NBA Playoffs 1st Round Breakout Players

We are over a week into the 2018 NBA Playoffs and there have been surprises, game winners and an overwhelming amount of great basketball all around. While the NBA playoffs do not have the most parity in all of sports, it always features a few players who start to put their names on the NBA map as they work towards playoff wins, and increased value to their franchises (also, the Free Agent market). The first week of the 2018 postseason has not been any different thus far as both conferences have seen their share of breakout players so far. Let’s take a look at six players who have raised their stock so far in the 2018 playoffs.

Terry Rozier – Celtics

Rozier, who is quickly becoming one of the more fun players to watch in the entire league, has filled in admirably for Kyrie Irving so far for the Celtics. In the first four games of the series, Rozier has averaged 16.3 points, 7 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game, while doing a great job of defending Eric Bledsoe. Rozier has not been shooting particularly well from the field, but his energy on both ends has been refreshing to a Boston team who is missing it’s top two perimeter players. Boston has Rozier locked up for the next couple of years, where he could become one of the best sixth men in the league. He has solidified himself as a better than serviceable NBA point guard in the playoffs (and this season) in general. By the end of the series Eric Bledsoe should have a good idea of who he is.

Bojan Bogdanovic – Pacers

Bogdanovic has played on three NBA teams in his first four NBA seasons. Based on his play this season, and especially during the first round, the Pacers may be wise to extend his stay in Indiana. During the regular season Bogdanovic poured in 14.3 points per game on 40% from three-point range and was valuable as a floor spacer for the Pacers. He has been on another level so far in the postseason, as evidence from his 30 point outing in a game three win over the Cavaliers. He has hit some timely shots, and has been, if nothing else, a steady presence on the other end. The Pacers look poised to end LeBron’s NBA Finals streak and Bogdanovic has been playing a big part in that narrative thus far in the playoffs.

Jaylen Brown – Celtics

If you were to ask which player that has broken out so far in this postseason is most likely to end up a superstar, the overwhelming answer should be Jaylen Brown. While Al Horford is currently the best Celtics player, the emergence of young upstarts like Brown, Rozier and Jayson Tatum has kept the Celtics from potentially facing a 3-1 hole in their first round match-up with Milwaukee. Brown is averaging 20.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, shooting 50% from the floor and playing at a high level defensively, his growth in this regard is highlighted in an ESPN article released earlier this week. While Brown’s game needs more consistency, and he has a lot of improvement left to do, his 1st round performance thus far is showing promise of the player he is quickly developing into.

Nikola Mirotic – Pelicans

Mirotic was dealt to the Pelicans from the Bulls mid-season and has played a huge role in guiding the team to their current state in the post-Boogie Achilles injury. He is the perfect complement to Holiday/Davis as he shoots it well, which allows for spacing on the floor. He has also turned into a solid rebounder since arriving in New Orleans (8.2/game in the regular season, 9.5/game in the postseason thus far). His 18.3 points per game served as a big boost for the Pelicans offense, but he struggled at times defensively against Al-Faroq Aminu. Mirotic is playing some of the best ball of his career, and it will be interesting to see how it carries over to round two. The Pelicans are definitely going to need it.


Ricky Rubio – Jazz

Rubio has had a target on his back ever since appearing for Spain’s Men’s National Team in the 2008 Olympics as a 17 year old point guard prodigy. While his career thus far has been disappointing compared to the hype that he received as a teenager, the 27 year old Spain product, via Barcelona, has found a home in Utah. He has had his best overall statistical season, his best shooting season and has played a huge role on the best team he has played on thus far in his career. Off the heels of his Triple-Double Saturday night in a game 3 win against the Thunder, Rubio is averaging 20.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 8 assists per game so far against OKC. While Russell Westbrook has vowed that Rubio’s play will not continue, the Jazz certainly hope this is a sign of things to come for Rubio.


Jrue Holiday – Pelicans

Holiday served as a formidable sidekick to Anthony Davis in round one, which is a direct reflection of the season Holiday has had overall. Jrue, who is on the back-end of his ninth season in the NBA, looked like he deserved mention among some of the NBA’s best point guards during the round one series against Portland. He averaged 27.8 points, 6.5 assists per game, all while shooting close to 57% from the floor. If the Pelicans are to have any shot to beat the Warriors (or the Spurs, just in case history is made), Holiday is going to need to continue his borderline superstar play. Is he a top tier point guard? No. But if he keeps this level of play up into next season? It may be time to entertain that sort of discussion.


The Evolution of Anthony Davis and the Pelicans

While the Portland Trailblazers were the surprise of the second half in the NBA’s Western Conference, they will now double as the team who had the most disappointing performance in the first round of the playoffs. New Orleans completed their first round sweep of Portland on Saturday night behind 88 combined points from Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. The 88 points tied the NBA playoff record for points by a duo in one game, something not many saw coming, especially after the Achilles injury to DeMarcus Cousins back in January. While on paper, and based on seeding this was an upset, the series itself, was never that close. Are the Pelicans a real threat to make a run at the finals? Or was this first round performance just a flash in the pan?

It Starts at the Top

Before we even dive into the players and the match-up problems they present. Its only right to give props to one of the more underappreciated coaches in the NBA for the Pelicans turnaround since January, Alvin Gentry. Gentry, one of the better offensive minds in the league, has Anthony Davis playing on another level, has kept Rajon Rondo engaged, and got Jrue Holiday to turn the corner into a borderline elite NBA PG. Gentry has been able to keep the locker room together, and has unleashed a very good offensive attack. The Pelicans offense is averaging 118 points per game over their last 9 games (all wins). Gentry will probably not win NBA Coach of the Year, but he deserves a ton of consideration.

Transformation at the Point

Jrue Holiday has been one of the NBA’s feel good stories over the last couple of years. He continued that run with the most impressive stretch of his career in the sweep of the Blazers. From missing the first part of last season due to taking care of his wife, to signing a big extension that some may have felt he did not deserve, to having a career year and looking like the part of a superstar in the first round, Holiday is starting to find some consistency and become one of the premier point guards in the league. Holiday averaged 27.8 points and 6.5 assists per game while shooting 58% from the floor in the four games against Portland. He will absolutely need to keep up his production if the Pelicans stand any chance of beating Golden State.

Fear the Brow

Anthony Davis is still a couple of years away from his prime, and is already solidifying himself as the best player in the NBA not named LeBron or Durant. The ways he can affect a game on both ends of the floor are unmatched. He has turned his game up to another level since January. Since the all-star break Davis averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game during the last 24 regular season games. His numbers in the Playoffs are just as impressive (33, 12 and 2.8 per game). This was also the first series win of his young career.

Davis might be the player that the Warriors match up with the worst in the entire league, and to counteract I would expect Kerr to play small and attack the Pelicans at the other four positions on the floor. How Kerr manages his lineups and the health of Steph Curry are going to have major impacts on the next round, as the Warriors attempt to slow the Brow down.

The Pelicans are going to have at least a week off before beginning their second round series, more than likely against the defending champion Warriors, who lead the Spurs 3-0 heading into Sunday. That rest will go a long way in helping the Pelicans, who will need to be as fresh and well rested as possible before going to play the defending champs. The Trailblazers were a team that matched up poorly against the Pelicans and New Orleans took advantage from the onset. New Orleans knows they will not be able to take advantage of the same mismatches (sans Anthony Davis), and it will be interesting to see how Gentry counters.

The Pelicans will need Holiday, Rondo and  Nikola Mirotic to continue playing at the same level as round 1 if they are to have any shot. While I do not expect the Pelicans to win more than 1-2 games, especially as Curry gets healthy, this is a team that is just starting to realize their potential and are going to be a team to keep an eye on for the immediate future out West.

Bigger Than Ball Vol. 10: Balsa Koprivica

This kid has the it factor. Balsa is 7’1 and runs the floor like a deer in transition. In the half court, he combines a silky smooth offensive outside game with a wide array of moves from the block. His stellar play has coaches drooling on the sidelines after every move. The stock is rising.

Recently Balsa sat down with The Hoop Group to discuss playing for Montverde, his recruitment process and more. – Christian Mordi  @thedribbledrop 


Q: You play at Montverde. Tell me what the day to day is like in regards to the training regimen?

A: Its a great experience. They prepare you to make a successful jump from high school to college. Coach Boyle is a great coach that pushed us to get better everyday.

Q: Today you are playing at the Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest. Tell me about the game you just played and your experience at this event.
A: It’s a great experience. I love the energy. We came here with 8 guys only, but we are giving it all we have and things have been great so far.
Q: You’re coached By Garden State great coach Boyle. Tell me the best piece of advice you got from him so far?
A: Some of the best advice he gave me is how to use my body in the post to my advantage. Getting the right angles and base. The things he teaches me are priceless and give me an edge on my opponents.
Q: If you were to highlight one facet of your game that makes you stand out, what would it be and why?
A: I think my ability to play inside and out. I can shoot the ball. I can take it down low also if you put someone small on me.

Photo Credit: Josh Dunst

Q: Tell me one facet of your game your worked hard to improve on this off-season that you wanted to take to another level.
A: I’ve been working very hard on my shot. We’ve got a shooting coach and I am putting up as many shots as possible everyday.
Q: Right now you are uncommitted. Tell us what you are looking for from a program.

A: I’m looking for a school where I can grow. I want a great relationship with my coach, one that pushes me everyday to get better. I also am looking for a school that I can play right away at.

Q: Ok, let’s make it light for a second. Pregame playlist: what is your Favorite song or artist to listen to before a game?
A: I listen to a lot of Serbian rap, but my teammate put me on Lil Baby, so I listen to him a lot as well.
Q: Tell me something new and different about you that we haven’t heard anywhere else?
A: I used to play soccer growing up. I think it helped my game a lot as I developed good footwork and stamina when I was young. I played striker.


Q: How do you gauge success?

A: At Montverde we focus ourselves on getting better and pushing ourselves for a national championship. That’s the goal.

2018 Pitt Jam Fest | Look Who’s Watching

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Look Who’s Watching

Every year, Hoop Group pulls division 1, 2 and 3 colleges coaches from all over the country to the city of Pittsburgh for its largest event of the year, The Pitt Jam Fest. Last year over 300 college coaches and media outlets flooded the David L. Lawerence Convention Center. Check out the coaches who made it out this year!

College / University Division Conference
 Akron 1  Mid-American
 Albright 3 Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth
 Alfred 3  Empire 8
 American 1 Patriot League
 Army 1 Patriot League
 Ashland 2 Great Lakes
 Baltimore City Community College NJCAA 1 Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference
Baylor 1 Big 12
Binghamton 1 America East
Bloomsburg 2 Pennsylvania State Athletics
Boston University 1 Patriot League
Bridgewater (VA) 3 Old Dominion Athletic
Brown 1 Ivy League
Bryn Athyn 3 North Eastern Athletic
Bucknell 1 Patriot League
Cabrini 3 Colonial States
California 2 Pennsylvania State Atheltic
Carnegie Mellon 3 University Athletic
Case Western Reserve 3 University Athletic
Central Connecticut State 1 Northeast
Charleston 2 Mountain East
Chatham University 3 Presidents’ Athletic Conference
Citadel 1 Southern
Clarion 2 Pennsylvania State Athletic
Colgate 1 Partiot League
Columbia 1 Ivy League
Coppin State 1 Mid-Eastern Athletic
Cornell 1 Ivy League
Davidson 1 Atlantic 10
Delaware 1 Colonial Athletic Conference Freedom
Delaware Valley 3 Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom
Drake 1 Missouri Valley
Drexel 1 Colonial Athletic Association
Duquesne 1 Atlantic 10
East Stroudsburg 2 Pennsylvania State Atheltics
Elizabethtown 3 Landmark
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 2 Sunshine State
FDU-Fordham 3 Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom
Fairfield 1 Metro Atlantic Athletic
Fairleigh 1 Northeast
Ferrum 3 USA South Athletic
Florida 1 Southeastern
Franciscan 3 Allegheny Mountain Collegiate
Franklin and Marshall 3 Centennial Conference
Fredonia State 3 SUNYAC
Furman 1 Southern
Gannon 2 Pennsylvania State Atheltic
Geneva 3 Presidents’ Athletic Conference
Georgian Court 2 Central Atlantic Collegiate
Gettysburg 3 Contennial Conference
Glenville State 2 Mountain East
Green Mountain 3 North Atlantic
Hampden-Sydney 3 Old Dominion Athletic
Hartford 3 Old Dominion Athletic
High Point 1 Big South
Hillsdale 2 Great Midwest Athletic
Hobart 3 Liberty League
Holy Cross 1 Patriot League
IUP 2 Pennsylvania State Athletic
Ithaca 3 Liberty League
James Madison 1 Colonial Athletic Association
John Carroll 3 Ohio Athletic
Johns Hopkins 3 Centennial Conference
Juniata Eagles 3 Landmark
Kennesaw State 1 Atlantic Sun
Kenyon 3 North Coast Athletic
Lackawanna College NJCAA 2 Garden State Athletic Conference
Lehigh Mountain 1 Patriot League
Limestone Staints 2 Carolinas
Lock Haven 2 Pennsylvania State Athletic
Malone University Pioneers 2 Great Midwest Athletic
Mansfield Mountaioneers 2 Pennsylvania State Athletic
Marietta Poiners 3 Ohio Athletic
Marist Red Foxes 1 Metro Atlantic Athletic
Marymount Saints 3 Capital Athletic Conference
Massachusetts-Lowell 1 America East
Medaille 3 Allegheny Mountain Collegiate
Merchant Marine 3 Skyline
Merrimack 2 Northeast 10
Michigan State 1 Big 10
Missouri State 1 Missouri Valley
Missouri 1 Southeastern
Monmouth 1 Metro Atlantic Athletic
Morehead State 1 Ohio Valley
Mount St. Mary’s 1 Northeast
Mount Union 3 Ohio Atheltic
Mount Vernon Nazarene University NAIA2 Crossroads League
Muskingum Muskies 3 Ohio Athletic
NJIT 1 Atlantic Sun
Navy Midshipmen 1 Patriot League
New Hampshire 1 America East
Notre Dame College 2 Mountain East
Ohio Dominican 2 Great Midwest Athletic
Pacific 1 West Coast Conference
Penn State Fayette USCAA2 PSUAC
Penn State- Harrisburg 3 Capital Athletic Conference
Pennsylvania Quakers 1 Ivy League
Pitt-Greensburg 3 Allegheny Mountain Collegiate
Pittsburgh 1 Atlantic Coast
Portland 1 West Coast Conference
Post 2 Central Athletic Collegiate
Pratt 3
Princeton 1 Ivy League
Radford 1 Big South
Rochester 3 University Athletics
Sacred Heart 1 Northeast
Saint Josephs 1 Atlantic 10
Salem International 2 Independent
Salisbury 3 Capital Athletic Conference
Scranton 3 Landmark
Shenandoah 3 Old Dominion Athletic
Sheperd 2 Mountain East
Shippensburg 2 Pennsylvania State Atheltic
St Francis 1 Northeast
St John Fisher 3 Empire 8
St Mary’s (MD) 3 Capital Athletic Conference
St Vincent 3 Presidents’ Athletic Conference
State University of New York at Canton 3 American Collegiate Athletic
Stonehill 2 Northeast 10
Temple 1 American Athletic
Thiel 3 Presidents’ Athletic Conference
Towson 1 Colonial Athletic Association
Tufts 3 New England Small
Tulane 1 American Athletic
UCF 1 American Athletic
UNLV 1 Mountain West
University of Northwestern Ohio NAIA2 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference
University of the Sciences 2 Central Atlantic Collegiate
Urbana 2 Mountain East
Ursinus 3 Centennial Conference
Virginia Military Keydets 1 Southern
Virginia Wesleyan 3 Old Dominion Athletic
WPI Engineers 3 New England Women’s & Men’s
Wagner 1 Northeast
Walsh University 2 Great Midwest Athletic
Washington and Jefferson Presidents 3 Presidents’ Athletic Conference
Waynesburg 3 Presidents’ Athletic Conference
Wesleyan Cardinals 3 New England Small
West Liberty Hilltoppers 2 Mountain East
West Virginia 1 Big12
Wheeling Jesuit 2 Mountain East
Wilkes 2 Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom
Williams Ephs 3 New England Small
Wilmington Wildcats 2 Central Atlantic Collegiate
Wingate Bulldogs 2 South Atlantic
Wright State Raiders 1 Horizon League
Yale 1 Ivy Leauge
York PA 3 Capital Athletic Conference
Youngstown State 1 Horizon League

Jahbril Price-Noel Makes a Statement on Night One: Q&A with 2018 Wing


Jack Herron

At the Pittsburgh JamFest, there’s always going to be some available seniors that are worth a look by some college coaches, 6’7” wing Jahbril Price-Noel of Northern Kings 17U may just be one of the best in attendance this year. He got off to a great start, showing his ability to shoot the basketball and play in transition with good size on the wing, and that goes right along with what he’s trying to do in one of his final AAU events.

“I’m trying to prove that I’m a high major prospect that is versatile at 6’7”, he said. “I have a few options now that I’m looking toward but I’m trying to keep everything open now and see what I might pick up.”

Unlike many unsigned seniors, the Canadian wing has schools all over him already, and even has a few visits set up for after the live period.

“East Tennessee State and Pacific have been talking to me a lot, and I’m probably going to go on visits to those two here soon,” he said. “Other than that, I have five official visits to take and have three spots to fill in, if I need to. I’m just testing the waters and seeing what else I can get before my time is up.”

While he’s keeping his options open, Price-Noel is looking for somewhere that he will fit in right away, somewhere that he can call his home for the next four years.

“I’m just looking for a home, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be close to home coming from Canada. I’m just looking for an opportunity to come in and play my game, being a big guard and scoring the basketball, and just going somewhere that I can improve and live out that dream of playing at the next level.”

Chock full of both potential next year and the ability to get better moving forward, expect more teams to get involved with Price-Noel moving forward and expect whoever lands him to get a guy ready to compete from day one.