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NBA PM: From the D-League to the NBA Playoffs in a Month

Tim Frazier turned heads in the D-League this season and is now playing in the NBA playoffs with the Portland Trail Blazers … Mike Budenholzer named Coach of the Year.

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Updated 10 months ago on
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From the D-League to the NBA Playoffs in a Month

It was less than four weeks ago that point guard Tim Frazier was battling his way through the NBA D-League attempting to earn another call up to the NBA. Now, Frazier is coming off of making his playoff debut with the Portland Trail Blazers following Sunday night’s 100-86 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1.

Frazier finished that game by playing just three minutes and missing one field goal attempt well after the game was already decided. While it may seem like an achievement to appear in an NBA playoff game on a team that won 51 games in the regular season, Frazier will be the first to put his achievements aside for the betterment of the team in whatever capacity that may be.

He played in his last D-League game on March 29 and was signed the next day for the remainder of the year by the Trail Blazers. At the time, Frazier’s role on the team would be primarily to provide depth and to add a true third point guard to the team.

“I don’t know how much he’ll play here, but certainly he’s part of our program,” Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters after the team signed Frazier. “He’ll be with us in Summer League [and] he’ll be with us in the fall camp. [He’s] a good quality kid and a quality player.

“I have not seen him play, but from what I’ve been told he’s a good point guard [and] a good defender. [He] had triple-doubles in the D-League. [He has] a good character [and] had a good career at Penn State. I think he’s the kind of guy that you want in your program and he’ll be able to help us this year as far as practice.”

For the Trail Blazers, they gain a player that has had success in a very small sample size and has shown signs of what he can become given the small opportunity. Frazier earned two 10-day contracts in February with the Philadelphia 76ers. He played in six games and earned starts in three of those contests. Frazier averaged 5.7 points, 7.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds during his time in Philadelphia. In his NBA debut on February 6, Frazier dropped 11 dimes and became just the fourth NBA player since 1985 to record at least 11 assists in a debut, joining Damian Lillard, Michael Carter-Williams and Jason Kidd.

“From myself I’m just continuing to work hard, just continuing to do whatever the team needs for us to win,” Frazier told Basketball Insiders about his NBA debut. “It’s not really about me. It’s more about the team; we’re just trying to get wins. I’ll take a win over a great offensive night any night. It’s been great. I’m honestly just blessed trying to do whatever the team needs to do to win.”

The reality for Frazier was that his time with the 76ers wouldn’t last long as the team waived him on February 24 in order to make room to claim Thomas Robinson off of waivers. Frazier has grown accustomed to proving himself since leaving Penn State as the all-time assist leader. He broke out during his junior year, averaging 18.8 points, 6.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. Following that successful campaign, he tore his Achilles just four games into his senior year and was forced to miss the rest of that season before returning for a fifth year after receving a medical hardship waiver.

He went undrafted in last year’s draft but managed to sign on with the Boston Celtics during training camp after playing in the Summer League for the 76ers. The Celtics cut Frazier just before the start of the season, but invited him to play for their D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. In his time with Maine, Frazier proved himself to be one of the best point guards in the D-League.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Frazier was selected as both the 2015 D-League Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year, both of which were voted on by the league’s 18 head coaches. In 41 games this season with the Red Claws, Frazier averaged 16.1 points, 9.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game. His 9.5 assists were second-most in the D-League. Frazier led the D-League with four triple-doubles, including a 22-point, 14-assist and 13-rebound performance on March 5. In addition, he’s earned the honor of being named the D-League Performer of the Week three times, including his last week before signing with Portland. Perhaps more intriguing about Frazier’s campaign is he came up short on three additional triple-doubles by just one rebound or assist.

Although he didn’t make it past two 10-day contracts with the 76ers, he was still auditioning for a role on another team, which brings him to his time with Portland. Frazier played for 30 minutes in the Trail Blazers’ regular season finale against the Dallas Mavericks, recording his first NBA double-double with 13 points and 10 assists. He played in that contest due to several injuries to the team, including Nicolas Batum, C.J. McCollum, Chris Kaman, Dorell Wright and Arron Afflalo. He was active in the Blazers’ playoff opener due to the shoulder injury to Afflalo and could be available during the remainder of the playoffs should Afflalo miss anymore time.

“He gave us a lot of juice,” Stotts told reporters following that double-double performance. “He pushed the ball, he made good decisions. Guys were running with him; I liked the tempo. We scored I think 32 [in the second quarter when he came into the game] and he had a lot to do with it so [I] wanted to give him a shot in the second half.”

Frazier’s ability to come into the game in a limited role and make an impact will surely help his chances of sticking in the NBA. While it remains to be seen just how much time he’ll see during the remainder of the playoffs, he’s certainly turning heads with his unselfish play and team-first mentality. The Trail Blazers only have four fully guaranteed contracts on the books for next season so it seems like Frazier will have a good chance to prove he belongs on the roster over the course of Summer League and training camp.

Hawks’ Budenholzer Named NBA Coach of the Year

Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer was named the 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year on Tuesday, the league announced in a press release. Budenholzer earned 67 first-place votes and 513 total points from a panel of 130 sportswriters to take home the award for the first time.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr finished in second place with 56 first-place votes and 471 total points while Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd finished in third place with 57 total points. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich rounded out the top-five.

Budenholzer led the Hawks to its best season in franchise history as the team’s 60-22 record beat out the previous team high of 57-25 set during the 1986-87 season. In addition, this year’s squad saw a 22-game improvement from last season’s 38-44 mark.

“Winning this award evokes a lot of emotions,” Budenholzer said in his press conference. “It’s very, very humbling. As the son of a coach, it means a lot. I just want to thank my dad. He was a high school coach in Holbrook, Arizona forever. Winning a lot of games, winning a state championship with my brothers, he gave me a love for the game. My dad taught me a lot about life and basketball.

“My most vivid memory I have for my dad is passion for the game. Hopefully, our players see that passion in how we coach every day – the passion for the game, the passion for each other, the passion to play unselfishly, the passion for competing.”

The Hawks earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs under Budenholzer’s watch this season and will appear in the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season, the longest current streak in the East.

The Hawks accumulated their success this season with, for the most part, the same roster as last year. The team clearly felt confident in their existing roster as the biggest move made over last offseason was the signing of Thabo Sefolosha.

Atlanta finished the regular season tied for the sixth-best offensive rating and ranked seventh in defensive rating. The team won a franchise-best 19 games in a row earlier in the season and finished the month of January with a perfect 17-0 record.

Budenholzer served as an assistant under Popovich starting in the 1996-97 season and held that position until taking over the head coaching job in Atlanta two seasons ago. Popovich reached out to Budenholzer to be the first to deliver the news.

“I was very, very fortunate to be so close to a coach who has done so much for our league, done so much for so many coaches and shared so much with me,” Budenholzer said of Popovich. “I can’t even begin to articulate how thankful I am and all the things I’ve learned. The thing that Pop did for me, and did for a lot of coaches, is he let me coach. It seems really simple. That is part of the beauty of being around Pop. Sometimes the things that are most successful are very simple.”

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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