The NBA season is approximately at its midpoint, which makes for an ideal time to check in on how the league’s ex-Trojans are faring at the next level. From rookies to veterans, several USC alumni are making an impact on their respective teams — here’s a look at the most notable ones.
Kevin Porter Jr.
A promising start for Porter was cut short on Jan. 5, when the Cleveland guard tripped and injured his left knee in a non-contact injury. The injury was less serious than initially expected, but Porter is expected to miss roughly four to six weeks with a left knee sprain. Aside from the injury, Porter’s season has been up-and-down, as he’s struggled with fouls and turnovers in his adjustment to the NBA game.
Nonetheless, Porter has impressed fans and NBA personnel this season. Although he averages just 8.5 points per game in his rookie campaign, he has shown flashes of pure brilliance, as evidenced by his impactful 24-point performance on 66% shooting against the Houston Rockets in December.
Coming off his first career All-Star appearance, the former Orlando center is having another impressive season with the Orlando Magic in his ninth season in the league. Although he hasn’t necessarily reached the heights of his career-best 2018-19 campaign, his season splits are not too far off — averaging an impressive 18.8 points per game on 44.9% shooting and tallying 11.4 rebounds.
Vucevic picked up a career-high six steals this season in a December matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers and had another notable performance in a 24-rebound effort in a win over the Miami Heat on Jan. 6. Vucevic is currently in the first season of a four-year, $100 million deal he signed with Orlando this past summer.
Former USC star DeRozan is enjoying another solid season under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. DeRozan is playing some of the most efficient basketball of his career, averaging 22.4 points per game while eclipsing a 50% field goal percentage for the first time in his 11-year career.
DeRozan’s scoring outbursts have been particularly impressive, as he’s had 30 or more points in five games this season, including a 36-point performance in Memphis on Jan. 10 in which he tacked on an additional nine rebounds and nine assists, shooting over 60 % from the field. DeRozan also had a memorable dunk over Toronto Raptors power forward Chris Boucher in a comeback win in his former home court, Scotiabank Arena Jan. 12.
DeRozan is currently in his fourth season of a five-year, $139 million deal he signed with Toronto in the 2016 offseason before being traded to San Antonio, and he holds a player option for next season.
In just his second season in the league, former Trojan and Houston Rockets draft pick Melton is showing steady growth with the Memphis Grizzlies. Melton is averaging improved numbers of 8.0 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, and he’s shooting better from the field than he did last season with the Phoenix Suns.
Melton has excelled off the bench and seems to have found his role for now. Whether or not he can progress into the starting lineup remains to be seen — especially considering the young talent Memphis has — but he’s certainly shown encouraging signs so far. The shooting guard has had four games with at least 15 points each.
More recently, he’s scored in double digits in three straight games for just the second time in his career. Melton is averaging a healthy 17 minutes per game, and it looks as if his game is progressing right on schedule.
In Dedmon’s first season under Luke Walton with the Sacramento Kings, he has been fined $50,000 by the NBA for violating league policy by publicly requesting a trade.
To Dedmon’s credit, however, he may have a point: Dedmon has played over 20 minutes in just five games this season. In four of those, Dedmon reached double digits in scoring, including one 18-point, six-rebound performance in Philadelphia in late November.
In his past two seasons with Atlanta, Dedmon averaged 25 minutes per game and was a frequent presence in the starting lineup. In his first season in Sacramento, Dedmon was relegated to more of a bench role, seeing his minutes diminish to just under 14 minutes per game.
Dedmon’s frustrations are understandable, but it remains to be seen how Sacramento will handle his trade request with the deadline looming on Feb. 6. Dedmon is still in the first year of a three-year, $40 million deal he signed with the Kings this offseason.