Tennessee will be well-represented when the NBA resumes its season on Thursday night and throughout the weekend. The Vols will have five former players participating in the bubble located at Disney World.
The NBA played two games on Thursday to begin the restart, but the former Vols won’t be in action until Friday. Here’s a look at the former Vols that will be participating in the NBA restart and what they’re playing for with eight games to go before the playoffs begin.
Grant Williams, Boston Celtics
The Celtics begin the NBA restart in third place in the Eastern Conference and 9.5 games out of first place. The Celtics would love to avoid falling to the fourth seed as they would then face the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, or Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs. Maintaining the third seed or surpassing the Toronto Raptors would be ideal for the Celtics in order to begin the playoffs against the seven or eight-seed.
Williams will be a key piece off the bench for Boston as the Celtics gear up for the playoffs. The former first round pick played in 62 games before the season was suspended due to COVID-19, with five starts. Williams averaged 3.5 points in 15.6 minutes as he shot 41.7 percent from the field and 24.7 percent from three. He added 2.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.5 blocks.
Kyle Alexander, Miami Heat
The Heat will be chasing Williams and the Celtics when play resumes. Miami begins the restart in fourth place and 12 games out of first place, but just 2.5 back of Boston. The Heat are on the same plan as the Celtics: that being to secure a first round playoff series against the seventh or eighth seed.
Alexander suffered an injury not long before the league shut down in March, and he’s still recovering from that. But the former Vol big man signed a two-way contract with the Heat and played 23 games in the G-League for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, making 21 starts and averaging 10.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in 25.1 minutes per game. Alexander shot 69.2 percent overall and 71.4 percent from the free throw line in the G-League.
It’s doubtful Alexander will be more than a practice player for the Heat, but there’s a chance he could come off the bench as the Heat fight for playoff positioning.
Josh Richardson, Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers enter the restart sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, but they have a chance to move up as high as third if the Celtics slip and the Sixers go on a tear over the next eight games. Philadelphia is 14 games out of first place, but they have an identical record as the fifth-place Indiana Pacers and are only two games back of fourth-place Miami and 4.5 games behind Boston for third place.
Richardson’s first year in Philly hasn’t gone quite as well as last season with the Heat due to injuries, but the former Vol guard has still been a valuable piece for the Sixers this season. Richardson has played in 48 games and started 46 of those contests and has been a strong presence on defense for Philadelphia.
With Shake Milton taking over as primary ball-handler, Richardson has moved to a more comfortable role on offense as a spot-up shooter and cutter. This season, Richardson is averaging 13.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.7 blocks while shooting 42.9 percent overall and 32.7 percent from three.
Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers
Richardson’s teammate at Philadelphia, former Vol one-and-done star Tobias Harris has been a huge asset to the 76ers this season. He’ll play a big role as Philly jockeys for position for the upcoming playoffs.
Harris is second on the Sixers in scoring this season, averaging 19.4 points in 65 games, all starts. In his 34.5 minutes a game, Harris is also averaging 6.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists while connecting on 47.2 percent of his shots, including 36.2 percent of his three-pointers.
Admiral Schofield, Washington Wizards
The Wizards are in the unenviable spot of ninth place in the Eastern Conference as the NBA season resumes, and Washington is six games back of the eighth-place Brooklyn Nets. But the NBA has implemented a rule that if the No. 9 team finishes the eight-game restart within four games of the No. 8 seed, a “play-in tournament” will take place. In that scenario, the No. 9 team must win both contests against the No. 8 team in order to supplant them to get into the playoffs. If the No. 8 team wins either game, they eliminate the ninth-place squad.
Schofield’s role with Washington will be intriguing to watch as the season resumes. The former Vol star has dropped a good amount of weight to fit into a new system that Washington will be running, and Schofield could be in for an expanded role in the final stretch of his rookie season.
Schofield has bounced around the NBA and the G-League this season, but he’s made 27 appearances and two starts for Washington and looks to have a solid role over the next eight games. In his 27 games in the NBA, Schofield has averaged 3.1 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 0.5 assists while shooting 40.0 percent overall and 29.8 percent from three. With the Capital City Go-Go in the G-League, Schofield has averaged 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 33 starts. He’s connected on 45.7 percent of his field goals and 37.0 percent of his threes in 30.9 minutes a contest.