Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Detroit Pistons Newcomer This Season

This offseason the Detroit Pistons brought in six new players to fill a variety of roles, from starters to end-of-the-bench types.

New coach and team president Stan Van Gundy was aggressive in the free-agent market, finding players to address their biggest weakness in 2013-14: perimeter shooting. At a 32.1 percent mark from beyond the arc, only the Philadelphia 76ers were worse than the Pistons. As a coach who routinely played four perimeter threats at a time while with the Orlando Magic, Van Gundy made sure to address their shortcoming.

”From a skill standpoint on the perimeter, shooting was our primary focus, to the point that there really wasn’t anybody we were interested in that wasn’t a very good range shooter,” said Van Gundy to Yahoo. ”We really wanted to change that.”

The strength of the team is on the interior with Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe. The improved outside shooting should open more space for the three bigs to operate down low and minimize the frequency of opponents double-teaming them on the block.

Training camp will determine whether or not a couple of the signings find themselves in the starting lineup, but there’s no doubt that several of the new players—listed alphabetically—will play significant roles for the Pistons this season.

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Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Brooklyn Nets Newcomer This Season

This was not an easy offseason for the Brooklyn Nets to navigate.

When you’re well over the salary cap, adding pieces is always difficult. Add in the losses of Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston, two critical players in last year’s turnaround, and the Nets were going to be fighting an uphill battle this offseason either way.

It’s not all doom and gloom in Brooklyn, though. To supplement aging talents like Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson, the Nets brought in some youth.

Having an owner willing to spend still has its advantages, even with a salary cap, as the Nets were able to purchase some draft picks that could bring some serious athleticism to the table.

Let’s take a look at those picks, as well as the other new faces on Brooklyn’s roster, and predict the roles and impact each new player will have on the team for the 2014-15 season.

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Surprising Name Who Will Make a Big Impact for Chicago Bulls in 2014-15

The Chicago Bulls have a remarkable contributor for their 2014-15 season in Nikola Mirotic. Anticipation has been high since his acquisition back in 2010. Mirotic has played extremely well for Real Madrid the last few years and has finally brought his talents stateside.

It may be tough to envision an unproven European prospect cracking a stacked frontcourt rotation composed of Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson, but it’s going to be hard for head coach Tom Thibodeau to let such a versatile big man languish on the pine.

There is a great opportunity this season to have something really special with the Bulls’ second unit. The options for creating offense have never been so numerous, and the Montenegro native can be the player who galvanizes a new Bench Mob in the Windy City.

 A loaded offensive arsenal

Thibodeau’s game strategy is a throwback to the hard-nosed style that dominated the 1980s and ’90s. His defense-first approach makes it clear that simply winning trumps winning pretty.

While this modus operandi has yielded some success, it’s important to note very little deviation has been made due more to necessity than just sticking to what works.

Even when Derrick Rose was healthy between 2010 and 2012, the offense was tepid at best. In Thibs’ inaugural season, the team ranked 19th in points scored with 98.6 per contest. The subsequent campaign saw them skyrocket to 18th overall despite production dropping a bit to an average of 96.3 points.

It was apparent that outside of Rose there was no one who could actually create their own scoring opportunities. Fortunately, Mirotic is not short on ability when it comes to putting the ball in the hoop.

Standing 6’10” will make him a power forward, and although he doesn’t have the muscle to bang in the post, he is a mismatch when facing up on the perimeter.

The beauty of his offensive repertoire is he can be an effective complement for whomever has the ball. He has step-on-the-court shooting range that will stretch any team’s defense. That will come in handy when he’s on the floor with Rose attacking the lane or Gasol posting up. He can also beat his man off the dribble which will take away the option of closing the distance to disrupt his mechanics.

This scoring resourcefulness will make Mirotic playable in almost any game situation. Despite what seems to be an aversion to playing rookies, the polish of the two-time Euroleague Rising Star’s game will earn him a legitimate chance to crack the rotation, of which he will take full advantage.

DraftExpress.com composed a thorough breakdown of Mirotic’s game. This video highlights all of the aforementioned aspects and much more. It is evident the team would benefit immediately from playing him.

 Not just a cog

The Bulls 2014-15 group is arguably deeper than the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals cohort and definitely more balanced. There are legitimate post players, shooters and slashers; some guys can even do a little of everything.

Such is Mirotic.

David Blatt, the new head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers, is very familiar with the former Real Madrid standout. In an article written by KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Blatt shares his opinions about his former European foe, “Whenever they talk about guys coming over, I always say, ‘Can he step in a game right away and play?’ And I would say in his case, definitely yes…He’s an atypical rookie, no question. He has been in big games. He has a lot of experience.”

Finding playing time may seem like a challenge, but Gibson’s ability to play center should allow for Mirotic to get some time at power forward. His shooting and dribbling ability could even allow him to occasionally play small forward.

All in all, the young man is too talented to be a one-dimensional specialist. Mirotic will allow Thibodeau to test his coaching wits. The fifth-year sideline general has plenty of options at his disposal as he comes up with a game plan for his new addition.

Mirotic’s impact probably won’t be immediate, however. He still has to learn how to deal with a faster, more physical NBA game and grueling schedule. Playing behind Gasol will be great for his transition, though.

Given his basketball I.Q. and worth ethic, it should not take long for the 23-year-old to catch on and turn it up.

Once things start to pick up, Bulls fans are going to see the wait was well worth it. The terms of Mirotic’s acquisition will go down as one of the best steals in recent memory. Chicago’s basketball future is looking bright.

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Surprising Name Who Will Make a Big Impact for NY Knicks in 2014-15

The New York Knicks are in need of help across the board if they are to turn things around and be competitive in the East this year, but with the help of a surprising name, they may just be able to do it.

Andrea Bargnani once again fell victim to false expectations after being acquired in exchange for three draft picks, but upon his return from injury—and in a new regime—he could still turn out to be an important player for the Knicks.

Bargnani clearly wasn’t a great fit alongside Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, but now that the former is gone, he should be able to find minutes at center, where he’ll truly be to able help spacing, as opposed to clashing with Melo at forward.

The triangle offense should also help create open shots for the Italian, although he will need to work on his passing if the system is to work properly.

Bargnani’s 2013-14 season will be remembered for a few embarrassing moments and his career-low three-point percentage, but it wasn’t all bad, and there were some positives to take before he bowed out with injury.

For starters, Bargnani was actually one of the few players who put in consistent effort on a rather apathetic team, highlighted by his aggressive head-to-head matchup with Kevin Garnett in December and the injury that ended his season while he was driving to the rim.

Admittedly, Bargnani was still fairly pathetic as a team defender, although he did manage to record a career high in rebounds per 36 minutes (not that 6.4 is particularly impressive) and had his moments as a one-on-one defender.

At this point, Bargnani has faded almost completely into the background. No one’s talking about him anymore, and the general consensus, understandably, is that he brings nothing to the table other than his expiring $11.5 million contract.

However, there is still a chance Bargnani could turn into a real contributor for the Knicks. He’s in a contract year and has every incentive to work hard. He has also been reunited with Jose Calderon.

The last time he was in a contract year with Calderon as his point guard, he averaged a very efficient 17.2 points per game and earned a five-year contract from the Toronto Raptors, which didn’t seem quite so bad at the time. 

New York is unlikely to bring back Bargnani in any scenario, but the center is very much playing for his next NBA contract. He’ll be a completely unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career next season and stands to take a huge pay cut on his current contract at this rate.

Even Phil Jackson is of the belief that Bargnani will fit well in his system.

“He’s overlooked. We think he’s going to really do well in the system we have,” Jackson said on MSG Network during Summer League, per the New York Daily News. “We have a couple of guards he likes to play with, Jose Calderon and Pablo Prigioni, and I think he’s going to be a surprise and a pleasant one for our fans.”

Chemistry with the two point guards is going to be very important, as is the additional spacing afforded by Chandler’s departure, and Bargnani has the skill set to capitalize on it if he puts in the effort.

Bargnani has always had the talent to be an efficient role player, but no coach has been able to bring it out of him. If anyone can finally do it, you’d have to think the Zen Master would be the one, especially with Bargnani in a contract year and playing with his favorite point guard again.

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Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Philadelphia 76ers Newcomer This Season

The Philadelphia 76ers have more NBA newcomers than a kindergarten class, and finding a role for each of them will be a difficult task.

There are some very important holes for people to step up and fill within Philadelphia’s roster. The team needs another scorer off the bench, a lock-down perimeter defender and some kind of interior presence to name a few.

There happens to be some positive news, though.

Believe it or not, but there’s more than enough firepower in the new talent to come in and fill specific voids. The Sixers’ offseason was dedicated toward finding success in the draft and among undrafted free-agents.

Let’s see how they did by evaluating the impact and roles of Philadelphia’s newcomers for the upcoming season.

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Surprising Name Who Will Make a Big Impact for LA Lakers in 2014-15

The Los Angeles Lakers focused on improving their frontcourt this offseason, signing Jordan Hill to a lucrative contract, winning the amnesty auction for Carlos Boozer and selecting Julius Randle seventh overall in the draft.

But the quieter signing of former Ed Davis may provide the biggest bang for the buck on the court in 2015.

Los Angeles outright stole Davis this summer, nabbing him on a minimum deal that will output maximum value.

The young big man has always been a solid rotation player, with a career PER of 15.9 after stints in Toronto and Memphis.

Davis brings athleticism to a Lakers front line that has long lacked in that department. He runs the floor hard and can be a devastating finisher in transition. His offensive repertoire is not as polished as some of the other bigs on the roster, but Davis plays smartly on that end of the floor, focusing on his strengths.

He did a good job making himself available around the basket last year, attempting 56 percent of his field goals in the restricted area (up significantly from the previous two seasons) and getting assisted on 70 percent of his buckets.

Davis’ mid-range game is improving too. He has gotten more calculating about when to shoot mid-range jumpers, and the result last season was a career-best 44 percent accuracy on shots between 10 and 14 feet.

Where Davis will really make an impression though, is on the defensive side of the ball.

As presently constructed, the Lakers’ roster other than Davis is bereft of anyone who offers even a hint of rim protection. In 2014, Davis ranked fourth in opponent’s field goal percentage at the rim among all NBA players who played an appreciable amount of minutes and defended at least three such shots per game.

His frontcourt mates Hill, Boozer and Ryan Kelly finished 55th, 109th and 124th, respectively, out of the 128 total candidates. Randle didn’t show a proclivity for protecting the paint in college either.

When Davis was on the floor last season, the Grizzlies‘ venerable defense actually improved (subscription required) by nearly five points per 100 possessions. The same trend was apparent in 2013, when Davis’ presence made the league’s second-best defense even stingier.

Defensive-minded coach Byron Scott may turn to Davis more than anticipated in hopes of slowing down the inevitable torrent of points that will be scored against the Lakers this season.

Jordan Hill’s fragility could grant Davis extra minutes as well.

Hill has had a tough time staying on the court and has actually played fewer career games and minutes than Davis despite being in the league for an additional year. Should Hill be forced to miss time this season, Davis would likely take over as the starting center.

Though he is currently fourth in line for minutes in the Lakers’ frontcourt, the combination of his unique skill set, the new head coach’s tendencies and health concerns of those in front of him could lead to Davis having a surprisingly big impact for L.A. in 2015.

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Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Milwaukee Bucks Newcomer This Season

Aside from the transfer of ownership and acquisition of Jason Kidd as the team’s new head coach, the Milwaukee Bucks haven’t exactly been buyers this offseason. Regardless, the new faces that have been added to the roster should make an immediate impact.

Jabari Parker will have his sights set on the Rookie of the Year award, Kendall Marshall will hope to build on a very successful 2013-14 season and Jerryd Bayless will aim to become a viable spark off the bench.

And while fans and players alike can have expectations, it’s not uncommon to fall short of them. So, then, how will each new face for the Bucks fit into the game plan and what can his expected impact be?

 

Jabari Parker

Given his versatility on offense, the second overall pick in this summer’s draft is a sight for sore eyes in Milwaukee.

Last season the offensively challenged Bucks scored 95.5 points per game (28th in the league) and shot just 43.8 percent from the field.

Now, the addition of Duke sensation Jabari Parker should help turn those numbers around, at least a little bit.

Parker averaged 19.1 points by connecting on 47.3 percent of his field-goal attempts and converting a respectable 35.8 percent of his threes.

Though he can fall in love with his jump shot relatively easily, the 6’8″ forward knows he has the size and quickness to score from the post as well.

In the NBA, with great defenders guarding him, he’ll certainly need to dig deep into his arsenal of offensive moves in order to produce at the same level he did in college. Even still, he shouldn’t be far off from his college production when the NBA season comes to a close. The rookie will see plenty of minutes and figures to become the team’s go-to scoring option.

Much of his success will likely depend on how consistently he can get his jumper to fall, and if he can take full advantage of any mismatches that may face him.

Ultimately, it’s hard to pinpoint the numbers, but Parker will certainly have a major impact.

However, in an attempt to make things numerical, look for him to average 16.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists on 44.2 percent shooting from the field and 34.3 percent from behind the three-point line.

 

Kendall Marshall

It cannot be stressed enough how big of an acquisition Marshall is for the Bucks.

As good as Brandon Knight was in 2013-14, Marshall’s presence adds a completely different element to the point guard position and one that hasn’t been seen in Milwaukee for quite some time.

And that element is distribution.

Marshall is a fantastic passer who averaged 8.8 assists in 29.0 minutes per game in 2013-14 for the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, under the tutelage of Jason Kidd—one of the best point guards ever—Marshall’s opportunity to grow increases exponentially.

That opportunity is not lost on the young point guard, either. As Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweeted after the acquisition, Marshall seems eager to work with Kidd:

Look for Knight to start the season at point guard, but don’t be surprised if Marshall snatches that starting role from him at some point.

Those 8.8 assists per game he averaged should certainly be attainable and, assuming he can improve his jump shot, there’s no reason to believe Marshall can’t average 10.0 points.

It’s not time to write Knight off, but he had better start thinking about transitioning to shooting guard, especially if Marshall’s game continues heading in the proper direction.

 

Jerryd Bayless

If Bayless provides the Bucks with what he gave the Boston Celtics a year ago, his signing should be considered a success.

After being traded to Boston by the Memphis Grizzlies, Bayless averaged 10.1 points and 3.1 assists on 41.1 percent shooting (39.5 percent from three-point territory). While those numbers certainly don’t jump off the page, a guy like Bayless can provide a spark.

At least, that’s the plan.

The Bucks brought in Gary Neal last summer in hopes he would play a similar role, but it never quite worked out. Neal averaged 10.0 points, but shot just 39.0 percent from the floor and tended to be a bit erratic with his shot selection.

Truth be told, Bayless is a similar player.

However, the 25-year-old is a slightly better ball-handler and much more willing to distribute than Neal was during his short time in Milwaukee.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweeted out the details of Bayless‘ contract and, for what he could provide, it’s not a bad one:

Bayless definitely doesn’t bring much of a “wow” factor to the table, but he’s a solid role player who is a capable shooter from deep.

 

Johnny O’Bryant and Damien Inglis

O’Bryant and Inglis get lumped together for the simple reason that, in my opinion, they won’t get a whole lot of playing time.

At least not enough to make a big impact.

Unless a trade occurs at some point, the Bucks are experiencing a bit of a logjam at both forward positions. And that’s why both players are presumably going to spend quite a bit of time in the NBA Development League for 2014-15.

O’Bryant is a low-block scorer who adds some bulk to a frontline dominated by long, lanky players like John Henson, Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova. His physical prowess is a welcome addition, but he will need a lot of time to sharpen his game.

On the other hand, as with Giannis Antetokounmpo last summer, not much is known about Inglis.

The Frenchman, as recently reported by Gardner, broke his foot during a workout in Oklahoma City and is still wearing a boot. Whether or not he fully heals before training camp begins is yet to be seen, but even a healthy Inglis probably won’t be part of the opening night roster.

Of course, I said the same thing about Antetokounmpo a year ago and was proven wrong.

However and, unfortunately for them, O’Bryant and Inglis play two positions at which the Bucks aren’t short on talent.

Yes, someone with the versatility of Inglis could certainly shift around, but the Greek Freak fits that very mold and it’s hard to imagine seeing the two, along with Parker, exist on the roster from the get-go.

If O.J. Mayo gets traded by the deadline, though, fans might see plenty of Inglis in the second half.

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Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each Chicago Bulls Newcomer This Season

Perhaps no team in the NBA did a better job of adding depth than the Chicago Bulls this offseason. 

With Derrick Rose looking great this offseason and with a few huge free-agency and draft additions, the Bulls look primed to contend for a championship this season. This is a talented, deep roster.

Of course, there are still a lot of unknowns in Chicago. With so many new pieces and the ouster of power forward fixture Carlos Boozer, the Bulls have a few roles that are seemingly up in the air. Are there minutes to go around for everyone? Which players can play together?

Let’s take a look and predict the roles and impact for each one of Chicago’s newest offseason additions for the upcoming season.

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Surprising Name Who Will Make a Big Impact for Miami Heat in 2014-15

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers as he enters the 2014-15 NBA season. 

The last time we saw Chalmers play, he was an absolute mess. Chalmers averaged 4.4 points (33.3 percent shooting from the field, 14.3 percent shooting from three), 2.8 assists and 2.0 turnovers per game in Miami’s 4-1 NBA Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

His confidence appeared to be completely shaken, and he looked more like a guy who should be warming the bench for a lottery team than starting for a title contender.

Then came the 2014 NBA draft where Miami added not only someone at Chalmers’ position but one of the more decorated college players up for grabs in Shabazz Napier. 

Then came the free-agency period where Chalmers saw very little interest from other teams, which suggests the league doesn’t think highly of him, and he ultimately signed with Miami on a discounted two-year, $8.3 million contract.

But 2014-15 will be a big season for Mario Chalmers. He’s not going to play like he did during the NBA Finals, and Shabazz Napier (as well as Norris Cole) won’t supplant him in the starting lineup. 

Chalmers will have a major role on the new-look Heat, and he’s going to perform at a high level.

Rio’s poor showing against the Spurs seems to have made everyone forget just what a nice job he did during the regular season.

Chalmers averaged 9.8 points, 4.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game. 

Contrary to popular belief, Chalmers is fairly helpful in just about all facets of the game. He’s developed into a plus defender, he knows when and where to get his teammates the ball, and he can score in a variety of ways. 

Consider this: On a team that featured a plethora of excellent three-point shooters, no Heat player was more efficient from outside than Chalmers (38.5 percent). The 2013-14 season marked the third consecutive year in which Chalmers shot north of 38.0 percent from beyond the arc.

In a league that places a premium on the corner three, Chalmers showed he more than belonged last season. He knocked down 45.8 percent of his threes from the right corner and an absurd 60.0 percent of his threes from the left corner.

Chalmers also continued to display a great ability to get to the basket and finish at the rim. He attempted 232 field goals within five feet of the hoop and converted a solid 55.6 percent of them.

Both of those scoring skills are only going to be more important now that Miami now longer has LeBron James in the fold.

Chalmers will be handling the ball a lot more frequently; he will need to create for others and create for himself by driving to the rack often for Miami’s offense to function properly. 

And if the Heat want to remain a dangerous team from three-point range, then Chalmers is going to have to deliver, with LeBron, James Jones, Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier and (presumably, per Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears) Ray Allen gone from last year’s team.

Expect Chalmers to live up to those challenges while continuing to be helpful on the defensive end. He should post career highs in points and assists and respectable efficiency numbers from the field and from three.

Chalmers might not be the flashy young guy or the heralded veteran, but the 28-year-old is going to produce in 2014-15 and make the Heat awfully pleased they retained him on such an inexpensive deal. 

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Predicting the Roles and Impact of Each OKC Thunder Newcomer This Season

The Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t make any high-profile moves this offseason, but they are still the class of the Western Conference. None of the newcomers will single-handedly push the Thunder over the hump and into the Finals again. Yet, they all have defined roles which must be maximized to fulfill the potential of 2014-15′s version.

There are only five new players to cover, and we already know that one of them—first-round pick Josh Huestis—definitely won’t play a part in the NBA this season. It’s likely that fellow rookie Semaj Christon will join him in the D-League, but a strong showing over the course of the season could eventually vault him onto the NBA roster.

Beyond those two, the rest of the offseason additions will all factor into the nightly rotation. The roles they will fill are the subject of discussion here (plus some stat projections for the players that will definitely play NBA minutes next year).

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