‘Nova in the NBA: A first look at the Ex-Wildcats in the League


Courtesy of CBS Philly

‘Nova in the NBA: A first look at the Ex-Wildcats in the League

Nick France

Kyle Lowry – Point Guard, Toronto Raptors

Last Season’s Stats (courtesy of Basketball Reference): 32.2 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 6.9 APG, 42.7 FG%, 39.9 3P%

Kyle Lowry was far from the center of attention in Toronto this offseason. The Raptors fired head coach Dwayne Casey following another sweep at the hands of LeBron James. The biggest news, though, was the blockbuster acquisition of Kawhi Leonard. Lowry stated on Toronto’s media day that he is, “Excited to play with [Leonard]. Always ride or die with my team-mates.” He would go on to acknowledge that the NBA is a business, and while he may not say it to the media, it’s hard to imagine that Kyle Lowry was not upset with the Raptors for trading his closest teammate, DeMar DeRozan. Even with DeRozan gone, Lowry is still a perfect fit in the scheme of this team.

When he came into the NBA, Lowry was compared to Rajon Rondo due to a lack of shooting. However, after making his way to Toronto in 2012, he has developed into a real shooting threat to compliment his existing playmaking abilities. As such, he has become an elite NBA point guard on one of the league’s most successful teams. Since Lowry has joined the team, the Raptors have finished first in their division four out of six times. Lowry is a fantastic floor general who leads the team well. Expect him to do the same this season, even if the players around him are different.

Josh Hart – Shooting Guard, Los Angeles Lakers

Last Season’s Stats (courtesy Basketball Reference): 23.2 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 46.9 FG%, 39.6 3P%

 It’s hard to talk about the new-look Lakers without bringing up the newest Laker legend, LeBron James. Many assumed that this signing would lead to an acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, by giving up Josh Hart as well as teammates Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma. However, the Lakers did not do away with their young core, and instead signed older players to come off the bench and contribute, such as Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. With a lack of spacing and a roster full of guys on veteran minimums and rookie contracts, many question the actual basketball fit for this team and LeBron.

However, this is where Josh Hart comes in. In fact, Josh Hart’s skills as a “3-and-D” player make him a perfect shooting guard to lineup alongside LeBron James. Coming off of a Summer League in which he averaged 24.2 PPG in six games (and a jersey number change to his classic #3), Josh Hart is poised to take a big jump in his sophomore year. As James and even Lonzo Ball will handle the majority of shot-making and playmaking for the Lakers, the majority of Hart’s touches should come in catch-and-shoot or cutting situations. Hart has a tremendous ability to score off the ball, especially from deep. In his rookie season, he shot 39.6% from three-point land, including 49% when shooting from the corner, a common shooting spot in a LeBron-led offense. These shooting numbers should only improve with another season under his belt and the NBA’s best player driving in the paint at his side. LeBron James’ teams have always had a penchant for players who can shoot the three and defend multiple positions; Hart is a player who does just that, and it appears he will only be better this season.

Dante Cunningham – Small Forward/Power Forward, San Antonio Spurs

Last Season’s Stats (courtesy Basketball Reference): 20.3 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 46.8 FG%, 38.3 3P%

While certainly not the most flashy or recognizable name on this list, Dante Cunningham has made a solid career for himself after being drafted in the early second round in 2009. Cunningham has made a career out of versatility, as he is able to contribute with his slick three-point jump shot at both the wing and the power forward positions. Cunningham’s skill-set has helped him become a journeyman role-player, having been a part of seven different teams in his nine-year career.

Now on the San Antonio Spurs, Cunningham will make for a great fit within their big-man rotation. As an undersized power forward, Cunningham can slot in next to LaMarcus Aldridge to make for a dangerous perimeter pair in the frontcourt. When paired up with the older Pau Gasol, Cunningham could use his quickness to defend the opponent’s more athletic big, allowing Gasol to occupy the paint. Cunningham is a fantastic fit in the modern NBA, and Gregg Popovich should find exciting ways to bring him to his full potential, even at 31 years old.

Ryan Arcidiacono – Point Guard, Chicago Bulls

Last Season’s Stats (courtesy Basketball Reference): 12.7 MPG, 2.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 41.5 FG%, 29.0 3P%

Ryan Arcidiacono was undrafted out of Villanova back in 2016, but has played his way through the G-League to make it to the NBA. After making his NBA debut in the season opener last season for the Chicago Bulls, he played for their G-League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls. He would go back and forth between the NBA and G-League all season. While his NBA stats were not very eye-popping, he was the G-League leader in minutes per game, and averaged 13.9 PPG along with 8.5 APG. In addition, head coach Fred Hoiberg has lauded Arcidiacono for his hustle and work ethic.

Arcidiacono nearly did not make the Bulls roster this season, with competition coming from Tyler Ulis, who the Bulls claimed off of waivers this offseason. However, with Ulis’s contract being converted to a 2-way contract, Arcidiacono has made the roster – for now. Arcidiacono will be on the end of the bench for the Bulls, and may not get a lot of playing time right away. Behind Kris Dunn and Cam Payne, Arcidiacono could find some work in the rotation if his skills continue to develop as they have. Either way, be on the lookout for Arcidiacono this season on an otherwise struggling Chicago Bulls team.

Mikal Bridges – Small Forward/Shooting Guard, drafted 10th overall to the Philadelphia 76ers, traded to the Phoenix Suns

Last Season’s Stats at Villanova (courtesy Basketball Reference): 32.1 MPG, 17.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 51.4 FG%, 43.5 3P%

Mikal Bridges is arguably the most enticing prospect of the four Villanova rookies this season. Standing at 6’7” with a 7’2” wingspan, Bridges has tremendous potential on the defensive side of the ball. While Bridges could definitely benefit by adding some more muscle to his 205-pound frame, the pieces are certainly there to be a fantastic defender. On top of his defensive ability, Bridges is also a premier shooter, with a skill for off-ball movement and set shot three-point shooting.

Ultimately, Bridges is a perfect fit on a young Suns team which could use a 3-and-D player to add space and defend on the wing. While second-year player Josh Jackson is already a great wing defender, he lacks the shooting ability Bridges possesses. In the future, with more development and a bit more muscle, Bridges could make for a fantastic stretch four in a lineup alongside Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, and Deandre Ayton. For now, Bridges will be a great contributor off the bench when the Suns want to compliment fellow rookie, and first overall pick, Deandre Ayton, with more shooting.

Donte DiVincenzo – Shooting Guard, Drafted 17th overall to the Milwaukee Bucks

Last Season’s Stats at Villanova (courtesy Basketball Reference): 29.3 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.5 APG, 48.1 FG%, 40.1 3P%

Following his stellar March Madness performance, culminating in receiving the tournament’s MOP award, Donte DiVincenzo knew this year was the perfect time to declare for the draft. With fantastic athleticism, the ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor, and the confidence to take over games at a moment’s notice, the Big Ragu is certainly an exciting prospect. A fantastic performance in the NBA Combine only solidified his spot in the NBA, as he was selected by the Bucks at 17th overall. 

Donte DiVincenzo has a real shot at being a star in the NBA. Coming off the bench, DiVincenzo is a spark plug player, able to make huge momentum-shifting plays such as a chase-down block, a posterizing dunk, or a big-time three-point shot. The Bucks desperately need more shooting to surround their star Giannis Antetokounmpo, and DiVincenzo fulfills that role and more. While on the lower half of the bench to start the season, don’t be surprised if DiVincenzo is a solid sixth man or starter within a few seasons. One thing is for sure; Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Donte DiVincenzo surely make for must-watch basketball.

Omari Spellman – Power Forward/Center, Drafted 30th overall to the Atlanta Hawks

Last Season’s Stats at Villanova (courtesy Basketball Reference): 28.1 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 47.6 FG%, 43.3 3P%

Arguably the most surprising of Villanova’s draft declarations, Omari Spellman ended up being drafted 30th overall to the Atlanta Hawks, their third first-round pick, following Trae Young and Kevin Huerter. Due to being ineligible as a freshman, Spellman was effectively a one-and-done player for the Wildcats, something Villanova is not known for. However, with his size and shooting prowess, Omari Spellman projects as a perfect fit in the modern NBA.

Spellman was an essential part of the Villanova offense, as his ability to stretch the floor often opened up room for other players to score in the paint. In the NBA, this role should continue. Spellman also features enough size to be a disruptor on the defensive side of the ball. However, Spellman’s positional fit is a bit murky. Spellman is without the NBA’s usual athleticism for power forwards, but, at 6’9”, he is also not at the usual size for centers. Despite these limitations, as an option off the bench for the Hawks, expect Spellman to find his groove in the NBA and be a solid contributor to a young team that likely will not be winning many games this season.

Jalen Brunson – Point Guard, drafted 33rd overall to the Dallas Mavericks

Last Season’s Stats at Villanova (courtesy Basketball Reference): 31.8 MPG, 18.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.8 APG, 52.1 FG%, 40.8 3P%

The reigning National Player of the Year’s skill set may not be a perfect transition to the NBA, but Brunson could still develop into a solid contributor to a winning NBA team. Brunson is an undersized guard with a unique skill-set. With a lack of athleticism compared to other point guards, Brunson gets to the basket with a more crafty approach, frequently utilizing post moves. However, as a playmaker, Brunson’s skills are hard to match, as the general of the nation’s top offense last year.

While the Mavericks invested a top pick last year in their projected point guard of the future, Dennis Smith Jr., Brunson should still develop into a regular place on the floor in Dallas. With JJ Barea’s career winding down, Brunson could certainly make a name for himself as a playmaker off the bench. His skills make for a good contrast to the high-flying athlete that Smith Jr. is, and he should have a great future in Dallas.