March 26, 2018, 12:26 am
The Reno Bighorns are headed to the G-League playoffs, finishing the regular season with a 29-21 record which was good for second in the Western Conference and the Pacific Division title.
After going 5-10 to begin the season, the Bighorns rebounded to go 24-11 over the final 35 games. Reno possessed a high-scoring, efficient offense that guided them to numerous victories. They averaged 115.9 points per game which was good for fifth in the league, and they also turned the ball over just 13.9 times per game, the lowest mark in the league. Additionally, they ranked in the top-five in 3-point percentage, shooting 36.8 percent from distance.
Taking care of the ball allows a team to have more opportunities to score offensively and the Bighorns took full advantage of these extra possessions by shooting a good clip from three. As a result, they scored a lot on a nightly basis.
The team brought in a lot of fresh faces at the beginning of the season so it’s no surprise they struggled out of the gate, but head coach Darrick Martin steadied the ship and got his guys to play a sustainable brand of basketball.
The frequent contributions of two-way players JaKarr Sampson and Jack Cooley were highly beneficial. Sampson played in 35 games for the Bighorns, posting averages of 17.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game on 50.9 percent shooting from the field. The high-energy he displayed during his stints with the Kings were evident on a nightly basis down in Reno, and he was able to grind his way to a productive season in the G-League. Cooley featured in 39 contests, averaging 17.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game on 56.0 percent shooting. Cooley, like Sampson, is a ball of energy and is always crashing the glass hard, keeping plays alive. His presence down-low really opened up the floor for the Bighorns and allowed the guards to effectively go to work.
The Bighorns lost a couple of standout players to other NBA teams near the back-end of the season. Aaron Harrison was putting together a fantastic season down in Reno before receiving a well-deserved 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks. He played in 41 games with averages of 18.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists on 43.7 percent shooting from the field and 42.5 percent from three. Harrison led the way in scoring most nights for Reno and his efficient shooting from beyond the arc helped contribute to the sustained success the team experienced.
Familiar face David Stockton was yet again one of the better players on the team before his call-up to the Utah Jazz recently. Stockton did a superb job taking care of the ball and facilitating the offense. He compiled averages of 16.3 points, 5.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals on 45.0 percent shooting from the field and 40.0 percent from three. Stockton deserves to latch on with an NBA squad and he’ll be looking to do so with the Jazz.
Despite the loss of some key players, the Bighorns are still in a great spot to compete for the G-League Championship. Sampson and Cooley will presumably be present, Kings’ preseason guard Marcus Williams will man the point guard spot and former NBAers Daniel Ochefu and Luis Montero will also be in the mix. Youngster Bruno Caboclo could be sent down to strengthen the squad too.
The Bighorns have a first-round bye in the playoffs thanks to their top-two seeding in the Western Conference. The first three rounds of the G-League playoffs are single-elimination games, meaning if you lose you’re out. The NBA G-League finals will be a best of three series.