While Tennessee hasn’t been a hot bed for NBA talent in recent years, some former Vols, as well as some former players coached by Rick Barnes at Texas, cashed in during an early NBA free agency period that saw a lot of free-spending teams giving out some huge contracts.
The biggest winner among former Vols is Tobias Harris, who reportedly re-signed with the Orlando Magic for four years and $64 million – one of the largest contracts ever signed by a former Vol in the NBA. Harris, who is entering his fifth year in the NBA, is emerging as a rising star in the league after averaging 17.1 ppg and 6.3 rpg in Orlando in 2014-15.
Harris will team up with former Vol point guard C.J. Watson, who will reportedly join the Magic on a three-year, $15 million deal after a couple seasons in Indianapolis. While not a top-tier free agent, Watson, an eight-year pro, has garnered a reputation as a third-guard option who can average 20-25 mpg and 8-10 ppg.
Harris and Watson are virtually assured roster spots in 2015-16, while at least four other Vols – Jarnell Stokes (Memphis), Josh Richardson (Miami), Jordan McRae (Philadelphia) and Scotty Hopson (free agent) – will all be looking to make or find a team next year.
A couple Barnes protégés will land big pay days as well. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who played for Barnes at Texas from 2004-06 and is a former No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft, tweeted on Saturday that he will be moving on from Portland to sign a max deal with the San Antonio Spurs for a reported four years and $80 million.
Cavs’ forward Tristan Thompson, who played for Barnes at Texas from 2010-11, was rumored over the weekend to be close to an $80 million-plus deal with Cleveland, though that deal is still in the negotiation phase. Regardless of the outcome of those negotiations, Barnes will likely be able to tell recruits that his former players netted $150 million-plus this offseason in free agency.