Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton, from left, draft picks Zach LaVine, Michigan's Glenn Robinson III, and coach Flip Saunders pose for photos at a news conference Thursday. (Bruce Bisping)
Much like moving away from home for the first day of college, the NBA draft can present a range of emotions — from elation to anxiety to frustration. For the five in-state players who were selected in Thursday’s NBA draft, the short-term future entails packing up and going to a different city to start their careers.
For several others who weren’t drafted, the near future is not as certain, with elation and anxiety replaced by hope and determination in trying to sign a free-agent contract and latch on to a Summer League roster with hopes of trying to impress an NBA team enough to stick on the roster.
Michigan’s Nik Stauskas (eighth, Kings) and Mitch McGary (21st, Thunder) were taken in the first round, along with Michigan State’s Adreian Payne (15th, Hawks) and Gary Harris (19th, Bulls, traded to the Nuggets). U-M’s Glenn Robinson III went to the Timberwolves in the second round, with the 40th overall pick.
Each made the trek to his new city to be introduced and embark on a new quest.
“You’re just hoping for the best and hoping to go to the right fit. It’s a sigh of relief once you hear your name called and you’re able to walk across that stage,” Harris said Friday in Denver. “It’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”
Although Harris was selected lower than he was projected in mock drafts, he was excited about the opportunity, after being traded along with Jusuf Nurkic (the 16th pick) to the Nuggets for No. 11 pick Doug McDermott.
On the other end of the spectrum was Stauskas, who went a few picks higher than he was projected. But his blend of shooting and driving ability was too good for the Kings to pass up, as they were one of the worst 3-point-shooting teams (33 percent) in the NBA last season.
“I knew coming in that Sacramento was a possibility and they felt strongly about me,” Stauskas said late Thursday night. “To be honest, I feel like I bring a skill set that not many people have and is needed in the NBA. As much as I’ve expanded my game over the last couple of years, shooting is definitely the thing I do best and I take pride in that. When I get my feet set and get a good look at the basket, there’s not many people in the league that can knock down shots like I can.”
Stauskas traveled from New York to Sacramento, Calif., on Friday, and was looking forward to a change in weather along with his change in scenery.
“I’ve never been to Sacramento, but I’ve been to California a number of times,” said Stauskas, a Canadian. “I’m excited because my whole life, I’ve grown up in a foot of snow, so I’m excited for no more snow at this point.”
Payne likely won’t have to worry about snow in Atlanta, where the 6-foot-10 forward will mesh with the Hawks’ Al Horford and Paul Millsap.
“As a freshman going to Michigan State, it was a learning experience. A lot of people don’t know I starting playing at a late age so I just had to start learning things as I went,” Payne said Friday. “The main thing was I had to learn as much as I could in a short amount of time and continue to work hard because I wasn’t always the best person on the court.”
Something to prove
While the first-round picks have guaranteed contracts and some of the second-rounders have a good chance of making rosterr, undrafted rookies have a lot more uncertainty, though they can pick the team where they would like to make a free-agent deal and try to prove themselves in the Summer League.
Such is the case for MSU guard Keith Appling, U-M forward Jordan Morgan, Oakland guard Travis Bader and Western Michigan center Shayne Whittington.
Appling, a four-year player with the Spartans, will join the Blazers and Morgan will play with the Timberwolves. Bader has offers from the 76ers (Orlando league) and Warriors (Las Vegas league), while Whittington will be with the Pacers.
The Orlando Summer League runs from July 5-11; the one in Las Vegas is July 11-21.
Morgan averaged 6.4 points and 5.0 points last season, starting 27 of 37 games with the Wolverines. He scored in double figures in all four NCAA Tournament games, after notching just five double-figure games in the regular season.
Bader averaged 20.6 points last season and set an NCAA record with 504 3-pointers in his career with the Golden Grizzlies.
Whittington averaged 16.1 points and 8.8 rebounds to lead the Broncos to the Mid-American Conference tournament championship and an NCAA tournament appearance.