There are four teams left in the NBA Playoffs, and they’re pretty much the four people expected to see: The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics in the East, and the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors in the West. Maybe some people thought Philadelphia would beat the Celtics before the playoffs started, but that was washed away as soon as Boston played a game and reminded everybody that even without Kyrie Irving, they are a phenomenally talented team with an excellent coach. So, here we are. Unfortunately, none of those four teams feature any Tar Heels on their roster, making this as good a time as any to reflect on their performances.
Ty Lawson, Washington Wizards
Contrary to what I thought would happen, Lawson was featured a fair bit for the Wizards. While he didn’t play at all in Game 1, he averaged 19.2 minutes per game in the five games after that in the Wizards’ eventual 4-2 losing effort against Toronto. Lawson himself played really well for a player seeing his first NBA action in over a year, and especially for having joined the team less than a week before he started playing. Though he was quite shaky inside the arc, he shot well from outside and spread the ball around nicely, going 5/8 from 3 over the series and racking up 15 assists. He finished with respectable backup numbers of 5.8/2.6/3.0 (points/rebounds/assists) per game and certainly made a case to be the Wizards’ backup point guard moving forwards.
Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
The first team to run into the Golden State buzzsaw this year, the Spurs were dispatched in the first round, 4-1, by the Warriors. Green, unfortunately, was not nearly at his best in this series, shooting very poorly from inside and out, and generally failing to make the kind of all-around impact that we got to know him for as Tar Heel fans. He put up an abysmal 4.2/2.2/0.2 line despite starting all 5 games. Even his defense, one of his NBA calling cards, was poor (Defensive Rating of 118), although this can be at least partially attributed to being assigned to Klay Thompson, who was lights out even by his insane standards in this series. Green will get another chance to feature in the Spurs’ lineup, though, particularly as it looks more and more like the Spurs will lose Kawhi Leonard.
Raymond Felton, Oklahoma City Thunder
Honestly, even though Felton has been with the Thunder for longer than Lawson has been with the Wizards, he had a pretty similar playoffs. As the Thunder were beaten by the upstart Jazz in the first round, 4-2, Felton played 13 minutes per game and put up a respectable 5.2/2.2/1.5 average. He shot well from outside on limited attempts, going 7/14 from the outside, though his inside work left something to be desired. Like Lawson, he’s made his case to maintain his backup role with the team.
John Henson and Tyler Zeller, Milwaukee Bucks
Henson was performing very well in the Bucks’ first round contest against the Celtics, totaling 19 points (on 9/13 shooting), 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 7 blocks over the first two games as he started and played 37 minutes per game. Unfortunately, he injured his back between Games 2 and 3, and was unable to play the rest of the series as the Celtics took it, 4-3. One can only imagine what, if anything, Henson may have changed had he stayed healthy.
Zeller was one of the players called on to replace Henson’s minutes, though he didn’t do much heavy lifting and played just about 9 minutes per game. While his box scores were therefore not very impressive, just 2 points and 2 rebounds per game, his advanced stats were worth another look: He recorded a 152 offensive rating and a 101 DRtg, both leading the team for the series. It’s on extremely small sample size, but he’s certainly looked more comfortable in Milwaukee than anywhere else he’s been in his career.
Wayne Ellington, Miami Heat
Ellington did what he had done all season long for the Heat, though he didn’t get much time: He played 20 minutes per game in the playoffs compared to his 27 per game in the regular season as the Heat bowed out in the first round to the Philadelphia 76ers, 4-1. In that time, Ellington averaged 8 points per game on 12/30 (40%) shooting from beyond the arc. I think he’s ready for an expanded role and I hope he doesn’t have to leave Miami to get it, but who knows how the contract situation will work out? Brandon laid out the possibilities earlier this month here.
Ed Davis, Portland Trail Blazers
Davis was a starting member of the Portland team that got its collective rear end handed to it by Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, in an unexpected 4-0 first round sweep. As a backup, Davis didn’t feel too much of Davis’ wrath, but he also didn’t make much of an offensive impact, scoring just 3 points per game on an 18-minute average. He was, as he has always been, a force on the glass, pulling down 32 rebounds over the course of the series, and this wasn’t that far off his season averages of 5.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in 19 minutes.
Tony Bradley, Utah Jazz
UNC’s youngest playoff representative didn’t see much playoff action, but he did, unlike his fellow Tar Heels, reach the second round of the playoffs. He did not play at all in the Jazz’s 4-2 series win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, but did get two minutes of garbage time in Utah’s series against the Houston Rockets, which they lost 4-1. He scored two points and pulled down a rebound. The experience will have been great for him as he moves forward with his basketball career.
All in all, it was a disappointing Playoffs for Tar Heel alumni, but rest assured that almost everybody on this list will be back, and hopefully joined by some more members of the Tar Heel family, in the near future, and they’ll be hungry.