The 2009 NBA season tipped off Tuesday night, and nine former Florida Gators standouts look to make an impact in the league this year. Some won National Championships while in the Orange & Blue, others went undrafted – all want to prove that the Gators program can produce legitimate NBA stars.
Al Horford, F/C, Atlanta Hawks
2008 – Averaged 11.5 points on 0.525 shooting in 33.5 minutes. Also contributed 9.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 blocks. Led his team to the second round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs, where they were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
2009 – While still young, The Godfather is becoming the leader, heart and soul of the Hawks. Horford tweaked his ankle this week and is probable to play Wednesday night in the team’s season opener.
David Lee, F/C, New York Knicks
2008 – Averaged a double-double with 16 points on 0.549 shooting and 11.7 rebounds in 34.9 minutes. First Knicks player since Patrick Ewing with 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game; 11th Knick to score 10 consecutive double-doubles.
2009 – Looking for a big money five- or six-year deal in the offseason, Lee signed a one-year $7 million contract with the Knicks. He will start at center and remains the most popular player in the city.
Seven more former Gators profiled after the jump…
Udonis Haslem, PF, Miami Heat
2008 – Averaged 10.6 points on 0.518 shooting in 34.1 minutes. Also contributed 8.2 rebounds. His Heat team lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Hawks.
2009 – Haslem lost his starting job with the Heat to second-year PF Michael Beasley. He had started for six consecutive years in Miami.
Joakim Noah, F/C, Chicago Bulls
2008 – Averaged 6.7 points on 0.556 shooting in 24.2 minutes. Also contributed 7.6 rebounds, an assist and 1.4 blocks. His Bulls team lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Boston Celtics.
2009 – Noah improved his strength in the offseason and averaged 10.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in the preseason. The Bulls staff believes he is capable of averaging a double-double in 2009.
Corey Brewer, G/F, Minnesota Timberwolves
2008 – Averaged 6.2 points on 0.417 shooting in 20.5 minutes. Also contributed 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists. Only played 15 games in 2008-09 season-ending surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
2009 – Brewer hopes to improve his game and shooting, even with a repaired ACL. “The NBA is hard, but now I’m starting to feel real good, like myself, again.”
Marreese Speights, F/C, Philadelphia 76ers
2008 – Averaged 7.7 points on 0.502 shooting in 16 minutes. Also contributed 3.7 rebounds. His 76ers team lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Magic.
2009 – In his second year in the league, Speights is expected to see more time on the court and a greater opportunity to utilize his talents along with stars G/F Andre Igoudala and F Elton Brand.
Mike Miller, G/F, Washington Wizards
2008 – Averaged 9.9 points on 0.482 shooting in 32.3 minutes. Also contributed 6.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Timberwolves. Traded to Wizards in June.
2009 – The former fifth overall pick and 2001 Rookie of the Year will play for his fourth team in his 10th NBA season. Miller posted 6 points and 8 rebounds in 22 minutes Tuesday night in the Wizards’ season opener.
Jason Williams, PG, Orlando Magic
2008 – After agreeing to a contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, Williams retired from the NBA in September. He signed with the Magic in August 2009.
2009 – If Williams can play even close to the way he did for the Heat in 2006, he will serve as a valuable back-up behind starting PG Jameer Nelson.
Matt Bonner, F/C, San Antonio Spurs
2008 – Averaged 8.2 points on 0.496 shooting in 23.8 minutes. Also contributed 4.8 rebounds and one assist. His Spurs team lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Dallas Mavericks.
2009 – Bonner will continue to operate as a reserve for the Spurs, who traded for F Richard Jefferson in June and look to return to prominence in the West.