SB Nation's Syracuse site, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, had what I thought was a pretty good idea in identifying the school's top NBA players of all time.
Pitt's NBA lineage isn't quite as large as that of many programs, but the Panthers did/do have about 20 players that logged game time in the league. Last year during the offeason, Aron ranked the careers of Pitt players in the Jamie Dixon era. I thought it would be fun to do the same for the guys that reached the NBA or ABA.
Over the next five days, I'll reveal two guys on the list each day. My criteria for this is pretty simple - I'm factoring in only what they did in the pros. Any Pitt stuff is irrelevant here. Things I'll be looking at include stats, championships, awards, etc. I'm also only factoring in NBA or ABA careers. Pitt has had a lot of players make out very well professionally in other leagues in Europe or the CBA, but for the purposes of this, we're only looking at careers at the highest level.
Finally, I'll also give the standard disclaimer for these sorts of things that this is all opinion stuff. There's no way to create a list that will be universally accepted by everyone, but that's part of the fun. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what I got right/wrong.
No. 6 - Aaron Gray
Gray didn't have a monster career, but his longevity is worth nothing. He played seven seasons in the NBA and he would have lasted longer had it not been for a heart issue that caused his retirement. He developed at Pitt, going from a questionable D-I player to a solid center by the time he graduated.
Gray never starred in the league but did last 318 games, starting nearly 100. After being a second-round pick of the Chicago Bulls, he hung around there for 2 1/2 seasons. He finished out his career with several teams, including the New Orleans Hornets, Toronto Raptors, and Sacramento Kings. Gray also played in two NBA Playoffs with the Bulls and Hornets. He signed with the Pistons after that but the heart issue forced him into retirement.
In seven NBA seasons, Gray played in 318 games while averaging 3.4 points and 3.7 rebounds.
No. 5 - Steven Adams
If there's a guy who figures to move up this list, it's Adams.
The former Pitt center has only played three seasons in the NBA but has already made his mark. Despite not having the longevity of someone like Gray, he's already had a far greater impact. In only his second season with the Oklahoma Thunder (his third year in organized U.S. basketball), Adams became the team's starter at center, replacing veteran Kendrick Perkins.
Adams had a relatively slow rookie year after being taken 12th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2013 NBA Draft, but has started to turn his potential into actual performance on the court. He's averaged about eight points and seven rebounds over the past two seasons and nearly helped the Thunder to the NBA Finals this season. Also helping Adams break into the top five already is his work in the NBA Playoffs. This year, he averaged nearly a double double (10.1 points and 9.5 rebounds) in the postseason and his future is incredibly bright. By the time it's all said and done, Adams could even top this list someday.
So far in only three seasons, Adams has played in 231 games, starting in 167 of them, while averaging 6.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.
Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.