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Baylor Basketball Pros: Part 1

A look at former Baylor basketball players who are playing (or about to play) in the NBA.

I think we all like knowing how former Baylor athletes are doing once they leave Baylor. We develop a special bond with them, especially when we’ve been on campus with them and talked to them in line at the gas station Subway or had a class with them. But basketball moves can be hard to keep up with, especially the Euroleagues, and even the guys in the NBA tend to fly under the radar. So I’ve tried to get updated information on everyone who graduated from Baylor and is currently playing basketball professionally somewhere. The list is split up into two parts because it turns out Kim Mulkey and Scott Drew turn out a lot of players who can play basketball for a living, which is a major feat no matter where in the world you are. This first part covers the guys currently in the NBA and this year’s crop of seniors/Isaiah Austin. I’ll publish the second part handling the WNBA and international players later on.

Ekpe Udoh has already played four seasons in the NBA and is at the end of his rookie contract. After getting drafted by the Warriors and playing two and a half seasons with them, he was traded to the Bucks, where he has spent the last year and a half as a second or third option power forward. His stats are not great (he posted a 7.62 PER this year, good for 327th in the league out of 337 players), and he stands to take a pretty significant pay cut when/if someone offers him a new contract this summer.

Part of his trouble has been staying healthy (this season he only played in 42 games) and part has been getting buried on the bench as a third power forward option on both of the teams he has played for. The Bucks in particular started collecting forwards and centers like Pokemon this year and had way too many to effectively distribute minutes, and Ekpe didn’t get much of a chance to play even when he was healthy. On the positive side, he’s a 27 year old big man who can play defense, and that goes a long way in the NBA (just ask Kendrick Perkins, who is getting by fairly well as a big man with nothing but the reputation for playing good defense). So I expect he’ll get a look from somebody this summer. If not he could always focus on his Twitter book club, which is legitimately pretty awesome and you should check it out.

Quincy Acy, aka Dunklord McJammaster, is universally loved by fans of the teams he has been on. His stats are not flashy, but both his former Toronto and current Sacramento teammates and coaches have gone on record saying that they love the energy and work ethic he brings to games and practices. He is competing for minutes with several other big men however, all of whom have better stats than he does, and with next season being the last of his rookie contract, the more aggressive he is about improving his game, the better off he’ll be. Particularly, he has to work on developing his 3 point shot. As we all know, Quincy showed marked improvement in each new season at Baylor, and I expect that his NBA career will continue to improve as he works on his game and gains experience. That said, he's no slouch as is; he currently has the highest PER of any Baylor NBA player and he does a lot of the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet like setting good picks, taking charges, making hustle plays, etc. And as Nick Collison and Shane Battier would tell you, you can make a solid career out of doing the little things.

And in case you were wondering whether Dunklord McJammaster is still dunking like the rim murdered his family in front of his eyes while the basketball laughed, wonder no more. Courtesy of the folks over at Sactownroyalty:

Quincy Miller also has another year left on his rookie deal. Unfortunately, he was most famous this season for getting his soul crossed out of his body by Andre Iguodala in the last game of the season. There’s a theme for all former Baylor players in the NBA right now, and that theme is "needs to improve". Miller could develop into a solid backup wing player, but he needs to improve his defense and his three point shooting ability. Defense will be hard to work on as part of the Nuggets, a team that was never really big on defense to begin with and which is now in rebuilding mode. But that leaves three point shooting, which he can work on over the summer and which is only going to get more important in the coming years. This year he shot about 30% from beyond the arc, which is, in polite terms, not great. If he can improve that in a fairly significant way, it would definitely improve his chances of getting a second NBA contract.

Perry Jones III has the highest upside of any Baylor player currently in the NBA, and he’s in the best situation out of these four guys (i.e. he’s the only one on a team that wins games). The Thunder also refuse to get rid of Kendrick Perkins, which means that their most productive lineup next year will probably once again be a small-ball lineup that has Durant at power forward, giving Perry the opportunity to play when Durant is on the floor. For that to happen though—all together now—he needs to improve.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the most useful thing he could do is improve his three point shooting. Just look at who was on the floor for the Thunder in the final minutes of playoff games this year instead of Perry Jones: Derek "When I was a rookie Tupac and Biggie were still alive" Fisher. Why? Because Scott Brooks could trust him to hit open threes. That’s it. He couldn’t run, he couldn’t defend, he couldn’t rebound, but he could hit threes, and because that’s all you really need to do when you’re playing with Westbrook, Durant, and Ibaka, that guaranteed Fisher crunch-time minutes on the Thunder. This season Perry hit 36% of his threes. If he can get that up over 40% and he works to improve his decision-making ability he could see a large increase in minutes, because as the Western Conference Finals showed, the Thunder desperately need someone on their bench to step up and help their big 3. And Perry Jones can be that guy if he works for it in the off-season.

Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin are both pretty low on most draft boards and are projected to go sometime in the 2nd round or go undrafted. Either one or both could end up going undrafted, but I’m hoping that they both get drafted by teams with good systems and coaching staffs in place (think Popovich and San Antonio, or Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons). We’ll see on June 26th.

Brady Heslip is not going to get drafted, but if he decides to (and I expect he will), he could definitely have a good career overseas. If he does, he will join a long list of Bears who are successfully flinging their green and gold afar in leagues that aren't the NBA, a list that is coming soon.

And spoiler alert for part two: the Lady Bears are just as terrifying post-Baylor as they are at Baylor.