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It took until his fourth season, but Victor Oladipo will finally get his first taste of the NBA Playoffs.
Oladipo and the Oklahoma City Thunder will face the Houston Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs starting on Sunday. The Rockets have two former Hoosiers on the team in potential Sixth Man Of The Year Eric Gordon (who had to wait even longer than Oladipo to reach his first playoffs, taking him seven seasons) and rookie Troy Williams.
For this edition of Hoosiers In The NBA, I’m going to go over how Oladipo and Gordon performed this season and how they preformed against each other to help predict how well they’ll play in their first round matchup. I’ll also go over how much I expect Williams to play in the series and also touch on Noah Vonleh and his Portland Trail Blazers’ first round matchup with the Golden State Warriors. Lastly I’ll post the final regular season stats for all six former Hoosiers who played in the NBA this season.
Gordon Vs Oladipo
Neither player would call the 2016-2017 their best statistical season, but both Eric Gordon and Victor Oladipo would still call this their best seasons due to how well their teams performed and what role they had in the success.
Gordon embraced his role of three-point specialist off the bench for Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets and the result was a career-high 246 made three-points on 37.2% shooting. Meanwhile Oladipo went from the main ball-handler in Orlando to being Russell Westbrook’s wing man in Oklahoma City and the jump in open looks helped Oladipo shoot a career-best 36.1% from behind the arc as he was the second-leading scorer for the Thunder.
Taking a look at how they played against each other this season only highlights how much both had success from deep this season:
Eric Gordon vs the Oklahoma City Thunder: 19.0ppg, 3.3rpg, 2.8apg, 0.25spg, 0.25bpg, 1.5tpg, 2.3fpg, 39.7% FG, 40.5% 3FG, 100.0% FT, 34.3mpg. (four games)
Victor Oladipo vs the Houston Rockets: 18.3ppg, 7.0rpg, 3.0apg, 1.25spg, 0.00bpg, 2.3tpg, 2.5fpg, 46.8% FG, 46.7% 3FG, 50.0% FT, 37.3mpg. (four games)
While I don’t expect both to hit above 40% from long range during this series, I do believe we’ll see multiple clutch threes from one or both. With both Westbrook and James Harden gathering so much attention, it may fall on a supporting player like Gordon or Oladipo to help push their team over the edge and into the next round. Regardless of the result, we’re guaranteed at least one former Hoosier will be playing in the Western Conference Semifinals.
How Much Will Williams Play?
Troy Williams deserves a lot of praise for what he has accomplished during his rookie season.
As an undrafted rookie he wowed teams during the Summer League while playing for the Phoenix Suns and while the Suns couldn’t keep him due to a logjam at the wing position, the Memphis Grizzlies did sign him to their opening night roster. After 24 games and 13 starts with the Grizzlies, Memphis decided to switch gears when it found itself unexpectedly in the playoff hunt and thus Williams was cut and sent to the NBA D-League where he had a ton of success which included winning the D-League Slam Dunk Contest.
Like Yogi Ferrell, Williams used the momentum of his D-League performance to get a second chance with the NBA, where he has had immediate success with the Houston Rockets averaging 9.7 points on 50% shooting, including 38.1% from three-point range filling in for the injured Sam Dekker. With Dekker still out for at least the first round of the playoffs, does that mean we’ll see Williams play a role in the Houston-Oklahoma City series?
That’s where things get tricky. Teams usually shorten their benches in the playoffs and since Dekker was similar to a ninth man off the bench, it wouldn’t be surprising that Williams, Dekker’s replacement, might not see the floor much when you consider a healthy Dekker would likely see his minutes dwindle. I think Williams will see the court in the first round but I wouldn’t count on him playing every game.
What To Expect Out Of Vonleh And The Trail Blazers Against The Warriors
The Portland Trail Blazers’ last 10 games proved to be a significant step forward for Noah Vonleh.
While the Trail Blazers wrapped up the last playoff spot in the Western Conference by going 7-3, Vonleh finally flashed the potential scouts saw in him when he was considered a lottery pick back in 2014. He averaged 7.6 points on 56.4% shooting and 8.6 rebounds while playing 28.1 minutes per game and recording three double-doubles.
Vonleh hopes that his recent performance carries over into the postseason after failing to score and only grabbing four rebounds in six postseason games last year. Luckily he’ll be playing against a team in the Golden State Warriors that he has had some success against this season:
Noah Vonleh vs the Golden State Warriors: 4.5ppg, 4.5rpg, 0.3apg, 0.75spg, 0.00bpg, 1.3tpg, 0.8fpg, 38.1% FG, 40.0% 3FG, 0.0% FT, 15.0mpg. (four games)
While those numbers may seem a little underwhelming, it’s worth noting that the last time Vonleh faced the Warriors was still before the All-Star Break. In 48 games before the All-Star Break, Vonleh averaged 3.2 points on 40.7% shooting and 4.2 rebounds. In the 26 games after the All-Star Break, Vonleh has averaged 6.7 points on 57.5% shooting and 7.2 rebounds. Needless to say, I expect Vonleh to play much better this time around against the Warriors.
Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell: Guard, Dallas Mavericks:
10.0ppg, 2.4rpg, 3.7apg, 0.91spg, 0.20bpg, 1.5tpg, 2.0fpg, 40.6% FG, 38.6% 3FG, 83.1% FT, 26.0mpg (46 games)
Eric Gordon: Guard, Houston Rockets:
16.2ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.5apg, 0.64spg, 0.55bpg, 1.6tpg, 2.0fpg, 40.6% FG, 37.2% 3FG, 84.0% FT, 31.0mpg (75 games)
Victor Oladipo: Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder:
15.9ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.6apg, 1.16spg, 0.31bpg, 1.8tpg, 2.3fpg, 44.2% FG, 36.1% 3FG, 75.3% FT, 33.2mpg (67 games)
Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:
4.4ppg, 5.2rpg, 0.4apg, 0.41spg, 0.36bpg, 0.9tpg, 2.1fpg, 48.1% FG, 35.0% 3FG, 63.8% FT, 17.1mpg (74 games)
Troy Williams: Forward, Houston Rockets:
6.2ppg, 2.3rpg, 0.8apg, 0.90spg, 0.33bpg, 1.1tpg, 2.0fpg, 43.7% FG, 29.0% 3FG, 65.6% FT, 18.6mpg (30 games)
Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:
10.3ppg, 6.5rpg, 1.6apg, 1.00spg, 0.94bpg, 1.0tpg, 3.0fpg, 57.1% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 67.9% FT, 27.8mpg (62 games)