NBA Draft

Houston-area products are tearing up the NBA playoffs

While the Houston Rockets finished the regular season in the Western Conference cellar for the third straight year, the local basketball scene has made its presence felt in the NBA playoffs.

Two players with strong connections to the Houston area have been among the early stars of the 2023 postseason, with Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox and Miami Heat wing Jimmy Butler both showcasing their elite talent during the first round. Fox starred at Cypress Lakes in Katy as a prep prospect prospect, while Butler is a product of Tomball High School.

Fox is in the midst of a breakout season with the Kings, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Fox averaged 25 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists during the regular season, winning the NBA’s inaugural Clutch Player of the Year award in addition to making his first All-Star game. His production has only picked up in the postseason, averaging 31.5 points, six boards, seven assists and 2.5 steals through his first four playoff games. The Kings are tied with the defending champion Golden State Warriors at 2-2, though Fox is listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s Game 5 with a fractured finger.

De’Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings shoots over Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors in the first half of Game Four of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Chase Center on April 23, 2023 in San Francisco, California.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Butler had established himself as one of the NBA’s top talents well before this year, with six All-Star nods and an NBA Finals berth under his belt, but the 33-year-old certainly doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Butler dropped 56 points on Monday night—matching the fourth-best scoring performance in NBA playoff history—as the Heat erased a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to put the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in a 3-1 hole. Butler leads the NBA with 36.5 points per game this postseason, with his 62.8 percent success rate on field goals ranking first among all players averaging at least 10 shot attempts. Miami will look to join the Warriors (2007 vs. Dallas Mavericks), Memphis Grizzlies (2011 vs. San Antonio Spurs) and Philadelphia 76ers (2012 vs. Chicago Bulls) as the only No. 8 seeds to advance past the first round since all playoff series took on a best-of-seven format.

Below is a look at how some other Houston-area products are performing in the 2023 NBA playoffs.

Jarred Vanderbilt (Los Angeles Lakers): Jarred Vanderbilt was a McDonald’s All-American after a standout senior season at Victory Prep in southwest Houston, and he’s currently playing a vital role for one of the league’s top title contenders. The Lakers beat the Memphis Grizzlies in overtime on Monday to take a 3-1 series lead, as Vanderbilt recorded 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting to go along with six rebounds and three blocks in 20 minutes of playing time.

Grant Williams (Boston Celtics): While Grant Williams emerged as a high school star in North Carolina, he has plenty of Houston connections. In addition to being born in the Bayou City, Williams’ mother helped design the International Space Station as an engineer for NASA. Williams’ playing time has been inconsistent in the playoffs, with the Celtics currently up 3-2 over the Atlanta Hawks. He was 4 of 4 from the field with 14 points in 18 minutes during Game 3, but he played just one minute in Game 4 and was a DNP-Coach’s Decision in Game 5.

Quentin Grimes (New York Knicks): Another Houston-area McDonald’s All-American, Quentin Grimes starred at College Park in The Woodlands and finished his college career at the University of Houston after starting out at Kansas. Grimes is now a key role player for a Knicks team that holds a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He missed Sunday’s Game 4 with a shoulder injury after a rough start to the series individually, averaging 3.7 points on 18.2 percent shooting through the first three games—well below his season average of 11.3 points on a 46.8 percent clip.

DeAndre Jordan (Denver Nuggets): DeAndre Jordan is more of a veteran presence than anything these days, but the former Episcopal (Bellaire) and Christian Life Center (Kingwood) star might have his best shot yet at winning a ring with the Denver Nuggets. Jordan only played 10 minutes in Denver’s first-round series win over the Minnesota Timberwolves but he made the most of his playing time, scoring five points to go along with four rebounds.

Danuel House Jr. (Philadelphia 76ers): Danuel House Jr. is a part of a 76ers team that recently completed a first-round sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, though the former Rockets contributor and Fort Bend Hightower standout has mostly been watching from the bench so far this postseason. He logged a total of five minutes and one rebound through the first two games of the series before missing Games 3 and 4 with what was labeled as a non-COVID illness.

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