The first round of the highly-anticipated 2020 Playoffs is nearing an end, but former Duke stars have already put on quite the display for fans.
Gary Trent Jr., SG, Portland Trailblazers
Since enjoying a scorching end of the season, the 2018 second round draft pick regressed a bit, dropping just 6 and 13 points in his last two games in the bubble as Portland was eliminated in five games against Lebron James and the No. 1 seed LA Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Despite the tough defeat, the Trailblazers were extremely impressive in Orlando, making a late season push to make the playoffs against all odds. Look for Trent to play a more prominent role next season as he has emerged as a credible 3-and-D threat.
Jayson Tatum, SF, Boston Celtics
The 2017 No. 3 pick carried the offensive burden for the No. 3 seed in the east, putting up 28 points and 15 rebounds in Game Four of a comfortable sweep of the 76ers. Tatum flashed the defensive strides he’s made this year, adding a steal and two blocks, while also enjoying his most efficient scoring night of the playoffs, hitting 56 percent of his 18 attempts in the game. As the Celtics gear up for what may be the closest series of the playoffs so far against the Toronto Raptors, they will need Tatum to replicate that scoring output as they look to make a push for the Finals.
Seth Curry, SG, Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs find themselves in a tough spot, down three games to two against the No. 2 seed Clippers. Still, their performance has been admirable, especially while missing their anchor in Kristaps Porzingis, and that has been in no small part due to Curry’s shooting. The 2013 undrafted rookie splashed 6 of his 9 attempts for 15 points in a shock Game Four victory before cooling off in limited minutes during a blowout loss in Game 5. If Dallas has any chance of pulling off the series upset, they’ll need Curry to continue his hot shooting from Games 3 and 4. He’ll look to get more involved on offense, especially with Porzingis out for the remainder of the playoffs.
Austin Rivers, G, Houston Rockets
Since his 11-point effort in Game 2, the 2012 No. 10 pick has been ice cold against the Thunder, scoring just 9 total points on 4 of 16 shooting in the three games since. Without a strong second scorer alongside superstar James Harden, Houston dropped Games 3 and 4 but were buoyed by Russell Westbrook’s return to the starting lineup in Game 5 to take a blowout win and the series lead. Should the Rockets progress past the first round, they’ll need every bit of scoring they can get to stand any chance against the high-powered Lakers in the next round. Rivers will need to find the same shooting stroke that saw him drop 41 just three weeks ago, or else the Rockets will soon find themselves out of the bubble.
Mason Plumlee, C, Denver Nuggets
After playing double digit minutes in each of his appearances in the regular season, the 2013 first rounder has struggled to see the court in Denver’s tight series against the Utah Jazz. Down two to three in the series, the Nuggets have been forced to rely heavily on their starting five, phasing Plumlee out of the rotation as he only saw 8 and 5 minutes in his last two games respectively. Although he does offer a reliable veteran presence, he is unlikely to see much playing time during the remainder of the playoffs.
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