- Jason King
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The Pac-12’s reputation has taken a bit of a hit the past few seasons. Overall, though, the league has been a mecca for topflight NBA talent. Need proof? Just skim some NBA rosters and you’ll find a former Pac-12 star on almost every team.
Here’s a look at the Pac-12 products who have enjoyed the most successful pro careers since 1989, the year the NBA draft was whittled to two rounds.
1. Jason Kidd, Cal: One of the greatest point guards of all time retired this spring as the NBA’s second all-time leader in assists and steals and third all time in 3-pointers. He averaged 8.7 assists in his 18-year career and led the league in that category five times. Kidd played in 10 NBA All-Star games and earned first-team All-NBA honors five times. In 2011 he won an NBA title as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. He also was named to the NBA’s first- or second-team all-defensive squad nine times. Kidd helped Team USA win a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. He was named head coach of the Brooklyn Nets this month.
2. Gary Payton, Oregon State: Nicknamed “The Glove” for his defensive prowess, Payton is the only point guard to be named NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He was selected to the league’s all-defensive first team nine times and was a nine-time All-Star. Payton won an NBA title with the Miami Heat in 2006, but he’s best remembered for his 13-year stint with the Seattle SuperSonics. He holds franchise records for points, assists and steals. Payton’s menacing defense was hardly the only thing that made him valuable: He averaged 19 or more points for 10 straight seasons in a career that included 15 playoff seasons. He was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
3. Kevin Love, UCLA: Since leaving UCLA after just one season in 2008, Love has blossomed into one of the most dominant power forwards in recent NBA history. He recorded 53 straight double-doubles with Minnesota in 2010-11, the longest streak since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976. He averaged a career-high 15.2 rebounds that season and 26 points and 13.3 boards the following season. Love won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2011 and was named second-team all-league the following season. He was also a member of the 2012 Olympic team. An injury to his shooting hand limited Love to 18 games in 2012-13. He’s averaging 17.3 points and 12.2 rebounds for his career.
4. Russell Westbrook, UCLA: He’s played in the NBA just five seasons, yet already Westbrook is a three-time All-Star and a three-time second-team All-NBA selection. He’s averaged more than 21 points for Oklahoma City in each of the past three seasons, along with 5.5 or more assists. In 2012-13 he ranked sixth in the league in scoring (23.2 points) and seventh in assists (7.4). He suffered a knee injury in the first round of the playoffs and was forced to miss the remainder of the season. Westbrook was also a member of the 2012 Olympic squad that won the gold medal. After five NBA seasons, Westbrook is averaging 19.9 points and 6.9 assists.
5. Jason Terry, Arizona: The guard known as JET won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 2009 before sparking the Dallas Mavericks to the NBA title two seasons later in 2011. That same year he tied an NBA playoff record by making nine 3-pointers in a game. He is known for performing his best in clutch situations. Terry has averaged double figures in all but one of his 14 NBA seasons and has a career mark of 15.7 points. He shoots 38 percent from beyond the arc. Terry recently completed his first season with the Boston Celtics after spending eight years with Dallas and five with Atlanta.
6. Gilbert Arenas, Arizona: A three-time All-Star, Arenas averaged 20.6 points in 11 NBA seasons, eight of which were spent with Washington. His best year came in 2005-06, when he averaged a career-high 29.3 points and 6.1 assists. He twice earned second-team All-NBA honors, and he was named the league’s Most Improved Player in 2003. Arenas was suspended for more than half of the 2009-10 season after it was discovered that he was storing firearms in his locker. He was traded to Orlando the following season. His NBA career ended the following year after he played just 17 games for Memphis. Arenas played the 2012-13 season in China.
7. James Harden, Arizona State: Harden recently completed the best season of his young career, averaging 25.9 points in his first season with the Houston Rockets. His efforts earned him third-team All-NBA honors and an appearance in the All-Star Game for the first time. The previous season he was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year after scoring 16.8 points per game for Oklahoma City. As good as he has been, Harden’s future appears even brighter, especially considering he’s a focal point in Houston’s offense instead of a secondary player like he was behind Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City.
8. Baron Davis, UCLA: The third overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft averaged double figures in all but two of his 13 NBA seasons. His best season came in 2003-04, when he averaged a career-high 22.9 points for New Orleans. He earned a spot on the All-Star team that season and was named third-team All-NBA. For his career, Davis averaged 16.1 points and 7.2 assists, and he averaged 18.8 points in 50 playoff games. In 2006-07, he led No. 8 seed Golden State to a playoff series upset of No. 1 seed Dallas.
9. Andre Iguodala, Arizona: Currently one of the NBA’s most versatile players, Iguodala has averaged 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 4.9 assists in his first nine years in the league. He played eight seasons with Philadelphia before being traded to Denver before last season. Iguodala was named to the NBA’s second-team all-defensive squad in 2011. His best season came in 2007-08, when he averaged career highs in points (19.9) and steals (2.1).
10. Sean Elliott, Arizona: Elliott averaged 14.2 points in 12 NBA seasons, all but one of which were spent with the San Antonio Spurs. His best season came in 1995-96, when he averaged a career-high 20 points per game. Elliott was an integral part of the Spurs’ 1999 NBA championship squad, averaging 11.2 points that season. The No. 3 overall pick in the 1989 draft, Elliott made the All-Star team in 1993 and 1996. He is the only Spurs player to rank among the franchise’s top 10 in six statistical categories. In 2000 he became the first player to return to the court after a kidney transplant. San Antonio retired Elliott’s number in 2005.
Ten more notables: All of these players have excelled in the NBA, including a few who almost cracked the top 10 (names in alphabetical order).
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Cal
Arron Afflalo, UCLA
Mike Bibby, Arizona
Terrell Brandon, Oregon
Richard Jefferson, Arizona
Brook Lopez, Stanford
O.J. Mayo, USC
Nate Robinson, Washington
Brandon Roy, Washington
Damon Stoudamire, Arizona
Too soon to tell: These guys haven’t been in the league long enough to make the top 10, but all appear to have bright futures (names in alphabetical order).
*Note: Of the 26 players on these lists, eight are from Arizona, five are from Washington and four are from UCLA. Cal and USC boast two players each. Oregon State, Arizona State, Stanford, Oregon and Washington State each have one representative.
The Pac-12’s reputation has taken a bit of a hit the past few seasons. Overall, though, the league has been a mecca for topflight NBA talent. Need proof?