The NBA Playoffs are set to begin on Saturday as the Golden State Warriors are expected to repeat as champions. According to My Top Sportsbooks, the odds of the Warriors winning their third title in four seasons is placed at +200 with the Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons, and Charlotte Hornets having the longest odds at +25,000.
The playoffs are always an exciting time because of the great story lines, but one that should make this a more interesting year is that there are 16 former G-League players who have been called up to their NBA team, giving their team added depth while giving the former G-League alums an opportunity to earn an NBA ring.
Here is a list of alumni who could have a dramatic impact on the Western Conference playoffs, with the chances of their team winning a title listed in parenthesis.
Los Angeles Clippers (+25,000)
Justin Bibbs, 6-5, 220, G
Bibbs was called up to the big squad on March 23, but has not been a factor for his team to this point. He has not appeared in a game as the tandem of Landry Shamet and Lou Williams are making it hard for other guards to hit the court.
Bibbs, out of Virginia Tech, averaged 11.4 ppg in 49 games this year before the call up. He is hitting 31.7% of three-point attempts.
Jerome Robinson, 6-5, 190, G
Robinson was recalled by the Clippers on March 19, and he has earned a little time on the court since joining the team. The guard is averaging 9.7 minutes per game (mpg), averaging 3.4 ppg while hitting 31.6% from beyond the arc.
San Antonio Spurs (+10,000)
Chimezie Metu, 6-10, 225, F
Metu joined San Antonio on March 21, and has been a solid addition off the bench. He is averaging five minutes per contest, chipping in 1.8 ppg and 1.2 rpg.
The forward was a solid contributor for the Austin Spurs, averaging 14.0 points per game in his 26 contests this year.
Lonnie Walker IV, 6-5, 205, G
Walker is proving to be a real keeper. He arrived in San Antonio on the same day as Metu, and has been averaging 6.9 mpg, adding 2.6 ppg. The guard is shooting 38.5% from three-point range and has a solid 34.8% field-goal percentage. He is also shooting 80% from the line.
Walker was averaging 16.6 ppg in Austin before the call up. His field-goal percentage was 43.6% while he shot 36.6% from beyond the arc.
Oklahoma City Thunder (+4000)
Deonte Burton, 6-5, 245, G
Oklahoma City has added a pair of guards from their G-League team. Burden has been seeing some pretty solid playing time since joining the club on March 26. He is averaging 7.5 mpg while scoring 2.6 ppg on average. The guard has proven to be quite a solid shooter, hitting 40.2% of his field goals and 29.6% from three-point land.
Burton was averaging 16.2 ppg before the call up. He averaged 3.3 assists per game for the Oklahoma City Blue.
Hamidou Diallo, 6-5, 198, G
Diallo has been called up to the Thunder three times this season, most recently on March 19. The guard has been a solid performer off the bench, averaging 3.7 points and 1.9 rebounds in 10.3 minutes per contest.
Diallo seems destined to have a fairly solid NBA career. He averaged 18.5 ppg in 20 games this season in the G-League, shooting 45.9%.
Utah Jazz (+4000)
Grayson Allen, 6-5, 198, G
Allen has had several call-ups this season, including most recently on March 22. He has seen quite a bit of action, averaging 10.9 mpg, scoring 5.6 ppg. The guard is shooting 37.6% from the field.
Allen, out of Duke, appeared in 12 games for the Salt Lake Stars this season. He averaged 16.3 points per contest, shooting 40.5% from three-point land and 46.3% from the field.
Georges Niang, 6-8, 230, F
Niang has had a number of call ups with Utah this season as well, most recently on March 9. He is averaging 8.7 mpg, shooting an impressive 47.5% from the field and 41.0% from beyond the arc. Niang has even been solid at the foul line, shooting 83.3%.
The forward has been in the G-League the last three seasons. This year he appeared in just three games for Salt Lake, averaging 21.0 points per contest while shooting 49.1% from the field.
Houston Rockets (+1200)
Gary Clark, 6-8, 225, F
The G-League has been a great developmental league for the Houston Rockets this season, as they have four players on their playoff roster that played for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Clark is one such example. The forward has made a few trips to the NBA this season, averaging 12.6 mpg, 2.9 ppg, and 2.3 rpg.
Clark was a solid performer at Rio Grande Valley, averaging 12.0 ppg in his seven games there.
Isaiah Hartenstein, 7-0, 249, F-C
Because of his size, Hartenstein has added an extra dimension for the Rockets. He has averaged 7.9 mpg, shooting 48.8% from the field and 78.6% from the line.
Hartenstein was tearing it up for the Vipers, averaging 19.4 ppg and 14.9 rebounds per contest in 26 games.
Chris Chiozza, 6-0, 175, G
Chiozza is averaging 4.7 mpg, but has struggled a bit, hitting only 25% of his field goal attempts, however, he is a 40% shooter from beyond the arc.
The guard should be a nice addition though. This season he has appeared in 47 games in the G-League, averaging 13.2 ppg and 7.3 assists per contest. He was hitting 40.9% of his three-point attempts and was shooting 43.7% from the field.
Michael Frazier, 6-4, 200, G
Frazier was called up just before the end of the regular season, so he has not appeared in a game for the Houston Rockets. However, he has four years of experience in the G-League, putting together his best season for Rio Grande Valley this last campaign.
Frazier averaged 16.9 ppg in 45 contests, shooting 44.9% from the field and 38.1% from three-point range. He also averaged 3.3 apg.
Portland Trail Blazers (+10,000)
The Portland Trail Blazers currently do not have a player on their active roster who played for their G-League club.
Denver Nuggets (+2500)
Isaiah Thomas, 5-9, 185, G
Thomas is not new to the NBA. The guard was an NBA All-Star for many years, and has been looking to get his career back on track after an assortment of injuries derailed it. Since joining Denver, he has averaged 8.1 ppg, connecting on 34.3% of his field goal attempts and averaging 15.1 mpg.
For his career, Thomas is averaging 18.6 ppg and 43.7% from the field. He is also a career 87.4% free throw shooter.
Tyler Lydon, 6-10, 225, F
Lydon came up in early March and has remained with the team ever since. He has seen limited action, averaging just 3.8 mpg, but has shot 50.0% from the field and 40.0% from three-point range.
Lydon was performing well at Capital City, averaging 13.3 points per contest and 9.1 rpg in his eight games there.
Jarred Vanderbilt, 6-9, 214, F
Like Lydon, Vanderbilt has seen limited action in his time with Denver, averaging 4.1 mpg. He is shooting 47.4% from the field.
Vanderbilt was playing with Delaware before being signed by the Nuggets. He was averaging 7.3 ppg and 7.8 rpg in four games this season.
Golden State Warriors (+200)
Jacob Evans, 6-6, 210, G
Even with an all-star lineup, the defending champions have still reached into the G-League to add some depth for the playoffs. That comes in Evans who is averaging 6.8 mpg, connecting on 34% of his field goal attempts while averaging 1.3 ppg.
Evans has had a few different call ups to Golden State this season, but had performed well at Santa Cruz, averaging 11.2 ppg in 21 games this season. He was averaging 43.7% shooting in Santa Cruz.
While most will tell you that the NBA is all about stars, it is those role players that can be the difference makers at pivotal points in games. Don’t be surprised if the Western Conference sees an unknown coming out of the G-League to be a hero for his team.
By Robert Pannier