Welcome to part 1 of the NBAHawks 2014-15 retrospective and 2015-16 preview. This quick-hit edition will center on the Old Guard of Jayhawks in the NBA, Paul Pierce, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden, Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, and Darrell Arthur.
Paul Pierce (Washington Wizards/LA Clippers):
2014-15 in review: Pierce played in limited minutes this season, the fewest of his career since 2006-07 when he only appeared in 43 games. His efficiency also nearly duplicated his mid-career form in shooting 50% from 2-point range and 39% from 3. His usage obviously didn't approach his shot-chucking days, but at 37 that was never the expectation. However, his playoff performance was *exactly* what Washington had hoped to get in signing the veteran to their ascendant squad. In the playoffs he reinforced his claim to being the most hated man in Toronto in a 4 game sweep of the Raptors (after besting them in 7 with the Nets last year), and nearly swung the second round series against the 1-seed Atlanta Hawks but for a split-second's mistiming of a shot and a bit of bad luck.
2015-16 outlook: PP opted out of the second year of his deal with the Wizards to sign a three-year deal with his hometown LA Clippers. It would seem that he will continue to see reduced minutes in his Age-38 season and be used as a bench piece who might see more time in the Playoffs after preserving his body in the regular season a la Shaq on the Heat a decade ago, or any one of the Spurs right now... The Clippers are in their championship window now (as much as any Western Conference team can have a window), and it looks like Pierce hopes to get one more shot at doubling his ring total before riding off into the sunset.
Nick Collison (OKC Thunder):
2014-15 in review: The 2014-15 season saw Collison play the fewest minutes of any non-injury shortened season in his career with 1100 minutes played for in 66 games. His efficiency took a major hit as well, as his customary 55-60% from the field was reduced to just 47%, though a significant portion of that can be attributed to attempting by far the most 3-pointers of his career, his 60 more than doubling his entire career total, as he attempted to bring more spacing to the Kevin Durant-less Thunder.
2015-16 outlook: I would expect that Nick sees similar minutes to last season in the one to come as the Thunder re-signed Enes Kanter and have Mitch McGary in the rotation as well. I would, however, expect his efficiency return to pre-Durant-injury levels as he settles back into his optimal placement as a dump-man around the basket and a charge-taking wizard.
Kirk Hinrich (Chicago Bulls):
2014-15 in review: This year was Kirk's 12th NBA campaign, and his Age-34 season. Since returning to Chicago 2 years ago, Hinrich's numbers have been relatively steady, and not particularly spectacular, in 14-15 he went 39.4% from two-point range, 34.5% from three, and hit 70% from the line. That 3PT% will play, but it's very difficult to make positive contributions with an overall FG% of 37.3%, no matter the leadership, hustle, grit, intangibles, and defense you might bring to the court (yes, this is somewhat tongue-in-cheek)...
2015-16 outlook: I wouldn't expect any sort of resurgence this year for Hinrich after he picked up his player option for 2015-2016 with the Bulls. He is in the twilight of his career, and should see decreasing minutes, somewhere around 20 per game in a rotating PG/SG backup role where he will likely be used as a floor spacer and hustle/effort defender by new Head Coach Fred Hoiberg. That said, anytime there is a regime change there is room for major shifts in playing time, and it's also possible that the Bulls move in a younger direction, leaving Hinrich out in the cold (but still receiving just shy of $3 Million for his troubles).
Drew Gooden (Washington Wizards):
2014-15 in review: Gooden's 2014-15 season was very volatile, with his usage swinging between that of a solid bench contributor and a Did Not Play- Coach's Decision on a weekly basis. Toward the end of the year, however,he saw double-digit minutes in 23 straight games, and appeared in every Wizards playoff game and was, somewhat shockingly, a floor spacer who knocked down 46% of his shots from deep.
2015-16 outlook: Gooden is under contract for another two years (note: '16-17 is not guaranteed) and I would expect to see him in a very similar role moving forward. He will be a veteran in the locker room for a still-young team, contribute when injuries hit, and otherwise serve as a steady presence in the playoffs (for which he will be well-rested) and hope to replicate the performance above.
Brandon Rush (Golden State Warriors):
2014-15 in review: Brandon Rush is an NBA Champion. Sadly, at this point it's uncertain whether his career will ever recover from the recurrent knee injuries he has suffered over the past several seasons. He appeared in 33 games after returning to Golden State, most of them dominating wins, and a few not-particularly-close losses. In those games he was unable to get his shot to fall, shooting 30% from two and 11% from three... Small sample size and inconsistent usage plague that data, but it doesn't look good. He is mostly a locker room contributor for the Warriors now.
2015-16 outlook: This season will likely show whether or not Brandon will continue to play in the NBA or whether injuries will have ended his productive career. This will be his age-30 season, and it would not be shocking to see him finally recover his confidence and his shot, play some solid defense, and be a bench 3-and-D type of player again, but only time will tell.
Mario Chalmers (Miami Heat):
2014-15 in review: Mario saw 80 games of action this season, and it seemed as if he missed having LeBron James on his side as his numbers from deep dropped to a career low at a 29% conversion rate, though his 2-point percentage was sterling at an even 50%. The Heat were generally disappointing after losing Chris Bosh to a blood clot in his lung, which is not terribly surprising, as Bosh is a major player, and opens up the floor for the remainder of the team with his mere presence. Losing two of the big three put far too much pressure on Mario to be an initiator of the offense, and he wasn't quite able to keep his efficiency in his normal range, look for that to change moving forward.
2015-16 outlook: I see a decent amount of time off the bench in Mario's future, as well as some time at the 2-guard spot. It will be exciting to see how the Heat fare in the East with a half-season of growing pains in the rearview-mirror, and with Goran Dragic, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade drawing more attention as they all see the court at the same time, Mario should be able to take more shooting-drill shots than last season.
Darrell Arthur (Denver Nuggets):
2014-15 in review: Darrell Arthur is an interesting case as he has not been particularly exciting on the offensive end, however, the Nuggets have been significantly better on the defensive end whenever Shady is in the game. His offensive production took an efficiency hit owing in part to his shooting significantly more long shots than in previous years, including attempting 110 threes after only attempting 91 in his career to this point. Considering he only connected on 24% I don't think I can endorse that he maintain that pace, but his 47% hit rate from two is certainly sustainable and warrants some playing time when added to his defensive prowess.
2015-16 outlook: The Nuggets re-signed Arthur to a two year contract in August, and with a new head coach in Mike Malone, there's a fair amount of variability in projecting his usage in the coming season. I would expect about 25 minutes per game in a bench role, but should the Nuggets' new skipper desire a more resolute defensive front, starts are not out of the question.
Here is SBNation's Nuggets Blog's take on the re-signing.
BONUS: SASHA KAUN (Nouveau Cavaliers):
2015-2016 outlook: He's baaaaaaaack ... but really, he could be a solid contributor as a big man, becoming essentially Timofey Mozgov Part 2 for the Cleveland LeBrons.