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Virginia Men's Basketball

Hoos Going Pro: Preseason Check-In

Despite not landing a five-star recruit in the Tony Bennett era, Virginia basketball has 12 players currently in the NBA — more than every school except Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, or Texas. No matter which team these players end up on in the Association, they’ll always be Virginia Cavaliers and representatives of the program in my mind, which is why I’ll be following them this season in this Hoos Going Pro post series.

Every few weeks during the NBA season, we’ll check in on how these players are performing in their NBA careers and check out the impressive highlights and statlines that former Virginia hoopers are putting up in the NBA. In this preseason edition of Hoos Going Pro, we recap where each player stands in the league and what their role will likely be in the upcoming 2021-22 NBA season.

Available while supplies last.

Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers

Entering his sixth season in the NBA and third with the Indiana Pacers, Brogdon is probably the best player on a Pacers roster that should at least qualify for the play-in tournament in the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers underperformed last season, finishing just 34-38 amid a turbulent year that saw head coach Nate Bjorken ousted after just one year in Indiana. The team’s struggles resulted in Brogdon’s excellent season flying under the radar. He averaged 21.2 points per game (more than point guards Chris Paul and Ja Morant) to go with 5.9 assists per game (more than even MVP candidate Steph Curry).

Brogdon also scored the ball very efficiently, shooting 49% on twos and 39% on threes. Players who can score at high volume with that level of efficiency are hard to find in the NBA, but for Brogdon, it’s just business as usual; ever since his Rookie of the Year win with the Milwaukee Bucks, he’s always been a very good NBA player. Oh, and contrary to what some people seem to think about Virginia players, he’s put out some pretty good highlights.

Brogdon’s scoring burden will probably be lighter this season as T.J. Warren returns from a season-ending foot injury and Caris LeVert is fully implemented into the Pacers offense. As the clear starting point guard, Brogdon will probably play somewhere between 30-35 minutes per game, spelled by defensive pest T.J. McConnell.

If the Pacers can demonstrate that they’re a playoff team through the first half of the season, Malcolm Brogdon should be a contender for the All-Star team. If Ben Simmons is dealt to the West, there will be a gaping hole at guard in the East for someone to fill. There’s no reason it couldn’t be Brogdon.

De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks

De’Andre Hunter, the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, is the biggest X-factor on what might be the Eastern Conference’s most exciting up-and-coming team. Led by the electrifying duo of Trae Young and John Collins, the Atlanta Hawks made a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and managed to give the eventual NBA champion Bucks a pretty good run for their money before finally losing in six games.

Before a knee injury shortened his season, Hunter was an absolute world-beater through the first 18 games of his sophomore year. He averaged 17.2 points per game while shooting 51% from the field, 37% from three, and looking every bit like the star two-way forward the Hawks drafted him to be.

Hunter had knee surgery in June and, though he reportedly won’t be a full participant in training camp, should start the season healthy and ready to play. If healthy, he will most likely start at small forward along frontcourt mates John Collins and Clint Capela as the Hawks attempt to repeat their postseason success.

Hunter will be competing with former college foe and Duke product Cam Reddish for time at the small forward slot. Kevin Huerter could eat into his minutes as well, if the Hawks decide to play the super-small-ball lineups of Trae-Bogdanovic-Huerter that were so successful in last year’s playoffs — though if those small-ball lineups do become a mainstay, it makes sense for the Hawks to play Hunter at power forward and Collins at center.

Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets

Joey Buckets heads into his eighth year in the league as a starter for the Brooklyn Nets, the current favorites to win an NBA championship. Not bad!

Harris will play a pretty significant role on the Nets’ revenge tour after a disappointing, injury-riddled playoff exit last season. He certainly won’t be asked to create much offense for himself — that task will be delegated to the three-headed monster of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden, who have a combined 27 All-Star appearances and 19 All-NBA nominations — but Harris will be needed to knock down the open threes created when defenses focus on Brooklyn’s three superstars.

Knocking down those open threes is something Harris mastered during his stints with two different Cavaliers, and he’s maybe the best spot-up shooter in the league not named Klay Thompson. He averaged 3.1 makes per game from beyond the arc last season and knocked threes down at a blazing 47.5% clip — the highest three point percentage in the NBA.

Harris is a lock in basically every meaningful lineup for Brooklyn this year and, if things go as planned, he’ll be a part of some massive playoff games. Barring something crazy, he’ll start and finish every important game with the Nets. The Nets are thin at forward, so Harris’s only real backup this year will be do-it-all defender Bruce Brown.

Ty Jerome, Oklahoma City Thunder

After spending his rookie year with the Suns after some draft-day deals sent him to Phoenix, Jerome was dealt to Oklahoma City along with Jalen Lecque, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Ricky Rubio in the blockbuster Chris Paul trade. One year removed from that Paul deal, Jerome is the only player among those four left in Oklahoma City — a sign that the team clearly believes in his talent enough to keep him on the roster.

At the NBA level, Jerome’s best skill has been his three-point shooting. Last season, he knocked down 42.3% of his triples on over five attempts per game, including a scorching 43.4% clip on pull-up three-point attempts. He also demonstrated an ability to run an NBA offense near the end of last season, when the Thunder handed him the keys after ruling Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out for the season due to a plantar fascia tear.

Oklahoma City’s rotation this season, though, is challenging to predict for two reasons. One: the Thunder are in the midst of a full rebuild — at 24, Jerome is actually one of the oldest players in the rotation, even though it feels like he was celebrating a national championship just a few months ago — and the team may elect to play their recent draft picks like Tre Mann and Theo Maledon at point guard just to see what they have. Two: general manager Sam Presti loves wings with playmaking ability, and if sophomore Alexsej Pokusevski and rookie Josh Giddey are as adept at ball-handling as the Thunder hope, it’ll reduce the creation role of the team’s point guards.

No matter what happens in a messy rotation, though, Jerome is an established NBA professional with an elite jump shot. He’s sure to carve out a role on a team still searching for its identity.

Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans

After being selected 17th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft by the Pelicans, Trey Murphy spent summer league showing 16 teams that they misevaluated his talent level. Murphy put up 26 points and 9 rebounds in his first game, and finished his last game of the event with 22 points and a game-winning tip-in at the buzzer to knock off a Golden State team that seemed to have heavy interest in Murphy during the pre-draft process but selected Arkansas wing Moses Moody instead.

Murphy was his usual efficient self, too; after averaging 11.3 points per game on 50/43/93 shooting splits at Virginia, he averaged 16.2 on 56/44/100 splits in four games of summer league action. I’ll go ahead and note here that 50/40/90 splits are beyond elite — last year, Murphy was the only player in all of college basketball to join the 50/40/90 club, and just six NBA players have crossed the threshold since 2000: Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, and… the always-underrated Malcolm Brogdon.

That’s enough Brogdon hype for the Trey Murphy discussion, though, so let’s get back to what the hyper-efficient scorer’s role will be in New Orleans. The Pelicans seem committed to playing Zion Williamson alongside a traditional center — they replaced Steven Adams with Jonas Valanciunas — this offseason, and the starting frontcourt in New Orleans seems pretty set in stone at the moment: Brandon Ingram/Zion/Valanciunas.

Because that frontcourt is locked in, Murphy’s path to the starting lineup is probably as the shooting guard alongside Devonte Graham. To start the season, though, it’s more likely that they start Nickeil Alexander-Walker or Kira Lewis Jr. there and bring Murphy off the bench at the 2 and 3 as he gets acclimated to the NBA. However, Murphy is a player who’s overperformed everywhere he’s gone, and it would not be shocking at all to see him play his way into the starting lineup as a 3-and-D wing and secondary creator by the end of the season.

Anthony Gill, Washington Wizards

The Wizards officially guaranteed Gill’s contract on August 7, which seems to be an indication that he’ll be making the team’s opening day roster.

Gill joined the Wizards on a two-year deal last season after playing four seasons overseas in Russia. He didn’t play much in the first year of his deal, appearing in just 26 games for an average of just 8.4 minutes, but with forward Rui Hachimura out for personal reasons to start training camp Gill will have a chance to showcase his talents and impress new head coach Wes Unseld Jr.

He’ll spend the year competing for minutes at power forward in a crowded Washington position group that already features Davis Bertans and Rui Hachimura and added Kyle Kuzma this offseason.

Sam Hauser, Boston Celtics (two-way)

After going undrafted, Sam Hauser shot the ball very well with the Celtics in summer league. He shot 46% from three on 5.2 attempts per game. In his third outing, where Hauser knocked down six threes in a drubbing of the Orlando Magic, Hauser apparently impressed Boston’s front office enough to earn a two-way deal before summer league even ended. 

Hauser will spend a lot of time with Boston’s G-League affiliate, the very creatively named Maine Celtics. If he does see minutes in the NBA this year, it’ll probably be as a three-point specialist in select lineups, because Boston is fairly deep at the forward position behind All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Jay Huff, Washington Wizards (Exhibit 10)

Huff earned an Exhibit 10 contract from the Wizards, which is essentially a training camp invite with the opportunity to earn a two-way contract. The Wizards have already signed Cassius Winston to one of their two-way slots, and they have four players competing for the other two-way contract in training camp.

In addition to Huff, they brought in Jaime Echenique, Jordan Goodwin, and Jordan Schakel on Exhibit 10 deals (apparently, Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard is searching for a “J” name to replace Jordan Robinson, who the team waived in April).

If Huff beats out his three competitors to earn a two-way contract, he’s facing an uphill battle to crack the Wizards center rotation. The team already has young centers Thomas Bryant and Daniel Gafford and added former Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell — I’d expect Huff to spend some time with Washington’s G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go (yes, that’s their real name).

Kyle Guy, Cleveland Cavaliers (training camp invite)

Guy spent the last two seasons with the Sacramento Kings, who allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He looked good enough with Golden State in summer league to earn a training camp invite from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers already have one of their two-way spots filled by Brodric Thomas, so Guy will be in a camp battle for that second two-way roster spot, much like Huff with the Wizards. If he can crack the roster, Guy will have to work his way up the depth chart behind guards Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, Ricky Rubio and Denzel Valentine.

Mamadi Diakite, Oklahoma City Thunder (claimed off waivers)

After looking good in limited game action with the Milwaukee Bucks and great with the Lakeland Magic in the G-League bubble, averaging over 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, it was surprising that the Bucks elected to waive Diakite so close to the start of the 2021-22 season — especially after they converted his two-way deal into a fully guaranteed contract last season.

The Thunder immediately snatched Diakite up off waivers, adding the athletic big man to their frontcourt. It’s hard to tell what Diakite’s role in Oklahoma City will be as he enters his sophomore season, because he signed so recently, but it should be entertaining to see him reunited with former teammate Ty Jerome on the Thunder.

Mike Scott

This offseason, Scott — a longtime NBA veteran — posted an Instagram goodbye to the city of Philadelphia after spending three seasons with the team, who replaced him with Georges Niang this offseason. Since then, buzz around the stretch four has gone quiet.

The nine-year NBA veteran hasn’t found a new home in the league yet, but if he does decide to seek out a roster to join this year, there are plenty of NBA teams that could use Scott’s floor-spacing ability.

Justin Anderson

In his final game of summer league with the Houston Rockets, Anderson recorded 19 points and four blocks in a win over the Trail Blazers. On September 23, his rights were traded to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Pacers G-League affiliate) from the Long Island Nets.

Anderson most recently saw NBA action with the Brooklyn Nets, where he did this to reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

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