By: Martin Weiss
Between Michigan and Michigan State, five players were selected in Thursday night’s NBA draft. Where were they picked and how do they fit?
8th Pick- Sacramento Kings: Nik Stauskas- G, Michigan
Nik Stauskas goes to Sacramento and will immediately compete for playing time. The Kings weren’t happy with the inconsistent production out of last year’s lottery pick Ben McLemore (averaged 8pts, 3 rebounds last season), so the shooting guard position hardly set in stone. The Michigan product is more polished offensively than McLemore, and will stretch the floor with his elite shooting ability. McLemore is more athletic and there will be many scenarios where both will play together- with McLemore drawing the tougher defensive assignment.
15th Pick- Atlanta Hawks: Adreian Payne- F, Michigan State
Adreian Payne is a great example of staying in school to boost draft stock. He improved in almost every aspect from his junior to senior year- most importantly his ball-handling; three point/free throw shooting, and ability to guard perimeter positions. Payne’s pre-draft combine measurables are identical to Anthony Davis’ when he was drafted, but his ball skills will cause matchup nightmares and he fills a small forward/stretch power forward role the Hawks don’t have. Atlanta now has one of the more formidable front lines in the league with Al Horford, Paul Millsap, and Adreian Payne.
19th Pick- Chicago Bulls (traded to Denver Nuggets): Gary Harris- G, Michigan State
Denver got a steal with Gary Harris at 19. Rated the no. 2 shooting guard prospect behind Nik Stauskas, Harris is a two way player that does everything well- especially defense. Harris shot a lower percentage in his sophomore year compared to his freshman campaign, but he typically was guarding the best offensive perimeter player for Tom Izzo and Michigan State. He can catch and shoot with above average accuracy, and will fit in well in Denver’s up-tempo offense. It was very surprising to watch him fall out of the lottery after he tore through the B1G for the last two years.
21st Pick- Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary- F/C, Michigan
This is really the best possible outcome of a bad situation after McGary’s failed drug test. He’s joining an Oklahoma City frontcourt that’s crowded, for now. The emergence of Steven Adams, coupled with the fact Kendrick Perkins is the fourth highest player on the team, makes Perkins an amnesty candidate. Even if he’s not amnestied, Perkins’ role has been diminishing over the years. McGary won’t push Serge Ibaka for a role in the starting lineup, but will provide an aggressive rebounder with great energy off the bench. The combination of McGary and Adams rebounding and defending with KD and Westbrook making plays will drive teams crazy.
40th Pick- Minnesota Timberwolves: Glenn Robinson III- G/F, Michigan
GRIII is joining a team that will look radically different after Kevin Love opts out and leaves Minnesota devoid of superstars. However, it’s a good place for Robinson to land because he’ll be able to compete for a spot in the rotation immediately- not something promised to most second round picks. Also, being paired with a playmaker like Ricky Rubio is going to progress Robinson’s development incrementally. Remember, Robinson was at his best finishing plays after Trey Burke or Nik Stauskas found him on secondary action. Rubio will do the same- while Robinson develops better perimeter skills and a more aggressive mentality on a team not expected to do much in the Western Conference.
One interesting fact: When Glenn Robinson III was drafted in the 2nd round, it marked an achievement for Michigan Basketball. All five starters from the 2012 National Championship runner-up team were drafted in the NBA. Only four of the starters of the last Michigan team to reach the National Championship, the Fab Five in 1992 and 1993, played in the NBA.