With the NBA Draft fast approaching, there are several former Big Ten players projected to find their way onto NBA rosters next season. Players such as O.G. Anunoby, D.J. Wilson, Thomas Bryant, and Caleb Swanigan are all projected by DraftExpress to hear their name called on June 22nd.
As we get ready to see which NBA teams draft these Big Ten standouts, let’s take a look back and see how last year’s Big Ten selections performed in their rookie seasons.
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
As the 14th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls had big plans for Denzel Valentine as an integral rotational player. But after an ankle injury sidelined him for all of training camp, Valentine started the year playing minimal minutes during the first few months. His seasonal low point came in December, during a six game stretch where Valentine failed to see a minute of action five times.
After he suffered a second ankle injury in January, his chances of having an impactful rookie season were lost. Valentine finished the year with averages of 17.1 minutes, 5.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game.
Denzel Valentine’s strength at Michigan State was not only scoring, but getting his teammates involved and creating easy scoring opportunities for others. Despite the disappointing rookie season, Valentine remains upbeat and is hoping for an increased role next season.
Caris LeVert, Michigan
As the 20th overall pick in last year’s draft, Caris LeVert entered his first NBA season as an unknown quantity. He was very productive at Michigan, but battled constant injuries (three separate foot surgeries) throughout his four year college career. LeVert’s extensive rehab prevented him from making his NBA debut until December 7th at home against the Denver Nuggets.
LeVert improved throughout the season and became a consistent starter for Brooklyn after the All-Star break. He had averages of 8.8 points and 4.1 rebounds during the month of March. LeVert ended this season on a high note, scoring double digits in his last four games, including a season-high 20 points against Orlando on April 6th.
Caris LeVert’s rookie season started slowly, but ended in superb fashion. He is expected to make a major role for the Brooklyn Nets next season.
Deyonta Davis, Michigan State
After a good freshman year at East Lansing, Deyonta Davis shocked all Spartans fans by declaring for last year’s NBA draft. He fell out of the first round but was drafted by the Boston Celtics in round two with the 32nd overall pick.
Memphis signed Davis to a guaranteed three year contract despite not being that coveted first round pick. After suffering a torn plantar fascia in his left foot in December, Davis failed to see the court until late January.
Deyonta Davis did not see much playing time for the Grizzlies overall, and was stuck behind Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Brandon Wright. But at 6’10”, 240 lbs. and still just 20 years old, Memphis is committed towards helping Davis become their future starter at the power forward position.
Diamond Stone, Maryland
The 40th overall pick in last year’s draft, Diamond Stone was originally selected by the New Orleans Pelicans, but was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers later that night. Stone had almost no impact as a rookie, with end of season per game averages of 3.4 minutes and 1.4 points.
Most disappointing was that despite his 6’11”, 255 lbs. frame, Stone only averaged 0.9 rebounds per game in the 2016-2017 season. He received multiple assignments to the Developmental League during his inaugural NBA season.
Diamond Stone is the classic case of a player who should have returned to school. Imagine Maryland’s teams last season with Stone anchoring the post? He will try to get more playing team next season.
A.J. Hammons, Purdue
The former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year was selected with the 46th pick by the Dallas Mavericks last season. Despite being a mid second round pick, Hammons secured a three year contract with Dallas and is scheduled to earn $1.3 million next year.
The issue for Hammons is the crowded front court roster for the Mavericks. He will have to battle Nerlens Noel and Salah Mejri next season for playing time. Hammons spent much of this season in the Developmental League and could see a repeat in the 2017-2018 NBA season.
A.J. Hammons remains a work in progress for the Mavericks, but still projects to be a big part of their plans in the years to come.
Jake Layman, Maryland
The 6’9” 210 lbs. former Terrapin was taken by the Orlando Magic with the 47th overall pick and was then traded to Portland for his rookie season. Layman spent most of the season with the Trail Blazers Development League team, but was fortunate to be called back up several times.
He finished the year strong with back to back games of 29 minutes in a 99-98 victory over San Antonio and 37 minutes in a close 103-100 loss to New Orleans. In that game against the Pelicans, Layman had 10 points and was two of five from three point range.
The Trail Blazers remain high on Layman, who had a season best 17 points (including five of seven from three point range), in just eight minutes of play against the Golden State Warriors on November 1st. There will always be a spot for a strong outside shooter.