The NBA season is back!
After two COVID-impacted seasons, the 2021-22 campaign will bring the NBA back to its old schedule of 82 regular-season games beginning with a pair on tap for Tuesday night.
Here’s a look at all eight players and 12 coaches in the league with ties to the Arizona Wildcats. The player number dropped by one just before the season began when Stanley Johnson was cut by the Chicago Bulls.
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
- 2020-21 stats: 14.4 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 62.6 FG%
- Year in league: 4th
- Contract: In final year of 4-year, $40.3 million deal
- Season outlook: Ayton is coming off the best all-around season of his young pro career, establishing personal-best shooting percentages from the field and the line (76.9) while helping the Suns reach the NBA Finals. Yet team owner Robert Sarver apparently doesn’t feel Ayton is worth locking up long term, as Phoenix let the deadline pass to offer him a max contract. That means Ayton is in a contract year, which could lead him to go off or slack off, depending on his motivation.
Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic
- 2020-21 stats: 12.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, 46.3 FG%, 33.5 3PT%
- Year in league: 8th
- Contract: In final year of 4-year, $76 million deal; signed 4-year, $92 million extension in September
- Season outlook: Traded from the Orlando Magic to Denver last March, Gordon thrived with his new team and his less-intense role in the Nuggets’ offense. His season scoring average was his lowest since 2015-16 but in 25 games with Denver he shot a career-best 50 percent from the field. Expect more of the same on a team that has plenty of offensive options, so Gordon won’t be asked to carry the load as much as he did in Orlando.
Josh Green, Dallas Mavericks
- 2020-21 stats: 2.6 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.4 SPG, 45.2 FG%, 16.0 3PT%
- Year in league: 2nd
- Contract: In final year of 2-year, $5.8 million contract that has team options for 2022-23 and 2023-24.
- Season outlook: Green appeared in 39 games for the Mavericks as a rookie, including five starts, while also spending time in the G-League. He’s expected to see an expanded role this year, assuming he shows more assertiveness with his shooting. Green on attempted 93 shots in 445 minutes last season, and he hit just 4 of 25 3-point attempts.
Solomon Hill, Atlanta Hawks
- 2020-21 stats: 4.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, 35.9 FG%, 32.1 3PT%
- Year in league: 9th
- Contract: Signed a 1-year, $2.4 million contract
- Season outlook: Hill is in his second 1-year deal with Atlanta, re-upping after he started 16 games during the regular season and appeared in 14 playoff games as the Hawks reached the Eastern Conference finals. His role, like it was a year ago, is to play defense and spell Atlanta’s other wings and forwards.
Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
- 2020-21 stats: 4.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.9 SPG, 38.3 FG%, 33.0 3PT%
- Year in league: 18th
- Contract: Signed a 1-year, $2.6 million deal
- Season outlook: The ageless Iguodala, the only remaining ex-Wildcat from the Lute Olson still in the league, is back with Golden State after a 2-year stint with the Miami Heat. He only played 21.3 minutes per game last season, his fewest in a non-COVID year, and with his career near the end he decided for one last hurrah with the squad he won a pair of NBA titles with.
Lauri Markkanen, Cleveland Cavaliers
- 2020-21 stats: 13.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 0.9 APG, 48.0 FG%, 40.2 3PT%
- Year in league: 5th
- Contract: In 1st year of a 4-year, $67 million deal
- Season outlook: Markkanen swapped one downtrodden Central Division franchise for another, leaving the Chicago Bulls after four seasons as part of a sign-and-trade deal that also included the Portland Trail Blazers. With Cleveland he will be part of a Cavs team that is projected to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings and he’ll have to battle with first-round pick Evan Mobley for playing time at power forward. Markkanen averaged 18.1 minutes in five preseason games, compared to 25.5 for Mobley.
T.J. McConnell, Indiana Pacers
- 2020-21 stats: 8.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 6.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, 55.9 FG%, 31.3 3PT%
- Year in league: 7th
- Contract: In 1st year of 4-year, $33.6 million deal
- Season outlook: The Pacers liked what McConnell did so much during his two years there that they locked him up for another four, more than doubling his 2020-21 salary of $3.5 million. He’s only started six games for Indiana but he’s proven to be an invaluable bench player, role model and trash talker.
Zeke Nnaji, Denver Nuggets
- 2020-21 stats: 3.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.1 BPG, 48.1 FG%, 40.7 3PT%
- Year in league: 2nd
- Contract: In final year of 2-year, $4.9 million contract that has team options for 2022-23 and 2023-24.
- Season outlook: Nnaji appeared in 45 games as a rookie, making one start, logging more than 20 minutes on just five occasions. He played in half of Denver’s playoff games, but usually only in mop-up time, and he’ll be hard-pressed to get more run in a stacked frontcourt.
- Steve Kerr — Golden State Warriors head coach
- Luke Walton- Sacramento Kings head coach
- Bret Brielmaier — Orlando Magic assistant coach
- Jessie Mermuys — Orlando Magic assistant coach
- Jud Buechler — New York Knicks assistant coach
- Bruce Fraser — Golden State Warriors player development coach
- Joseph Blair — Washington Wizards assistant coach
- Quinton Crawford — Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach
- Damon Stoudamire — Boston Celtics assistant coach
- Matt Brase — Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach
- Miles Simon — Los Angeles Lakers’ G-League head coach (South Bay Lakers)
- Jason Terry — Denver Nuggets’ G-League head coach (Grand Rapids Gold)