In part two of this journey back from whence they came, we will look at the more recent alum from the University of Texas basketball program. Some faced skepticism about declaring early, as most have yet to establish themselves as long-time NBA prospects.
CORY JOSEPH, San Antonio
Fans and analysts questioned Cory Joseph’s decision to leave Texas after his freshman season, and perhaps there is some merit to the inquiries.
In his rookie campaign, Joseph played in 29 games for the Spurs, who took him 29th overall in 2011. His future prospects have yet to be seen, and as there is still plenty of time to determine how much Joseph can develop into a prominent roll in one of the NBA’s most well-run franchises, the jury is definitely still quibbling over what kind of player Joseph can be.
Can he turn into a multidimensional offensive threat? Can he run an offense without great explosiveness from the point? How consistently can he hit open shots and distribute effectively and efficiently?
Some might argue that Joseph is essentially in the same position he was a season ago. He has not seen a ton of NBA minutes, so there may be no true barometer for how he has progressed. At the end of the day, another season in Austin probably could have served him well.
AVERY BRADLEY, Boston
Like many young Texas alum, many wondered if Avery Bradley could have used another year in Austin to groom his offensive skill set.
Pinned as a defensive pest in college, Bradley’s athleticism has never been a problem on the defensive end. But his offensive capabilities and understanding have always been questionable at best.
Boston took a leap of faith by selecting Bradley 19th overall in the 2010 draft, but the process of collecting its dividends has been gradual.
The Washington native posted 1.7 points per game in his rookie season and appeared in just 31 contests for the Celtics. But in his sophomore campaign, Bradley has come on as a solid bench option. Virtually every facet of his game has improved tremendously, with his offensive abilities coming along nicely.
He still needs some grooming to develop into a larger, more consistent offensive threat, but his defensive game is what has and what will earn him playing time. Playing on the same side as Rajon Rondo cannot hurt either.
TRISTAN THOMPSON, Cleveland Cavaliers
When Tristan Thompson first committed to the Longhorns back in 2008, Rick Barnes and the rest of the fan base knew what kind of big man they would be signing. The Ontario native brought a distinct level of athleticism with a defensive prowess and a motor that few possessed. But on the flip side, Thompson’s offensive skills were limited to under the basket and around the rim production.
As he contemplated declaring for the NBA Draft after his freshman season, many looked to another Texas alum in LaMarcus Aldridge for comparison. Thompson sorely lacked a mid-to-long range jumper that could expand his offensive abilities and enable him to score with multiple looks.
Thompson surprised many when the Cavs selected him fourth overall in the 2011 draft, and in 60 games as a rookie—including 25 starts at power forward—Thompson recorded a humble 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game line. The 21-year old ranked in the top 15 in offensive rebounds per game (surrounded by guys like Andrew Bynum and Serge Ibaka), a testament to his athleticism and drive around the rim.
Is Thompson the type of power forward around which a team can build? The Cavs picked up star point guard Kyrie Irving in the same draft with the first overall selection, so perhaps there is growing belief that these two youngsters will serve as a foundation for the post-LeBron Era.
JORDAN HAMILTON, Denver
This ultra-talented scorer out of California brought all that was advertised to Austin. Unsurprisingly, while his offensive exploits were the kind of injection the Longhorns needed at times, Jordan Hamilton’s defensive presence was never his strong suit.
When he returned to Texas for his sophomore season, Hamilton improved by some leaps and bounds, but not by too much. There were still lingering questions about his motivation to play two-way basketball. But in the NBA, there is always room for a scorer.
In 26 games for the Denver Nuggets, who selected Hamilton 26th overall in the 2011 draft, 6-7 swingman posted just 4.4 points per game on .432 percent shooting. The sample size is somewhat limited, but there is no question that there is ample room for improvement.
DEXTER PITTMAN, Miami
In two seasons with the Miami Heat, Dexter Pittman has yet to establish himself as a viable option down low. And on a team that doesn’t exactly have quality in the paint, the opportunity for Pittman to emerge is there. But will he take advantage of that lack of quality?
Pittman saw limited action during his rookie campaign. He has seen significantly more minutes in his sophomore season, but with little to show for it. The fear for Pittman is that he will not develop a sound offensive game to keep him a threat in the paint, with his conditioning still a lingering question mark. He has the body to bang around for boards, but he does not have the athleticism to overcome the tougher challenges of being a post player.
If the early portion of his career is any indicator of the expected growth, then there is little luster for Pittman to manage in the coming seasons. Or maybe it is simply too early to get a proper gauge on the direction Pittman is going.
DAMION JAMES, Brooklyn
Pittman and Damion James were the only two Texas alum of this bunch that did not leave school early.
James tested the NBA waters in 2009, but lifted his name from the draft pool and returned to Texas for his senior season after receiving the proper feedback.
As the 24th overall selection by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2010 draft, James quickly was shipped to the New Jersey Jets. James still has yet to cement a place as a productive NBA player, but luck has not been on his side.
James played in just 25 games for the Nets in his rookie season, posting a mere 4.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. And in a lockout-shortening season in 2012, James’ campaign was even shorter after undergoing foot surgery in late January.
James appears set to be cleared medically for the start of next season, so there will be some pressure on him to perform in what will be his third season in the league.
More from Bevo’s Block >> From Whence They Came – Part One: Texas Longhorns Stars and Vets