Tech athletes conquer in the professional arena

Photo by Katherine Shambaugh

In the wake of the media circus of coverage surrounding LeBron James’ free agency, it was easy to miss the quietly superb NBA offseason that former Tech players have enjoyed. From the draft to the free agency, it was a good month to be a Yellow Jacket in the NBA. Here’s a rundown of what’s been happening with former Tech players competing in the NBA.

Josh Okogie, PG

Minnesota Timberwolves

After appearing from seemingly nowhere, Okogie exploded onto the ACC scene in 2016 with a brilliant freshman All-ACC performance.

After missing time early in his sophomore season, Okogie kept improving, posting 18.2 PPG/6.3 RPG last year before declaring for the NBA draft after his sophomore year of collegiate competition.

Okogie followed in the footsteps of fellow former Jacket, Marcus Georges-Hunt, and was selected to join the Minnesota Timberwolves with the no. 20 overall pick in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft. Okogie has wasted no time turning heads, filling up stats sheets in the NBA summer league to the tune of 11.0 PPG/5.3 RPG/2.3 APG.

Derrick Favors, F/C

Utah Jazz

Favors was a highly touted prospect when he committed to Tech in 2009 — he was a consensus top-5 prospect who spent his high school senior season dominating his league with stats amounting to 28.1 PPG/13.3 RPG/5.0 BPG. While Favors never really found his peak groove for scoring while at Tech, his potential was too great for the New Jersey Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets) to pass up. The Jackets waved farewell as Favors was taken no. 3 overall in the 2010 NBA Draft.

After a lackluster rookie season, Favors was traded to the Jazz and spent the next four seasons transforming himself into a cornerstone of their offense. Since 2015, Favors stands at no. 34 in the NBA in WS/48 among players with at least 150 games in that time, a standing which is on par with big-market stars like Draymond Green, Blake Griffin, and Paul George.

Favors was also instrumental to the Jazz’s playoff run this season — after a mediocre start to the season in the highly competitive Western Conference, the Jazz went 31-10 in the second half and pushed through to the second round of the playoffs before falling in five games to the Houston Rockets. Favors posted 12.3 PPG and 7.2 RPG in the 2017-2018 offseason — good enough for a solid 18.8 PER, according to Basketball Reference.

Recognizing Favor’s role in their success, the Jazz inked the former Yellow Jacket to a two-year, $36 million deal on July 2nd, according to Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania.

Favors has the most games under his belt of any player currently on the Jazz’s roster as he looks to continue his dominance in the Salt Lake City for a while longer.

Thaddeus Young, PF

Indiana Pacers

Young was a standout for Tech in his lone season with the Jackets — as a freshman on the Jackets’ tournament team, Young posted 14.4 PPG and 4.9 RPG while shooting a superb 42% from beyond the arc. Young’s stellar performance and his prospect pedigree helped make him the no. 12 pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2007 draft.

Young became one of the cornerstones of the early 2010s 76ers teams, posting 13.7 PPG and 5.5 RPG in seven seasons with Philadelphia.

After jumping from team to team between the 2014 through 2016 seasons, Young finally landed with the Indiana Pacers, a young and growing team which provided veteran leadership and scoring.

Young, as well as his experienced teammates, led the Pacers to their second and third straight NBA playoffs berths.

Despite never filling up the stat sheet like Favors or having as much hype as Okogie, Young has had a remarkably elite career — among players with 800 or more career games, only Young, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James have averaged at least 13.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.4 SPG, shot 49% on field goals and 30% from three.

While not quite as flashy as any of the all-time-greats on that list, Young has been a consistently solid player no matter where he has played.

Rather than test the waters of free agency, Young opted into another season with the Pacers as per his contract and stands to make $13.7 million next season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. Given that the Pacers have run into LeBron James in the first round each of their last two times in the playoffs, the Pacers might finally have a chance to make a deep run into the playoffs. If they can, it should be in no small part thanks to Young.