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Checking in on former Cards in the pros

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It’s been a banner year for former Louisville players who are now getting paid to play the game.

69th NBA All-Star Game Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Donovan Mitchell – Utah Jazz

Donovan is in his third season in the NBA and made the All-Star team for the first time this season. In the game on Sunday, he played 14 minutes and finished with seven points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block, and one turnover. He was 3-10 from the field and 1-3 from three.

As far as the regular season goes, there is a reason that Mitchell is an All-Star. He is averaging career high in points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage. At this point of the season, he is averaging 24.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 45.7% from the field, 36.3% from three, and 86.1% from the free throw line.

The improvement that Mitchell made at UofL was impressive. What he showed in his first year in the NBA was more than anyone expected. And now it looks like he is just continuing that upward trend. His points, rebounds, and assists per game have improved with each season.

The Utah Jazz are currently the fourth seed in the Western Conference, only a game and a half behind second place, so we should get to see Donovan in the playoffs again this season.

Montrezl Harrell – Los Angeles Clippers

Montrezl is in his fifth season in the league and is also having a career season. He comes off the bench and is one of the most important players on a team that could very well find themselves in the NBA Finals this season. Trez is averaging a career high in points per game at 18.8 (previous high is 16.6) and rebounds per game at 7.1 (previous high is 6.5). Both of those previous highs were last year. He is also playing 28.4 minutes per game, which is his most after playing 26.3 per game last season.

The Clippers have played 55 games this season and Trez has scored in double-figures in all but three of them. He has nine double-doubles on the season as well. Not too bad for someone that comes off the bench.

I must say that I never saw this kind of career happening for Harrell. We saw the energy and effort he played with at UofL; that was never in question. I just wasn’t sure it would translate at this level with his size. He is proving to be a better version of Kenneth Faried and he has certainly shown that he belongs. He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, so look for Trez to sign a very big contract, whether that is in Los Angeles or somewhere else.

The Clippers are currently third in the Western Conference, one game behind the Nuggets for second.

Terry Rozier – Charlotte Hornets

Rozier is in his fifth season in the NBA and his first as a member of the Hornets and he is also averaging a career high in points per game at 17.8, which makes him the second leading scorer on the team. His assists per game (4.1), also second on the team, would be a career high as well. The most minutes per game in his career before this season was 25.9 as he was primarily the backup in Boston unless Kyrie Irving was hurt. Now in the starting lineup, Rozier is playing 34.2 minutes per game.

Like Donovan Mitchell, Terry is also having his best shooting season all around. He is shooting 41.8% from the field (previous high 39.5%), 38.5% from three (previous high 38.1%), and 86.8% from the free throw line (previous high 80%).

When he got his opportunities in Boston, it was clear that he could play at this level. But could he be THE guy that runs the point? That was the question. He is answering that this season the best he can on a struggling Hornets team.

Charlotte is currently 18-36 and five and a half games out of the playoffs. We’ll see if they can sneak in.

Gorgui Dieng – Memphis Grizzlies

Gorgui is in his seventh season in the NBA and was recently traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Memphis Grizzlies. He had a very nice career in Minnesota, but never really got a lot of minutes the last few seasons. From 2014-15 to 2016-17, his minutes per game were 30.0, 27.1, and 32.4. But in the last three seasons, his minutes per game were 16.9, 13.6, and 16.9.

Before being traded this season, Gorgui was averaging 7.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. And get this. He has made 47 three pointers! What? Yes, Gorgui Dieng is 47-123 from behind the arc for 38.2%. The most he had made in a season before this was 19 last year.

He is not a starter, but he should find his way into the rotation some. It helps when you aren’t playing the same position on the same team as Karl-Anthony Towns.

As far as playoffs go, Gorgui is now in a better situation. The Timberwolves are 11.5 games out of the race. The Grizzles are 28-26 and are currently in the eighth spot in the Western Conference. Let’s hope Gorgui gets into the playoffs!

Damion Lee – Golden State Warriors

Damion is in his third NBA season, but his first where he is a regular on the roster and not bouncing back and forth to the G League. Last season and the beginning of this season for Lee were spent on a two-way contract, meaning he could only be on the NBA roster for a maximum of 45 days. The rest of the time he would have to spend in the G League. With the injuries the Warriors have sustained this season, Golden State offered Lee a guaranteed contract with the team for three years.

How has Lee responded? Quite well. He is in the starting lineup and averaging 12 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1 steal per game. He has started 26 of the 39 games he has played after only starting 11 games in his first two seasons combined (all in his rookie year with Atlanta).

He just notched his career high in points on February 10 in a 113-101 loss to the Heat when he scored 26 points on 7-12 shooting, with 5-7 being from behind the arc. He was a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line and added two rebounds and one assist.

In a season where the Warriors have been downright awful, they have found a bright spot in Damion Lee that can handle some of the scoring if Steph and Klay are out of the game. They have even traded D’Angelo Russell and Alec Burks, both guards, which will open up even more opportunity for Damion.

Bonus – Cards in the NBA G League

Deng Adel – Long Island Nets (Brooklyn Nets)

24 games played (11 starts), 12.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.4 blocks, 2.4 turnovers.

Ray Spalding – Greensboro Swarm (Charlotte Hornets)

29 games played (19 starts), 14.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.6 blocks, 2.5 turnovers.

Jaylen Johnson – Iowa Wolves (Minnesota Timberwolves)

28 games played (6 starts), 7.7 points, 5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.6 blocks, 1.6 turnovers.

Wayne Blackshear – Maine Red Claws (Boston Celtics)

26 games played (1 start), 5.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks, 0.8 turnovers.

V.J. King – Westchester Knicks (NY Knicks)

24 games played (2 starts), 4.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.1 blocks, 0.6 turnovers.