The NBA regular season doesn’t end until later tonight, but four former Gators have already clinched their spots in the 2018 NBA Playoffs.
Boston Celtics power forward Al Horford will have considerably more pressure on his shoulders entering his 10th trip to the postseason. The Celtics have locked themselves into the second seed in the Eastern Conference but are missing a pair of All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving for the rest of this season due to injuries.
Horford, a five-time All-Star himself, led Boston with 7.3 rebounds and ranked fourth among NBA power forwards with 4.7 assists per game. He is tasked with providing leadership to a young roster with Hayward and Irving sitting out. Horford averaged 15.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game in last year’s playoffs in which the Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Joining Horford are a pair of shooting guards in Bradley Beal and Corey Brewer. Beal was voted an All-Star for the first time in 2018, his sixth year in the league. He is averaging 22.8 points per game and is sporting career highs in rebounds and assists.
The Wizards have already clinched a playoff berth, but their seed will not be determined until the regular season is over. Beal averaged 24.8 points per game in the 2017 playoffs before the Wizards were eliminated by Horford and the Celtics in the second round.
Brewer played his first 54 games of the season with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he averaged 3.7 points per game and started twice. On March 1, Brewer was waived by the Lakers and signed by the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he reunited with his college coach, Billy Donovan. Brewer and Donovan won the 2006 and 2007 national championships together at Florida.
Since joining the Thunder, Brewer has started 15 of 17 games in place of the injured Andre Roberson. He improved his scoring average by six points and has grabbed 2.2 steals per game since the trade.
Oklahoma City secured its third-straight postseason berth with a 115-93 win over Miami on Monday. Brewer won an NBA title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and has since reached the playoffs twice with the Denver Nuggets (2012, 2013) and twice with the Houston Rockets (2015, 2016). Brewer holds a career playoff scoring average of 8.4 points per game.
Miami power forward Udonis Haslem has won three NBA titles in his 15 seasons with the Heat, and he now has a chance to win his fourth after Miami clinched a playoff spot on April 3.
While his playing time has tumbled in recent years – 67 games played in the last three seasons combined, compared to 777 in the previous 12 – Haslem remains a veteran presence in the Miami locker room.