Evaluating the situation for all nine Gonzaga players on NBA rosters entering the 2022-23 season
Tue., Oct. 18, 2022
Washington’s Rui Hachimura (Jonathan Newton/Washington Post)
During the 2021-22 season, Gonzaga set a program record with 10 former Bulldogs totaling 392 appearances in the NBA. Things will have to shake out the right way, but GU has a chance to break both records in 2022-23.
As the new season starts, there are nine former Gonzaga players on eight different NBA rosters and all but one – Chet Holmgren – should have a chance to see the floor over the next eight months. Others like Killian Tillie, Joel Ayayi, Kevin Pangos and David Stockton remain on the outside looking in, but could be called back into action as NBA teams inevitably deal with roster attrition throughout the season.
From Holmgren, Gonzaga’s youngest NBA player at 20 years old, to Kelly Olynyk, a 31-year-old veteran on his fifth team, we break down the situation for all nine players entering the 2022-23 season.
Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder
Experience: Rookie (Drafted No. 2 overall by Oklahoma City in 2022)
Career numbers: N/A
The situation: Oklahoma City used the second overall draft pick on Holmgren hoping the 7-footer would be a generational, franchise-changing player. That’s still on the table, but after suffering a Lisfranc injury while defending LeBron James at the Crawsover Pro-Am event in Seattle this summer, Holmgren won’t be making his NBA debut until the 2023-24 season at the earliest. Holmgren underwent successful surgery on his right foot and videos from OKC’s training facility have shown Holmgren on a scooter taking shots from different spots on the floor.
Andrew Nembhard, Indiana Pacers
Experience: Rookie (Drafted No. 31 overall by Indiana in 2022)
Career numbers: N/A
The situation: The Canadian point guard was taken with the first pick of the second round, but Indiana clearly views Nembhard as a first-round talent, offering him a four-year contract worth $8.6 million. Nembhard’s deal included $6.4 million in guaranteed salary – the most for a second-round selection in NBA history. Nembhard’s drawn nothing but positive reviews from Indiana’s coaching staff, but the rookie will likely spend a year or two learning and absorbing the NBA game, mainly serving as an understudy to Indiana point guards Tyrese Haliburton and TJ McConnell.
Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic
Experience: 2nd season (Drafted No. 5 overall by Orlando Magic in 2021)
Career numbers: 48 games, 11.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.4 apg
The situation: A fractured right thumb sidelined Suggs for a chunk of his rookie season and when he was on the floor, the lottery-pick guard struggled with efficiency, making just 36% of his total field goals and shooting 21% from 3-point range. Suggs had another injury scare in a preseason game against Dallas, suffering a left knee capsule sprain and bone bruise, but it doesn’t appear the incident will sideline him long-term. Suggs, if healthy, is still a projected starter in Orlando and one of the team’s best perimeter defenders, but he’ll have to become more consistent on offense to carve out a long NBA career.
Corey Kispert, Washington Wizards
Experience: 2nd season (Drafted No. 15 overall by Washington Wizards in 2021)
Career numbers: 77 games, 8.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.1 apg
The situation: A sturdy reserve who played in all but five games as a rookie, Kispert will miss a handful of games to start his sophomore NBA season. A sprained ankle, sustained during Washington’s trip to Japan, will keep Kispert off the court for 4-6 weeks. Among Wizards who played in more than 50 games last season, the former Gonzaga wing ranked second in 3-point shooting, burying 35% of his attempts and his absence won’t be unnoticed for a Washington team that sent its top perimeter shooter, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, to Denver in a three-player trade.
Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards
Experience: 3rd season (Drafted No. 9 overall by Washington Wizards in 2021)
Career numbers: 147 games, 13.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.5 apg
The situation: In year No. 3, Hachimura is in the running – though perhaps not the front-runner – to claim a starting spot for Washington, and the 24-year-old made a strong case for himself during the team’s preseason trip to his home country of Japan, scoring 13 points with nine rebounds in an exhibition against the Golden State Warriors. Hachimura’s defensive progress could determine whether he’s able to grab a starting role, and Wizards coach Wes Unseld called the former Zag “extremely active” on that end of the floor during the team’s stay in Japan.
Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies
Experience: 3rd season (Drafted No. 21 overall by Memphis Grizzlies in 2019)
Career numbers: 181 games, 10.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.4 apg
The situation: Although Clarke didn’t post career-high scoring and rebounding totals in 2021-22, it’d be fairly easy to make a case that the third-year player is coming off his best NBA season. Clarke was wildly impactful for a Memphis team that stole two games from the eventual NBA champion Warriors, averaging 24.7 minutes, 12.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 12 postseason appearances. Clarke, who posted career-best field goal percentage (61.5%) and blocked shot (1.1 bpg) totals last season, will once again be expected to provide energy and athleticism off of Memphis’ bench playing anywhere from 20-24 minutes per game.
Zach Collins, San Antonio Spurs
Experience: 5th season (Drafted No. 10 overall in 2017 by Portland Trail Blazers)
Career numbers: 182 games, 6.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.1 apg
The situation: Gonzaga’s original one-and-done, Collins is looking for stability of his own after enduring a series of injuries the last three seasons in Portland and San Antonio. Collins started San Antonio’s latest preseason game but encountered a minor setback, entering concussion protocol after scoring seven points and grabbing three rebounds against the Pelicans. Collins, who’s played in 39 games the last two seasons, is projected to be San Antonio’s top frontcourt reserve, capable of spelling Keldon Johnson at power forward or Jakob Poeltl at center.
Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings
Experience: 7th season (Drafted No. 11 overall in 2016 by Oklahoma City Thunder)
Career numbers: 415 games, 14.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.6 apg
The situation: Sabonis doesn’t have the longevity of former Zags like John Stockton, Ronny Turiaf or Kelly Olynyk – not yet at least – but he’s easily one of GU’s most accomplished NBA players, being named to multiple All-Star teams and averaging a near double-double through his first six NBA seasons. Sabonis, entering his first full season with the Sacramento Kings and new coach Mike Brown, has been a model of consistency over the last four seasons averaging no worse than 18 points, 12 rebounds and five assists since becoming a full-time starter in Indiana. Additionally, his field goal percentage hasn’t dropped below 51% since his rookie year.
Kelly Olynyk, Utah Jazz
Experience: 10th season (Drafted No. 13 overall by Boston Celtics in 2013)
Career numbers: 610 games, 10.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.0 apg
The situation: After spending eight of his first nine seasons in the Eastern Conference, Olynyk is back out West, entering his first year with the Utah Jazz, who acquired the Canadian big man and Saben Lee in a trade for Bojan Bogdanovic. Olynyk’s durability, especially considering his physical playing style, has been crucial to a long, successful NBA career. Up until the 2021-22 season, when he played just 40 games for the Detroit Pistons, the former GU All-American had played in no fewer than 64 games in a single season and played 70-plus on six occasions. Rudy Gobert’s departure means Olynyk likely steps into a starting center role for a young but interesting Utah team.
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