Ex-Trojans look to make affect in NBA Playoffs

Former USC forward Evan Mobley is a finalist for the NBA Rookie of the Year award after averaging 15 points and 8.3 points per game this season. (Simon Park | Daily Trojan file photo)

The NBA playoffs are here, and former Trojans are looking to help their teams advance to the championship. Evan Mobley finished a strong rookie season with productive play in the play-in tournament, and DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and De’Anthony Melton are in the middle of exciting first-round matchups.

Power forward/center Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Although the Cleveland Cavaliers failed to make the NBA’s Play-In Tournament playoffs as the No. 8 seed, their young stars made strides in their development throughout the season. Former Trojan forward Evan Mobley was one of those young stars. Mobley, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, averaged 15 points per game on 50% shooting from the field to go along with 8.3 rebounds per game. Equally impactful on the defensive end, Mobley averaged 1.7 blocks per game. In his rookie season, Mobley appeared in 69 of 82 regular games for the Cavaliers this season.

In Cleveland’s two play-in games against the Brooklyn Nets, Mobley tallied 19 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. Against the Atlanta Hawks Friday, Mobley had 18 points and 8 rebounds to go along with 5 assists and 2 blocks.

Guard DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

With the Chicago Bulls back in the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-2017 season, former USC guard DeMar DeRozan has made his presence felt in his first season with the team. DeRozan averaged a career-high 27.9 points per game on 50% shooting from the field with 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. DeRozan also made the All-Star team for the fifth time in his career, this time as a starter.

After a 38-21 start to the season, the Bulls struggled after the All-Star break and finished as the No. 6 seed in the East. In the first round of the playoffs, Chicago lost its first game in a nailbiter to the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks where DeRozan struggled. The guard went 6-for-25 from the floor and finished with just 18 points. DeRozan and the Bulls will look to step it up in game two Wednesday night.

Former Trojan Nikola Vucevic averaged a double-double for the Chicago Bulls this season. His season high of scoring came against the Indiana Pacers Feb. 4, where he scored 36 points. (Carolo Acenas | Daily Trojan file photo)

Center Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Much of the Bulls’ postseason success will be dependent on center Nikola Vucevic’s plays. In his first full season with the Bulls, Vucevic averaged a double-double with 17.6 points per game and 11 rebounds per game.

In game one against the Bucks, the former Trojan had a double-double with 24 points and 17 rebounds but also inefficiently shot at 9-for-27 from the field. Vucevic and DeRozan were a combined 15-for-52 from the field and just 2-for-12 from three. Against the defending champion Bucks, the pair will need to ramp up their shooting efficiency to have any chance in the series.

Guard De’Anthony Melton, Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies held the second-best record in the NBA this season and former Trojan guard De’Anthony Melton was a solid contributor. The fourth-year guard averaged 10.8 points per game on 40% shooting from the field and 37% from 3-point range. Melton also added 1.4 steals per game on defense and totaled 104 this season, a career-best.

Melton’s production increased to finish the regular season, averaging 16.8 points per game on 48% shooting from the field and 48% from the 3-point line. However, in game one against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Melton was not much of a factor, as he managed 2 points on 1-for-4 shooting. Melton will look to provide more consistent scoring off the Memphis bench as the series moves forward.

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