For many years, you could construct an entire Madden team with Texas Longhorns football players. I remember as a kid scoring touchdown after touchdown in the 2009 edition of the game with Vince Young handing off to Jamaal Charles. Some positions would be tricky -- you’d have to move tight end Bo Scaife to offensive tackle to have enough depth at the position, and Phil Dawson wasn’t always the most effective punter.
With many Longhorn NFL stars now retired, I don’t think there could be an all-Texas Madden 2016 team. There’s really no one to backup Colt McCoy, and building an offensive line wouldn't be easy. However, several former Texas hoops players are in the primes of their careers in the NBA, while others are blossoming young talents. In fact, you could make a full rotation out of players who once donned burnt orange.
Texas players have excelled in the playoffs, as Myles Turner, Avery Bradley, Cory Joseph, Kevin Durant, and Tristan Thompson all heavily contributed to a postseason run. With Tristan Thompson primed to help the Cavaliers in a crucial finals Game 6, I found myself wondering: How would an all-Texas NBA team do in the playoffs? Would they make the playoffs at all?
Here’s how I think the depth chart would go, using only players who suited up this season in the NBA:
Point guard: Cory Joseph, Toronto Raptors
Backup: D.J. Augustin, Denver Nuggets
Point guard wouldn’t be the strong suit of an all-UT NBA team, but the options would be serviceable. Picking the starter wouldn’t be an easy task, but I’d go with the younger player -- Cory Joseph.
Joseph, who played at Texas in 2010-11, was an integral part of the Raptor’s deepest postseason run in franchise history. He scored 18 points in the Raptors’ first playoff game, backing up the highly-talented, but sometimes-inconsistent Kyle Lowry. Joseph had previously played for the Spurs for four years. Despite being sent to the D-League’s Austin Toros three times, he eventually became a reliable option off the bench, and won a title with the team in 2014.
D.J. Augustin is the definition of an NBA journeyman, as he has played for seven teams in his eight-year career. He was traded to the Nuggets from the Thunder at the trade deadline this year, and made immediate contributions off the bench. Augustin scored 20 points or more four times for the Nuggets, and also had a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) during the year.
If Joseph or Augustin can’t get the job done, Avery Bradley could step in at the point.
Shooting guard: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Backup: P.J. Tucker, Phoenix Suns
Avery Bradley has flourished as a lockdown defender in the NBA under Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens. He was on the All-Defensive first team this year, and was also second on the team in scoring at18 points per game. Bradley played one year at Texas before being selected by Boston with the 19th pick in the 2010 draft.
Drafted during the "Big Three" era of the Celtics, Bradley had to play a season in the D-League before eventually becoming a leader on the young team.
P.J. Tucker is a surprising NBA success story. Tucker stayed for three years at Texas, and was the Big 12 player of the year in the 2005-2006 season. He was a second round pick to the Raptors in 2006, and played ball in six different countries before finally making the Suns roster in 2012. The 31-year-old Tucker has been a quality bench player since returning to the NBA -- averaging at least eight points in his last three seasons, and like Bradley, is a solid defender.
Small forward: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Backup: Jordan Hamilton, New Orleans Pelicans
The fact that Texas had Kevin Durant, as well as three other future NBA players on their roster in the 2007 NCAA Tournament and still didn’t make it to the Sweet Sixteen shows that Rick Barnes perhaps didn’t always get the most out of his players. Even still, Durant averaged 25.8 points per game at Texas, and now holds an MVP award and has made the All-Star team seven times.
The greatest NBA player in Texas basketball history still hasn’t won an NBA title, but his extensive accomplishments have justified the retirement of his No. 35 by Texas. The 27-year-old Durant was occasionally overshadowed by the phenomenal play of Russell Westbrook this season, but he is still a top five NBA player in the prime of his career.
Jordan Hamilton would certainly suffice as his backup. The fellow first-round pick spent two years at Texas, but has had trouble becoming a mainstay in the NBA. After playing for the Pelicans for a good portion of 2016 season, Hamilton signed a contract with the Bucaneros de La Guiara in Spain.
Power forward: Lamarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Backup: Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
Power forward would be another strength for this theoretical unit. Lamarcus Aldridge is a five time NBA All-Star, currently playing alongside Tim Duncan with the San Antonio Spurs. The 30-year-old Aldridge graduated high school in 2004, back when you could declare for the draft without attending college. Though Aldridge was talented enough to land in the NBA out of Seagoville High School in Dallas, he decided to attend college for two years at the University of Texas.
By his sophomore season, Aldridge was averaging nearly a double-double, and was also a shot-blocking force. He was eventually taken second overall in the 2006 draft by the Bulls, but his rights were traded to the Trail Blazers. Aldridge spent most of his career in Portland before returning to the state of Texas to provide energy to an aging San Antonio Spurs team.
Tristan Thompson is the lone Longhorn left in the playoffs. Thompson has been with the Cavs through some ugly times and the LeBron comeback, and has seen his role change through the years as such. He was a one-and-done at Texas, and went fourth overall to the Cavs in 2011. With Lebron James and Kevin Love on the roster, Thompson is only averaging 7.9 points per game, his lowest mark in his career. However, he still averages nine rebounds a game and gets ample time on the floor.
Center: Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Myles Turner may have never lived up to his potential at Texas, but the rookie out of Bedford, Texas had a fantastic second half of the season with the Pacers. Turner was a second team All-Rookie player after earning his way into the starting lineup. His 10.3 points per game were more than the 10.1 he averaged at Texas.
Turner is only 20 years old, and still has much untapped potential. His length and shot blocking ability may not be necessarily what is highly valued in the small ball, three-point shooting era. However, he outperformed all expectations for his first year in the league, despite widespread speculation that he could be a potential bust.
Filling in the Roster
In 2012, there were 12 Longhorns in the NBA, which was enough to field a full team. However, Myles Turner has been Texas’ only draft pick since then. That looks to remain true for the upcoming NBA draft, where Isaiah Taylor, Cam Ridley, and Prince Ibeh have only a small chance of hearing their names called.
With only nine players on the roster, Texas would look to fill the team with guys not currently on an NBA roster. I would sign forward Damion James and center Dexter Pittman. Both were 2011 draft picks and both play in the Baloncesto Superior Nacional League in Spain. With the Longhorns, the two combined for 28.2 points and 16.2 rebounds per game in 2010.
The last guy I would probably sign to finish off the roster would be guard Myck Kabongo. Kabongo’s career at Texas was tumultuous, as he was suspended for 23 games his freshman year for contact with an agent in high school. A former five-star recruit, he went pro after his sophomore season and was not drafted. Though highly talented, Kabongo has been in the D-League since then.
Texas could also sign Daniel Gibson as an extra point guard, but they’d have to sway him out of retirement. The former Cavaliers and Texas player quit basketball in March to pursue a rap career. Seriously. Here’s a song he put out.
Coach: Travis Mays
Assistant: Royal Ivey
Of course, you would also need a head coach. In continuing the trend of UT alumni, Travis Mays would be a good choice. Mays played at Texas from 1986-1990, and ranks second in Texas’ all-time scorers list (Terrence Rencher is first). Mays carried Texas to its first Elite 8 in 43 years in 1990, and went on to play pro ball until 2002. He was recently named as the new women’s head basketball coach at SMU after being associate head coach for Texas’ women’s team from 2012-2016.
Royal Ivey would be my pick to be Mays’ top assistant. Ivey, Texas’ all-time leader in games started, suited up for several teams throughout his ten-year NBA career before retiring in 2014. Immediately after hanging up the gloves, Ivey became the assistant head coach for Oklahoma City’s D-League team, the Oklahoma City Blue.
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So how good would a Texas NBA team be? I used the nine 2016 NBA Longhorns, and gave them equal playing time, which would be 26 minutes each in NBA’s 48 minute games. At their 2016 rate of production, this is how each player's’ stats would look:
If each player could play like they did with their team in the NBA, Texas would average 107 points a game. Only the Thunder and the Warriors outperformed that mark. The Longhorns would also average 47.3 rebounds a game, which would be second to the Thunder. However, the team wouldn’t share the ball much despite all the points being scored -- their 20.3 assist average would be in the bottom five of the league.
Obviously, these numbers would not actually be accurate if there really was a Texas NBA team -- you can’t account for the team chemistry and new roles players would have on an only-UT squad. For instance, I have a hard time believing that Jordan Hamilton would only be outscored by Avery Bradley by 1.2 points.
Perhaps a better determination of the talent Texas has had would be to simply compare Texas’ players with players with other top programs. So, I took some of the best players from Kansas and Kentucky to see how the Longhorns compared.
Kansas clearly has the most winning tradition in the Big 12, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to their players achieving NBA stardom. Though Kansas had 19 players on opening day NBA rosters, a sample of nine of their best (which covers both guards and big men), shows that they have more depth, but not more current talent than Texas.
Kansas’ rebounding numbers are decent due to their plethora of forwards and centers on NBA rosters, but their guard and small forward play is lacking. Paul Pierce is a future Hall of Famer, but his production has declined at 38 years old. If the Jayhawks had a team with players at their current production, they would be last in points and last in assists in the NBA. This isn’t a knock on Kansas -- it actually proves that in the past they have utilized their players in college better than Texas. After all, Myck Kabongo was unanimously better rated than McLemore in the 2011 high school rankings.
Well, an all-Texas team would lose to an all-Kentucky team. In fact, Kentucky could expand past the nine players I gave them and include Julius Randle, Enes Kanter, and Nerlens Noel and be even better. But still, Texas’ NBA roster would be better than every college besides Kentucky, Duke, and UCLA.
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In conclusion, with Kevin Durant, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Avery Bradley, a Texas NBA squad would be led by three NBA stars. Burgeoning talents like Myles Turner would also be anchors on the team. Though there isn't much depth at the center position, the roster would have length and excellent defensive abilities. The Longhorn NBA squad would probably be a playoff team, but an additional star point guard would make them a title contender.
Was this a waste of time? Maybe. But it's interesting to study the successes and failures of former ‘Horns that were all highly touted out of high school. How did P.J. Tucker find success in the NBA, but the more prized recruit, Damion James, did not?
Also, is it luck that Texas was the college of two of the NBA's brightest stars in Kevin Durant and Lamarcus Aldridge? Schools like Kansas, North Carolina, and Arizona have more NBA players, but none quite at that level. Maybe UT is, or was, simply the destination of choice for the state of Texas' top recruits who wanted to stay close to home.
Being an NBA player is a volatile and fleeting profession. Hopefully Isaiah Taylor, Prince Ibeh, and Cam Ridley will continue the trend of successful Longhorn basketball players, even if they don't hear their name called at the draft.