While watching Anthony Morrow bury five 3-pointers on his way to 21 points in the Nets’ win at Cleveland Wednesday night, I asked myself: “Why wasn’t Morrow a star at Georgia Tech?” Here’s a guy with one of the prettiest strokes in the game — he’s a career 47.1 percent 3-point shooter — who has averaged double figures in each of his three seasons (including ’10-11) in the NBA, yet he averaged only 11.4 points during his four years in college and never earned first- or second-team All-ACC honors. (Insert your own Paul Hewitt joke here.)
That got me thinking about what other NBA players are better (or more productive) as pros than they were in college. In no particular order, here’s my list:
Rajon Rondo — Rondo was a good player in his two years at Kentucky, but he wasn’t a good fit in Tubby Smith’s system and never averaged more than 12 points or five assists per game. In Boston, he has emerged as one of the elite point guards in the NBA. Through eight games, Rondo is averaging an astounding 14.8 assists per game.
David Lee — A hard-working power forward on some underachieving teams at Florida, Lee has been one of the best rebounders in the NBA during his time in the league. He came within 0.4 points per game of averaging 20/10 last year with the Knicks.
Mo Williams — Williams was a solid scorer (16.4 ppg) in his sophomore (and final) season at Alabama, but he was a poor outside shooter who connected on 29.4 percent from three during his two years with the Tide. After a slow start in the NBA, the former second-round pick has been a solid scorer (three season with more than 17.0 points per game) and a feared outside shooter (.392 from three in his career).
Gerald Wallace — A top-10 national recruit, Wallace averaged 9.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in his only season at Alabama. After languishing on the bench in Sacramento for three seasons, Wallace has been a big-time scorer and rebounder during his time in Charlotte. Last year, he averaged 18.2 points and a career-high 10.0 rebounds.
John Salmons — The swingman had a nice four-year career at Miami, but he was never considered one of the elite players in the Big East. He averaged a career-high 13.3 points as a sophomore and never shot better than .352 from 3-point range. It took him a while to find his niche in the NBA, but he has averaged over 10 points in his last three full seasons, including 18.3 on .417 3-point shooting in ’08-09.