G League Playoffs: Win or Go Home

Player of the Week: Trevelin Queen

A name that may not jump off the page, former New Mexico State star, Trevelin Queen has led the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to the number one overall seed in the Western Conference. Named the league MVP in his second season, Queen was an undrafted free agent that was able to carve out a role in Rio Grande and grow immensely over the last two years. In his rookie season he only averaged 10/2/1 along with one steal in twenty minutes on the floor. The leap he took his sophomore year is the reason the G-League is so important to the success of young overlooked players. In thirty five minutes a game, Queen ended the season averaging 25.3/6.6/5.2 and 3.3 steals. Staking claim to the MVP award from the jump, he has played himself and his team into the championship conversation.

Thursday was Rio Grande’s first playoff game since they were awarded a first round bye as the number one seed in their conference. In a 120-103 win against the Texas Legends, Queen had an efficient 25/7/7/ on 59% from the floor and 55% from deep. A player that can elevate his team in important moments, the Vipers have a chance to win their fourth championship since inception. In the future, if Queen can keep up his production, he may find himself on the back end of the rotation with the Houston Rockets or on another professional roster this time next year.

Who’s Hot

G League Playoffs: As the NBA regular season winds down and teams shift their focus to the playoffs, the G League playoffs are the perfect bridge to playoff level intensity. A one game elimination tournament that will end with a three game series to determine the champion, the G League has found the perfect formula. A one game elimination forces each regular season game to count. Home court advantage means substantially more in a one game scenario and it emphasizes intense, mistake free basketball to crown a champion. The stars of the league are leaned on more heavily and have to make an impact on a nightly basis or you could end up going home without notice. Preparing a format that also ends one day after the NBA playoffs begin, Game 3 (If Necessary) will be played on April 17th, allowing the professional organizations to call up their two-way players to help fill roster spots or take NBA minutes. With about 10 days left in the playoff everyone should be tuning into the G League to help shift into a win or go home mentality.

Who’s Cold

Texas Legends: The Legends were fighting an uphill battle facing the number one seed in the conference after making it out of the first round. Call it tired legs or lack of preparation but it felt like the team as a whole could not get the lid off the basket. The eight players who saw minutes were a combined -88 for the night. Justin Jackson was 0-9 from deep and 6-20 from the field in forty minutes of play. Moses Wright found himself shooting the ball better than Jackson 10-20 and 3-4 from deep, but was a whopping -36 when on the floor. The barrage of poor shooting or poor defense ended their playoff hopes against the Vipers, rapidly. A wire to wires seventeen point loss after falling behind ten in the first quarter. During the offseason, it would make sense for players to move among the other G League squads or even up to the main roster. A new look Texas team could be exactly what they need if they want to avoid a similar performance next year.

Top 5 Championship Contenders:

5. Ague Caliente Clippers

The Ague Caliente Clippers escaped the South Bay Lakers on Thursday night but it doesn’t feel like that will be their fate when they face off against Rio Grande. A back and forth game through the entire night, the Clippers are a true underdog in this playoff. An underdog at 22-11 usually doesn’t fit the bill but as a team that has to potentially face both number one seeds to win the championship without home floor advantage it is a steep uphill battle. If the Clippers can keep their legs under them they may be able to keep the game competitive against Rio Grande but it is hard to imagine they are the last team standing.

4. Motor City Cruise

The Cruise are an extremely solid team with a mixture of veteran G League players, NBA level talent and budding rookies. The second best team in the East finds themselves fourth at no fault of their own. A true team effort the Cruise have eight players scoring over double figure with their Saban Lee leading the team with 24 a game. Finding themselves fourth on the list after playing .500 basketball since the end of February. Winning their last two games, if the pattern holds they seem to be due for at least one loss over the next ten days.

3. Delaware Blue Coats

The Blue Coats find themselves third on the list because of their dynamic scoring potential and their appearance in the championship last year. A team touting Charles Bassey, Myles Powell, Shamorie Ponds and Jaden Springer gives them the scoring and rim protection they need to compete with any team on any given night. While they lack the home court advantage of Motor City, Raptors 905 and Rio Grande it doesn’t mean they can’t steal a game or two away with the weapons they have. Look for Delaware and Motor City to push each other to the end tonight as they fight their way to the Eastern Conference Final.

2. Raptors 905

Raptors 905 just seems to have it all together. Only losing eight games in the regular season the team is well balanced and found their stride in the last two months of the season, only losing two games since February 23rd. The team has minimal experience in the G League with eight rookies and five sophomores making up their roster, it doesn’t seem to have impacted their play. The team is primarily led by Justin Champagnie, the Pittsburgh alum has contributed 21 & 8 during the regular season. With home court advantage out of the East, you could see both #1 seeds facing off in the championship next week.

1. Rio Grande Valley Vipers

The Vipers have most recently won the championship in 2019 and are on the hunt for a league best fourth championship this season. The number one seed in the Western Conference backed by the MVP they have fresh legs in comparison to the South Bay Lakers/Ague Caliente Clippers who will be playing their third game of the tournament in Rio Grande. In a championship game that features two of the top three seeds in the G League Western Conference it is hard to imagine the Vipers falling, before the finals, especially on their home floor.

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