2014 NBA Draft Recap: Can Craft, Ross and Other B1G Players Make it in the NBA?

By Mike Young on June 30, 2014 at 11:00 am

Since 2010, the Big Ten has been the most consistent conference force in college basketball. Naturally, it's translating to the professional level.

Last year's draft was weak talent-wise, but Big Ten schools produced four first-round picks. Three of those – Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller and Trey Burke – went in the top 10.

The 2014 NBA Draft was not as prolific for the B1G in terms of high selections, yet the conference produced a deep pool of picks. Five players went in the first round, the most Big Ten selections since 1990. Back then, Kendall Gill, Willie Burton, Rumeal Robinson, Loy Vaught and Terry Mills all went within the top 16.

NBA teams also found quality, Big Ten players later in the draft, as two went in the second round. In total, the seven prospects selected was the most since 2000, when Jamal Crawford, Joel Przybilla, Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, A.J. Guyton, Michael Redd, Brian Cardinal and Scoonie Penn went in the top 57 picks. 

The quantity is there but what kind of role will these seven players take on at the next level? Plus, are any undrafted free agents capable of making an NBA roster? We seek to answer those questions below.

Nik Stauskas

Selected: First round, eighth overall by the Sacramento Kings

Considering Sacramento's depth on the wing, Stauskas was probably not seen as the ideal fit.

With Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle off the board, plus Noah Vonleh's slide (more on that later), options at the "four" were limited. Derrick Williams is probably not a long-term fit next to DeMarcus Cousins, so they'll have to address that via free-agency or trade.

What they do have in Stauskas is a tremendous shooter and proven creator on offense, but he'll play behind last year's top-10 pick Ben McLemore. He could play the three in a lineup with Cousins, Rudy Gay, McLemore, and Isaiah Thomas, but that would be among the league's worst on defense. So, for now, he'll be a spark off the bench.  

Noah Vonleh

Selected: First round, ninth overall by the Charlotte Hornets

In the days leading up to the draft, many mock drafts had Vonleh slotted as high as fifth. He was not injured nor had any off-court troubles, so it's fair to say those mock drafts did not have a solid grasp on his true value to NBA GMs.

Sacramento, a team with a significant need at his position, passed on him and he fell to ninth. In a somewhat surprising move, a team with no outside shooting but plenty of size and rebounding ability ended up taking Vonleh. Understandably, his physical tools are too great to pass on.

For this season, he'll play a limited role, especially if Charlotte re-signs Josh McRoberts. Backup Cody Zeller is considerably further along in his development and will likely see more minutes in the Hornets rotation than his fellow Hoosier. No one can touch Vonleh's throwback jacket game, however. 

Adreian Payne

Selected: First round, 15th overall by the Atlanta Hawks

Payne landed in an ideal situation, one where he can immediately help a playoff-bound team.

Yes, the 38-44 Atlanta Hawks made the playoffs last season. The Eastern Conference isn't destined to get better, but the Hawks are. The main reason their first round series against the Pacers went seven games is because of their ability to stretch the floor with their big men (and Roy Hibbert's inability to do ... anything).

Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Pero Antic are firmly entrenched in Atlanta's rotation, and Mike Scott was also a valuable contributor off the bench. That will make it tough for Payne to find minutes in his first season, but he'll provide consistency with his fit in the Hawks' offensive system.  

Gary Harris

Selected: First round, 19th overall by the Chicago Bulls (traded to the Denver Nuggets)

The best part of every NBA Draft is when a draftee puts on the cap and goes through the motions of pretending he's part of a team that had already traded his rights.

In this case, it was Gary Harris, picked by the Bulls to be immediately shipped to the Nuggets – he and Jusuf Nurkic went to the Chicago for Doug McDermott. Although they also traded for Arron Afflalo earlier in the week, Denver felt they needed even more shooting and depth at the guard spot. 

Harris' three-point shooting dipped six percent, but the perimeter shooting potential is still there. The real question is: will he be allowed to touch the ball when he comes off the bench and occupies the same backcourt as Nate Robinson?

Mitch McGary

Selected: First round, 21st overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder

It's easy to say a project-type player, such as Mitch McGary, landed in a good spot when a perennial power takes him in the draft.   

In this case, it's true. We're still not sure how healthy McGary is, as a back injury can be debilitating for a big man. Had he been healthy throughout his sophomore season, he wouldn't have dropped into the Thunder's lap.

McGary's situation is one where he can develop, perhaps in the D-League, and bring him back when OKC finally stops giving minutes to Kendrick Perkins' useless carcass. The Thunder need some frontcourt offense off the bench, and McGary can pair nicely with Steven Adams. Perhaps the former Wolverine will be forced into the rotation to replace Adams, after someone severely injures the "pesky" big man. 

Glenn Robinson III

Selected: Second round, 40th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves

It's difficult to project the makeup of the Timberwolves because, by the beginning of training camp, the team might be a wasteland of unwanted players (excluding Nikola Pekovic and, maybe, a "healthy" Ricky Rubio).

Kevin Love is expected to be dealt by the beginning of the season, though his supposed wish list has resulted in limited trade opportunities. Many Love rumors have included Kevin Martin, which would help Glenn Robinson III earn a spot on the roster. 

Minnesota's backcourt isn't particularly deep, nor is it filled with good perimeter shooters. His percentages in college didn't reflect those of an adequate three-point shooter, but Robinson has the tools to become one. He'll have to make a drastic improvement in camp, but he's just as capable as Alexey Shved at being a rotational player for the T-Wolves (Shved, kind of, looks like Aaron Craft with greasy hair).

Roy Devyn Marble

Selected: Second round, 56th overall by the Denver Nuggets (traded to Orlando Magic)

As part of the previously mentioned Afflalo trade, the Magic received a second round pick from Denver as compensation. With that selection, Orlando landed Roy Devyn Marble, which ended a seven-year drought without an NBA team drafting an Iowa player – the last one was Adam Haluska, who now spends his time playing in high school alumni all-star games.

Marble's chances of making the roster are greatly improved with the Magic letting former Purdue guard E'Twaun Moore become a free agent, coupled with the possible salary-shedding moves to waive Jameer Nelson and Ronnie Price.

Undrafted Free Agents

Summer league team in parenthesis

  • Aaron Craft (Philadelphia 76ers and Golden State Warriors)
    • Look at the 76ers roster and tell me that Craft doesn't have a legitimate shot to make the team. The only problem: Philadelphia is in the midst of a decade-long tank and Craft always plays to win. If Craft can prove he has the ability to hold on to the ball and set up teammates at the next level, the Sixers have to think about adding him to the roster, because that kind of player doesn't exist on their team.
  • LaQuinton Ross (Los Angeles Lakers)
    • No one is quite sure what direction the Lakers are going in, with plenty of cap space but not enough to make them a long-term threat in the western conference. Nick Young is a free agent, and their wing depth isn't pretty. Hopefully, Kobe Bryant mentors L.A.'s summer league team, because we know he wouldn't be shy about criticizing an out-of-shape teammate.
  • Keith Appling (Portland Trail Blazers)
    • Appling has the best shot at making an NBA roster of any undrafted, former B1G player. Provided he's healthy, he'll have an ideal chance at proving his worth to Portland. The Blazers didn't have a pick in this year's draft and Mo Williams, Damian Lillard's primary backup, is a free agent.
  • Will Sheehey (New York Knicks)
  • Ben Brust (Milwaukee Bucks)
  • Tim Frazier (Philadelphia 76ers)
  • Jordan Morgan (Minnesota Timberwolves)
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