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Virginia Men's Basketball

What are the Expectations for the ‘Hoos in the NBA Bubble? (Part 1)

(Image – Ben Rekosh – @Br.dsgns)

Following a week or so of scrimmages, the NBA has officially returned to playing meaningful games. On Thursday, the Pelicans, Jazz, Lakers, and Clippers kicked off the NBA bubble seeding games. Today, a number of other teams kick off their eight seeding games. Among those teams, four former Wahoos will also be seeing their first meaningful minutes in over four months. As such, it’s worth addressing what we ought to expect for our former ‘Hoos and their respective squads

Joe Harris – Nets

Harris, an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, enters bubble play as one of the few meaningful contributors for the Nets. With stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving dealing with previous injuries, and other key players including Spencer Dinwiddie and De’Andre Jordan opting out of the bubble, Harris will be called upon to play an even larger role than he has in the past.

While that may be unfortunate for the Nets as a team, it does provide Harris an opportunity to up his stock heading into free agency. Already established as an integral complementary player, Harris will look to capitalize on a relatively weak free-agent class to cash in big-time this offseason.

Obviously, he’s a lights out shooter from deep and he’s an extremely efficient player considering that 52.3% of his shots come from three. In fact, another 29.1% of his field goal attempt coming inside three feet. With the league-wide efficiency movement resulting in the death of the midrange jumper those type of numbers and the accuracy with which he shoots (63.4% from inside three feet, 41.2% from deep) are to die for.

Now, while his stock is already quite high, to continue raising it he’ll have to continue to display his capability as a playmaker. His 10.3% assist rate could likely improve with more time as an initiator in the bubble, as should his 2.1 APG average.

As for the Nets, don’t expect much. Harris and Caris Levert will be responsible for the majority of the offensive production, and there’s not much punch off the bench. Sitting in seventh in the East, the Nets are a mere half-game ahead of the Orlando Magic in eighth. That said, the ninth-place team, Washington, is a whole six games behind the Nets. So, the Nets’ playoff spot is likely sealed considering there are only eight games to play.

No matter if the Nets end up matched up with the #1 seed Milwaukee Bucks, or whoever clinches the #2 seed between Toronto and Boston, any playoff appearance is almost sure to be short-lived. But that doesn’t mean Joey Headband can’t light it up on the way out.

Justin Anderson – Nets

Anderson, also with Nets, will be hoping to impress in the bubble to land himself an NBA deal for the 2020-2021 season. After being a bench contributor his first five seasons, Anderson has spent this year bouncing around the G League. Now that he’s got a shot to display what he can do as a result of the Nets’ lack of contributors, he’ll want to perform.

With Brooklyn’s depleted roster, Anderson should see consistent playing time off the bench. In his time on the floor, it’ll be critical for him to prove himself in two key areas. First, Anderson is a defensive pest. So, if he can provide meaningful minutes guarding some of the league’s premier guards and wings, that will go a long way towards a contract for next year.

Secondly, he needs to shoot the ball well. He doesn’t have to be a playmaker, but if Justin can hit consistently from behind the arc he will perfectly exemplify the NBA’s traditional ‘3 and d’ wing. In the G League this year, Anderson shot 35.4% from deep, so if he can replicate those numbers, or maybe improve on them a tad, he’ll be well on his way to an NBA deal for next season.

Ty Jerome – Suns

With the Suns, Ty Jerome will be fighting for minutes at backup point guard. Behind veteran Ricky Rubio, there are a number of Suns gunning for the backup minutes. Along with Jerome, Jevon Carter, Elie Okobo, and Cameron Payne are all competing for minutes as guards off the bench. All four of them are natural point guards, and, while they can each play off ball, it’s unlikely that more than two of them get significant minutes in the seeding games.

Jerome likely has the highest potential of all four, and, as the Suns’ 24th overall pick in last year’s draft, he likely has the longest leash. But where he runs into a bit of trouble is in the qualifications for a traditional backup point guard. Generally, a backup lead guard in the NBA is someone who can keep the offense rolling, take care of the ball, knock down a shot or two, and isn’t a weakness on the defensive end.

While Ty is fully capable on the offensive end, he has had his fair share of struggles in his rookie year. His three-point shooting has been a bit down (27.7%), but that is likely just a matter of seeing the ball go in the hoop and continuing to adjust to the professional game. He’s done a solid job taking care of the ball (13.8% turnover rate), and his 18.8% assist rate is encouraging.

But Jerome has also gone through some growing pains on defense. While more experienced guards like Carter, Okobo, and Payne are more adept and accustomed to guarding quick lead guards, Ty is both bigger and not quite as quick, but he’s still an incredibly intelligent and crafty defender.

So, despite a few of his weaknesses, Ty’s high ceiling, his worth to the Suns as a first-round pick, and the Suns’ place in the standings (six games and five places out of the playoffs) he’ll likely see the floor on a consistent basis.

Kyle Guy – Kings

After signing a two-way contract last summer, Kyle Guy has spent the 2019-2020 season jumping between playing with the Stockton Kings (G League) and the Sacramento Kings. Now, with the remaining G League season canceled, Guy is in the NBA bubble with the Sacramento Kings and has the opportunity to push for playing time.

That said, the Kings are extremely deep in the backcourt. With De’Aron Fox as the team’s point guard of the future and Buddy Hield as an electric shooting guard, they’ve shored up their backcourt of the future. Others including Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kent Bazemore, Cory Joseph, and Yogi Ferrell provide impressive depth.

Kyle has his work made out for him to get meaningful playing time. Now, the Kings are four games out of the playoffs, so they’ve got a shot at a push. But they’re also not exactly built for any type of playoff run.

Ideally, Kyle will see some late-game run in a blowout or two. Perhaps with a solid performance in less meaningful time, he’ll get thrown into the fire at some point in a closer game where the Kings are cold from deep and need a spark.

Schedule

Joe Harris, Justin Anderson and the Nets play the Magic today at 2:30 PM ET. Ty Jerome and the Suns play the Wizards at 4:00 PM ET. Then Kyle Guy and the Kings play the Spurs at 8:00 PM ET.

Tomorrow (Saturday), Devon Hall and the Thunder play the Jazz at 3:30 PM ET. A few hours later, Malcolm Brogdon and the Pacers tip-off against Mike Scott and the Sixers at 7:00 PM ET.

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