Wolverines in the Association: Three Michigan Stars on the move ahead of NBA Trade Deadline

Basketball

NBA Trade Deadline week is upon us and already, three former Wolverines found themselves on the move again as NBA teams reshape their rosters ahead of the February 7 deadline. Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Nik Stauskus have all been traded to new teams since February began. John Beilein said Monday he texted some sound advice to his former charges.

“I texted all of them and just said ‘sudden change (we use that term all the time, Bo Schembechler’s term) and new opportunity for you.’ I’m sure that they will do their best.” Beilein replied when asked about the trades. “I heard from (Mavericks coach) Rick Carlisle as well. After the initial shock, these guys are now settled in: Trey is now married, Tim has been in New York for two years, Nik was settled on the west coast. I am glad to have Nik back east and I am glad both Tim and Trey can play for a team that is a little bit closer than the Knicks are and maybe they get in the playoffs.”

Trey Burke (2011-13) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (2010-13) were teammates on the Knicks and will remain so in their new home of Dallas. The two former Michigan guards were part of the blockbuster deal between the Mavericks and Knicks that saw star forward Kristaps Porzingis heading to Texas along with Burke, Hardaway and guard Courtney Lee. The Knicks received second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr. and the expiring contracts of guard Wesley Matthews and center DeAndre Jordan as well as draft picks. Burke, who had never been traded during the regular season in his career before last week, spoke about the experience at his introductory press conference in Dallas on Monday.

“(The trade) caught me a little off guard. I was coming home from practice when my agent called me.” Burke told assembled media in Dallas. “I was very excited. I had never gotten traded during the season, it was new to me. In my two days here, everyone has embraced me with open arms, we are taking it day by day, playoffs is our number one goal right now. It’s good to be in a winning culture, part of a championship pedigree type organization, I am very excited to be here.”

Neither Burke or Hardaway have been able to stay in one place for too long in their respective six-year NBA careers. Burke was originally drafted by the Mavericks 9th overall in the 2013 Draft but was traded to the Utah Jazz on draft night. Burke played for the Jazz (2013-16) Wizards (2016-17) the Westchester Knicks of the G-League (2017-18) the Knicks (this season) and now the Mavericks. Burke will join a crowded point guard position in Dallas and try to carve out playing time behind rookie phenom Luka Doncic with rookie Jalen Brunson and veteran J.J Barea also receiving minutes in coach Rick Carlisle’s rotation.

“We’re gonna have complete lineup flexibility going forward,” Carlisle said about working Burke, Hardaway, and Lee into the lineup immediately. “We could start a different team every night. Some nights we’ll start smaller guys, some nights we’ll start bigger.”

Hardaway Jr. is departing the Knicks for the second time in his career. After New York drafted him in 2013, Hardaway was traded to the Atlanta Hawks during the 2015 Draft for the draft rights to Jerian Grant. Hardaway found his stride with the Hawks during the 2016-17 season, shooting a career-best 45.5% from the field and averaging a then career-best 14.5 points per game. This led the Knicks to sign Hardaway in free agency to a 4 year, $71 million dollar contract. His scoring average has risen every year (He is going for about 19 points per game this season in 46 games played) but his field goal percentage is sliding downwards (38.8 % this season.) While he did laugh about being traded from the Knicks again, Hardaway did not mince his words when asked about leaving the Big Apple for the second time in four years.

“I didn’t leave New York, they traded me, let’s get that out of the way.” Hardaway chuckled at the Mavericks press conference. “At the end of the day, it’s a business, what’s done is done. I am happy to be here, happy to be with my guys, it’s a new challenge for me, new opportunity for these guys as well.”

Hardaway has a chance to make an impact immediately in Dallas, stepping in for Matthews as the starting shooting guard. With the Mavs, Hardaway should be able to focus solely on shooting with the passing ability that Doncic brings as a floor general. He can use the rest of this season as an opportunity to solidify his role in Dallas entering what will be an exciting 2019-20 season in the Metroplex. Perhaps most unique of all, legendary Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (full disclosure, Dirk is this writer’s favorite NBA player) was teammates with Tim Hardaway Sr. in the 2001-02 season. Dirk is now teammates with Tim Hardaway Jr. 17 seasons later, making Dirk the first NBA player to be teammates with both a father and son duo in league history. Burke had a lot of excitement about being able to play with a future Hall of Famer like Nowitzki

“It’s great, having a guy like Dirk, being able to pick his brain, a guy who has won a championship in this league,” Burke said. “That is all you can ask for as a guy coming into an organization new like this. Just soaking up everything he tells us, asking him questions about his work ethic like I said, we’ve only been here two days and I probably have hundreds of questions to ask him.”

The Mavericks are 24-28 as of February 4, sitting 12th in the West, but the team is only five games back of the Clippers for the final playoff spot with 30 games left to play. If Burke and Hardaway mesh well and quickly with their new team, the Mavs could earn a postseason berth.

Nik Stauskus Returns to the East

While Burke and Hardaway head west, their former Michigan teammate Nik Stauskus is crisscrossing the country via trade again. Stauskus was part of a trade the Portland Trailblazers made with the Cleveland Cavaliers that sees Stauskus and Wade Baldwin, both of whom are on expiring contracts, along with two second-round picks head to Cleveland in exchange for Cavaliers guard Rodney Hood. Stauskus now joins his fifth team in his five year NBA career, having been drafted by the Kings (2014-15) with the 8th pick in the 2014 Draft, he was then traded to the Philadelphia 76ers (2015-17) before heading to Brooklyn (2017-18) and signing with Portland as a free agent last summer. Stauskus has shown flashes of his potential this year, such as scoring 24 points against the Lakers on opening night, but he did not manage to find consistency in Portland that would guarantee him regular playing time. The Cavs are an abysmal 11-42, one game ahead of the Knicks for dead last in the East. For Stauskus, it may provide an opportunity to show what he has to potential suitors come free agency this summer.

LeVert Getting Closer

Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert (2012-16) has been out since November 12 with a subtalar dislocation of his right foot which he suffered after his leg buckled when hitting the floor against the Timberwolves in a game at Target Center in Minneapolis. Before the injury, LeVert opened the season on a tear, averaging 18.1 points per game and shooting 47.5% from the field in the Nets first 14 games. He will hope to recover some of that form with the Nets in the thick of the playoff chase in the Eastern Conference. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, LeVert hopes to rejoin the Nets before the NBA All-Star break begins on February 15.

Wagner > Draymond

It’s been a relatively quiet rookie year for Moe Wagner (2015-18) in Los Angeles, but Saturday night, he had a chance to showcase what he can do on the court for the Lakers against the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. Wagner scored 11 points off the bench in LA’s 115-101 loss to the Warriors, but he produced a highlight reel play against Draymond Green that had Michigan fans filled with glee. In the second quarter, Lance Stephenson hit Wagner on a long pass for a breakaway and the 6’11 German rookie was able to hold off Draymond Green to finish the basket and collect the foul. You can watch the play below courtesy of ESPN.

As the Wolverines enter the stretch run of the season, it’s an exciting time for Michigan alumni in the NBA as the regular season passes the two-thirds mark.

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