Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 93 of 99

94 MARCH 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH IN THE PROS BY TODD D. BURLAGE I t seems almost impossible that Pat Connaughton is already into his seventh NBA season since he left Notre Dame in 2015 as a sharpshoot- ing guard, a team captain and the heartbeat of a program that turned itself around under his watch. What isn't hard to believe is how Connaughton has shown the same steady improvement at the NBA level that he did at Notre Dame in lifting the Irish from a 15-17 record as a ju- nior in 2013-14, to 32 wins, an ACC Tournament title and an Elite Eight appearance as a junior a season later. C o n n a u g h to n 's N BA c a r e e r seemed left for dead after three non- descript seasons in Portland as a sel- dom-used substitute from 2015-18. But a trade and a chance with Mil- waukee four seasons ago provided the 6-foot-5, 209-pound versatile wing player the stability and oppor- tunity to prove he belongs in "The League," and Connaughton's pro- duction trends since then indicate he'll be there for awhile. Connaughton is already only the 17th Notre Dame alumnus ever to play more than six seasons in the NBA, and the first former Irish player to reach that tenure mark since shooting guard Matt Carroll spent 10 years with mul- tiple NBA teams from 2003-12. And with the success Connaughton is enjoying this season, expect many more opportunities to follow — along with some big bucks — for this undervalued second-round draft pick turned 2021 NBA champion. As frequently as Connaughton has praised and thanked the Bucks organi- zation for the opportunity he has made good on, basketball remains a business, and a story in Forbes breaks down how financially important and lucrative these next eight months for Connaugh- ton might be. Connaughton signed a two-year $3.4 million contract in 2018 to leave Port- land for Milwaukee. Then, pleased with Connaughton's performance during those two seasons, the Bucks re-upped in 2020, and re- warded their valuable reserve with a three-year deal worth $16 million. Now, halfway through his contract — and at a time when reliable NBA three- point shooters have never been more richly rewarded — Connaughton's $5.33 million salary this season ranks only 92nd among NBA guards, according to Spotrac. And with season averages of 10.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 27.3 minutes per game through Feb. 7, Connaughton is building the equity and power to turn down his $5.7 mil- lion player option for 2022-23, and start renegotiating a new deal. Even while working through a recent shooting slump, Connaughton still was tied for 14th in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage at 41.4. "Always one to do the dirty work, Connaughton grinds off the court just like he does on it," Forbes writer Brian Sampson assessed. "The improvement he's made in the three years since he came to Milwaukee is evident in every facet." Connaughton converted 37.1 per- cent of his three-point attempts during the 2020-21 regular season, went 39.0 percent from long range during the Bucks' title run and is hit- ting 41.4 percent so far this season. Through 52 games, the hybrid guard/forward scored at least 20 points in five games (23 a season high, twice), at least 15 points 14 times, and pulled down at least six rebounds 10 times (10 a season high). Through Jan. 8, Synergy Sports rated Connaughton fourth in the league in offensive efficiency (a measure of brains), and among the top 10 percent in the league at fin- ishing around the basket (a measure of brawn). As a result, CBS Sports listed Connaughton among its top five NBA players having "Sneakily Good Seasons" in January. Expect an interesting next few months for Connaughton, his agent, and the Bucks' front office. NOTRE DAME IN THE NFL: POSTSEASON HIGHLIGHTS The rosters of the 14 NFL playoff teams fea- tured nine former Fighting Irish players. Here's a roundup of how they performed leading up to Super Bowl LVI: • Aaron Banks (Played at Notre Dame from 2017-20), OG, San Francisco 49ers: Saw time on special teams in the No. 6-seeded 49ers' 23-17 win over No. 3-seeded Dallas in the wild card round … Was also active for San Francisco's 13-10 victory at No. 1-seeded Green Bay in the divisional round, but did not see the field … Inactive for 49ers' 20-17 loss to the No. 4-seeded Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game … Was ac- tive in nine regular-season games for 10-7 San Francisco. • Chase Claypool (2016-19), WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Caught three passes for 25 yards in the No. 7-seeded Steelers' 42-21 loss at No. 2-seeded Kansas City in the wild card round … Played in 15 of 17 regular-season games for 9-7-1 Pittsburgh, and compiled 59 catches for 860 yards and two touchdowns plus 14 rushes for 96 yards. • Matthias Farley (2011-15), S, Tennessee Ti- tans: Made one tackle on special teams in the No. 1-seeded Titans' 19-16 loss to No. 4-seeded Cincinnati in the divisional round … Active for all 17 Connaughton was tied for 14th in the NBA in three-point shooting (41.4 percent) while averaging 10.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game through Feb. 7. PHOTO COURTESY MILWAUKEE BUCKS Pat Connaughton Ready To Cash In On NBA Success

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - March 2022