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.
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 as well as any other NBA contributions I can dig up. Any Pitt stuff is irrelevant here. Things I'll be looking at include stats, championships, awards, etc.
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. 2 - Charles Smith
Smith went down in history as possibly the greatest Pitt player of all time and he had a long career in the NBA as well.
Smith was the Panthers' highest draft choice of all time, going third overall to the Los Angeles Clippers. He proved himself worthy of being a top pick almost instantly, averaging nearly 20 points and seven rebounds per game over his first three years. He averaged 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game as a rookie and landed on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team.
After four seasons in Los Angeles, he went on to star with the New York Knicks for 3 1/2 seasons before being traded to the San Antonio Spurs to wrap up his career. Smith averaged more than ten points per game each season in his first seven years in the league.
Over nine years in the NBA, he averaged 14.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, suiting up 564 times while starting in 419 games. While Smith never won an NBA title, he also helped his team reach five consecutive NBA Playoffs from 1991 - 1996.
No. 1 Billy Knight
Knight tops my list of Pitt players with pro careers for any number of reasons. After a standout career at Pitt, Knight was drafted by both the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and ABA's Indiana Pacers in 1974.
After averaging 17.1 points and 7.9 rebounds as a rookie in the ABA, he was named to the league's All-Rookie First Team. He also helped the Pacers to the ABA Finals that year before they lost against the Kentucky Colonels.
Knight's sophomore year in the pros proved to be the best in his career when he averaged 28.1 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists - all career-highs. For his efforts, he was named to the All-ABA First Team that year. Knight made the ABA's All-Star Game that season then made the NBA's All-Star Game the following year after the merger - both with the Indiana Pacers. That year, his third season, saw him average 26.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He finished second in the league in scoring in both his 1975-76 and 1976-77 seasons.
While his most prominent seasons were with the Pacers, Knight also did big things with other teams. In a year with Buffalo, he averaged 22.9 points and 7.2 rebounds. He also averaged just under 14 points per contest in 40 games with Boston in 1978-79 and just under 13 points per game with the Kansas City Kings in the 1980s.
In a career that spanned 11 years and 821 games, Knight averaged 16.9 points and 5.3 rebounds. He also shot over 50% from the field as a shooting guard and small forward while averaging more than a steal per game.