The NBA G League is becoming a place where NBA playoff heroes first begin to scratch the surface. For some, hitting the minor league hardwood during postseason competition can help them get their first taste of competition with the highest of stakes. For others, playing big minutes with an affiliate (whenever it may be) can serve as a primer to step in the clutch whenever their NBA club comes calling upon their services.
With that in mind, here’s a look at three NBA G League alumni who performed well in the first round of the NBA playoffs, and are gearing up to do it all over again as the Eastern Conference Semifinals get underway.
Pascal Siakam, Raptors (Raptors 905 alum) 76ers vs. Raptors
With each passing month of the NBA season, Pascal Siakam got better and better. As the Raptors head into a second round matchup with the 76ers, it’s clear Toronto is reaping the benefits of his stellar play and increasing intensity at the most opportune of times. From hitting game-winners to oozing out endless hustle on both ends of the floor, the big man put an exclamation point on his team’s first playoff series win with 22.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. Embracing a central role under immense pressure should be a concept Siakam is familiar with, as he averaged 18 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 1.4 assists while on assignment with the Raptors 905 as they rode the postseason wave to becoming NBA G League champions in 2017.
Fred VanVleet, Raptors (Raptors 905 alum) 76ers vs. Raptors
Siakam’s right-hand man during that aforementioned title run was fellow assignee Fred VanVleet, who averaged 22 points and 11.5 assists in the 2017 NBA G League Finals. Two years later, the floor general is seeing his initial minor league success translate into big contributions at the next level. He dished out 10 dimes in a first-round series clinching win over the Pistons in game five, only his latest display of reliability. The 25 year old averaged 11 points and 4.8 assists during the regular season, helping ensure that Toronto has a trusty steed running the fast break whenever all-star Kyle Lowry takes a seat.
Sterling Brown, Bucks (Wisconsin Herd alum) Celtics vs. Bucks
Despite securing the first seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks suffered a big blow when 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon went down with a late-season injury that is currently still sidelining him in the postseason. As Milwaukee sped past the Pistons in the first round, it was Sterling Brown to the rescue as he did his best to fill that void. Versatility was the name of the game for the youngster, who tallied varied stat-lines like 11 points, seven assists, and three steals in Game 1, and nine points, 13 rebounds, and six assists in a series-clinching Game 4. This role is a new one for Brown, but it’s safe to say he remained primed and ready after playing big minutes for the Wisconsin Herd (averaging 20.3 points) through assignment time in each of the last two seasons. He started through the first-round, so look for him to continue stepping up as the Bucks take on Boston next.