After the trade deadline in February, I put together a list of guys who were “on notice” given the moves their teams made. The idea was to pinpoint guys who had either been thrust into larger roles or found themselves with increased competition for minutes. The following is a list of players who might be considered “on notice” given their teams’ picks in the draft last week. With an exception or two, I focused on players who are not set to be free agents this summer.
Last season was a major disappointment for Bucks guard Brandon Jennings. (Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE)
• Brandon Jennings, PG, Bucks
It might be a bit much to put Jennings here, considering he’s only 21 and a cornerstone of the Bucks franchise. But last season was a disappointment for him, as he shot just 39 percent overall, took a major step back from three-point range and did not advance as much as hoped as a pick-and-roll attacker. Like a lot of little guys, Jennings struggles to finish at the rim and to consistently get below the foul line on pick-and-rolls.
His only competition last season was Keyon Dooling, but that will change now that Milwaukee has added both Shaun Livingston and Beno Udrih. Scott Skiles will likely play both guys with Jennings at times, so this is not strictly an either/or situation. Livingston brings a post presence, and Udrih has shot around 50 percent for two straight seasons. He doesn’t defend much, but he’s an efficient shooter from inside the three-point line, and Milwaukee’s back-line defense might be able to mask some of Udrih’s weaknesses.
Jennings will start and play heavy minutes, but Skiles can make the hook a bit quicker next season.
• Andray Blatche, F, Wizards
The young-ish veteran in his prime will always get the benefit of the doubt over rookies and over-the-hill types, so Blatche (like Jennings) is basically guaranteed to start and see heavy minutes in Washington next season. He’s also guaranteed $29.8 million over the next four years, a deal that is pricey and yet moderate enough (at least by current standards) to make Blatche movable if it comes to that.
The Wizards’ forward rotation got lot more crowded on Thursday, when they snagged Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton in the first round of the draft. Vesely is 6-foot-11 and comfortable working in the post, and Singleton might — might – be able to work as a small-ish power forward in the NBA.
Blatche played much of last season (and prior seasons, really) like an entitled pseudo-star, hogging the ball on offense, taking awful shots and playing some of the least-inspired defense you’ll ever see. Injuries may have contributed to all of this, but Blatche could feel confident the Wizards didn’t really have anyone else to take his minutes. That’s still true … for now.
• Rodney Stuckey, G, Pistons
Stuckey will merit his own post at some point, since there may not be a more intriguing potential free agent outside of Greg Oden. The Pistons’ decision to draft Kentucky product Brandon Knight doesn’t necessarily signal anything big about Stuckey’s future, but it does accelerate the dialogue over what position he should play, whether he can work well off the ball and how central he is to the Pistons’ future.
• Baron Davis/Ramon Sessions, G, Cavaliers
This is old news, since it was clear from the moment Cleveland landed the No. 1 pick that the Cavs would have one too many point guards deserving of serious minutes. Sessions, due $4.26 million next season and $4.55 million in 2012-13 (via a player option), will obviously be easier to move, though the Cavaliers would love to unload Davis and his hefty deal if they can find a taker. Either figures to be available in exchange for a draft pick or cap relief.
• D.J. Augustin, G, Bobcats
Augustin is a nice player with a long-range stroke that did not hold up last season when the Bobcats handed him twice as many minutes per game as he got in 2009-10. He’s only 23, but he hasn’t emerged as the sort of point guard you’d be thrilled to have as your long-term starter. And with Kemba Walker now on board, Augustin faces some serious pressure again.
Augustin is a low-turnover player who can clearly serve as a caretaker point guard, but he hasn’t developed as a pick-and-roll threat who can break down a defense consistently. He’s one of the worst finishers at the rim among all league point guards, and his passing numbers are on par with so-so distributors, like Mike Conley and Stephen Curry; his passes do not lead to as many shots at the rim or three-pointers as you’d like. His height (6-foot) will always make it tough for him to finish in the lane, and it also makes him a liability on defense. Playing Augustin and Walker together for long stretches is probably unrealistic.
• Brandon Rush, G, Pacers
Rush turns 26 next week, so it’s reasonable to assume we’ve seen his NBA ceiling as a low-usage jump shooter who loves long twos, struggles to create his own shot and contributes inconsistently on both ends. After a hot start last season in which he shot more often and more accurately than usual, Rush’s play settled back to his career norm. With George Hill in town and Paul George flashing a versatile two-way game, Rush might be fighting for crumbs off the bench next season unless he can show Indiana a bit more.
• Spencer Hawes, C, 76ers
It’s tough to project how much a rookie big like Nikola Vucevic will actually play, but he should get a shot at stealing some of Hawes’ minutes in Philly’s big-man rotation. The Sixers played better on both ends last season with Hawes on the bench, but when he’s on, his combination of passing and shooting from the center spot can grease his team’s creaky offense. His defensive rebounding improved last season, and having skilled 7-footers in the paint is generally a good thing.
But Hawes was never able to gain Doug Collins’ unwavering confidence, establish himself as a league-average defender or score in the paint consistently. The Sixers have tendered Hawes his $4.05 million qualifying offer, so they are at least interested in bringing him back at that moderate price.
Anthony Randolph and Michael Beasley have even more competition at power forward. (AP)
• Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph, F, Timberwolves
Another obvious one, given all the attention on Minnesota’s crowded power-forward rotation now that Derrick Williams has arrived. Beasley is a gunner who needs to improve his all-around game, on both ends, to approach the hype his scoring creates. Randolph, only 21, is stocked with potential, but he has often looked overwhelmed on the court. He improved when he was sent to Minnesota in the Carmelo Anthony trade, but he still has a ways to go in fulfilling some of that potential.
• Goran Dragic/Jonny Flynn, G, Rockets
It’s tempting to list Houston’s power forward collective here as one big “on notice” player, but the reality is that all the young guys behind Luis Scola will probably get chances to prove themselves. Things get trickier at point guard, which will be a three-person job unless the Rockets decline their team option on Dragic or move one of these guys before next season starts.
After Flynn’s disastrous (and short) second season in Minnesota, it’s fashionable to list Dragic as the no-brainer No. 2 guy here behind Kyle Lowry. But last season represented a significant step back for Dragic, as well. He has been a high-turnover player since entering the league, but his shooting dropped off in 2010-11 to the point that he was more of a liability than asset in Phoenix. He played better after the Suns dealt him to Houston, but this should be a legit competition.
• Greivis Vasquez, G, Grizzlies
Vasquez had his moments in the playoffs, but he also looked overwhelmed at times and shot just 40.8 percent for the season — and just 29 percent from three. He’ll be 25 when next season starts, so he’s not young. He is a first-round pick due guaranteed money next season, and he’s competing for Conley’s backup minutes with Josh Selby, an ultra-talented guard out of Kansas who slipped all the way to No. 49 in the draft because of questions surrounding his attitude, position and ability to play point guard in the NBA. Even still, he has the athleticism to eventually push Vasquez if things go right.
• Hakim Warrick, F, Suns
The Suns are set at center, a bit crowded on the wing and confident (for now) with Channing Frye as their starting power forward. They also just drafted Markieff Morris in the lottery, meaning Warrick – so enticing and yet so unsatisfying – has some new competition on hand.
Warrick looks the part of an ideal pick-and-roll partner for Steve Nash, with explosive finishing skills, an ability to get to the line and a usable mid-range jumper. But he has never been able to defend or rebound well enough to stay on the floor as much as he might otherwise. Will he figure it out after his 29th birthday in a couple of weeks?
• Richard Jefferson, F, Spurs
He’s been on notice since he arrived in San Antonio. But now the Spurs have a rookie small forward in Kawhi Leonard, whom they liked enough to give up George Hill, one of Gregg Popovich’s all-time favorites. Finally, some legit competition for Jefferson on the wing