BOZICH | Onuaku (U of L), Liggins (UK), Williams (IU) grind into - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Onuaku (U of L), Liggins (UK), Williams (IU) grind into NBA

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Former Louisville center Chinanu Onuaku begins his NBA journey Wednesday night in Los Angeles. Former Louisville center Chinanu Onuaku begins his NBA journey Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Some NBA stories are as predictable as kids reaching for M&Ms over apples on Halloween.

Karl-Anthony Towns (Kentucky) is positioned to become The Next Big Thing with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Gorgui Dieng (Louisville) is a vital part of the rotation that could finally return Minnesota to the playoffs. Victor Oladipo (Indiana) will help the Oklahoma City Thunder shrug at the absence of Kevin Durant.

Basketball people expect great things from those three. Check their W2s.

Towns, the reigning rookie of the year, is a $5.96 million man. Dieng's salary has climbed to $2.3 million in his fourth season. Oladipo will be paid $6.55 million after making the move from Orlando to Oklahoma City.

There are three players with local connections who deserve move love for grinding their way into The Association this month.

Three guys all reported to be playing for the NBA minimum -- $543,371. Three guys who have been told what they could not do as much as they have been applauded for what they can do.

DeAndre Liggins of Kentucky.

Chinanu Onuaku of Louisville.

Troy Williams of Indiana.

Liggins made the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers after wandering through the NBA Developmental League for two seasons. Some call Liggins a defensive specialist at guard but credit him with four points, three rebounds and three assists in the Cavs' opening-night victory. (Story here.)

As the No. 37 overall pick in the second round last June, Onuaku made the Rockets 15-man roster and earned a guaranteed three-year contract. The Rockets open play in Los Angeles against the Lakers at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Like Onuaku, Williams played in the NBA Scouting Combine in Chicago last May. Unlike Onuaku, Williams was not drafted. He scrambled for a free-agent opportunity with Memphis and will be with the Grizzlies when they play against Towns, Dieng and the Timberwolves at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Memphis.

Make it Liggins, Onuaku and Williams 1, Skeptics 0.

I collected more information and reaction on the three from multiple sources across the Internet.

First, Liggins, whose career at UK ended in 2011. On Tuesday night Liggins, a Billy Gillispie recruit, found himself in the same locker room with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

"I was just watching and enjoying all the celebration (of the Cavs' 2016 NBA title)," Liggins told cleveland.com after the Cavaliers’ opening night win against the Knicks Tuesday.

"It was a great experience, seeing something special going up. What these guys did last year was incredible. To come back down from 3-1, it was just incredible.

"As things were happening I was real tense. It was shocking. Just happy to be a part of it.”

Onuaku averaged only 7.5 minutes during the pre-season, contributing 2 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2 rebounds per game for the Rockets, who are expected to start Clint Capela at center. (Rockets' story.)

Onuaku, who stands 6 feet 10, is listed as the team's third center, also behind Nene. (This has been a week to celebrate for the Onuaku family. Chinanu's older brother, Orinze, a former Syracuse star, made the Orlando Magic after playing overseas for several seasons.) With a new coach and young team in Houston, Onuaku should get a long look as a contributor, especially with his three-year deal.

Williams showed NBA ability at times during his three seasons at Indiana. But his inconsistent shot and careless ball-handling concerned many NBA scouts.

News flash: Williams averaged 15.2 points, shot 55.8 percent and made only 1.4 turnovers per game in the Grizzlies' final five exhibition games. The extra work that Williams did at Cook Hall has made him the latest example of the developmental success that Tom Crean and his staff have done in Bloomington.

Williams, a dynamic 6-7 forward, earned one of the 15 spots on the Memphis roster, even though the Grizzlies had 15 players with guaranteed contracts before training camp opened.

"He's a guy in many ways who is just coming into his own," Memphis general manager Chris Wallace said in a story at grizzlies.com. "But at the same time has shown an ability in the preseason to contribute right now. Obviously, we're big fans of Troy.

"He's very explosive athletically. He can take the ball in the open court, go in and get fouled and dunk on people. He also had a game with five 3-pointers against Houston, so his long ball is getting better. He's also a disruptive defender who can shoot the gap and has recovery speed."

In the NBA, the grind is 82 games. Liggins, Onuaku and Williams appear ready for the workload.

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