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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Former Arizona Wildcats find new homes in NBA

Former Wildcat Solomon Hill shoots the ball against ASU on Jan. 19, 2013 in Tempe, Ariz.
File Photo
Former Wildcat Solomon Hill shoots the ball against ASU on Jan. 19, 2013 in Tempe, Ariz.

The first day of July marked the first day of free agency in the NBA, and with the 2016-17 salary cap jumping by over $20 million from the previous year, teams didn’t hesitate throw the big bucks at prospective free agents.

Luckily for several former Arizona basketball players, they were beneficiaries of the league’s increased budget.

A few former Wildcats moved up in the NBA coaching ranks as well.

Solomon Hill inks massive deal with the New Orleans Pelicans

Hill, 25, turned an outstanding second half to the 2015-16 season and postseason into a four-year, $52 million with the New Orleans Pelicans. The former Indiana Pacer shot 41.2 percent on 3s after the All-Star break and made 11 of his 19 3-point attempts in Indiana’s first-round loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Hill’s hot shooting along with his reputation as a solid defensive player, made him a highly-desired pic — despite the fact that he had struggled to find a major role with the Pacers in his first two seasons in Indianapolis. The Pelicans are banking on the expectation that Hill’s shooting late in the 2015-16 season was not a fluke.

Jerryd Bayless to add veteran presence to Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers have won just 28 games in the past two campaigns, but the team’s days of bottoming out in order to secure a top draft pick are coming to a close. The team has developing talent and a new front office regime that has put more focus on adding veteran players to a young roster.

One of those veteran players was Jerryd Bayless, who the 76ers signed on to a three-year, $27 million deal. The team doesn’t have a whole lot of NBA talent at the point guard position, so there’s a strong chance that Bayless will wind up being the starter.

He’ll be competing with former Wildcat T.J. McConnell and others for that job.

Derrick Williams takes his talents to South Beach

Prior to free agency, Williams opted out of the second year of a two-year, nearly $10 million deal with the New York Knicks, making him a free agent again this summer. While he might have been looking for a pay raise, he didn’t find one, as he signed a one-year, $5 million contract with the Miami Heat — the same annual value as his contract with the Knicks would have been had he opted-in.

However, the 25-year-old will be hitting the free agent market again next summer, so a strong season with the Heat could end up turning into a big pay-day.

The former second-overall pick will try to help replace long-time Heat superstar Dwyane Wade, who signed with his hometown Chicago Bulls.

Jordan Hill joins promising Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves, armed with budding superstars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins among others, are expected to make significant strides in the win column this upcoming season, and the team has added a useful piece to its front court depth.

Former Wildcat Jordan Hill agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal with Minnesota.

Given the jump in the salary cap, it was a bit surprising that Hill didn’t get a more lucrative contract.

Regardless, Hill will likely be a key bench player on a team that many expect to contend for a playoff spot this season.

Lakers hire trio of former Wildcats to coaching staff

The Los Angeles Lakers made a head coaching change following a 17-win season, and hired Luke Walton as their new head coach. Walton, 36, was Steve Kerr’s lead assistant with the Golden State Warriors in 2015-16 and was the Warriors’ interim head coach as Kerr recovered from back surgery. Walton led the team to a 39-4 record, including a NBA-record 24-0 start.

After taking over the Lakers, Walton added Arizona’s own Jud Buechler and Jesse Mermuys to the team’s coaching staff. Buechler, a 12-year NBA player, played at Arizona from 1986-1990. This is his first NBA coaching position.

Mermuys, a graduate of the UA, was Arizona basketball’s director of operations from 2006-2008.

Mermuys coached the Lakers’ Summer League team this July, and will be one of Walton’s top assistants. Buechler’s role is unclear at the moment.

Bret Brielmaier added to Brooklyn Nets’ coaching staff

Brielmaier continues his ascendence in the NBA coaching ranks. The 28-year-old spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers and will now be joining Kenny Atkinson’s coaching staff in Brooklyn in a larger role.

Other Wildcats Still Looking For a Home

Former Wildcat Chase Budinger remains a free agent, and is still looking to find out which team he’ll suit up for in the upcoming season.

The 28-year-old played in 66 games durring the 2015-16 season — 49 with the Pacers and 17 with the Phoenix Suns — averaging 4.1 points per game along with 11.8 minutes per contest.

Recent UA graduate Ryan Anderson didn’t make it onto an NBA roster, but did sign his first contract as a professional player nonetheless, agreeing to a deal with the Antwerp Giants in Belgium.

Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley are competing in the NBA Summer League, and hope to make their way on to NBA rosters when all is said and done this offseason.

If Ashley does not make an NBA team, he’ll remain with Alba Berlin of the German Basketball Bundesliga, he told the Daily Wildcat. He averaged a team-high 5.7 rebounds with Alba Berlin this past season.

Gabe York concluded his Summer League with the Charlotte Hornets and is also looking to secure a spot with an NBA team. In all likelihood, however, he’ll end up playing overseas as well.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter

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