The NBA regular season is in the books, and it is time for the playoffs.
2017-18 was a good season for former Kentucky Wildcats in the NBA, and the playoffs are a chance for them to shine once again. There are 13 former Wildcats in the playoffs this season and that number should grow in the coming seasons as more of these guys continue to help their teams improve. Let’s get to the players to watch.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (6th seed vs. Portland Trail Blazers)
I think people have been reminded this season just how great Anthony Davis is at basketball. He has carried the Pelicans to a playoff spot even with the loss of fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins. In the process, he thrust himself into the MVP discussion and though it is highly unlikely that he wins the MVP, he will finish in the top 3 in the voting.
With a first-round matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers looming, Davis seems poised for his first playoff win. This is just Davis’ second time in the playoffs and everyone remembers the monster series he had against the Warriors in 2015. While they were the 8th seed in that series, they are now the 6th seed against a team that only finished one game ahead of them. Anthony Davis could actually help the Pelicans win this series, but it will not be easy to beat Portland.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves (8th seed vs. Houston Rockets)
Towns helped Minnesota get into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season with a thrilling win over fellow Wildcat Jamal Murray. KAT was huge for Minnesota, and was even bigger for them this season in helping them weather the storm when they lost Jimmy Butler to an injury.
The third-year big man has really stepped up his game and is going to be one of the best players in the league moving forward. It’s great for him to have a chance to get into the playoffs and he is going to have his hands full taking on the Houston Rockets in the first round.
Leading the league in double-doubles is no easy feat and Towns did it this season putting up almost 22 points and over 12 rebounds each night. In their season finale for the final playoff spot, Towns got 26 points to go along with 14 rebounds.
Interestingly enough, Anthony Davis’ first playoff run was an 8th seed in his third season and now Towns is doing the same thing. Davis was huge in that series and Towns has the offensive tools that Davis has to put up big numbers against the Rockets.
John Wall, Washington Wizards (8th seed vs. Toronto Raptors)
Wall was an All-Star this season, but missed over 40 games due to injury and his team was one game under .500 without him. He has taken a lot of heat this season due to some comments made by his own teammates after his injury.
The Wizards took up the moniker that their offense without Wall was “Everybody Eats.” The idea behind that was that Wall is a ball dominant point guard with a tendency to dominate the offense in order to set the table for other players.
The idea that the Wizards might be better without Wall is ludicrous, but they are going to need him to be great if they hope to get past the Toronto Raptors in round one. Wall has had great success individually against the Raptors in the past and was part of a Wizards team that swept the Raptors in the 2015 playoffs.
A first-round playoff exit for Wall and the Wizards would be a disaster given that this team had big goals heading into the season.
Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee Bucks (7th seed vs. Boston Celtics)
His season started with a crazy tweet about the “hair salon” and is ending with his first playoff action since 2013. Bledsoe has to be excited about the chance to play into late April again and he is going to be big for the Bucks if they hope to get past the Boston Celtics in round one.
Although the Bucks have struggled at times this season, Bledsoe has been great for them and gives them something they did not have in last year’s playoffs, a point guard that can score the ball. He wanted to get out of Phoenix to have a chance to win and this is a great opportunity for him.
Pairing up Bledsoe with Giannis against a Celtics team that struggles to score and is missing Kyrie Irving is a recipe for a big upset for the Bucks. A playoff series win for the Bucks would be their first since 2001.
Rajon Rondo, New Orleans Pelicans (6th seed vs. Portland Trail Blazers)
Rajon Rondo had a good season for a Pelicans team that desperately needed help on the perimeter. While many rolled their eyes at the Rondo signing, he has provided the Pelicans with playmaking and timely defense.
Rondo is not the player that he once was, but he can help you win basketball games when he is engaged. His playoff run last season was cut short due to injury, but the Pelicans have to be excited that they could get a glimpse of playoff Rondo to help them deal with the amazing Trail Blazers backcourt.
If Rondo and the other Pelicans’ guards can have a good series, the Pelicans could pull off the upset.
Darius Miller, New Orleans Pelicans (6th seed vs. Portland Trail Blazers)
This was Darius Miller’s first season back in the NBA after a two year stint in Germany when he was out of the league. He has proven himself to be an NBA caliber player and provided the Pelicans with some help on the wing this season.
Miller is a floor spacer that can play solid defense on the other end of the floor. When you have offensively talented players like Anthony Davis you rely on Miller to be able to knock down open shots and little else. He did that well this season to the tune of 41% from three on almost 9 attempts per game.
That alone should be enough to keep Darius Miller in the league for the foreseeable future. This will be Miller’s first taste of playoff basketball.
Patrick Patterson, Oklahoma City Thunder (4th seed vs. Utah Jazz)
Patterson was a great signing for the Thunder, but he battled through knee issues throughout the season. He has looked more like himself lately, but he has struggled to find playing time in the rotation.
Heading into a series with the big Utah Jazz could spell more run for Patterson. His defense and three point shooting could be necessary to Oklahoma City to put up their best resistance to Utah’s bigs.
It is unclear how much Patterson will get to play because it appears that Billy Donovan could be prepared to stick with Carmelo Anthony at the four spot. Patterson had a decent season, but the Thunder have to give him more time if they hope to see him produce.
Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat (6th seed vs. Philadelphia 76ers)
Bam has had a solid rookie season as a rotation player on the Heat. His minutes have been up and down due to injured players being in and out of the line-up. In the minutes he has gotten, he has demonstrated his ability to be a rim protector and an able finisher on the offensive end. He may not see much time in the Heat’s first round series against the 76ers, but moving forward he is going to be a big part of Miami’s team.
Dakari Johnson, Oklahoma City Thunder (4th seed vs. Utah Jazz)
Dakari has had his first season in the NBA, but he did not play much. Although dressing for the majority of their games, he has collected quite a few DNPs (did not play). Look for that continue for the young big man. The Thunder will shorten their rotation in the playoffs and Johnson is not going to be a part of it. Despite not playing, it is great to see him in the NBA and moving forward there could be opportunities for him to get into the rotation as a back-up center.
DeAndre Liggins, New Orleans Pelicans (6th seed vs. Portland Trail Blazers)
Liggins was signed by the Pelicans in January and did enough to be able to finish out the season for them. He is not playing much for the team and he more than likely will be out of the playoff rotation, but he will find himself on a playoff roster, which is more than many players can say. Liggins provides the Pelicans with defense on the perimeter if they need it and his skill set could be useful if they want to give the Trail Blazers guards some different defensive looks. Liggins is not a great three point shooter and does not provide much on offense, which makes it more likely that he will not see a great deal of action in the series. This is Liggins’ first time in the playoffs since he was a member of the Thunder in 2013.
All stats taken from Basketball-Reference.com