What if? That's all we can ask at this point. Texas bowed out of the NCAA Tourney with an early, embarrassing loss to the USC Trojans. But what if? What if Texas had not been depleted by defections to the NBA last year? What would the fate of this year's team been? How would any team been able to stop a line up with P.J. Tucker, LaMarcus Aldridge, Daniel Gibson, A.J. Abrams and Kevin Durant? Well, we will never know. But lets take a look to see how the Texas early NBA entries faired for themselves as rookies...
Daniel Gibson- G -Cleveland Cavaliers: You know, even if Gibson doesn't make it as an NBA star, he can always tell his grandkids he played with Bron Bron, right? DGib hasn't been a total disappointment, but he hasn't been much of a contributor. His season averages total 4.9ppg, 1.6rpg and 1.4apg. Hardly world beating. But given the chance to start during the injury of Larry Hughes, Gibson showed signs of possibly being a contributor on the pro level. During his 5 game stint in the starting line up, Daniel put up 10 points a game and a 3-2 record. After that short foray into significant playing time, Gibson saw more of the court in February, upping his scoring average to 7.4ppg. DGib has returned to playing time after spraining a toe in early March. Overall, you would have to say this year has been a success for Daniel. He has improved this year and showed that he can contribute at the pro level. And he's getting paid. Overall grade for the decision to go pro: B-
LaMarcus Aldridge- C - Portland Trailblazers: By far the best year of the Texas rookie class. His stats so far this year are 9.1ppg, 5rpg and 1.16bpg. Though his playing time has been inconstant (and sometimes quite spotty), LA has put together a very impressive last month of the season. In March, LA has been seeing about 35 mins/game and averaged 16.4ppg and 8.5rpg. In three of his last five games, he has put up over 20 pts and on the 23rd, LA poured in a 27pt 14 rebound game (his best as a pro). Aldridge is becoming stronger in the post and has adapted to the pro level. LA has even cracked the starting lineup towards the end of the year. Overall, this year has been a success for Aldridge. Look for a solid year, next year while LA progresses as a solid NBA star. Overall grade for the decision to go pro: A-
P.J. Tucker- PF- (Formerly) Toronto Raptor/Colorado 14ers: What can you say? Everyone at Texas loved PJ, his work ethic and everything he did for the 'Horns. But I think we all knew that he was going to struggle as a pro. He is your classic 'tweener' with no real strength or position suited for the next level. And so it seems P.J. might be destined to go the way of James Thomas. A hard working, undersized, big man who really needed to have more of an offensive threat to make it in The League. PJ was with the Raptors for a total of 17 games and averaged less than 2 points. He as sent down to the NBDL's Colorado 14ers where he played in 19 games where he averaged 10.7ppg and 3.37rpg. Tucker was released March 24th to make room for Luke Jackson on the roster. PJ will probably give the NBA more shots, but will probably join the many US players in the European Leagues.
But lets take a closer look at PJ to see if he really made the right decision. What if he had come back for his senior year? Would his NBA status be any different? I actually think PJ did the right thing for himself. He got drafted 35th in the NBA draft and signed a $412,718 contract. The thing is, that is as good as Tucker could have ever done. There is no way he would have been drafted this year with as deep and talented a draft as the 2007 draft will be (not to mention the drop in stats after KD's arrival). He would have been left to fend for a free agent contract, which would not have been likely. PJ will, ultimately, end up on the court in Europe. And, is that really that bad? Salaries in the Euro Leagues run in the 6 figures and PJ will most likely be one of the better players there. So even though PJ isn't going to make it in the NBA, he made the right decision to leave Texas in 2006 by heeding the call of The Steve Miller Band by deciding to 'take the money and run.' Congrats to you PJ. You came out at the exact right time and got the best deal possible. So, kudos to you and surprisingly you will be get the highest grade of the UT rookies. Overall grade for the decision to go pro: A+