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Cats in the Bubble: Multiple former Wildcats show out in Orlando

Published: Aug. 16, 2020 at 6:55 PM EDT
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ORLANDO, Fla. (WYMT) - NBA teams are heading into the playoffs now after their eight seeding games at the NBA bubble in Orlando. Through the drama of the past two weeks, one thing stood out: Former Kentucky Wildcats are more than showing out in the NBA. Here are some of the standouts.

Devin Booker

Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker falls to the ground after scoring the game-winning basket against the Los Angeles Clippers in an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker falls to the ground after scoring the game-winning basket against the Los Angeles Clippers in an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.((Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP))

This picture says it all for Booker’s restart performance. Lying on the ground after hitting a game-winner to take down the No. 2 seed in the west.

Had it not been for Damian Lillard’s historic performances in the NBA bubble, Devin Booker might: A) have been the NBA Restart MVP and B) led the Suns to an improbable playoff appearance, which would have been Phoenix’s first since 2010. Booker averaged 30.5 points per game, good for fourth during the restart. The 23-year old was also named to the NBA Bubble First Team.

In his fifth year, Booker was the driving force behind Phoenix’s 8-0 NBA Restart. He became the Suns’ franchise leader in 30+ point games (91). In addition to the scoring, Booker averaged six assists per game while shooting 50% from the field. Even with the disappointment of not making the play-in game, Booker and the Suns gained momentum with a number of their young players. The future is bright for Phoenix and one of the best young scorers in the league.

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis scores 34 for the Lakers.
Anthony Davis scores 34 for the Lakers.(AP Images)

Already considered one of the top ten players in the world and NBA, Anthony Davis made that clear on the NBA Restart opening night. Davis poured in 34 points to go along with eight rebounds and four assists in the Lakers’ 103-101 win over the Clippers. He continued with big performances against the Utah Jazz and Rudy Gobert (42 points, 12 rebounds) and the Denver Nuggets (27 points).

The big man did struggle in some games. In outings against Indiana and Oklahoma City, Davis didn’t reach double figures in scoring. However, Davis has proven himself in big-game situations. In 13 playoff games, Davis is averaging 30.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game.

Davis and the Lakers will take on Portland in Game 1 of their opening round series on Tuesday night at 9 p.m. on TNT. The 2012 National Champion has never made it to the conference finals in his NBA career, but the Lakers are one of the favorites in the league to bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro

A first-year all-star and one of the best rookies in the NBA this season. Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro kept things rolling in the bubble, cementing award-winning seasons.

Adebayo, a frontrunner for the NBA Most Improved Award, received his first all-star appearance in 2020. The third-year big man averaged 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists, becoming the second-youngest player in NBA history to average 15+ points, 10+ rebounds and 5+ assists. The youngest player? Just man by the name of Oscar Robertson.

The 17.3 per game Tyler Herro has scored in the bubble doesn’t do justice for the potential he’s shown in Orlando. In his last four outings with more minutes to rest other players, Herro scored 20 against Milwaukee, 25 against Devin Booker and the Suns, 17 in a 22-point win over Indiana, and a 30-piece in a narrow one-point loss against Oklahoma City (a game that featured five former Wildcats with Adebayo, Herro, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo and Nerlens Noel).

Though these games won’t count for the NBA’s regular season awards, Herro has a shot to be named to one of the all-rookie teams. Herro averaged 13.5 points per game during the 2019-2020 season, tied for seventh among rookies, while shooting 39% from beyond the arc.

With these two former Wildcats on their roster, the Miami Heat are a team that many feel have a chance to challenge some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. If they win their first round series against Indiana, the Heat may have a date with top seed Milwaukee and Giannis Antetokoumpo. Game 1 of their series with Indiana tips off on Tuesday, August 18 at 4 p.m. on TNT.

De’Aaron Fox

Sometimes forgotten because he is on a California team not in Los Angeles or the Bay Area, De’Aaron Fox continued his quiet production in Orlando. Sacramento’s lead man averaged 26.2 points and 7.3 assists per game.

His 39-point game in game one of the NBA Restart was just one of many standout performances. Fox had 28 points and 9 assists on August 4 in a narrow four-point loss to Dallas, then followed that up with 30 points and 10 assists in a win over a New Orleans Pelicans team that was also fighting for a play-in game spot.

Similar to Devin Booker in Phoenix, Fox continued to show his prowess as a budding young star in the NBA despite no postseason appearance.

Keldon Johnson

Before the NBA Restart, Keldon Johnson had only logged nine games with San Antonio Spurs and 31 games with the Austin Spurs, San Antonio’s G-League affiliate. However, Johnson took advantage of his G-League games, averaging 20.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. That earned him a trip to Orlando and from there, Johnson continued to show his potential.

The 24-point, 11-rebound outing was the highlight of Johnson’s time in the bubble, but Johnson points on the board in other outings. He scored 24 again in San Antonio’s final game against Utah, 15 against Philadelphia and 20 vs. Jamal Murray and Denver. Though Johnson wasn’t the biggest name coming into the bubble, he showed promise to Greg Popovich and staff on a young Spurs team in transition.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Being able to learn from NBA veteran Chris Paul has served Shai Gilgeous-Alexander well. Watching him play, it’s hard to believe Gilgeous-Alexander is only in his second year in the NBA.

Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 16.4 points per game to go along with 4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and more than two steals per game. The second-year man is a part of Oklahoma City’s three-headed point guard lineup with Paul and Dennis Schroder. The Thunder will take on the Houston Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Game 1 tips off on Tuesday, August 18 at 6:30 p.m. on TNT.

Other Cats in Orlando

  • Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets - 14.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists per game in four games.
  • Eric Bledsoe, Milwaukee Bucks - 9.2 points, 5.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds per game in five games.
  • Patrick Patterson, Los Angeles Clippers - 7.8 points, 3.8 rebounds per game, 40% from three in eight games.
  • Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma City Thunder - 10.6 points, 5.6 rebounds per game in eight games.
  • Enes Kanter, Boston Celtics - 7.6 points, 5.3 rebounds per game, 62% from the field in seven games.
  • Nerlens Noel, Oklahoma City Thunder - 4.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game in six games.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - 2 points, 3 rebounds per game in four games.
  • Wenyen Gabriel, Portland Trailblazers - 1.5 points, 3 rebounds per game in two games.
  • Rajon Rondo, Los Angeles Lakers; Trey Lyles, San Antonio Spurs - injured.

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