Image Credit: AP
Though not leading the league like they have in recent years, the Florida Gators placed seven players in the 2016 NBA Playoffs, good for sixth most behind North Carolina (13), Duke and UCLA (nine each), Kansas and Kentucky (eight each) and tied with Arizona (seven).
Florida’s seven players were spread among six of the 16 teams in the playoffs, but only one remains in the fold after the Golden State Warriors advanced to the 2016 NBA Finals on Sunday night.
Should power forward Marreese Speights — the only ex-UF player in the conference finals — win the championship, a former Gators player will bring home an NBA ring for the sixth consecutive season.
Here’s a breakdown of how the Florida players performed this season and in the playoffs, listed in order of elimination.
PF Marreese Speights, Golden State Warriors: “Mo Buckets” got his despite seeing his minutes cut by four per game in the regular season following Golden State’s title run. Speights was still efficient when in the game, scoring 7.1 points and grabbing 3.3 rebounds, but he was only seeing 11.6 minutes of action per contest off the bench. Spieghts has maintained his 7.1 points per game in the playoffs, seeing 9.9 minutes per game as a reserve who contributed double-digit points in two key wins for the Warriors in Games 2 and 5.
The Warriors will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, beginning on Thursday.
PF Udonis Haslem, Miami Heat: Haslem is now more a leadership figure than anything else in Miami, as he only played 7.0 minutes per game and suited up just 37 contests during the regular season. In his 12th year, he’s averaged career lows across the board, but what he brings to the Heat locker room cannot be overstated in terms of experience and maturity. Haslem saw his minutes (9.4) rise in the playoffs and did well in the conference semifinals when he shot 66.7 percent from the field with 18 points in the four games he played before Miami was eliminated by Toronto.
PF Matt Bonner, San Antonio Spurs: In his 11th season (10th with San Antonio), Bonner actually shot some of the best averages of his career, but his 6.9 minutes per game was a career-low and he only played in 30 games during the regular season with two starts. He did not suit up int he playoffs as the Spurs fell to the Thunder in the conference semifinals.
C Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks: Putting together a fully healthy season, Horford averaged 15.2 points, 7.3 boards and 3.2 assists this year while starting all 82 regular-season games and leading the Hawks back to the playoffs. Horford’s numbers dipped across the board in the postseason, though he did post two 24-point games in Game 1 of the conference quarterfinals against Boston and Game 3 of the semifinals against Cleveland. Unfortunately for The Godfather, the Hawks were swept out of the playoffs by the Cavs. Horford becomes an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career this offseason and is looking for a max contract.
F Chandler Parsons, Dallas Mavericks: Shooting better than he has in his career during the regular season, Parsons hit nearly half of his field goals and 41.4 percent of his threes, but his minutes and overall numbers were down as he averaged 13.7 points and 4.7 rebounds, his lowest since his rookie campaign in 2011-12. A knee injury kept Parsons out the final 13 games of the regular season, and he missed the playoffs as Dallas was eliminated in five games by Oklahoma City. It is expected that Parsons will opt out of his contract at the end of the league year.
PF David Lee, Dallas Mavericks: After starting the season with the Boston Celtics, Lee wound up joining Parsons in Dallas and played great in his 25 games with the club. Lee posted 8.5 points and 7.0 boards in just 17.3 minutes per game while hitting 63.6 percent of his shots in that span, which would be a career-high percentage if it was over the course of a full season. Though he did not play in Games 1, 2 or 5 — all Mavs losses — Lee did play 23 minutes combined in Games 3 and 4 where he went 6-for-8 from the field with 12 points and six boards. Lee will also be a unrestricted free agent this offseason.
F Corey Brewer, Houston Rockets: Though Brewer started 12 contests this season, he was a reserve for the Rockets and struggled on the offensive end with an overall stat line that has dipped below the averages he’s posted since his second year in the league. Brewer’s struggles continued into the postseason as he went 7-for-27 from the field over five games against Golden State, combining for 22 points with seven rebounds and seven assists. He still has two years left on his three-year, $23.4 million fully-guaranteed deal.
Oh, and there’s this guy …
Coach Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder: Donovan led the Thunder (55-27) to a first-place finish in the Northwest Division and No. 3 seed in the playoffs, which was impressive considering the two teams that finished ahead of Oklahoma City (Golden State, San Antonio) posted historic records. The Thunder were expected to fall in the conference semifinals to the Spurs but instead shocked San Antonio with a 4-2 series victory. OKC then led the Warriors 3-1 in the conference finals only to see Golden State become the 10th team in NBA history to rally from such a deficit to win a playoff series.
It was a heartbreaking finish for Donovan and the Thunder, though the stellar performance of Oklahoma City prior to game six was attributed in large part to Donovan’s coaching. It may have also been enough to keep star forward Kevin Durant in OKC for one or two more seasons as he contemplates his future over the next couple months.