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Former UConn men’s basketball players struggle in NBA Playoffs

Andre Drummond and Kemba Walker both had inauspicious ends to the 2020-21 NBA season.

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Two Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

As the NBA playoffs started, UConn men’s basketball put out this neat little graphic.

That’s a formidable starting five of alums, with possibly only Duke, Kansas, and Kentucky trotting out a better unit. Four weeks later, how has that group fared? Well, let’s ask Pete Campbell from Mad Men:

Andre Drummond — Los Angeles Lakers

Drummond was deemed an intriguing piece for the Lake Show’s title defense; a buyout steal that gobbles up boards and put-backs at an elite rate. After averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds in just under 25 minutes for the Lakers in 22 games, Drummond looked poised to give the Lakers everything he thrives at.

Drummond logged only 17 minutes against the Warriors in the play-in game, putting up four points and seven rebounds but The small ball Warriors were an awful matchup for him and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel opted to match Steve Kerr’s pint-sized unit.

Against the Phoenix Suns, Drummond got off to a good start, putting up 12 points and nine rebounds in a Game One loss, and followed it up with a 15-point, 12-rebound effort in a Game Two win. That was the high-point. Despite logging double-digit rebounds in the last four games, Drummond’s minutes never eclipsed 25 after that and the injury-riddled LeBrons bowed out to the up-and-coming Suns.

Now a free agent, there’s some uncertainty as to which teams will take a gamble on the big man. As has been shown all playoffs, teams are straying from the traditional big anchor down low and opting for smaller lineups. If a post presence like Drummond is to survive, he’ll need to adapt the way Suns’ big man DeAndre Ayton has; by improving his defensive mobility.

2021 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Kemba Walker — Boston Celtics

Cardiac Kemba was unconscious to close out the regular season, averaging 17 points, six assists and five rebounds in the month of April, all to the tune of a 45 percent clip from the field. He then poured in 29 points and seven rebounds in the Celtics’ win over the Wizards in the Eastern Conference play-in game. With four days to rest his troublesome knee, Walker looked ready to duel former Celtic Kyrie Irving in the first round of the playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets.

However, foul trouble limited Walker to just 27 minutes vs. the Nets, resulting in an ugly 5-16 performance from the field for 15 points. Like Drummond, it was all downhill from there. After a pedestrian Game 3 stat-line of six points on 21 percent shooting from the field, Kemba’s balky knee acted up and he missed the remaining two games — both blowouts by the Nets.

It will be an interesting summer for Walker, to say the least. While he finally gets a full offseason to rehab the knee, his albatross contract and age puts his future in Boston under the microscope. New team president (and de-facto GM) Brad Stevens will be kicking the tires on any and all ways to improve the Celtics after a disappointing season and that unfortunately means potentially moving on from Walker.

There are two Kemba camps. There are those (like myself) that think a real offseason of rest will do wonders to his knee and the continued ascension of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown means Kemba can scale back his workload and operate as an effective distributor, locker room leader, and occasional scorer.

Then the other camp sees a sub-6-foot guard on the wrong side of 30 with $70+ million left on his contract. This group thinks moving him for something — anything — will benefit both parties.

The jury’s out as to what will happen, but get used to seeing Kemba in a flurry of trade rumors this summer.

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics - Game Three Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Rudy Gay — San Antonio Spurs

Gay and the Spurs ran into the unexpected buzzsaw that was Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in round. During that loss, Gay came off the bench to put up 20 points and seven rebounds in just 28 minutes. His final points of the season came on a bomb from the top of the key to cut the Memphis lead to three with nine seconds to play.

Gay will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but his solid stint with the Spurs — 11 points and five rebounds a game — should mean he’ll have plenty of suitors. Whereas the demand for the Drummond types seem to be dwindling, NBA teams all over can use shooting with size; something Gay possesses in droves.

San Antonio Spurs v Utah Jazz Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Jeremy Lamb, Amida Brimah — Indiana Pacers

The Pacers fell to the Wizards in the play-in game. Knee soreness — the same one in which he tore his ACL in 2020 — kept Lamb out of Indiana’s final 16 games. Overall, Lamb appeared in exactly half of the Pacers’ regular season contests, averaging 10 points and nearly four rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game.

Lamb should join his 2011 backcourt mate Kemba on a rest-heavy offseason.

“I can take the summer to strengthen my body and just get right so I can have a healthy year next year,” he told NBA.com.

However, the Pacers have a glut of wings, so Lamb could be on the move this offseason too.

As for Brimah, it was a historic year for him. He finally saw his first NBA action, appearing in five regular season games down the stretch due to injuries. Brimah earned five minutes in the play-in game, logging five points and three rebounds. You can’t teach size and mobility, so perhaps the small sample size is enough for a team to take a flier on the big man next year.

2021 Play-In Tournament - Charlotte Hornets v Indiana Pacers Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images