From Whence They Came- Part One: The Stars and Vets
The University of Texas is well-represented in the NBA, putting 12 former Longhorns into the league. The results have ranged between superstar and perennial all-star, to mere back-up roles. In a blast from the past, we will take a look at where these Texas alum have gone, and how they got there since leaving Austin for the NBA.
We’ll start off with Part One: The Stars and the Vets
KEVIN DURANT, Oklahoma City
The obvious headliner when it comes to naming former Longhorns, Kevin Durant has shined in his five years with the Oklahoma City franchise. After first getting drafted second overall to Seattle behind the perma-injured Greg Oden, Durant has left no doubt as to which top selection has lived up to expectations.
The 6-foot-9 scoring machine wrapped up his third consecutive scoring title this season, posting 28 points per game while averaging a career-best in rebounds.
Durant is part of the core that drives the Thunder’s offensive exploits. Him being a critical component to Oklahoma City’s “Big Three” has put the Maryland-native near the top of the basketball world. A three-time All-Star, NBA Rookie of the Year in 2008 and All-Star Game MVP, Durant is beginning to build a trophy case that history’s stars have experienced at one point in time.
Will any rings be a part of that? That is a story for another day.
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE, Portland
LaMarcus Aldridge spent two seasons in Austin before jumping to the next level as the second overall pick in 2006 to the Chicago Bulls, who quickly sent him to Portland where the returns have been highly satisfactory for the Blazers.
As a full-time starter beginning in the 2007 season, Aldridge has been a model of consistency on the offensive end, averaging 19 points and 7.9 rebounds per game since then. Though he is just beginning to hit his prime as a featured playmaker for the Blazers, Aldridge has yet to claim the title of a 20-10-type of forward.
Nevertheless, this first-time All-Star in 2012 has become a cornerstone for a Portland franchise that has suffered from blowing injuries to Greg Oden and Brandon Roy.
It is unlikely that Aldridge will fade into the West Coast sunset, but without some serious help, he could be stuck without the best kind of hardware one can get in the NBA.
D.J. AUGUSTIN, Charlotte
What a basketball career that D.J. Augustin has had…
After getting displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Augustin found a place at Texas through Hightower High School in Missouri City, Texas. Although he is still considered an undersized guard, Augustin has been highly serviceable with the Bobcats since getting drafted ninth overall in the 2008 NBA Draft.
The 6-foot point guard posted a career-high in assists with 6.4 per game in the 2012 season, but his other offensive numbers have taken hits.
Augustin unfortunately runs the offense for the worst team in the NBA, and the Draft Lottery was even more unkind, providing the 7-59 Bobcats with the second—not the first—overall pick in the 2012 draft.
There were some references of Steve Nash in Augustin’s game coming out of college, his moxie, floor leadership and ability to distribute the ball properly, but he has yet to realize that sort of idealized potential. He has many years ahead of him, but to say that Augustin will end up on Nash’s level would be quite a complement so far.
MAURICE EVANS, Washington
The eight-year veteran Maurice Evans has been the model journeyman in his NBA career.
After spending two seasons at Wichita State and one year in Austin, Evans went undrafted in 2001, but has had no shortage of experience at the professional level. Since joining the pro ranks that year, Evans has suited up for nine different clubs, including two European teams between 2002 and 2004.
Despite his long list of employers, Evans has never really exploded onto the scene, averaging just 6.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in his career. But at this point in his basketball lifespan, he represents a seasoned veteran who has been around the block and back.
In the 26 games he appeared in for Washington in the 2010-2011 season, Evans posted career-highs in minutes (27.4) and points per game (9.7), so perhaps there is some light at the end of a relatively dark tunnel for Evans.
ROYAL IVEY, Oklahoma City
Seven seasons removed from his admirable three years at Texas, Royal Ivey has jumped around the league, but has never really set his feet on solid ground.
He began his career in Atlanta for three years before alternating between Milwaukee and Philadelphia for the next four. With a bit of fortune, Ivey wound up with another Texas alum by the name of Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, where his minutes and production are still modest at best.
As the 37th overall pick by the Hawks in 2004, Ivey never came off as a guy who could leap into a leadership role and produce. But his 12.5 minutes per game over his career say that he at least has the ability to play consistently from the bench.
DANIEL GIBSON, Cleveland
Fortunately for Daniel Gibson, he got drafted by a Cleveland team that also inked this guy named LeBron James a few years earlier. And for a scoring guard like Gibson, he slid nicely into a role with the Cavs that primarily involved taking shots from behind the arc.
In six seasons with the Cavs, Gibson has shot at a 41.6 percent clip from deep and has consistently been one of the top jump shooters for the club. But unfortunately for him, and the rest of the Cleveland community, when LeBron darted for South Beach, the Cavs kind of sunk into a cave.
The knock on Gibson is that he struggles to create his own looks and generate consistent offense. As a spot shooter along the arc, however, he has realized his greatest strength that will earn him paychecks in this league.
Perhaps on the up-and-up, with the introductions of rookies Kyrie Irving and fellow Longhorn Tristan Thompson, the Cavs may be brewing something special in Cleveland.