The NBA Playoffs are officially here, as after 6 play-in games, 16 teams have secured their spot in the postseason.
A lot of great basketball is about to be played, and a few Michigan Wolverines will get the chance to showcase their talents on the NBA’s biggest stage.
Here’s a rooting guide for Michigan fans, as a few fan favorites could have some big playoff moments over the next few months.
Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors
Opening round matchup: vs Denver Nuggets, Game 1 tips off Saturday, April 16, at 8:30 p.m. on ABC
Poole has been one of the best players for the Golden State Warriors this season, averaging a career-high 18.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists playing 30 minutes per game while shooting 44.8% from the field, 36.4% from three and a league-leading 92.5% at the free throw line. He closed out the season averaging 25.8 points over the team’s final 12 games.
Poole has been able to fill the shoes of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, who have both dealt with injuries at different points this year.
I was one of the many Michigan fans that thought that Poole would mostly just be a three-points shooter in the NBA, but he has been much more than that this season. He has grown into one of the Warrior’s best playmakers, and the league has certainly taken notice.
Poole has a legitimate case for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, as he went from spending time in the G League last year to being one of the best players for a top-3 seed in the West.
When asked about Poole’s case for the award recently, Draymond Green had some nice things to say about his teammate.
“When you look around, the most improvement has been Jordan Poole, and that goes without saying,” Green said. “You go across the list, and you show me what those guys did last year and the year before that, and you show me what Jordan did last year and the year before that, he is the most improved. If we’re going by what the title of the award is, what the name of the award is, then it’s easily Jordan.”
Don’t be surprised if Poole hits a few big shots for the Warriors over the next few weeks.
Duncan Robinson, Miami Heat
Opening round matchup: vs Atlanta Hawks, Sunday, April 17, Game 1 tips off on Sunday, April 17, at 1 p.m. on TNT
Robinson has seen his role shift a bit with the Heat since their NBA Finals run 2 years ago, as he now comes off the bench and has seen his minutes decline from 31.4 per game last season to 25.9 this season.
Robinson has seen his counting stats go down a bit with that minutes decrease (10.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists per game), and by his standards, he’s not shooting the ball as well this season (39.9% from the field, 37.2% from three).
The sharp-shooting wing would start for a good portion of teams in the league, but the Miami Heat have one of the deepest rosters in all of basketball. He has accepted his new role and is making the most of it.
“Role and involvement and everything has looked different night to night,” Robinson said in a win against the Charlotte Hornets last month. “That’s what you get when you play on a good team with a lot of guys that can do a lot of different things. For me it’s just about wrapping my mind around that. It’s definitely not something that is easy, per se. Everyone is going through it and it’s sacrifice when you get on a good team like this that wants to do something special. That’s what it takes. Whatever is required of me on a nightly basis, I’m willing. I’m two feet in or four feet in, whatever you want to call it, just to help us be better and try to get wins.”
Michigan fans know how Robinson only needs to see one three go in to get hot from deep, and his shooting prowess alone might swing a few games in the Heat’s favor this postseason. A 26-point performance from him in Game 5 of the Finals helped keep the Heat’s title chances alive in the bubble a few years ago.
Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke, Dallas Mavericks
Opening round matchup: vs Utah Jazz, Game 1 tips off Saturday, April 16 at 1 p.m. on ESPN
Unfortunately for Michigan fans, we likely won’t see much of either of these guys in the playoffs this year.
That’s one injury update I can help ya out with now: Tim Hardaway Jr. is back in two shoes (with a carbon-fiber plate under his left insole), but not practicing or close to full strength and stamina.— Callie Caplan (@CallieCaplan) April 11, 2022
He won’t be available vs. Jazz — and likely the entire postseason. https://t.co/fffuOQPpCc
Before fracturing his foot in late January, Hardaway Jr. started in 20 of his 42 Mavs games, averaging 14.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 39.4% from the field and 33.4% from three.
Trey Burke just returned to the Mavericks after coming off of COVID protocol, but he hasn’t played much for the Mavs this season. He has racked up a number of DNP’s this season, and has averaged 10.5 minutes, 5.1 points, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 39.1% from the field and 31.7% from three.
Michigan fans know that Burke can step up in clutch moments, and he has had some memorable playoff performances. He had 4 double-digit scoring outings in the Mavericks’ first round matchup with the Los Angeles Clippers in the bubble, including a 25-point performance in a Game 4 victory.
Hopefully Burke gets a few more chances to shine in these playoffs.