Oregon’s draft class makes its NBA mark
EUGENE — After Dillon Brooks had the highest-scoring debut for a Memphis rookie in 11 years on Wednesday, the Grizzlies put him on their Twitter feed for a question-and-answer session.
“Is Rookie of the Year a goal for you?” a fan asked Brooks.
“Yes it is,” he replied. “I think it is every rookie’s goal.”
With Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, Josh Jackson and Dennis Smith Jr. among the preseason favorites for the award, Brooks is a longshot, particularly if he continues to come off the bench. However, his debut line of 19 points, five rebounds, four steals, two assists and two blocks in a 103-91 victory over New Orleans was one of the more impressive lines by a rookie class member through the first few days of the season.
Brooks has already helped set one record by joining five other former Oregon players on NBA rosters, the most ever at one time for the school.
That surpassed the mark of four set three times in the 2000s when Luke Ridnour, Fred Jones and Luke Jackson were joined by Alex Scales in 2005-06 and Aaron Brooks in 2007-08. The following year, Jones, Ridnour, Brooks and Malik Hairston all played.
Four Ducks from last year’s Final Four run are in the league, including three who left early and were drafted in June, to give Oregon its largest draft class since four were taken in 1971.
Jordan Bell is averaging four points a game for champion Golden State after being taken with the 38th overall pick in the second round. Tyler Dorsey, picked 41st by Atlanta, did not play in the Hawks’ opener before taking the court for three scoreless minutes on Friday and four more Monday.
Brooks, picked 45th, followed up his stellar debut with nine points in 32 minutes on Saturday night against the Warriors, with the two Oregon rookies facing off in a 111-101 Grizzlies victory. Bell had two rebounds and one block in four minutes.
“I was awfully proud of them,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “The fact that all of them got guaranteed contracts and are doing well really speaks a lot about them and how competitive they are and how they all improved their game.
“None of them were projected out of high school to develop like that, but they all worked awfully hard. Because of that, I think they should all feel really good about where they are at right now.”
Chris Boucher (Oregon 2015-17), a 6-foot-10 forward who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in the Pac-12 tournament, signed as a free agent with Golden State while recovering from surgery.
Guard Dylan Ennis (2015-17) played for the Warriors in summer league before signing to play in Serbia, and Elgin Cook (2013-16) was waived by the Warriors earlier this month.
“Definitely a lot of Ducks influence in Golden State’s locker room,” said Elijah Brown, a graduate transfer for Oregon this season whose dad, Mike, is an assistant with the Warriors.
“They already have started talking trash. You have Klay Thompson from Washington State, and Steve Kerr and Andre Iguodala from Arizona. The Pac-12 is well represented there.”
Oregon also has two veterans on NBA rosters — Joe Young (Oregon 2013-15) is back for his third season with the Pacers this fall, while Aaron Brooks (2003-07), Young’s teammate last season, signed with Minnesota for his 10th NBA season.
The Ducks have had at least one player in the league each year since Jim Barnett was a rookie in 1966-67 and 24 all time.
“I’m so proud of those guys,” Altman said. “We’ve got those four guys now, and Joe is with Indiana. Going to have a lot of teams to follow this year, so hopefully the guys will do well.”