able to accurately find the screener while drawing in two defenders, making Vonleh’s three-point attempts become uncontested or his layup attempts easy buckets. Vonleh could also form a good inside-out combo with Plumlee down on the block. One switch on the baseline and Vonleh has a slow-footed center trying to close out on three-point attempt or Plumlee can bully a smaller defender to the basket.

However, while the path to the starting power forward position looks clear now, there are many obstacles ahead and by the time the season starts we may see Vonleh as the backup. If there is one free agent from the four I listed that Portland really wants to return, it’s Aldridge. Not only do they want Aldridge back, they want to pair him with free agent Greg Monroe. Monroe visited the Blazers Wednesday and by all accounts the meeting went well. General Manager Neil Olshey’s plan seems to be a front court of Monroe and Aldridge with Plumlee and Vonleh as their respective backups. Honestly, if Vonleh has to play backup this season it might be for the best. Vonleh will be just 20 years-old by the start of the season, and getting to learn behind Aldridge and/or Monroe could be called a best-case scenario.

The problem is the potential logjam in the front court if this happens, particularly Meyers Leonard. Leonard, who will be entering his fourth year removed from Illinois, is also a former lottery pick who has slowly developed his game and has become a serviceable backup big man. Fairly similar to the situation in Charlotte when Clifford had to decide between Vonleh and Zeller, Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts will potentially have to decide between Vonleh’s upside and Lenoard’s stableness.

Overall I think being traded to Portland was really good for Vonleh. Sure there may be potential obstacles but Vonleh will love playing under Stotts, who loves to have his players constantly moving around. Add in the fact that he and Lillard make an excellent pick-and-roll combo and the sky is the limit for Vonleh as he is now in a situation that can showcase his true talent.

Hoosiers In The NBA: Vonleh In Rip City And How The 2015 NBA Draft Affected Former Hoosiers

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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.