If you’re as big of a basketball fan as me, sometimes you like to mix your Big Ten viewership with a little bit of NBA action. From NBA veterans to rookies, it’s always fun to see former Big Ten succeed at the next level. For this week’s roundup let’s take a look at how the 2014 Big Ten NBA draft class has performed so far this season.
1. Michigan State:
Gary Harris (Denver Nuggets)
Harris’ third season with the Denver Nuggets has gotten off to a slow start due to a groin strain he picked up before the season started, and then he suffered a foot injury shortly after the groin. After getting healthy, he’s played in Denver’s last 5 games averaging 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
The Nuggets are currently in tricky situation, they have a mix of NBA veterans and younger guys. That being said, Denver might be looking to make deals at the trade deadline. And with the emergence of rookie Jamal Murray, don’t be surprised to see Harris’ name in trade discussions throughout this season.
Adreian Payne (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Payne, a former teammate of Harris’, has spent the majority of this season on the bench. After shooting horrendous percentages last season (36% from the field) and (28% from three), it doesn’t look like head coach Tom Thibodeau is ready to give Payne a spot in the rotation this season.
The good news for Payne is that he’s set to become a free agent this summer. Payne’s potential to spread the floor with his jumper and his ability to bang inside and grab rebounds should intrigue other league suitors this summer. It’s also still early in the season and every team usually hits the injury bug at some point, which might provide Payne with an opportunity to crack the rotation. And if he does, he must make the most of it to create interest for the free agency market.
Glenn Robinson (Indiana Pacers)
So far Robinson is having his best season of his young career. He’s averaging a career high 6 points off the bench. Although 6 points doesn’t sound like much, it’s still a 3 point increase from last season. This is also Robinson’s most efficient start to a season. He’s shooting 43% from the field and 37% from three. The Pacers will need Robinson to keep up the improved effort because it looks like they will be battling for one of the last spots in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Nik Stauskas (Philadelphia 76ers)
Stauskas joins Robinson on the improvement train this season. The former Michigan shooting guard is by far having his best start to an NBA season. He’s averaging 9 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent from three — a 6% improvement in both statistical measures. The Sixers are still in the middle of “The Process” stage, but the question is will Stauskas be part of the long-term plan for the Sixers? The way he’s gradually improved so far this season might give him a chance to stick long-term in Philadelphia.
3. Penn State:
Tim Frazier (New Orleans Pelicans)
Who would’ve thought Tim Frazier would be a regular starter in the NBA? Not me. Although Frazier is in the starting role due to Jrue Holiday’s personal issues and injuries, you can’t knock Frazier for making the most of the opportunity he’s been given this season.
The former Penn State guard has played in all 22 games, averaging 10 points and 7 assists per game. Frazier’s is shooting adequately, (42% from the field) and (33% from three). Head coach Alvin Gentry has to be pleased with how Frazier has performed given that he’s a replacement player and not a full-time caliber starting point guard.
Noah Vonleh (Portland Trail Blazers)
It hasn't been the best of starts to Vonleh’s NBA career. After getting drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 2014 he was traded to Portland after one season. Now in his second season with the Trail Blazers, he’s still not playing consistent minutes. Appearing in 17 games this season the former Indiana forward is averaging just 10 minutes per game, averaging 2 points and 3 rebounds. As of now it doesn't look like the Trail Blazers have any plans for developing Vonleh’s game this season.