Trojans in the NBA hope to capitalize on a strong start

The NBA season kicked off Tuesday, Oct. 18 with matchups between four of the most recognizable brands in basketball. The Philadelphia 76ers traveled to the Eastern Conference champion, Boston Celtics, where the Celtics won by a score of 126-117. The Los Angeles Lakers played in San Francisco against the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors did not show any signs of a hangover, easing to a 123-109 victory. The only Trojan to play on opening night was fifth year guard De’Anthony Melton of the 76ers. Here’s a look at other former Trojans looking to make an impact on their respective teams. 

Big Man Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Second year Evan Mobley is coming off a tremendous rookie season where he averaged 15 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game, and 1.7 blocks per game. His performance earned him a spot on the NBA all-rookie first team and second place in the rookie of the year race. Mobley’s Cleveland Cavaliers are off to an impressive 2-1 start, led by newly acquired Donovan Mitchell. Mobley has also contributed to their success averaging 13.3 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game. 

The former second team All-American at USC is also looking to stay healthy during his sophomore campaign, as he dealt with ankle injuries throughout his first season in the NBA. Mobley has added some muscle and gained perimeter offense, so he can develop into one of the best 3-and-D players in the NBA. 

Guard/forward DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

DeMar DeRozan is looking to add onto his impressive performance last year. The veteran averaged career highs in points at 27.9 points per game and 3-point shooting percentage at 35.2%. In his 14th year in the NBA, the former Trojan earned one fifth place vote in the MVP race, the same number of votes as legends like Kevin Durant and LeBron James. 

The 33 year old has led the Bulls to a 3-2 start to the season, where he is leading the team in points, with 27.3 points per game, and assists, 5.3 assists per game. DeRozan is looking to lead the Bulls to another playoff appearance along with fellow Trojan Nikola Vucevic. Last year, the Bulls went home disappointed as they were a first round exit, losing to the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Forward/center Onyeka Okongwu, Atlanta Hawks

Third year big man Onyeka Okongwu is looking to gain more rotational minutes compared to his first two seasons in the NBA. Okongwu has only played in 50 and 48 games respectively in his first two seasons, out of a full 82 game schedule. But when he is on the court he has presented his strengths, averaging 8.2 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game last season. 

Okongwu looks to be a strong sixth man in the Hawks rotation, with the highest average minutes per game off of the bench. The quicker Okongwu is an effective complement big man to slower veteran Clint Capela. 

The former star alongside the Ball brothers at Chino Hills High School will look to put his name in the starting lineup for the Hawks if he keeps playing efficiently and most importantly stays healthy. 

Guard/forward Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets

The first round pick out of USC in 2019 had a scorching start this NBA season. Porter Jr. is averaging 20.8 points per game while shooting 47.6% from behind the arc through the Rockets first four games of the season. He significantly improved his 3 point-shooting percentage from 31% to 37.5% a season ago. The former Trojan is also leading the Rockets in assists and steals per game so far this season. 

Porter Jr. is a key piece in the young Houston Rockets team alongside fellow first round picks Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. In order to have a successful season, the Rockets need the high energy Porter Jr. to showcase his skills every night. 

The Houston Rockets and Porter Jr. agreed to a 4 year, $82.5 million contract extension this past week.