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Trojans in the NBA

How the former Trojans have fared so far in the NBA this season

NBA: Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs
Demar Derozan
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

There are currently only seven former USC players on NBA rosters. The NBA isn’t filled with Trojan talent to say the least but what is true is that a five of these seven players have proved to be very valuable to their respective teams this year. Here are the five contributors:

Demar Derozan

  • Stats: 23.3 PPG, 6.2 APG, 5.7 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 0.5 BLK, 48.8 FG%, 17.9 3PT%

Demar Derozan is having a fantastic season in his first year as a San Antonio Spur. His stellar play has helped lead the Spurs to a solid record of 19-17. His 23.3 points per game is the third-highest of his career and currently ranks as the 15th highest total scored per game in the NBA. Derozan’s threes per game have gone down to 1.1 per game, a huge decline from the 3.6 per game that he attempted a year ago. This is due to coach Gregg Popovich embracing the way Derozan plays and allowing him to do what he does best, shooting mid range jumpers. Derozan is having a career year in assists at 6.4 per game, up from his previous high of 5.5 that he set just a year ago. Popovich had this to say about Derozan passing skills in late October: “The game comes easy to him. He’s in a difficult situation because he’s still trying to learn the system and learn about his teammates, but he’s such a willing passer and plays hard. He’s turned out to be maybe the best passer on our team, frankly.” Demar Derozan has had a phenomenal year for the Spurs. And to top it all off? How about becoming USC’s all time leading scorer in the NBA. On Wednesday night, Derozan scored 30 points in a 111-103 victory over the Denver Nuggets to reach 14,112 career points. On his way to this milestone, Derozan surpassed fellow Trojans Gus Williams, Paul Westphal and Bill Sherman. The Spurs honored Derozan by posting on Twitter one of the coolest pictures you will see all week.

Nikola Vucevic

NBA: Orlando Magic at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

  • Stats: 20.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.1 BLK, 1.0 SPG, 52.3 FG%, 39.0 3PT%

The 7-footer born in Switzerland is absolutely tearing up the NBA this year. He is averaging career highs in almost every statistical category including points, assists, blocks and three-point percentage. The most eye-opening stat of them all is that Vucevic is averaging 3.1 threes attempted per game at a clip of 39%, one of the highest marks for a big man in the NBA. An example of his greatness this year, on Friday night Vucevic went off for 30 points, 20 rebounds and 8 assists in a 116-87 victory against the first place Toronto Raptors. If you have been watching the former Trojan this year, you’d see monster plays like this:

Taj Gibson

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

  • Stats: 10.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BLK, 54.2 FG%, 42.3 3PT%

This former USC player has been one of the few staples in an otherwise rocky season for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Gibson has played in 34 of the 35 games this year and has started in each one. He is providing steady scoring and rebounding from the power forward position and has proved to be a very effective role player next to star big man Karl-Anthony Towns. What has been so impressive about Gibson’s play this year, though, has been his ability to stretch the floor and make three pointers. He is shooting the three ball at a career high clip of 42.3%. While Gibson has many skills that he displays each and every game on the court, he has a skill that many people don’t about. What is this hidden skill you may ask? Well, Gibson has the ability to play defense while holding one of his shoes. Here it is:

Dewayne Dedmon

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

  • Stats: 9.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BLK, 47.1 FG%, 36.0 3PT%

Dewayne Dedmon’s rise over the last two years has been nothing short of remarkable. Before last season, Dedmon’s highest points per game total was 5.1. A huge part of his scoring increase has been due to his development of a three-point jump shot. This has allowed for rookie guards Trae Young and Kevin Huerter to drive to the lane and create opportunities for open shooters. Although the Hawks sport an 11-24 record, Dedmon has proved to be one of the bright spots for them this season. If he continues to be a valuable contributor for the Hawks this season, he should expect to make a lot of money this summer once his contract expires.

De’Anthony Melton

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

  • Stats: 5.9 PPG, 2.8 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 0.3 BLK, 38.5 FG%, 32.7 3PT%

While Melton’s numbers don’t jump off the board, any Suns fan will tell you how great his play has been this year. Since Melton started playing consistently about a month ago, he has provided great playmaking ability and defense to a very young Suns squad. On December 5, Melton scored a career high in points with 21 against the Sacramento Kings. In that game, he showed all the skills that NBA scouts raved about after his first year in college. Going forward, Melton seems to be a piece that the Suns are hoping to hang on as they move from away from their rebuilding years. I mean, why wouldn’t they want to keep this “Swiss army knife” when he’s making acrobatic plays like this one: