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2018 NBA G League Finals Series Preview: Raptors 905 vs. Austin Spurs

Editor Dakota Schmidt previews the NBA G League Finals series between the Raptors 905 and the Austin Spurs.

Austin Spurs Twitter

WHAT: Game 1 Of NBA G League Finals. Best-of-3 Game Series.

WHEN: 7 PM ET

WHERE: H-E-B Center at Cedar Park

HOW TO WATCH: ESPNU

HOW WE GOT HERE

Dating back to around two weeks ago when the NBA G League playoff field was at 18 teams, I had the feeling that this is the matchup that we’d see in the Finals. Even though the Raptors 905 stood at the 4th seed and had only one home game between the 1st round and the Finals, I still considered them as the favorite to win the Eastern Conference. A huge reason behind that confidence rested with the team’s phenomenal defense that finished at the top of the league as they held opponents to score a league-low 97.7 points per game.

Part of that defensive success was due to how they just prevented the opposition from really succeeding inside the paint. In 29 possessions per game, opponents shot 57.6% from with inside the restricted area, which stood as the fifth lowest average in the entire G League. However, the biggest part of their defensive dominance was simply due to them preventing opponents from getting second chance opportunities, as they held opponents to snag a league-low 9.5 offensive rebounds per game.

So while the 905 didn’t have the most powerful offense or anybody that scored 20+ points per game, my faith with this team dealt with their fantastic work on the defensive end. That confidence more than paid off as that incredible defense held both the Grand Rapids Drive and Westchester Knicks to 92 or less points during the first two rounds.

Although that defense evaporated a bit during their Eastern Conference Finals game against the Erie Bayhawks, a great 26-point and 8 assist showcase from Raptors two-way prospect Lorenzo Brown pushed them to a 118-106 victory to carry them to the G League Finals

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Austin Spurs who entered this year’s finals as the best team in the G League with a 32-18 record. Unlike every other top seed, the Spurs were able to overcome whatever possible rust that might come with being out for 9+ days as they took easy care of the RGV Vipers in a 2nd round matchup as they won 117-91. That light work continued in the Western Conference Finals as they beat the South Bay Lakers 104-93 thanks to a phenomenal 35 point performance from Derrick White.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Lorenzo Brown vs. Derrick White

To be honest, this is a battle between two players that I think are good enough to be in an NBA rotation right now.

For Lorenzo Brown, he’s just an incredibly smooth point guard that’s fantastic at controlling the pace of the 905’s half-court offense. From working the pick-and-rolls with Shevon Thompson to using his great handles to navigate the court with the kind of precision and care that you really don’t see from any other G League guard. Brown was able to use those tremendous handles to average 18.9 points per game on 47% from the field.

Perhaps even more important than his work as a scorer is how Brown has developed as a facilitator as he’s averaged a career-high 8.8 assists with a really solid 2.4 Ast/TO ratio.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have 2017 1st round pick Derrick White. In a similar vein to San Antonio Spurs rotation players Dejounte Murray, Kyle Anderson and Bryn Forbes, White has spent the majority of his rookie season in the G League with the Austin Spurs. From the moment he joined the team, White has been an electrifying prospect as he put up 20.1 points, 5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game on 45% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc.

However, that strong play seems pedestrian considering how he’s played during Austin’s two playoff games. In 33 minutes, he’s put up 27.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 50% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc on 8.5 perimeter attempts per game.

With the great production that both Brown and White have shown during the season and playoff competition, its clear that they’ve stand as the best guards in the NBA G League. While that level of play was great at the time, I don’t think folks are ready for what they’re about to do with the G League title on the line.

SERIES PREDICTION

Although the Raptors 905 come into these G League Finals as the reigning champs and having the best defense in the entire league, I still give the edge to the Austin Spurs. Aside from Derrick White, who has just been spectacular during the G League Playoffs, the plethora of weapons on the Spurs is absurd.

For one, they have Spurs two-way prospect Darrun Hilliard, a terrific sharp-shooter who we have as one of the candidates for G League MVP. In addition to that duo, the Spurs backcourt also features Oliver Hanlan and Nick Johnson, two guards with European experience that can shine from beyond the arc.

While the 905 have an incredibly strong front-court duo with Shevon Thompson and Kennedy Meeks, they really haven’t met a group that’s at the level of Matt Costello and Amida Brimah. The duo have done a terrific job of pushing the Spurs to be a top-5 defense as they’ve both averaged more than two blocks per game, which is something that you can’t say about any other front-court duo.

In conclusion, I have the Austin Spurs taking the NBA G Lague Finals in an exciting series that ends in 3 games.