While us Huskies NBA fans buckle up and brace for the start of the greatest sports season in the world, some former students will be getting ready in an entirely different way. Instead of getting their closest friends together and ordering gross amounts of Wings Over, five UConn alum will be lacing up and getting loose for the coming 82-game schedule. The likes of Andre Drummond, Rudy Gay, Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier and Kemba Walker will continue their various careers starting Wednesday night. I’ll rank these five in order of how well this season should play out for them and give a little preview on what their seasons will look like.
As the best UConn Husky currently in the league, Cardiac Kemba will continue to improve. He’s coming off the best year of his career, in which he averaged a career-high 23.2 points per game and was selected to his first All-Star game. Kemba profiles as a top-10 point guard in the league and after missing the playoffs last season, he will carry the Hornets back this year. Not only did he average a career-high in points per game, but he managed this uptick in volume while also putting up career-highs in field goal and 3-point percentage. Entering his age-27 season, Walker is in the prime of his career, and his numbers this year will reflect that.
Coming in second on this list is Drummond, the only big man from Connecticut in the league today. Drummond had a down year last year, putting up 13.6 points and 13.8 rebounds per game after averaging 16.2 and 14.8 in those respective categories the previous season. Drummond also shot under 40 percent from the free-throw line for the fourth time in his five year career, and slacked off on the defensive end by averaging the lowest amount of blocks per game in his career. For Drummond to bounce back and make his second All-Star game after missing out last year, he’ll have to exert far more effort on the defensive end while also staying in his lane on offense, opting to finish pick-and-roll looks instead of posting up in a league that’s rapidly playing faster and faster.
Next up on the list is forward Rudy Gay, who enters the season after a change of scenery in which he moved from Sacramento to San Antonio. Joining the Spurs will force Gay into a smaller role than he’s previously had, as he will come off the bench for the first time since his rookie season back in 2006-07. Gay is coming off a season cut short by a torn left Achilles tendon, an injury that rarely sees an easy recovery. Shining in his new role off the bench will be the goal for the coming year, and if Spurs coach Gregg Popovich decides to alter his starting lineup by inserting Gay in at either the three or four spot, Gay and Kawhi Leonard should make a terrific small-ball duo.
Jeremy Lamb checks in next on the list because he figures to have a solid bench role with the Hornets, who have more early minutes available on the wing after Nicolas Batum went down with an injury that will cost him six-to-eight weeks. Lamb will never be a star, but he’s only 25 years old, and if his three point shooting picks up after a career-worst 28.1 percent average last year, he will put up over 10 points per game for the first time ever and carve out a decent role in Charlotte.
Bringing up the rear for the UConn alum is Shabazz Napier, whose reputation in Storrs vastly surpasses his accomplishments in the pros. After winning two NCAA championships at UConn and being named as the tournament’s most outstanding players in 2013-14, Napier has underwhelmed in the NBA, never averaging over 5.1 points per game or 40 percent shooting from the field. Not much looks to change this year for Napier on the Portland Trail Blazers, even if he is the primary backup point guard behind franchise player Damian Lillard.
Zac Lane is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.