Home ‘Hoos in the NBA: UVA Basketball alums ready for the regular season

‘Hoos in the NBA: UVA Basketball alums ready for the regular season

Scott Ratcliffe
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Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

With the start of the NBA regular season just hours away, there were several UVA Basketball alums making noise in the preseason, in hopes of making their respective opening-day rosters on Monday afternoon.

Some of those former Cavaliers are basically guaranteed a spot when rosters are officially trimmed to 15 players by 5 p.m. Monday. A few others have missed the cut, but can still find themselves on a big-league roster later in the season.

Here we will break down where each former Wahoo stands (along with all of their preseason stats, a few quotes and highlights), and provide an update for some of the other Cavalier hopefuls below.

Malcolm Brogdon (‘16) — Boston Celtics

Brogdon signed with the defending Eastern Conference champions in July, and is expected to serve as backup point guard to Marcus Smart in more of a sixth-man role.

He had a say in his trade destination, and said he ultimately chose the Celtics over the Raptors.

“I thought this team was farther along,” he said of joining the Celtics. “They have a superstar in Jayson Tatum and probably another superstar in Jaylen Brown as well. I thought it would be a great fit for me because I wanted to win right now.”

Brogdon showed what he can do in his Boston debut, putting up 11 points (4 for 9, 2 for 6 from downtown), 9 assists and 5 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench against Charlotte. He dished out 9 more assists in his next outing against Toronto, adding 4 points and a couple of rebounds in 23 minutes.

Brogdon, who played in just 36 games a year ago while battling with injuries, sat out the third game against the Hornets, and then played just 14 minutes in the last contest against the Raptors, leaving the game with a sore right leg that isn’t considered to be serious. He finished with 8 points and 2 assists the second time around against Toronto.

If he can stay healthy, Brogdon is expected to be a major contributor in Boston. Now on his third squad in his seventh NBA season, the 2016-17 Rookie of the Year owns career averages of 15.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, starting 258 of his 333 contests.

Anthony Gill (‘16) — Washington Wizards

Gill will be playing his third season in the nation’s capital after several years overseas. He’s projected as the third-string power forward behind Kyle Kuzma and Rui Hachimura entering the season.

Gill had 3 points, 4 rebounds and an assist in his preseason debut, playing 15 minutes off the bench against Golden State, the first of two “Japan Games” exhibitions played in Tokyo. In the rematch, Gill went 4 for 4 from the field, finishing with 9 points and a pair of boards in 12 minutes.

Gill got the start in the Wizards’ third game against Charlotte, registering 7 points (3 for 5, 0 for 1 from deep), 4 rebounds, an assist and a block in 20 minutes. In the final tuneup against the Knicks, Gill played just five minutes, missing all three of his field-goal attempts.

In 70 career games (4 starts), Gill is averaging 3.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 0.5 assists in 9.7 minutes per contest.

Joe Harris (‘14) — Brooklyn Nets

Harris, who is expected to be Brooklyn’s starting small forward when healthy, will begin his ninth NBA season (seventh with the Nets) watching from the sidelines. As reported by the team Sunday, Joey Hoops (foot) has already been ruled out for Wednesday’s regular-season opener against the Pelicans.

Returning to the floor for the first time since November 2021, Harris started the Nets’ first preseason game against Philadelphia, finishing 2 for 7 from downtown for 6 points, a rebound and a highlight-reel assist in transition to Kevin Durant in his 15 minutes.

However, Harris was reportedly “dealing with ankle soreness” over the following days, something that was not considered to be serious at the time. As a precaution, head coach Steve Nash decided to not play Harris in the team’s remaining three games as a precaution.

There were still hopes that Harris would be ready in time for opening night, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. An update on his status is expected to be revealed on Thursday.

In 414 career games (250 starts), Harris has posted averages of 11.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists. The league’s leading 3-point shooter in both 2018-19 (.474) and 2020-21 (.475), Harris is currently fourth on the NBA’s career 3-point percentage list — and second among active players — with a lifetime mark of .439 (874 for 1991).

Sam Hauser (‘21) — Boston Celtics

Hauser was originally believed to be the recipient of one of Boston’s two-way contracts, but he is now expected to make the Celtics’ opening-day roster as a backup small forward behind All-Star Jayson Tatum.

After earning a two-way spot last year, Hauser made a splash this preseason, opening up with a team-high four 3-pointers (5 for 6, 4 for 5 from deep) as part of a 14-point performance, to go with 2 boards and 2 assists in 19 minutes against Charlotte.

Hauser stayed hot, going for 22 points (8 for 12, 5 for 8 from long range), 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 26 minutes against Toronto.

His new teammate and fellow Cavalier alum Brogdon assisted on 7 of Hauser’s 9 triples in those first two contests, and the two appear to have found a special Hoo-to-Hoo connection.

Hauser started for the Celtics in Game 3 against the Hornets and cooled off a little, knocking down 3 of his 7 attempts (all from downtown) for 9 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 24 minutes.

On Friday against the Raptors, Hauser was 1 for 8 from the field (1 for 7 from 3-point range) for 3 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists in 22 minutes.

In 26 games last season as a rookie, Hauser averaged 2.5 points, 1.1 rebounds and 0.4 assists per game, and he’s certainly hoping to eclipse those numbers in 2022-23.

DeAndre Hunter (‘19) — Atlanta Hawks

Hunter is locked in as the starting small forward in Atlanta, as proven by going out with the first unit in each of the Hawks’ four preseason games.

The first two were played against Milwaukee in Abu Dhabi, as Hunter went for 17 points (6 for 10, 2 for 4 from long range), 7 rebounds and a steal in 25 minutes in the first game.

In the rematch, Hunter kept it going, scoring 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting (2 for 3 from 3) in 21 minutes.

Hunter had 12 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 27 minutes against Cleveland, and then finished his preseason with 8 points, a rebound and a pair of assists in 12 minutes at New Orleans Friday.

The former No. 4 pick has battled injuries across his short three-year career, playing in 139 of a possible 236 regular-season games, but has started in all but six of them. He’s looking to stay healthy and continue to make headlines in Year 4 after averaging 13.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists thus far as a pro.

Ty Jerome (‘19) — Golden State Warriors

Jerome earned a two-way deal with the reigning World Champions after being traded from Oklahoma City, and then released by Houston. He’ll be splitting time between Golden State and Santa Cruz of the G League throughout the season.

“I think for our roster, we needed more of a pass-first guy, and Ty is a very intriguing player because of his size and his ability to see over the top of the defense, his pick and roll play. So it’s a great opportunity for us to get a look at him, and for him to play with our guys,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of the 6-foot-5 former Wahoo.

Jerome joined the Warriors for their final three preseason games, playing in two of them. He debuted against the Lakers, entering the tightly contested contest in the fourth quarter, scoring his first bucket with just over five minutes left to tie the game, adding a steal in his 6 minutes of action.

In 12 minutes on Tuesday against Portland, Jerome knocked down a pair of triples, adding 3 assists (no turnovers) in 12 minutes before sitting out the finale against Denver.

Wherever Jerome winds up to start the season, he will be a contributor for Kerr and Golden State down the road. In his 112 career games (5 starts), Jerome has averaged 7.1 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

Braxton Key (‘20) — Detroit Pistons

Key is expected to be one of the Pistons’ two two-way players as the season gets underway.

He had 4 points (2 for 2 from the field) in six minutes against the Knicks in the opener before putting up 10 points (3 for 5, 1 for 1 3-pointers), 5 rebounds, an assist and a block in 20 minutes against New Orleans.

Key played 22 minutes in each of the Pistons’ final two preseason matchups, finishing with 3 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists against the Thunder, and 7 points, 6 rebounds and a block against Memphis.

The nephew of Virginia legend Ralph Sampson, Key excelled for the Delaware Blue Coats — he was an All-G League second-team selection — before getting the call-up last season. In his 11 games played in the spring, Key averaged 7.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists a night.

Trey Murphy III (‘21) — New Orleans Pelicans

Murphy is expected to begin his second NBA campaign as the Pelicans’ backup small forward behind Herb Jones, despite starting all four preseason games he played in.

Murphy sat out the opener in Chicago before putting up 8 points (2 for 4 from deep), a rebound, 3 assists, a block and a steal in 26 minutes against Detroit in his debut.

Against San Antonio last Sunday, Murphy was on fire, as he posted a game-high 27 points (10 for 15, 7 for 10 from downtown) to go with 8 rebounds and 3 assists in 27 minutes. Nobody else who saw the floor that night — for either team — scored more than 15 points.

Murphy followed up his big night with another double-digit scoring performance with 15 points (4 of 9 from 3) 4 rebounds, an assist and 2 blocks in 24 minutes against Miami.

In the preseason finale, Murphy played 22 minutes, finishing with 10 points (4 for 8, 1 for 2 from deep), 5 rebounds and a pair of steals against the Hawks.

Murphy continues to improve after a solid rookie season in 2021-22 in which he appeared in 62 games (1 start), averaging 5.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 13.9 minutes.

‘Hoo didn’t make it?

Three other former ‘Hoos have already been waived from NBA rosters — Justin Anderson (‘15), Mamadi Diakite (‘20) and Jay Huff (‘21) — but still will have opportunities to play in the G League.

Signed earlier in the month by Indiana, Anderson was not listed on the Pacers’ preseason roster as he was cut prior to the team’s first game. He is expected to play for Indiana’s G League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, where he was an All-G League first-teamer a season ago, averaging 27.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists.

Anderson was called up to the NBA three times last season, twice for Indiana and once for Cleveland. Don’t be a bit surprised if Simba winds up on a big-league roster at some point this season.

Diakite signed an Exhibit 9 contract with Cleveland, which couldn’t be converted into a two-way deal with the G League affiliate Charge (essentially, he had to make the Cavaliers’ 15-man roster or become a free agent), and despite posting a double-double in his penultimate preseason game with the Cavs, he was let go on Saturday.

Diakite had a solid debut with Cleveland, scoring 8 points to go with 3 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals in just 12 minutes, including a sweet alley-oop finish off a pick-and-roll, against the 76ers.

A few days later, again facing Philadelphia, Diakite posted 8 points (3 for 3 from the floor), a rebound, a block and a steal, again in 12 minutes off the bench.

In Cleveland’s third contest, against Atlanta, Diakite did all he could to make a case for a roster spot, shooting 5 for 7 (2 of 4 from deep) for 13 points in addition to his 11 rebounds, an assist, a block and 2 steals in 29 minutes. He was even interviewed alongside Donovan Mitchell on the court after the game.

In the preseason finale at Orlando, Diakite made both of his shots — both from beyond the arc — to finish with 8 points and a rebound in 14 minutes on Friday night, possibly catching the attention of another squad and getting another well-deserved opportunity.

Diakite played 14 games (1 start) for Milwaukee as a rookie in 2020-21 before appearing in 13 games (3 starts) with Oklahoma City last season. In 27 career games, Diakite averaged 3.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in 12.2 minutes.

After being cut by the Thunder, Diakite — who will forever be remembered for hitting “the shot” against Purdue en route to the 2019 National Championship — is now looking for a new home. The belief is that he’ll be picked up by another organization in some capacity, and could end up on a G League roster to start the season.

Huff, meanwhile, signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Lakers and played in three of the team’s six preseason games, but was also waived over the weekend.

After not playing in the opener against the Kings, Huff had 3 rebounds and an assist against Phoenix in Las Vegas in the second game. He followed that up with 4 points (2 for 2 FG), 7 rebounds, 2 assists and a block in 12 minutes against the Timberwolves, but sat out the following two games against Golden State and Minnesota.

In the finale at Sacramento, Huff had 8 points on 4-for-6 shooting (0 for 2 from 3-point land) to go along with a pair of rebounds and a block in just 12 minutes Friday, but it wasn’t enough of an impression to crack Los Angeles’ 15-man roster under first-year coach Darvin Ham.

In four games as a rookie with the Lakers last season, Huff totaled 4 rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal in 20 minutes. Huff, who played the majority of his games in 2021-22 for the South Bay Lakers (the team’s G League affiliate), is expected to play there again to begin the season.

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe

Scott Ratcliffe has worked as a freelance writer for several publications over the past decade-plus, with a concentration on local and college sports. He is also a writer and editor for his father’s website, JerryRatcliffe.com, dedicated to the coverage of University of Virginia athletics.