Greg Buckner didn’t have the most memorable NBA career, but his basketball skills kept him in the league for nearly a decade.
Buckner attended Clemson University for college. He was placed as a starter in his first year on the team, he started in all 28 games. He led the team in scoring, rebounds, steals, and blocks for the season. He averaged 12.0 points per game (PPG), 5.9 rebounds per game (RPG), 2.1 assists per game (APG), 2.3 steals per game (SPG), and 0.4 blocks per game (BPG). The team finished with a conference record of 5-11, seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament. On the other hand, their overall season record was 15-13. Buckner was rewarded for his stellar season by being named the ACC Rookie of the Year.
He again started in every game his second year, all 29 games. He led the team in scoring again, as he averaged 13.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 0.3 BPG for the season. The Tigers finished the season with a conference record of 7-9, sixth in their conference, and qualified for the NCAA tournament. They entered the tournament as the ninth seed in the West Region, where they were quickly eliminated in the first round by the eighth seed, the University of Georgia. The team finished off the season with a record of 18-11.
In his junior year, Buckner averaged 15.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 0.3 BPG while leading in team scoring and starting in all 33 games. The team finished with a 9-7 conference record, fourth in the conference, and qualified again for the NCAA tournament. They entered the tournament this time around as the fourth seed in the Midwest Region. After advancing all the way to the Sweet 16, the Tigers lost to the No.1 seed, the University of Minnesota, and were eliminated. They finished the season with a record of 23-10. Buckner’s great season didn’t go unnoticed as he was named to the All-ACC Second-Team.
In his senior year, Buckner started in all 32 games and led the team in scoring for the fourth consecutive year. He put up 16.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, and 0.3 BPG for the year. The team finished conference play with a 7-9 record, fifth in the conference, and they qualified for the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row. They made it into the tournament as the sixth seed in the Midwest Region but met a quick ending in the first round against the 11th seed, Western Michigan University. They finished off the season with a positive record of 18-14. Buckner was again awarded for his marvelous season by being named to his second All-ACC Second-Team.
He became the first Clemson Tiger to lead the team in scoring all four years he was there. He was also entered into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
Welcome to the NBA
Buckner was drafted 53rd overall by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1998 NBA Draft. He didn’t debut for the Mavericks until halfway through the 1999-00 season, a year and a half after getting drafted. His first game in the NBA was on January 6, 2000. In his first official season on the team, he played 48 games and started in one. He averaged 5.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.4 BPG in his first season in the league. The Mavericks finished the season as the ninth seed in the Western Conference, with a 40-42 record.
The following season Buckner got less playing time but more starting opportunities as he started in 9 out of his 37 games played. Buckner’s stats in his second year improved a bit as he averaged 6.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 0.2 BPG in the season. The Mavericks made the playoffs as the fifth seed in the west with a 53-29 record. The Mavericks made it to the Western Conference Semifinals, at which point they were eliminated in five games by their rivals, the San Antonio Spurs. Buckner took part in five of the Mavericks playoff games and averaged 6.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.6 APG, and 1.0 SPG, while coming off the bench in all of them.
In his third year with the team, he started in 16 out of the 44 games he partook in. His numbers took a slight dip in his third season, as he put up 5.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.7 SPG, and 0.4 BPG. The Mavs again clinched the playoffs, this time finishing fourth in the conference with a 57-25 record. Once again, the team made it to the Western Conference Semifinals before being eliminated in 5 games by the Sacramento Kings. Buckner played in seven of the Mavs playoff games and he averaged 3.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.6 APG, and 0.4 SPG.
Becoming a Journeyman
Buckner signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2002 offseason. He spent two seasons with the team and regularly came off the bench. In his time with the 76ers he averaged 4.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, and 0.7 SPG. The Sixers made the playoffs in 2003, his first year on the team. They made it to the Easter Conference Semifinals before losing to the Detroit Pistons in six games. Buckner played in 10 of their playoff games and averaged 2.6 PPG, 1.7 RPG, and 0.3 APG. The 76ers waived him during the 2004 offseason.
After being waived by Philadelphia, he signed as a free agent with the Denver Nuggets that same offseason. Buckner’s time in Denver was as long as his time with the 76ers, two seasons. He got more opportunities to start with the Nuggets than he did on any of his other teams, starting in 68 out of the 143 regular season games he played there. In his two years with the Nuggets, he averaged 6.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, and 1.2 SPG. The team made the playoffs both years he was there but were eliminated in the first round both times. He started in six of the 10 playoff games he took part in and averaged 7.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, and 0.5 SPG.
Welcome Back to Dallas
During the 2006 offseason, Buckner signed as a free agent with the Mavericks and rejoined the team that brought him into the league. He played in 76 games with the team and started in 11. He averaged 4.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.9 APG, and 0.6 SPG for the season. The Mavericks had a dominant season as they finished first in the Western Conference with a 67-15 record. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, their luck didn’t carry over into the playoffs, and they were eliminated in six games by the Golden State Warriors. Buckner participated in all six games but only managed to put up 0.2 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0.3 APG, and 0.3 SPG. His time in Dallas came to an end in the offseason when he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Final Years in the NBA
In his one season with the Timberwolves, he averaged 4.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, and 0.7 SPG, while starting in four out of his 31 games played for the team. The following offseason he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies.
His final NBA season was during the 2008-09 campaign with the Memphis Grizzlies. He played in 63 games and averaged 2.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.9 APG, and 0.5 SPG for the season.
He found his way back to Dallas again as part of a four-team trade during the 2009 offseason but was waived by the team before the beginning of the season, that would be the end of his NBA playing career.
Buckner’s first stint with the Mavericks brought him into familiarity with the NBA style of play and taught him how he can continue to assist his team on offense while becoming a role player. His second tenure with the team saw him carry on where he left off, as an offensive piece off the bench. During his two stints with Dallas, he averaged 5.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, and 0.7 SPG.
Life After Retirement
His basketball knowledge has helped him well in his post-NBA career as a coach.
In 2011 he joined the Houston Rockets as a player development coach. He spent five seasons with the team as a coach. The Rockets made the playoffs four times during his time with the team, making it as far as the Western Conference Finals in the 2015 NBA playoffs.
In 2017 Buckner was hired as an assistant coach for the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies missed out on the playoffs during his time with the team.
At the beginning of the 2020-21 season, he got an assistant coaching job with the Cleveland Cavaliers. On April 21, 2021, Buckner won his first game as a head coach, when he temporarily replaced head coach J.B. Bickerstaff for the night, and the Cavaliers defeated the Chicago Bulls. During the 2022 offseason, he was promoted to associate head coach of the Cavs.
In 2021, Buckner was inducted into the Dawahares/Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
Even though Buckner wasn’t able to achieve much in the NBA he still lasted almost a decade in the league, doing what he loves. His college success didn’t translate over to the NBA but he still always found a way to add value off the bench for any team he played on. His legacy continues to grow, now as a coach, helping future stars accomplish their dreams.