The Tulsa 66ers received a big playoff boost upon receiving conformation that the likes of Perry Jones III, Jeremy Lamb, and DeAndre Liggins will be re-joining them from Oklahoma City. Despite the fact that they're all currently members of the Thunder, they've been major factors on a Tulsa 66ers team that finished as the 7th seed.
Meanwhile, the Canton Charge have been one of those "little engine that could" kind of teams, finishing as third seed in the D-League. They did so without a top flight player. Despite this, they're still one of the top teams in the league, behind their great defense (only allowing 95 points per game) and great coaching by Alex Jensen, who has done a terrific job with this roster.
Comparing the two rosters, it's easy to say the matchup is heavily favored toward the 66ers because of their NBA prospects. Still, it's silly to look down on the Charge. Canton's core is built around Arinze Onuaku, Kyle Gibson, Kyle Weaver and Jorge Gutierrez. Gibson is kind of the only offensive force that Canton really has, but they're a defensively sound team that's built around what Arinze does in the front court and Gutierrez in the backcourt. Even prior to joining the Charge, Gutierrez was known as a top notch defender, but his reputation in the minds of most people has been hurt by the fact that he's not that great of an offensive player.
Matchup Of The Series
Kyle Gibson vs. Jeremy Lamb
While Lamb has been highly touted since his days in college at UConn and even before then, Gibson has really come on the scene since the All-Star break by averaging around 18.5 points per game on 46% shooting. While he's always been a solid shooter since his D-League career (started with Canton in the 2011-12 season) he's developing into more of an all-around scorer with his ability to penetrate to the rim and get to the free throw line.
Meanwhile, Lamb is probably the best pure shooter in the D-League playoffs shooting 49% from the field. That will give the chance to have a terrific game on any given night and will also take some of the attention away from Andy Rautins who recently broke the all-time record for most shots from long range in a D-League season.
Tulsa in 3 games (Best of 3 game series)
While Tulsa is probably the favorite in the series despite being the 7th seed, Canton will still have home-court advantage in the series. Canton went 16-9 at home this season, whereas Tulsa boasted a losing record on the court.
Like the majority of the matchups in the first round, these two teams will be highly competitive, and the series has the potential to not be decided until the final moments of the third and final game. The talent level of Tulsa puts them over the top, not only because of the NBA assignees but also players like Rasual Butler, Andy Rautins and even Tony Taylor, who has shined since Chris Quinn was picked up by Cleveland last month.