The NBA draft is behind us, the new season a little over two months in front of us, and most of free agency has sorted itself out. With football not quite here and Late Night still a ways off it seemed like a good time to run down the departed Jayhawks who have left the nest yet are still playing professional ball.
Old Faces, New Places
Paul Pierce - Washington Wizards
The face of the Jayhawks in the NBA for so many years, Pierce decided he still has something left in the tank and signed a 2-year deal worth $10,848,725. Last season at age 36 he saw his mpg dip under 30 for the first time in his career, and that trend will probably continue. The Wizards are a team on the rise and his veteran presence will surely be welcome both on the court and in the locker room. A much better situation than the sinking ship he was on in Brooklyn.
Brandon Rush - Golden State Warriors
Not a totally new place for Rush, as he is only a season removed from a two year stint with the Warriors, having spent last season in Utah. Rush signed a 2-year deal totaling $2,416,649, the veteran's minimum for those two seasons. He is now two years removed from tearing his ACL at the beginning of the '12-'13 season, so he is hopefully fully recovered and capable of playing at the level of his former self. However, there is heavy competition at both the shooting guard and small forward spots, so he most likely faces an uphill battle for playing time.
New Deals at Familiar Places
Mario Chalmers - Miami Heat
For a brief time Chalmers' future was in a serious state of flux. His contract with the Heat had expired, he was coming off the worst stretch of play in his professional career, LeBron James was calling for roster upgrades and all but told the front office to draft UConn point guard Shabazz Napier, and the team figured to really be up against the cap. Chalmers was looking at either taking a pay cut or looking for work elsewhere, or both. Fast forward a couple of weeks - James is heading for Cleveland, the Heat have a little bit of money to play with, and Mario gets a new 2-year deal worth $8.3 mil. He'll still have to fend off Napier and Norris Cole for minutes, but he probably goes into this upcoming season as the starter. And with James gone and Wade aging into decline, the opportunity to step up and assume a bigger role is there for the taking.
Kirk Hinrich - Chicago Bulls
Of his twelve seasons in the NBA, Hinrich has spent nine of them in Chicago, including the past two. The team brought him back on a 2-year deal paying him $2.73 mil this season with a player option at $2.87 mil next season. Hinrich started 61 games last season, but figures to be the primary back-up to Derrick Rose this season. The Bulls clearly value him, letting last season's back-up point guard DJ Augustine walk this off-season. Overall a pretty good situation for the seasoned veteran.
Cole Aldrich - New York Knicks
The big man has bounced around the league a bit since leaving Lawrence, but had expressed his desire to return to the Big Apple after playing there last season. He got his wish and was given a 1-year deal worth $981,084. Phil Jackson is in the front office, he has a new coach in former OKC teammate Derek Fisher, and Tyson Chandler has departed the roster, possibly freeing up a bit more playing time. In late season games last year Aldrich played well, so perhaps he could finally be looking at an expanded role this season.
Xavier Henry - Los Angeles Lakers
Last year was a strange one for Henry. He had several high-quality performances, a minor stint in the D-league, and tore a ligament in his left wrist. The Lakers were (and continue to be) a team in disarray, which actually isn't the worst situation for a guy looking to prove himself. The team brought him back on a 1-year deal worth $1.082 mil. Playing time could be available, but he'll have to prove that his left wrist (which in his case is his shooting hand) is fully recovered.
Playing Out Their Existing Contracts
Nick Collison - Oklahoma City Thunder
Collison is the perfect example of a player finding the right fit in the league and continuing to do the little things that will keep him there. He has spent his entire 10-year career as a valued role player with the Thunder organization. That being said, last season marked career lows in mpg (16.7), ppg (4.2), and rpg (3.6). He is in the final year of his 4-yr deal that will pay him $2,242,003 this season. The team also drafted Mitch McGary this year, so it will be interesting to see if his playing time and production continue their downward trajectory, and if the team plans on bringing him back after this season.
Darrell Arthur - Denver Nuggets
Arthur opted in to a third and final year of his contract, paying him $3,457,149. It was likely an easy call, as he would have had a difficult time finding a better deal on the open market. His first season in Denver was largely forgettable as he shot a dreadful 39.5% from the field, well below his career average. He'll be playing for a new contract this season, so perhaps we'll see an up-tick in his game.
Jeff Withey - New Orleans Pelicans
Because Withey was a second round pick, he is not on a typical rookie contract we are used to seeing. There are no team options for a third or fourth year. Rather, he is in the second and final year of a contract paying him $816,482. The team brought in Omar Asik in the off-season and have numerous other post options to pair with Anthony Davis. It will be tough for Withey to crack the main rotation of players, but hopefully his height, skill set, and cheap price tag will make him an attractive option off the bench for some team following this season should New Orleans not bring him back.
Still on Their Rookie Deals
Markieff & Marcus Morris - Phoenix Suns
Both Morris twins were mentioned in trade rumors this off-season as possible pieces to be moved in attempts to land some of the big name free agents. The team failed to lure any of the big fish, however, and it looks as if both will play out the final year of their rookie deals together in Phoenix. Markieff, who went a pick before brother Marcus in the draft, is slated to earn $3,153,860. Marcus's deal will pay him $3,105,301. They should see similar roles this upcoming season as those of seasons past.
Thomas Robinson - Portland Trailblazers
The good news for TRob is he is out of Sacramento, and seems to have found himself a nice role with a good Blazers team. The bad news is he plays behind LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the premier power forwards in the league. This will likely continue to limit his playing time as he heads into the third year of his rookie contract paying him $3,678,360, with a team option next year at $4,660,442. Robinson tore a ligament in his right thumb playing in the NBA summer league, which required surgery to repair. Reports are that this won't affect his availability for the start of the season.
Ben McLemore - Sacramento Kings
BMac really isn't in the best of situations. The Kings have been a pretty dismal franchise for quite some time. Even with new ownership and management, their roster decisions have been questionable. McLemore will make $3,026,280 this year, the second of his rookie contract. Last year would have to qualify as a fairly disappointing rookie campaign, as he shot 37.6% from the field and 32% from 3 while averaging a meager 8.8 ppg. The Kings used their lottery pick on Nik Stauskas this year, who is a very similar player to McLemore but with better handles. The team has said that they still believe in him, but a markedly better sophomore season would sure help his long-term viability in the league.
Andrew Wiggins - Cleveland Cavaliers
By now everybody is familiar with Wiggins' situation. He signed his rookie deal with the Cavaliers which included an allowed 20% premium and pushed his first year salary up to $5,510,640. But his days of being a Cavalier are almost certainly numbered, as he appears headed to Minnesota in the deal for Kevin Love. The 30-day waiting period is up on August 23rd. Publicly, Andrew is saying all the right things - that he wants to play where he is wanted, that Minnesota is a better place for his career development, etc. I can only hope all that's true, but I don't have much faith in the Timberwolves organization.
Joel Embiid - Philadelphia 76ers
Right now Jojo remains unsigned by the Sixers, but that is probably just a formality. The rookie salary scale for the third pick should slot him at $3,689,700 his first year, and up to $16.65 mil over 4 years. Should he fully recover and avoid further injuries, he could team up with Nerlens Noel to form one of the more imposing young front courts in the game. For now, fans will just have to settle on his humorous tweets to entertain them.
The Overseas Crowd
Langford is the epitome of how a player can have a successful career outside of the NBA. He tried his hand in the D-League and even got into a couple of games with the Spurs early in his career. For the most part though, he has made his profession overseas in Italy, Israel, and Russia. This summer he signed 2 year deal worth a reported $3.8 mil with UNICS Kazan, a professional basketball team in Kazan, Russia. This came after he declined an offer from the 76ers for the minimum $816,482
In July 2013 he signed two-year deal with Stelmet Zielona Góra, a Euroleague team in Poland. That would put this year as the second and final year of the deal. Financial terms were not found.
Last season Tyshawn was released by the Pelicans and later signed a deal with the Maine Red Claws of the D-league to finish out the season. Has said he's looking at playing either in China or somewhere in Europe next season.
Played for Oklahoma City in the NBA summer league. Little was the leading scorer last season for the Tulsa 66ers in the D-League.
Has said he has a couple of overseas offers and might try the D-League.
Last year played for Tapiolan Honka in Helsinki. Has said he might play somewhere else next season.
Poor Josh Selby. Such a cautionary tale. He had very minor 3-game stints in China and Croatia last season. Last sighting was him playing in "The Basketball Tournament" for Team FOE with former Jayhawk teammate Mario Little. No word on future plans.
Last year played with Okapi Aalstar of Belgium's Ethias League. He had some workouts with Sacramento and Houston, but wasn't invited to participate in the NBA summer league.
EJ was on the 76ers summer league team, but didn't look like he got into any games. Most recently he had signed with Polish team KS Rosa Radom, a pro team in the Tauron Basket Liga last October.
Played for the Houston Rockets in the NBA summer league. Black is hoping to get on with an NBA team. He also has the option to make a call to Aaron Rodgers if his hoops career doesn't pan out.