Welcome to part 2 of the NBAHawks 2014-15 season retrospective and 2015-16 season preview. This edition will feature Cole Aldrich, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey, Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Tarik Black, in addition to newcomers Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander.
If you missed it, Part 1 is right here.
As ever, let me know in the comments if there are things you'd like to see in future editions or questions I can attempt to answer. This season should be a fun one.
Cole Aldrich (Knicks/Clippers)
2014-15 in review: Cole saw 16 starts for the woeful Knicks this past season, and performed fairly well within them... His season per-36 minute stats sit at 12.5 points and 12.5 rebounds with a few added blocks, not half bad. Despite his points-per-36 being a career high, I think the most interesting number for Aldrich is his 3 assists-per-36, which is an exciting development for the big man and could be a positive prognostic sign for his situation in 2015-16.
2015-16 preview: Aldrich signed on with the Clippers in Free Agency this summer and figures to be a bench contributor for a team that should contend for the Western Conference crown and the NBA Championship. Cole provides a big body with some defensive chops which were lacking last season from the Clips' bench unit, and for that reason alone he may see some decent minutes. As with any contending team in the West, I forsee a "what have you done for me lately" situation as the norm for the Clippers bench rotation, where a good string of performances can get a solid week or two of double-digit minutes, followed by a poor matchup or two with a string of DNP-CDs.
Marcus Morris (Suns/Pistons)
2014-15 in review: Marcus saw two long strings of starts for the Suns in '14-15, to start the season as well as a 16 game streak to end it. He was quite effective too as he hit 36% from three and 49% from two. His season was marred, however, by some off-the-court shenanigans where Marcus and his twin were accused of beating up a man after a High School basketball game they attended... That situation is not yet completely resolved, and is something to watch moving forward.
2015-16 preview: Marcus was traded to the Detroit Pistons as the Suns were nonplussed about his run-in with the law as well as his continued technical foul issues. The Morrii were not at all pleased with this development after signing contracts to stay together in Phoenix, but Marcus has taken it in stride and appears to be in position to start consistently as a stretch 4 in Detroit. He has looked very good in the preseason and could provide the attitude for a new Bad Boys ethos as the young Pistons mature.
Markieff Morris (Suns)
2014-15 in review: Markieff started 82 games for the Suns and totaled 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game on 49.4% shooting from 2 and 32% shooting from 3 as he played the role of a more classic Power Forward. He too was embroiled in the fracas noted above, which we will discuss a bit below...
2015-16 preview: Markieff has publicly petitioned for a trade from Phoenix multiple times since his brother's departure as he has felt betrayed by the organization after having signed a sweetheart contract to stick together just last season. He played well for the Suns in the preseason, but it will be worth watching to see whether he intentionally tanks with his regular-season play in order to force the Suns to blink and send him elsewhere.
Thomas Robinson (76ers/Nets)
2014-15 in review: Thomas split last season between stints with the Blazers and the 76ers. I'm going to focus more on the latter half of the year where he played ~20 minutes a game for Philadelphia as he had a bit more freedom there. Robinson averaged 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in that 22 game stint, which places his per-36 numbers at a very respectable 17.1 points and 15 rebounds to go with a couple of assists, a steal and a block. Those numbers more than justify a bit more playing time, and though teams would like to see a bit higher FG% than T-Rob's 49% for the season, it's not far off from where he needs to be as a PF.
2015-16 preview: The Brooklyn Nets have coveted Thomas for some time now, and though they are very much a team stuck in a rut as far as competitiveness goes (not to mention the salary cap), Robinson figures to see some significant minutes over the course of the season. Some of the expectations will be determined by the Nets' desire to appear competitive or go on more of a rebuilding track, so keep your eyes peeled and check this space, I'll be sure to let you know when Brooklyn deserves a spot in your NBAHawks rotation.
Jeff Withey (Pelicans/Jazz)
2014-15 in review: Future NBA MVP Jeff Withey was completely wasted by the Pelicans last year, I can't dwell on this or I might break my computer.
2015-16 preview: Jeff's per-36s were 13.6 points, 9 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks... That's good production, though obviously extrapolating limited bench minutes like his to a larger minutes load is flimsy logically. The Jazz signed the 7-footer and he should figure as a bench contributor so long as their coaching staff isn't in a cocaine-fueled haze for the entire season (this has been a problem in the past...)
Ben McLemore (Kings)
2014-15 in review: Ben started 82 games in '14-15 while shooting 36% from 3 and 51% from inside the arc as well as 82% from the line. That sort of triple-slash is very welcome from a 21 year old guard, and though one could still complain about his aggressiveness in only scoring 12 points per game, that should come with time. I feel confident in that prediction in-part because it felt as if a bad string of misses could take McLemore out of firing mode for an extended period of time, and you could almost see him trying to avoid being taken off the floor. As he gains confidence in his position on the Kings I think he'll be much freer with the trigger.
2015-16 preview: As noted above, I think Ben will improve in nearly all facets of the game this year, because that's what players who are less than 25 years old do... The question for me is *how much* he improves, and how the team ends up performing, will it be Boogie and Co. or a cohesive unit? Time will tell.
Andrew Wiggins (Timberwolves)
2014-15 in review: Wiggins' Rookie of the Year campaign was not without issue, but the 19-year-old started all 82 games and went for 17 points along with 4.6 rebounds, a couple of assists, and a steal per game. Efficiency wasn't AW's strong suit as he hit 45% from inside the arc and just 31% from outside of it, but some of that can be attributed to his rookie status, the absence of Ricky Rubio for a significant portion of the year, and the unwillingness of the Timberwolves to stretch the floor in any significant way in the '14-15 season.
2015-16 preview: With yet another #1 pick in the Wolves' stable (woods? I dunno, work with me here...) I would expect to see a bit of attention shifted from Wiggins', even if that attention is coming from the post, and a slight increase in efficiency as a result. The sophomore campaign will be interesting as we watch whether Wiggins' NBA 3-point shot is real or fantasy with a new coaching staff (RIP Flip Saunders, the outpouring of support and sympathy from throughout the NBA has been amazing) and see how aggressive the young Canadian allows himself to be. Regardless, Wiggins' ability to get to the line is borderline-elite, as he averaged almost 6 FT's per game, and his continued development in that area should keep his floor on a game-to-game basis at a surprisingly high level even if the shots aren't falling on a given evening.
Tarik Black (Rockets/Lakers)
2014-15 in review: Black split the '14-15 season between stints with the Rockets and Lakers, and was able to work himself into the starting lineup for significant portions of the season in both settings. Overall Tarik appeared in 63 games in his rookie year, and started 39 of them. His M.O. was very simple, get the easy buckets and rebound, and he did so, tallying 7 points and 6 rebounds per game on nearly 60% shooting from the field in approximately 20 minutes per game.
2015-16 preview: Black remains with the Lakers, but he may find starts a bit harder to come by than in his rookie campaign as L.A. signed Roy Hibbert this offseason. I would expect for him to see limited minutes early, but as the Lakers realize that they are indeed a bad team, that his minutes will increase as he's a young and affordable piece who can reasonably be expected to see some development with increased minutes.
Joel Embiid (76ers)
2014-15 in review: Let's just not.
2015-16 preview: Maybe we shouldn't do this one either...
Kelly Oubre (Wizards)
2015-16 preview: The Wizards traded for Kelly Oubre on draft night, so they clearly value the rangy Small Forward's length and athleticism, but with the organization's expectations for this year (to compete for the Eastern Conference) and a 3rd overall pick at his position who finally showed signs of life in the last edition of the playoffs (Otto Porter) I would not be surprised to see a slow start to Oubre's career. That said, I expect an overall development scheme that really benefits Kelly in the long term, and there's always the possibility that a switch flips for him in the early-mid-season and he starts to make significant contributions.
Cliff Alexander (Trailblazers)
2015-16 preview: Cliff made the roster with Portland despite going undrafted, but has struggled with minor injuries which have barred him from participating in the preseason and will continue to do so into the early portions of the regular season. So long as Portland has patience I think they'll have a real diamond in the rough in Alexander (but you already knew I'd say that), and he may see minutes in the teens off of the bench as the season moves forward.