Oklahoma basketball: Three former OU stars now making it big in NBA

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 16: Buddy Hield #24 of the Sacramento Kings shoots during the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest as part of the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend at Spectrum Center on February 16, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 16: Buddy Hield #24 of the Sacramento Kings shoots during the MTN DEW 3-Point Contest as part of the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend at Spectrum Center on February 16, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Not many Oklahoma basketball players are fortunate enough to be selected in the annual NBA Draft.

Unlike some of the elite programs in college basketball, very few Sooners make it into the NBA, let alone make it big once they get there. Everyone recognizes that football is king at Oklahoma and that when basketball is making headlines, it is a celebrated bonus.

With the 2019 NBA Draft just a week  away, it seemed like an appropriate time to look back at the last decade of the NBA Draft, a period that may go down as the best in OU hoops history in terms of top draft picks and three former Sooners who are definitely making a mark at the next level.

The NFL Draft consist of just two rounds of 30 players each. The number of players selected by  of the 30 NBA teams is dramatically fewer than in the draft process of the other major professional sports.

Eight sooners have been selected in the last 10 NBA Drafts, and three of those were taken among the first six players selected overall in their respective draft years.

The three former Sooner stars I’m referring to – Blake Griffin, Buddy Hield and Trae Young — not only were outstanding college players, but had stellar seasons in the NBA this year, as well.

Griffin (2009) and Hield (2016) were both Wooden and Naismith National Players of the Year, and Young led the nation in both scoring and assists in his one season in an Oklahoma uniform just a year ago.

Blake Griffin

Griffin was the No. 1 overall player taken in the 2009 NBA Draft, the top draft pick of the Los Angeles Clippers. Although plagued by injuries throughout his 10-year NBA career (he missed the entire 2009-10 season because of an injury and did not debut as a rookie until a year after he was drafted), Griffin just enjoyed his best pro season.

His 24.5 points-per-game average this past season as a member of the Detroit Pistons, ranked 12th among the NBA’s top scorers for 2018-19. Griffin also averaged 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.

Griffin spent his first eight and a half NBA seasons with the Clippers.  Midway through the 2017-18 season, the former Oklahoma star was traded to the Pistons. He had a 50-point game against the Philadelphia 76ers in his third game of the 2018-19 season, and scored 45 late in the season as a visiting player back home in his native Oklahoma against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

For his nine active professional seasons, Griffin has averaged 21.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.

Buddy Hield

Hield followed Griffin into the NBA seven seasons later. Hield wasn’t the top pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but he was selected sixth overall by the New Orleans Pelicans. He didn’t even complete a full season as a Pelican, though. After 57 games with New Orleans, Hield became the property of the Sacramento Kings, the result of a five-player trade and other considerations.

Hield, a native of the Bahamas, just completed his third full season in the NBA and averaged a career best 20.7 points for the Kings playing in all 82 games. His career average is 14.9.

At Oklahoma, the player they called “Buddy Buckets” led college baskeball in three-point shots. He fired up 322 three-balls and made 46 percent of them. This season with the Kings, Hield averaged 43 percent behind the three-point line and over three made threes per game. That was seventh best on the NBA this season.

On Dec. 19, at home against Oklahoma City, Hield scored a season-high 37 points in a 132-113 loss to the Thunder.

Trae Young

Young didn’t travel far from home to play basketball at the University of Oklahoma. He was born in Lubbock, Texas, where he father, Rayford, was a star player at Texas Tech. His family moved to Norman when he was very young, and he attended Norman North High School, where he became a McDonald’s All-American and one of the most sought-after players in the 2017 national recruiting class.

Young played only one season at OU. He made the most of it, however, leading the nation in both scoring and assists, the only player in NCAA recorded history to do so. He averaged 27.4 points and 8.7 assists per game his freshman year, declaring for the NBA Draft at the end of the 2017-18 season.

In his single season at Oklahoma, Young recorded nine games with 30 or more points and four times exceeded 40 points, with a high of 48 in a loss to Oklahoma State.

The Dallas Mavericks selected Young with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 draft, but promptly traded him to the Atlanta Hawks along with a protected future first-round pick in exchange for Luc Doncic, who the Hawks had selected with the No. 3 overall draft selection.

Young averaged 19.1 points per game in his rookie NBA season, and his 8.1 assists was fourth best in the league. He scored a season-high 49 points in a four-overtime 168-161 loss to the Chicago Bulls on March 1.

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The former Oklahoma shooting guard was a unanimous selection to the NBA All-Rookie Team this season. He was No, 1 in assists and No. 2 in scoring among all NBA rookies in 2018-19.