The 2014 NBA Draft was very successful for the Big Ten, as they had seven players drafted including five in the first round. Their rookie seasons, however, were not as impressive as they would have hoped. Many underachieved and struggled to find consistent playing time during their first NBA seasons. None of them received a vote in the rookie of the year voting or made a significant impact on a team during their rookie campaign, in fact the only Big Ten rookie to make an appearance in the 2015 NBA Playoffs was un-drafted guard Tim Frazier.
2014-2015 NBA Stats (Big Ten Rookies)
|Player (College)||Pick # (Team)||Current Team||GP||GS||MPG||PPG||FG%||3P%||RPG||APG|
|Nik Stauskas (Michigan)||#8 (Kings)||Kings||73||1||15.4||4.4||.365||.322||1.2||0.9|
|Noah Vonleh (Indiana)||#9 (Hornets)||Hornets||25||0||10.4||3.3||.395||.385||3.4||0.2|
|Adreian Payne (Michigan State)||#15 (Hawks)||Timberwolves||32||22||23.1||6.7||.414||.111||5.1||0.9|
|Gary Harris (Michigan State)||#19 (Bulls)||Nuggets||55||6||13.1||3.4||.304||.204||1.2||0.5|
|Mitch McGary (Michigan)||#21 (Thunder)||Thunder||32||2||15.2||6.3||.533||- - -||5.2||0.4|
|Glenn Robinson III (Michigan)||#40 (Timberwolves)||Sixers||35||1||7.5||2.1||.388||.263||1.1||0.3|
|Devyn Marble (Iowa)||#56 (Nuggets)||Magic||16||7||13.0||2.3||.318||.182||1.9||1.1|
|Tim Frazier (Penn State)||N/A (Sixers)||Blazers||11||3||21.7||5.2||.344||.294||2.5||5.5|
While Stauskas and Vonleh were both top ten picks, they only combined for one start during their rookie seasons (Stauskas started the Kings final regular season game). Both Stauskas and Vonleh struggled to find their shooting stroke as neither reached 40% from the field for the year. Payne received the most consistent playing time out of any player after being traded to the Timberwolves in mid-February. He showed potential to be a good rebounder averaging over five rebounds per game in just 23 minutes, but Payne could never score consistently with the Timberwolves and struggled to stretch the floor from deep as they hoped he might be able to. Gary Harris also struggled on the offensive end after being traded to the Nuggets on draft night last year. Going in to the NBA, everyone knew Harris could play defense, but the questions about his offensive game proved to be legitimate as he shot just 30% from the floor his rookie season.
Mitch McGary may have been the bright spot in this Big Ten 2014 NBA Draft class. After missing the first portion of the season with a foot injury, McGary began to play meaningful minutes for the Thunder in February averaging nine points per game on 53% shooting in the month. As Steven Adams came back from injury, however, McGary's minutes were limited in the final couple months of the season.
Glenn Robinson III and Devyn Marble played limited minutes as most second round picks do. Marble bounced around between the D-League's Erie BayHawks and the Orlando Magic. Robinson was placed on waivers by the Timberwolves and picked up by the Sixers, where he played 18.8 MPG for the Sixers in the final month of the season while averaging 5.7 points. Frazier might have been the biggest surprise out of the group as he was able to work his way to the NBA with 10 day contracts with the Sixers and Blazers. While Frazier played more when with the Sixers, he was able to make the Blazers' playoff roster and log three minutes in their Game 1 loss to the Grizzlies.
Overall, it wasn't a great first season for any Big Ten rookies. Mitch McGary may have showed the most promise during a stretch in the season, but Stauskas and Vonleh will continue to get opportunities. Both former top ten picks will get their chance to show improvement in their second years as they are still an important part of the young core on the Hornets (Vonleh) and Kings (Stauskas). Stauskas will have to show improved shooting from three point range as the former Michigan star shot just 32% from deep after shooting 44% in college. Vonleh will have to show the ability to consistently stretch the floor on offense during his second season. While Vonleh shot 38% from deep, he only attempted 13 three point field goals. A stretch power forward is very valuable in the NBA and the Indiana product can be just that for Michael Jordan's Hornets if he continues to work on his outside game.
Adreian Payne and Gary Harris will need to prove themselves in their second year. Both have 2-year team options that will either be accepted or declined after the 2015-2016 season. If the players do not show improvement next year, their respective teams may opt to go in a different direction. While Harris held his own on defense, his offense in his rookie season was non-existent. If he shoots 30% from the field and 20% from three point range again, the Nuggets will almost certainly decline his team option.
Robinson, Marble, and Frazier will most likely have to play in the NBA's Summer League to give themselves the best chance at making an NBA roster. While Robinson is a free agent, Marble has a team option that the Magic will likely pick up at just under two million dollars over the next two years. Each will have to play well in the summer and during training camp or they may find themselves in the D-League to start next season.
The Big Ten players selected in the 2014 NBA Draft had a tough first year in the NBA and the 2015 draft class will look to change that. D'Angelo Russell, Sam Dekker, and Frank Kaminsky will headline the Big Ten players drafted on June 25th, and while this seems like better talent than the Big Ten had to offer last season, they will almost certainly be the only three Big Ten players drafted in the first round compared to five last year. The trio will look to turn around the Big Ten's success in their rookie seasons with their new organizations.