Seven former Cats gear up for NBA Playoffs

John Wall is introduced prior to the Sacramento Kings game against the Washington Wizards on Saturday, October 15, 2016 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky..

Zack Geoghegan

UK men’s basketball will have a significant presence in the NBA over the next several weeks as the playoffs begin April 15.

Seven former Cats will take the court to represent seven different teams in this year’s NBA playoffs.

John Wall (Washington Wizards), James Young (Boston Celtics), Patrick Patterson (Toronto Raptors) and Rajon Rondo (Chicago Bulls) will represent the UK in the Eastern Conference while Trey Lyles (Utah Jazz), Enes Kanter (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Andrew Harrison (Memphis Grizzlies) will battle in the West. 

Cats fans won’t get to watch superstars such as DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, Anthony Davis, or Karl-Anthony Towns and plenty others — as their teams failed to make the postseason. With so many young and talented former Cats just establishing their footing in the NBA, it may be a few more seasons before fans are exposed to an NBA playoffs composed almost entirely of teams with former UK players on the roster.

Until then, fans can get a tiny glimpse of UK’s NBA takeover by watching this year’s playoffs.

Wall is the most high profile former Cat to make the postseason and will lead the Washington Wizards in their first round matchup against the Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards have experienced a revitalization in their play over the last half of the season and Wall has been a major component in their rise to the top half of the Eastern Conference. 

Wall had the best season of his career this year, averaging a double-double with averages of 23.1 points and 10.7 assists per game while also leading the league in steals per game (2.0).

According to the Washington Wizards, Wall is the first player in league history to average at least 20.0 points, 10.0 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 0.5 blocks per game over the course of an entire season.

Wall’s career-year could easily be attributed to the fact that he’s the healthiest he’s been for the past several seasons. The Wizards are capable of putting together a run to the conference finals, which is where Wall had them on track for two seasons ago before a second round hand injury held him back from a conference finals trip. 

Young of the Boston Celtics is the only player of the seven to reach the playoffs who most likely won’t see too much playing time. His Celtics earned a No. 1 seed in the playoffs, but he has yet to carve out a role for himself on the team. Young has only played in 29 games this season, averaging 2.3 points in just 7.6 minutes per game.

Patterson had another solid season as a key role player for the Toronto Raptors and will look to continue his efficient scoring season heading into his team’s first round matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Patterson shot 43.8 percent from three over his last 20 games of the season and will hope to ride that momentum into the playoffs. His defense and versatility has been key to Toronto’s playoff success in the past and that shouldn’t change this time around.

Rondo and the Chicago Bulls take on the Boston Celtics in his first round matchup.

Rondo has had a down year by his standards, partially due to playing with such a crowded backcourt and being surrounded by a poor shooting team. However, Rondo has improved since the All-Star break, averaging 10.8 points and 7.1 assists per game since then.

Harrison of the Memphis Grizzlies and Lyles of the Utah Jazz will both see limited minutes as their team’s rotation will tighten up and focus more on getting the starters as much playing time as possible. Both players stepped up big in the regular season when their respective teams were plagued by injuries, so fans shouldn’t rule out them making crucial contributions if their number is called. 

Lastly, Kanter of the Oklahoma City Thunder will join MVP candidate, Russell Westbrook, as the Thunder look to take down the Houston Rockets and their MVP candidate, James Harden.

Kanter has had a successful season coming off the bench this year, averaging 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game on 54.5 percent shooting from the field. He also played a big part in the Thunder leading the league in rebounding, which will be crucial in the playoffs for giving the team extra possessions.

The Thunder-Rockets series is one of the most intriguing first round series and Kanter will be a vital asset in the Thunder’s attempt at an upset. 

While there are only seven former Cats in this year’s NBA playoffs, it may not be too long before UK fans get to witness Karl-Anthony Towns go head-to-head against DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis in a high stakes playoff matchup.