Quietly but surely, Oregon has become a regular producer of NBA talent. Currently, eight former Ducks are on NBA rosters and some will play crucial minutes in the upcoming playoffs.
This Eugene-to-the-pros reputation began in 2014 when Jabari Brown and Jamil Wilson became the first Ducks to enter the NBA in a five-year span (pre-Dana Altman era). Oregon has sent at least one player (if not multiple) to the association since then, sans 2016.
Let’s catch up with one-time Ducks that could make some noise come NBA playoff time — whether that’s for a play-in team or heck, a championship contender with high odds to win according to top-rated NBA sports betting sites.
Payton Pritchard of the Boston Celtics
Let’s begin with the most recently-drafted Oregon prospect. After an electric four seasons in Eugene, which included an All-American selection, Pritchard was drafted in the first round by Boston. Playing under Brad Stevens is not a bad way to start a pro career, eh?
In only his rookie campaign, Pritchard has impressed his new team with the same competitive spirit that made him a local legend at Oregon. Celtics director of scouting Dave Lewin said of Pritchard, “he’s just the most driven, relentless kid.” We know, Dave, we know!
Pritchard has managed to earn consistent minutes in an already-crowded backcourt that includes pricey players like Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, and Marcus Smart. During the regular season, he logged 19.2 minutes a game, scoring an average of 7.7 points.
It’s worth noting that Boston did have another guard on the roster, Jeff Teague, which it dealt at the trade deadline. Surely, the move meant team brass wanted more minutes for Pritchard going forward — a vote of confidence for the rook.
The consistently inconsistent Celtics earned the conference’s seventh seed, which means they’ll have to gut it out in the play-in game. Expect to see Pritchard on the floor in this do-or-die moment, which he’s accustomed to from his days as a Duck.
Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies
Akin to Pritchard, Brooks is another play-in game participant. His Grizzlies’ earned the ninth seed, thus Memphis must win not one, but two games to advance to the regular tournament. In fact, Brooks was somewhat responsible for his team getting the ninth seed rather than eight (which would’ve needed just one win to advance).
On the final night of the season, Golden State defeated Memphis to secure the elusive eighth seed. In the game, Brooks fouled out mid-way through the fourth quarter (when the score was tied up), which drew celebrations from Warriors’ players. Without Brooks, Golden State outscored Memphis 22-10 the rest of the way out.
Make no mistake about it, of all the Ducks in the NBA, Brooks is the most essential to his team’s success. He averaged a career-high in points this season at 17.2 points per game (third-most on the team). The Grizz will need a foul-trouble-free Brooks on the court to survive the play-in round.
Jordan Bell of the Golden State Warriors
Speaking of Golden State, there’s a Duck on there that directly benefited from Brooks miscues. It’s Jordan Bell, who just re-signed with the club. Bell spent the first two seasons of his career with the Warriors, winning an NBA title in 2018 with them.
If we’re being honest, this feels like a make-or-break moment for Bell. His career has sputtered since leaving Golden State, bouncing around four different NBA teams and multiple stints in the G-League. But if there’s ever a place to salvage a career, it’s definitely with the Steve Kerr-led Warriors.
Bol Bol of the Denver Nuggets
Bol Bol is the last Duck in the postseason and the lone one not in the play-in round. Denver is sitting comfortably in third place out West and led by MVP front-runner Nikola Jokic.
But that success has come at a price for Bol. He’s hardly seen the floor in his sophomore campaign. Bol’s stat line this year is 2.2 points and 0.8 rebounds in five minutes per game (down from 12.4 minutes as a rookie). Barring any lopsided games or injuries, Bol will likely be a non-factor for the Nuggets come playoff time.
Regardless of their team’s success, Oregon fans will enjoy seeing their former Beloved Ducks give-it-their-all in the NBA Playoffs, and with the way Coach Dana Altman is recruiting? We will have quite a few more Ducks to watch in the years to come in the NBA!
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