While the NBA Playoffs are currently going on, we have an exciting Finals matchup in the NBA D-League as the Rio Grande Valley Vipers take on the Raptors 905. Here is a preview of both teams and who to look out for in this best of three-game series.
A look at the Vipers
The Vipers finished the regular season second in the Western Conference at 32-18. The beat the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the first round and then beat the top-seeded Oklahoma City Blue in the Conference Finals. This is the teams 4th D-League Finals appearance in franchise history.
The team plays must like their NBA affiliate, the Houston Rockets, with their run-and-gun style of offensive play. The Vipers finished top five in Offensive Rating (113.7, 1st), three-point field goal attempts (30.9, 4th) and effective field goal percentage (54.5, 1st). Taking a page out of the Rockets play style has helped them and this could lead they way for potential players to make it to the Rockets main roster.
Looking at the Raptors 905
In their second season, the Raptors 905 has shown that sometimes it does not take long to make a name in the D-League. The team finished first in the Eastern Conference with a 39-11 record. 18-year NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse has laid a nice foundation for this team. The first year head coach recently won D-League Coach of the Year and looks to cap off a successful first year as a coach.
While the Vipers have a high-powered offense, the 905 have the top-ranked defense this season. The team has a 100.1 defensive rating, which is ranked 1st in the D-League. The team is also on a perfect timing winning streak, entering tonight’s game on a 12-game winning streak.
Key players to look at for both teams
- #1 Isaiah Taylor: The offensive force starts with Taylor. He has averaged 19.6 points during the playoffs. His play this season earned him an NBA Call-up with the Houston Rockets and signed a three-year deal with the team, however, he will suit up for the Vipers during this series.
- #9 Darius Morris: The former Lakers second round pick in 2011 bounced around the NBA for the past few seasons and latched on to the Vipers in the beginning of this season. His 25.3 point scoring average in the playoffs leads the team and is ranked third in playoff scoring. Look for him and Taylor to be the backcourt duo to get the job done tonight.
- #18 Kyle Wiltjer: After going undrafted in the 2016 NBA Draft, Wiltjer joined the Rockets training camp and made the opening night roster. While he still on the roster for the Rockets, Wiltjer will also be playing in this series much like Taylor. Wiltjer has averaged 23.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in the playoffs
- #23 Chinanu Onuaku: Onuaku was drafted by the Rockets in the second round of this past year’s draft and has spent his first year in the NBA with multiple stints in the D-League. Onuaku will be the key big man for the Vipers this series.
- #43 Pascal Sikam: Sikam was selected by the Raptors 27th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. Sikam has a decent rookie year playing in 55 games while also spending time with the Raptors 905. He has averaged 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1 block during this playoff run.
- #21 C.J. Leslie: Leslie has bounced around overseas and the D-League before joining the team this season. He is currently averaging 14.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.3 steals in the playoffs
- #4 Brady Heslip: Heslip is the team’s star shooter, going 43.5% from the field, including 40.5% from three. Look for Heslip to be the main guy the 905 go to when needing a scoring boost from the outside.
- #3 E.J. Singler: Much like the guys on this list, Singler joined the team at the beginning of the season. He is also another sharpshooter on the team, going 45% from the field including 43.5% from three. Singler, alongside Heslip, will be another go-to scorer from the outside for this team.
This should be an exciting Finals matchup between the high offensive team of the Vipers and the tough defense of the Raptors 905.
Game One of the NBA D-League Finals is set to tip off at 8 PM EST. Game Two will take place on Tuesday, April 25th at 7 PM. If necessary, Game Three will be onThursday, April 27th at 7 PM. All games will be on ESPN U. The games can also be seen streaming live on the official NBA D-League Facebook page.