Longhorns in the NBA: Deeper than Durant

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

The 2007 Naismith Player of the Year isn't the only ex-UT player making waves at the next level.

Under Rick Barnes, Texas has become one of the premier NBA factories in the NCAA, churning out first-round picks on an almost annual basis. While many have pointed to the talent level of his players as proof that Barnes has underachieved in his time in Austin, the sheer number of his players in the NBA is one of the lead bullet points on his resume.

After all, why else are McDonald's All-Americans from Canada, California and Maryland coming all the way to Austin? It's not because of the massive amount of fan support the program receives.

The 12 Longhorns in the NBA are the best ambassadors the program has. Kevin Durant, obviously, is the main attraction. But you don't need me to tell you about what he's been up to since he left campus. He's one of the three best basketball players in the world, and, as of this summer, is apparently a movie star as well. Durant isn't just an ambassador for Texas basketball; he's an ambassador for the sport itself.

With that in mind, here's a quick look at how his some of his less heralded teammates have fared at the next level:

Maurice Evans (2001): Evans, who spent one year at Texas after transferring from Wichita State, is the only player on this list Barnes didn't recruit out of high school. After playing for 7 different teams in 11 years, his NBA career may be over barely playing for the Wizards in 2012. At 6'5 220, he made his niche in the NBA as a three-point shooting defensive specialist, but with his athleticism declining as he reaches his mid-30's, his biggest contribution to a team these days comes in the nebulous category of "veteran leadership".

Evans told Hoopsworld that he's waiting for a guaranteed contract; I'd be very surprised if one is forthcoming. His biggest impact on the NBA has come off the court, as he served as a VP of the Player's Association during the last lockout. Mid-level veterans like Evans are the backbone of the union, and it was a fight over their guaranteed contracts that had the players ready to go to the mattresses last year.

As an NBA player who can manage a checkbook, there is a career for him in a front office if he wants. That might be the most anyone has (ever?) written about Maurice Evans, NBA player.

Royal Ivey (2001-2004): I can't lie, I forgot about Ivey when I was first making this list. It's rather amazing that he's still in the NBA, as he hasn't been in a rotation in the last three years, instead bouncing from team to team as a 3rd PG. After two years in Oklahoma City, where the coaching staff wouldn't trust him to get minutes over the decaying corpse of Derek Fisher, he's surfaced in Philadelphia, where he's the only PG behind Jrue Holiday.

TJ Ford (2002-2003): The most accomplished player in UT history, Ford retired from the NBA after playing 14 games for the Spurs last season. An eight-year veteran, his NBA career was almost ended as soon as it began by a series of frightening spinal injuries. In his prime, he combined blazing speed (he was voted fastest man in the NBA in a 2007 player poll from SI) with an incredibly high basketball IQ, but 6'0 165 guards with shaky jump-shots not named Allen Iverson are playing on borrowed time at that level. If you come into the lane too much at that size, you're going to get knocked to the ground and you might not be able to get back up.

LaMarcus Aldridge (2005-2006): Aldridge has managed to slip under the radar ever since his days at Seagoville High School in Dallas, but he's quietly become an All-NBA caliber player in Portland. An athletic 6'11 240 power forward who can score with his back to the basket, stretch the floor, defend both interior positions and protect the rim, he's one of the most complete big men in the NBA. He's a franchise-caliber player who, if he stays healthy, will get a max contract when his current deal runs out. Whether he stays in Portland will probably depend on the development of their two lottery picks -- Meyers Leonard (who I'm bullish on) and Damian Lillard (who I'm not not bullish on).

Daniel Gibson (2005-2006): There are a lot of 6'2 200 shooting guards who can't create their own shot or run a team playing in Europe; Gibson was lucky enough to be drafted by a team that had a young LeBron James on it. As a result, he stood in a corner and knocked down a bunch of wide-open 3's in some playoff series, which he turned into a 5-year $21 million contract from Cleveland.

He's in the last year of that deal now, but with LeBron in South Beach, the party is over. As a 26 year old lights-out shooter with "big game experience", he might not wash out of the league, but the days of him getting multi-million contracts have come and gone. Still -- scoring 31 points in Game 6 of an Eastern Conference Finals -- very impressive. That's not nothing.

PJ Tucker (2005-2006): That's right, everyone's favorite 6'5 point forward is back in the NBA. He was drafted No. 35 by the Toronto Raptors in 2007 and lasted all of 17 games before being exiled in Europe. AZ Central has all the details: MVP in Israel, scoring champion in Ukraine and MVP of the German League Finals. The Suns gave him a 2-year minimum deal with partial guarantees, which is a more a reflection of their general cheapness and overall disregard for sound roster management, but it's a major accomplishment for Tucker nonetheless. Very, very few guys ever make it back.

DJ Augustin (2007-2008): If he were 6'2 215, he'd probably be an All-Star, but at 5'11 175, there's just no way he can affect a game in the NBA like he could at Texas. It hasn't helped that he's spent the first four years of his career in Charlotte, a glorified NBDL franchise. Indiana is an ideal situation for him: Paul George can take the tougher defensive assignemnt in the backcourt while their starter, George Hill, is more of a combo guard. At some point in this year's playoffs, the Pacers will turn to Augustin for playmaking off their bench. He could have a JJ Barea-type impact for them, which isn't an insult, though I'm sure he would take it as one.

Damion James (2007-2010): If you followed the NBA and aren't a Texas basketball fan, you would probably have no idea who James is. That's what happens when you're a late first-round pick who played 32 games in two seasons due to foot injuries. The Nets didn't pick up the third-year of his contract (not exactly an encouraging sign), so he's currently one of three players (along with 4-year vet Anthony Tolliver and former Oklahoma State guard James Anderson) fighting for two spots in Atlanta Hawks training camp.

Kris Willis of Peachtree Hoops thinks James will make the team. It's a great spot for him, as Atlanta has no proven depth behind Al Horford and Josh Smith and plenty of open spots in their front-court rotation. Despite lacking ideal height (6'7) or ball-handling skills for a combo forward, James is a good enough athlete, shooter and rebounder to carve out a career somewhat similar to Brandon Bass and Ryan Gomes. However, if it doesn't happen for him in Atlanta, it might not happen at all.

Dexter Pittman (2007-2010): After hitting Lance Stephenson with a flying elbow in garbage time of a Pacers/Heat playoff game last year, Pittman is now known as a cheap-shot artist around the NBA. But hey, at least he got a championship ring out of it. Now, after two years of playing in the NBDL and riding pine, the pressure is on Pittman to make the Heat roster this season, as Miami brought in a bunch of big men -- Josh "Jorts" Harrellson, Jarvis Varnado, Mickell Gladness -- to compete with him.

Pittman is slow and doesn't have any lift in his legs, which makes it very difficult for him to stay on the floor. When he does get in the game, he fouls at a rate of 8.7 per 36 minutes, which is kind of too much. He's built more for wrestling matches in the paint, but Dwight Howard is too quick for him and Andrew Bynum can shoot over his head. Big men develop slower, so a team might stash him at the back end of their roster, but I'd be surprised if he ever becomes a rotation player in the NBA.

Avery Bradley (2010): Boston was a pretty ideal situation for Bradley. They've got a bunch of old guys who can stretch the floor, which creates a need for athleticism and slashing ability on the perimeter. They turned their season around when they put him into the starting lineup last year, and he was one of the main reasons why they were willing to let Ray Allen walk. However, he's out indefinitely after surgery on both of his shoulders, and an undersized player picking up a lot of injuries early in his career is a huge red flag.

Jordan Hamilton (2010-2011): Hamilton didn't play much as a rookie, but that's no big surprise, since he was behind a lot of established veterans. But with the Nuggets re-shuffling their rotation after dealing for Andre Iguodala, he has a chance to get into the rotation. More importantly, their biggest need -- three-point shooting -- is his strength. George Karl doesn't really appreciate young players who don't play defense, so Hamilton will have to tone the bits down to get on the floor this year.

Tristan Thompson (2011): Thompson had a decent rookie year, but it's going to be hard for him to impress a Cleveland fan base that's comparing him to Jonas Valanciunas, the Lithuanian big man the Cavs passed on. He doesn't have Top 5 talent, but 2011 was a really bad draft. (Although him going 24 picks ahead of Perry Jones III is a fairly amusing commentary on Scott Drew's coaching ability) Tyler Zeller complements his game well, and the two should combine to form a front-court just decent enough to make Kyrie Irving feel bad about leaving in a few years.

Cory Joseph (2011): He didn't do a whole lot in his first year in San Antonio. I didn't think he was ready at all after his freshman season, so I'm not too surprised. Spurs fans could probably tell you more about what his role would be on this team going forward. I'm not optimistic.

Other notables:

J'Covan Brown played on the Miami Heat's summer-league team, but he's not on their training camp roster and a thorough (read: one minute) search of Google turned up no clues to his whereabouts. I did find this post-draft article from the Beaumont Enterprise, which had a fairly amusing quote from one of his agents:

"Players like J'Covan, who maybe there were some quote unquote character issues - and I am saying that in quotes."

If anyone would care to share with the class what's up with guys like Connor Atchley, AJ Abrams and Gary Johnson, that would be swell.

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