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Gonzaga Basketball

From Chet Holmgren to Domantas Sabonis, reviewing the 2023-24 season for 11 former Gonzaga players in the NBA

Andrew Nembhard of the Indiana Pacers is defended by Derrick White of the Boston Celtics during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on May 25, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Getty Images)

The last former Zag standing in the NBA postseason finally bowed out Monday night when a shorthanded Indiana Pacers team lost in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Boston Celtics, despite another breakout performance from Andrew Nembhard.

With All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton sidelined from a hamstring injury, Nembhard was Indiana’s top scorer for the second consecutive game, scoring 24 points to go with 10 assists during a 105-102 defeat – the third game in the series decided by five points or fewer.

Indiana’s exit from the playoffs ends Nembhard’s second year and gives a chance to look back at 11 former Gonzaga players who took the floor in some capacity during the 2023-24 NBA season.

Chet Holmgren, F, Oklahoma City Thunder

Year: Rookie

2023-24 reg. season stats: 82 games (82 starts), 16.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 2.3 bpg

In review: Questions about Holmgren’s durability surfaced well before the 7-foot center suffered a Lisfranc injury during a pickup game at Jamal Crawford’s Pro-Am in Seattle and didn’t cease when the No. 2 overall pick was ruled out of the entirety of the 2021-22 season. Holmgren responded to those questions by appearing in all 82 regular-season games and 10 playoff games for Oklahoma City en route to finishing second in NBA Rookie of the Year voting and earning all-rookie honors. Holmgren’s 2.3 blocks per game tied for fourth in the NBA and he became the first player in league history to total 150 blocks, 150 assists and 100 3-pointers in a single season. Holmgren’s 3-point percentage dipped below 30% in the playoffs, but he still averaged 15.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while leading OKC to the Western Conference quarterfinals.

Julian Strawther, G, Denver Nuggets

Year: Rookie

2023-24 reg. season stats: 50 games, 4.5 ppg, 1.2, rpg, 0.9 apg

In review: One of the breakout performers during the NBA preseason, Strawther didn’t carve out a rotation role for a deep Denver team that was coming off the organization’s first NBA championship. The former Gonzaga wing averaged 10.9 minutes per game as a rookie, with a majority of his minutes coming during December. Strawther played at least 20 minutes five times over a 10-game stretch in December and scored a season-high 22 points in a 129-122 victory over Atlanta. Strawther, who dealt with a midseason knee injury, averaged roughly five minutes per game the final three months of the season and made only three appearances in the NBA playoffs.

Filip Petrusev, F, Philadelphia 76ers/Sacramento Kings

Year: Rookie

2023-24 reg. season stats: Three games, 1.0 ppg, 0.3 rpg

In review: It took Petrusev four years to make an NBA roster, but once the former GU forward did, his stay was short. Petrusev, who was stashed overseas by Philadelphia the past three seasons, impressed at NBA Summer League and did enough to earn a roster spot with the 76ers entering the 2023-24 season. Petrusev played just three minutes in his NBA debut against the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 29 and was acquired by Sacramento on Nov. 1. The native of Serbia made just two appearances for the Kings before being waived on Nov. 24. He spent the remainder of the season with Greek club Olympiacos, teaming up with former Zags guard Nigel Williams-Goss.

Andrew Nembhard, G, Indiana Pacers

Year: Second

2023-24 reg. season stats: 68 games (47 starts), 9.2 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.1 rpg

In review: Nembhard’s numbers didn’t change drastically from a rookie season in which he started 63 times, but he raised his value substantially throughout the NBA playoffs, averaging roughly 35 minutes in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals and Eastern Conference finals, scoring 21 points per game and averaging 7.7 assists during the Boston series. In the two games Haliburton missed, Nembhard averaged 28 points, 9.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds, demonstrating what he can do as a primary facilitator/scorer. Nembhard could have an opportunity to gain valuable international experience on the Olympic stage with the Canadian national team this summer before returning as an integral piece of Indiana’s young backcourt next season.

Corey Kispert, G, Washington Wizards

Year: Third

2023-24 reg. season stats: 80 games (22 starts), 13.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.0 apg

In review: In his third NBA season since being drafted No. 15 overall, Kispert averaged career-high scoring and assist numbers while appearing in all but two games for the Wizards, who went just 15-67, narrowly avoiding the worst record in the NBA. Kispert’s 3-point percentage dipped from 42% in 2022-23 to 38% last season, but that was largely the byproduct of more volume for someone who attempted a career-high 6.0 3s per game. It’s still unclear how Kispert’s role will evolve in his fourth NBA season, but there should be lots of change him around him this offseason. Washington recently promoted interim coach Brian Keefe to a full-time position and the Wizards have two first-round picks in the 2024 NBA draft, including the second overall pick.

Jalen Suggs, G, Orlando Magic

Year: Third

2023-24 reg. season stats: 75 games (75 starts), 12.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.4 spg

In review: Coming off two turbulent, injury-ridden seasons to start his NBA career, Suggs was rewarded in his third year, posting career-high scoring and efficiency numbers while becoming a key cog for a young Orlando team that returned to the postseason for the first time since 2019-20. Suggs started in all 82 regular-season and postseason games in which he appeared, earning NBA All-Defensive second-team honors. At 22 years old, the former GU guard was the youngest player to average at least 1.4 steals per game last season and he raised both his field-goal and 3-point field-goal percentages, shooting 47.1% and 39.7% iafter making 41.9% and 32.7% the year prior. Suggs and Orlando took Cleveland to seven games before bowing out in the first round of the playoffs, but the former lottery pick put up solid numbers, averaging 14.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 3.3 apg in the postseason.

Rui Hachimura, F, Los Angeles Lakers

Year: Sixth

2023-24 reg. season stats: 68 games (39 starts), 13.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.2 apg

In review: After trade rumors initially suggested the Lakers could move on from Hachimura this offseason, recent reports have clarified he’s likely part of the team’s plans in 2024-25 and Los Angeles won’t try to actively shop the sixth-year pro. Hachimura completed his first full season with the Lakers, nearly matching his career-high scoring average despite making just 39 regular-season starts and logging 26.8 minutes per game – the third-highest total of his career. The Japanese forward shot better than 50% from the field (53.7%) for the first time since entering the NBA and became a reliable perimeter shooter for the Lakers, eclipsing 40% from the 3-point line (42.2%) for just the second time as a pro while attempting a career-high 3.4 3s per game. Three of Hachimura’s seven career 30-point games happened during a three-month stretch last season, including a career-best 36-point game against the Utah Jazz.

Brandon Clarke, F, Memphis Grizzlies

Year: Sixth

2023-24 reg. season stats: Six games (one start), 11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.5 apg

In review: Clarke’s sixth NBA season was reduced to just six appearances due to a torn Achilles the former GU forward sustained during a regular-season game near the end of the 2022-23 season. Following a long hiatus, Clarke returned to the court for a March 27 game against his former college teammate, Hachimura, and the Lakers. Clarke averaged 22 minutes for Memphis through the final six games of the regular season, posting 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in a 110-108 win over Detroit. The Achilles setback may impact Clarke’s chances of earning a spot on Canada’s Olympic roster, but he should return to being a high-impact player for Memphis by the time the 2024-25 NBA season begins.

Zach Collins, F, San Antonio Spurs

Year: Seventh

2023-24 reg. season stats: 69 games (29 starts), 11.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.8 apg

In review: It may not have been much of a surprise to see Collins’ scoring and rebounding numbers plateau – or dip in some cases – in his first season playing alongside Victor Wembanyama, the 7-4 center from France who earned NBA Rookie of the Year honors. Moving forward, San Antonio will have to decide if the Collins-Wembanyama partnership can work long term as the Spurs continue to build a roster around the French prodigy. Collins appeared in 69 games – the second-highest total of his career – and avoided the injury setbacks that have plagued his first six seasons in the NBA. The former Gonzaga one-and-done saw his volume as a 3-point shooter increase, but also watched his 3-point percentage drop to 32.1% – the second-lowest clip of his career.

Domantas Sabonis, F, Sacramento Kings

Year: Eighth

2023-24 reg. season stats: 82 games (82 starts), 19.4 ppg, 13.7 rpg, 8.2 apg

In review: Just six players in the NBA started and played in all 82 regular-season games. We mentioned one of them earlier this story, but Sabonis also falls into the category, appearing in 82 games for the first time in his NBA career. The veteran forward led the league in triple-doubles with 26 and was one of just three players with at least 20, joining NBA MVP Nikola Jokic (25) and Luka Doncic (21). Despite missing out on the All-Star Game for only the second time since 2019, Sabonis managed to post career-high rebounding (13.7) and assist (8.2) numbers while recording his second-highest scoring average (19.4) since joining the league in 2016. The league’s top rebounder for the second consecutive year, Sabonis was also named to the All-NBA third team for the second time in as many years.

Kelly Olynyk, F, Utah Jazz/ Toronto Raptors

Year: 11th

2023-24 reg. season stats: 78 games (27 starts), 9.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.3 apg

In review: Olynyk’s brief tenure in Utah ended in early February when the 33-year-old journeyman was sent back to his home country to play for the Toronto Raptors. After starting in just eight of 50 games and averaging 20.4 minutes for the Jazz, Olynyk played a bigger role in Toronto, starting in 19 of 28 games while averaging 26.4 minutes. The Toronto native, who’s had stints in Boston, Miami, Houston, Detroit and Utah, signed a two-year extension valued at $26.25 million with his hometown Raptors shortly after joining the team and should have an opportunity to make his Olympic debut – possibly as Canada’s captain – this summer in Paris.