Former Pac-12 stars lead charge into the NBA Conference Finals
The 2021 NBA Conference Finals are underway and five former Pac-12 standouts are looking to punch their ticket to the NBA Finals later this month. The former Pac-12 stars still competing in the final four teams left range from rookies to 13-year veterans and from all stars to role players, while all have a singular focus - the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy.
Deandre Ayton, the 2018 No. 1 overall pick out of the University of Arizona, is playing in his first postseason for the surging Phoenix Suns, who find themselves three wins away from their first NBA Finals since 1993. Ayton nearly snagged a double-double in his Conference Finals debut, scoring 20 points and adding nine rebounds, as the Suns defeated the Los Angeles Clippers to take a 1-0 advantage.
Ayton hasn’t been shy about the prowess that the often-overlooked Suns have made this season. The center published an article in the Players Tribune on the path the Suns have taken over the past two seasons.
It’s halftime of WCF Game 1 and @DeandreAyton has 14 points.
He also wrote this, which is worth your time! https://t.co/n0xBuWFC7L
— Arizona Basketball (@ArizonaMBB) June 20, 2021
As Ayton wrote, “No one even understood how hungry we were. I think they understand now.”
Onyeka Okongwu missed the first part of the season due to injury, but since making his debut the former USC Trojan has shown why the Atlanta Hawks made him the No. 6 overall pick in last year’s draft. Okongwu turned in his strongest performance of the year (20 points, 15 rebounds) in Atlanta’s regular season finale and has since found himself playing valuable minutes in the Hawks' title chase.
— USC Men's Basketball (@USC_Hoops) June 19, 2021
Joining Okongwu on the Hawks is Solomon Hill, a small forward who played four years at University of Arizona. Hill now finds himself making his second-straight, and third overall, Conference Finals appearance.
After four-straight playoff appearances without advancing to the Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks overhauled their roster by adding defensive wizard, and former UCLA stand out, Jrue Holiday this past offseason. The guard led the Bruins to the 2009 NCAA Tournament before going pro where he has since been named three NBA All-Defensive Teams and could be the X-factor that finally gets the Bucks over the hump.
— UCLA Men’s Basketball (@UCLAMBB) June 20, 2021
Rounding out the Pac-12’s representation in the Conference Finals is Brook Lopez. Brook and his brother Robin were pillars of the Stanford men’s basketball team for two years, including the 2007-08 season when the Cardinal made the Sweet Sixteen. The center has since enjoyed a 13-year NBA career, culminating in the Bucks current playoff-run. Lopez scored 19 points and added four key blocks as Milwaukee edged the Superstar-laden Brooklyn Nets in a 115-111 game-seven OT thriller.
— NBA UK (@NBAUK) June 20, 2021