NBA All-Star Break: Top Five GTA Players to Watch in the NBA


NBA All-Star Break: Top Five GTA Players to Watch in the NBA

Heading into the All-star break, I thought it would be a good time to check in on our top GTA players in the NBA, to see how they had faired in the unofficial first half of the 2014-2015 season.

Some have surpassed expectations and some have seen their challenges, but the journey so far has been nothing short of intriguing.

Feb 4, 2015; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Cory Joseph (5) shoots the ball over Orlando Magic shooting guard Victor Oladipo (5) and power forward Channing Frye (8) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Cory Jospeh

Hometown: Pickering

As stated before at the beginning of the season, this was Cory Joseph’s time to show and prove he still belonged in the NBA, and did he ever.

Joseph began the season as direct backup to Tony Parker after guard Patty Mills missed the first four months due to injury.

In that time, Joseph also started 14 games for Parker when he needed time off.

With the increased workload, Joseph’s offensive production has improved to new career highs including field goal percentage with .515, 3-point field goal percentage with .333, assists per game at 2.7, points per game at 8.4, and rebounds per game with 2.1.

As of right now, Joseph is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and it is unlikely a re-signing conversation will take place until after the season’s end.

But if Joseph can continue his career year, he very well might even garner a bigger offer from another club, and for the first time in Joseph’s young career, it will be him, not his coaches or GM’s, that will have options to decide upon this summer.

Mid-term grade: A 

Feb 5, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Devin Harris (20) defends Sacramento Kings guard Nik Stauskas (10) during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Dallas Mavericks defeated the Sacramento Kings 101-78. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Nik Stuaskas

Hometown: Mississauga

The Mississauga native has had a rough go about it to kick off his NBA career, but that’s expected on a 17-30 Sacramento Kings squad with limited upside and three different coaches in a span of just five months.

Not only that, but multiple sources have the rookie involved in trade talks that would have him relocate for the first time in his young career.

It’s a true trial by fire for Nik Stauskas, who was given such high hopes out of college.

Statistically, Stauskas’ numbers will not have his name mentioned for rookie of the year by any means either, averaging just 3.4 points per game on just over 13 minutes per game.

His trademark long-range shot hasn’t exactly translated to the pro game well either, shooting just .261 from behind the arc.

It’s not all bad for the Michigan alumni though, per 36 minutes, his point averages shoot up to 8.9, and his assists are just under three.

What do we take away from all of this? Stauskas is a rookie, he’s going to have his adjustment period to the NBA and it is unfair to write him off with such a small sample size in the pros.

His body is still growing, and he has continued to show exuberance and the will to compete every time he’s stepped on the floor, despite the Kings dismal season and alleged locker room turmoil among its vets.

If he moves on to another team before this year’s deadline, expect a jump in his productivity.

This kid still has a lot to offer a team willing to give him the minutes.

Mid-term grade: C+ 

Jan 4, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Archie Goodwin (20) and guard Tyler Ennis (4) against the Toronto Raptors at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Raptors 125-109. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Ennis

Hometown: Brampton

Another rookie fighting for minutes, Tyler Ennis’ situation looks even bleaker than that of Stauskas.

Sitting behind highly paid Eric Bledsoe, stalwart Goran Dragic, and their backup Isiah Thomas, and even with the three guard system Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek rolls out with every night, Ennis has only seen the floor in eight games this season.

That is, whenever he is actually with the team, splitting most of his first year between the big club and the Bakersfield Jam in the developmental league.

The good news is, Ennis has torn up the D-league whenever he is down there, averaging 19.6 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.4 rebounds in seven games with the Jam.

Still, all that success against lesser opponents can make you wonder just how much damage the would-be sophomore could have done in the ACC had he chose to stay with Syracuse.

It’s something that a number of analysts, and his own former coach with the Orange, Jim Boeheim, advised Ennis to do before he eventually left for the draft last spring.

So far the rewards have not been what Ennis might have hoped, much to the surprise of no one but maybe himself.

Alas, there is no time to dwell on the past, Ennis will now have to grind out the rest of this year on a team that doesn’t really need him.

He will likely continue his travels between Bakersfield and Phoenix on a consistent basis until a possible injury opens, or, until either he or Dragic are traded by the deadline.

If that happens, Ennis might end up having a place in the NBA this season after all.

Mid-term grade: D for D-league all-star. 

Feb 11, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Bennett (24) drives to the basket past Golden State Warriors forward David Lee (10) in the second half at Target Center. The Warriors won 94-91. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Bennett

Hometown: Brampton

If he was just another first rounder, this season would be a joy for Anthony Bennett to embrace. But truthfully he isn’t, he’s a first overall pick, and as such, no matter where you go in the first couple years of your career, that little fact will hang over your head and bury you if you let it.

I don’t see that happening to Bennett, and what I do see is a big man with some mid-range slowly starting to find his game in the NBA.

It may not be the huge upswing I was predicting at the beginning of the year, but Bennett has definitely shown improvements after one of the worst rookie campaigns for any first overall pick in the history of the NBA.

As happy as I am to see Bennett improving, he may not be doing it as quick as the Minnesota Timberwolves front office would like, as they traded for power forward Adreian Payne earlier this week.

What does this mean? The brass claims it’s a move to protect themselves from the possible departure of Thaddeus Young at the end of the season to free agency.

But what it does right now is take minutes away from Bennett and the rest of the Minnesota frontcourt.

His athleticism has returned to the days of wrecking backboards at UNLV, and he still averages 11.9 points per 36 minutes, but where he is scoring on the floor still suggests he’s not ready to bang in the paint just yet.

It should be noted 49% of his shots made are from beyond 16 feet, and he is only 5-17 from the three-point line all year.

In other words, he is making half of his baskets from the least likely place you will score on an NBA basketball court, and his lack of long-range shooting suggests he cannot keep this up.

Once again, Bennett is having a better time around from his rookie campaign. However should his progress continue to be a crawl, he just might find himself on his way to his third team in as many years, and join a long list of former first overall picks who never lived up to the hype.

Mid-term grade: C 

Feb 13, 2015; New York, NY, USA; World Team guard Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves (22) dunks the basketball against the U.S. Team during the first half at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Wiggins

Hometown: Vaughan

Moving on to the other first overall pick on this list, what else can be said about a kid that has been in the international spotlight since he was 16?

How does NBA rookie of the year sound?

Andrew Wiggins has won three rookie of the month awards in the first five months of the season, and winning MVP for the NBA rising stars challenge on Friday has only further solidified his case for the Rookie of the Year award.

The praise has been coming in from all over the league and no voice was louder than LeBron James, who described Wiggins after their January 31st matchup against the Timberwolves as “a great talent”.

That talent has shown up in the numbers as well.

Entering the all-star break, Wiggins is leading all rookies in points per game with 15.4, three-point percentage with 37%, and minutes per game with 34.3.

Wiggins also went for a career high 33 points during that January 31st matchup against the Cavs, with a number of those points being scored over the future hall of famer James.

With Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker out for the rest of the year with a torn ACL, Wiggins’ rookie of the year nod looks to be a no-brainer.

Everything seems to be going according to plan for the quiet small forward, nicknamed “Sleepy” by his teammates, but he is anything but when the ball is in his hands.

Mid-term grade: A+