Mountain West alumni in the NBA bubble
Five Mountain West schools will be represented as the NBA resumes
The NBA is getting ready for a restart at the end of this month with the 22 teams that made it into the bubble in Florida. Among the players who made the trip are 10 Mountain West alumni representing five schools in eight NBA teams.
JaVale McGee – Los Angeles Lakers
Nevada Wolf Pack (2006–2008)
Before the season was paused, McGee was proving to be a valuable asset for the Lakers, the team that currently sits at the top of the Western Conference with a 49-14 record.
He’s played in 61 games this season. In the 16.8 minutes he is averaging, the 7’0 center is getting 6.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Before the pause, he was shooting at 64.0% from the field and 50.0% from beyond the arc.
McGee has asthma, and was even hospitalized with pneumonia for three days in 2018. However, he has made it known that he feels the organization will take the necessary precautions to keep him and others safe in the bubble.
Kawhi Leonard – Los Angeles Clippers
San Diego State Aztecs (2009–2011)
Leonard delayed his trip to Orlando due to family matters but he has arrived and participated in his first practice on July 13.
He is eight overall in the league in scoring this season with an average of 26.9 points per game. He is also contributing 7.3 rebounds and 5 assists per game to his team. His talent is obvious, the main question is his health. Leonard is known for load management, and was struggling with an old knee injury when the NBA was suspended.
During media availability on July 13 head coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t expect limits on Leonard because “Kawhi is healthy, for the most part” but that they were still going to be smart about how they maintained him and the rest of the players to get to the playoffs with a healthy team.
Paul George – Los Angeles Clippers
Fresno State Bulldogs (2008–2010)
Like Leonard, George wasn’t fully healthy when the world of sports stopped turning. He was recovering from offseason surgery on both shoulders but the last four months have given that recovery some extra time.
George is the Clippers’ second highest scorer, contributing 21.0 points. 5.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
The Clippers are No. 2 in the Western Conference standings, just below the Lakers, a team the Clippers have already beat twice this season. The two LA teams will face off on the first day of reopening.
Brandon Clarke – Memphis Grizzlies
SJSU Spartans (2015–2017)
This is Clarke’s first season in the NBA. He has appeared in 50 games, averaging 12.0 points 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. The 6’8 power forward suffered a quadriceps injury late February, but the four-month break gave him time to recover so he can finish his rookie season on the court.
Memphis will reopen the season with a game against the Portland Trail Blazers on July 31. When the Grizzlies beat Portland on Feb. 12, Clarke tied his season-high 27 points by going 12-of-14 from the field. That wasn’t completely out of character because he has been shooting at 62.3% this season.
Zylan Cheatham New Orleans Pelicans
San Diego State Aztecs (2015–2017)
Cheatham went undrafted in 2019 but his participation with the Pelicans during Summer League that year helped him sign a two-way contract with the team.
The rookie has only appeared in three games for the Pelicans so far, but he’s had good experience with Erie, the Pelican’s G-League affiliate. In 34 appearances there he averaged 16.2 points and 11.6 rebounds.
Patrick McCaw – Toronto Raptors
UNLV Rebels (2014–2016)
McCaw has won three championship rings in his first three seasons in the NBA. He’ll continue chasing a fourth one alongside the Raptors, the team that has surprised the league by reaching second place in the Eastern Conference even without Kawhi Leonard.
McCaw has seen the court in 37 games this season, with an average of 4.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. The Raptors had all 17 roster members go into the bubble. The players and other members of the organization have been in Florida since June 22.
Paul Watson – Toronto Raptors
Fresno State Bulldogs (2013–2017)
Watson started the season with Raptors 905, Toronto’s G-League affiliate, averaging 18.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in 13 games. It took almost three years after graduating from Fresno State, but Watson finally made his NBA debut with the Atlanta Hawks early January thanks to a 10-day contract.
After he was released by the Hawks, Watson signed a two-way deal with Toronto on Jan. 15.
Derrick Jones Jr.– Miami Heat
UNLV Rebels (2015–2016)
Jones tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after the NBA began mandatory testing in preparation for the resumption of the season. The 23-year-old never reported any symptoms and he was cleared in time to travel to Florida with the rest of his team.
Jones has played in 51 games this season, averaging 8.9 points and 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
Tyler Johnson Brooklyn Nets
Fresno State (2010–2014)
Johnson is new to the Nets. The 6’4 guard signed with the team late June, but he brought plenty of experience with him. He appeared in 31 games with the Phoenix Suns earlier this season, averaging 5.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 16.6 minutes per game.
He has registered a combined 301 career games with the Suns and the Miami Heat.
Khem Birch – Orlando Magic
Birch was re-signed by the Magic in 2019, a two-year deal. The 6’9 center is not a scorer, but he is a valuable role player. Head coach Steve Clifford asked the 27-year-old to go way outside his comfort zone this season. Injuries were affecting the team and as a result, Birch was asked to play as starting power forward.
The NBA is beginning scrimmages on July 22, and the Magic will get a good look at where they are at by having their first game be against the Clippers.