Who is Each Team’s Most Important Player this NBA Postseason
In just about 24 hours, the NBA postseason will get underway and 16-teams will compete for the chance to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Each team of course boasts star players of their own, each of whom will have the weight of the world on their shoulders as they hope to lead their respective teams to the NBA Finals. But for each team to find true success, it will not always be up to their best player, but to the one who can add an additional scoring punch, provide a big boost to help the team win games. Entering the postseason, there is only so much that LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and James Harden are able to do – even Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant had help.
Who will need to show up for the 16 playoff-bound teams?
1. Marcin Gortat (Washington Wizards)
In a league with more versatile and quicker big man, the Washington Wizards will require that Marcin Gortat establishes himself in the series early.
With the Toronto Raptors hosting the Wiz in round one, Gortat will need to only establish his dominance over Jonas Valanciunas, but he cannot afford to be beat by the likes of Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl, two younger players who are able of running and using their athleticism to create an advantage.
2. Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves)
A former first overall pick, Andrew Wiggins is the third option on Minnesota Timberwolves and will have to provide the Wolves with enough of a scoring punch when they go up against the Houston Rockets.
A lot of things will have to go right for the Wolves on both ends of the floor and it will require a high level of play from the Kansas Jayhawks alum. Averaging 17.7-points a game, the Wolves should anticipate to enter a shootout with the Rockets and Wiggins will have to be at his best.
3. Jabari Parker (Milwaukee Bucks)
With leg injuries plaguing his young career, Jabari Parker is back and healthy, and after being unable to get a contract extension from the Bucks, this will be Parker’s chance to prove his organization that he should remain a part of its future. Of course, Parker has consistently shown glimpses of promise, but due to injuries, has been unable to string a large sample size together.
The Bucks will need a third scorer as they are set to square off with the Boston Celtics and they will look towards the young forward.
4. Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
Let’s be honest, the San Antonio Spurs will struggle mightily against a focused Golden States Warriors team, but as long as they have games to play, there remains a chance for a return.
Kawhi Leonard is one of the best players in the NBA and without him, the Spurs do not stand a chance. With him in the fold, the Spurs may make life difficult for a Warriors team that will be without Stephen Curry for the entirety of the first round as he recovers from his lower body injury.
The clock is ticking, can the Spurs pull a rabbit out of a hat?
5. Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat)
A few years ago Dwyane Wade was the star of the show.
Now, he is a shabby veteran who can potentially play a huge role for the Miami Heat in the postseason. Wade has made a name for himself for coming up clutch in the playoffs, now going up against a young Philadelphia Sixers team, he can show the importance of experience.
Averaging 12.0-points per game as a member of the Heat this year, Wade still has some “Flash” in him and he always saves it for this very stage.
6. Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Pelicans)
Let’s be honest, the New Orleans Pelicans will have to deal with a dynamic back court no matter how far they go in these playoffs.
Anthony Davis cannot do it alone, but with Jrue Holiday playing at a consistently high level, the Pelicans can shock a few teams. Averaging 19.0-points and 6.5-assists per game, Holiday has quietly had an exceptional season with New Orleans and will need to carry it over into the playoffs.
7. Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)
After surprising the entire NBA with their regular season, the Indiana Pacers will draw LeBron James an the Cleveland Cavaliers in Round 1.
A team that scores a lot, but struggles defensively, the Cavs especially struggle on the inside and that is where the Pacers will need Myles Turner to turn into a force. After an up-and-down season with the Pacers that included a few injuries, Turner will need to show Indiana why he will continue to be such a big part of the team’s future.
8. Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Donovan Mitchell has been the best rookie of the 2017 class.
The postseason is a different story, and Mitchell will need to carry over his production into the playoffs. Whether or not he hits a rookie wall in the playoffs will tell us what the Jazz will do over the next few weeks. A hard-nosed defensive unit, Mitchell has been the team’s leading scorer and will need to carry that responsibility as the Jazz prepare to face the Oklahoma City Thunder.
9. Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)
We all know what LeBron James is capable of, but for the Cavaliers to reach the NBA Finals, Kevin Love would have to consistently play at an All-Star level.
Entering the playoffs, the Cavaliers have had more questions then usual and with Kyrie Irving out of the equation, they will require big minutes from Love. At his best, Love is a 20-point and 10-rebound player who allows the Cavs to spread the floor and become a very lethal offensive team.
10. Carmelo Anthony (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Carmelo Anthony is far from the player he once was.
Averaging a career-low 16.2-points per game, Melo can still be a very capable offensive weapon, especially as a third option on an inconsistent Oklahoma City Thunder team. If the Thunder can get a consistent scoring boost from Melo as their third scorer, the Thunder could potentially compete with anyone.
11. The Shooters (Philadelphia 76ers)
When you have a player like Ben Simmons in the centre of all attention, handling the basketball with his innate passing ability, the shooters have to be locked and ready.
Be it Dario Saric, Robert Covington, J.J. Redick, Marco Belinelli, or Ersan Ilyasova, the Sixers can very quickly turn a game into a blowout if the threes are falling. With all eyes on Simmons and Joel Simmons, the Sixers may just go as far as their shooters take them.
12. Jusuf Nurkic (Portland Trailblazers)
Dealing with Anthony Davis is no easy task and if the Blazers can slow him down, they will have success with handling the New Orleans Pelicans
That’s where Jusuf Nurkic comes into the equation. It will be up to him to provide the primary means of defense against quite possibly the best big man in the entire NBA. Meanwhile on the offensive end, he will need to provide a third scoring offence for Portland.
13. Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Talk about learning on the fly, eh?
With Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Marcus Smart all unavailable, the Boston Celtics will continue to lean on their young rookie to rise to the occasion and carry them on the offensive side of the ball. Outside of Simmons and Mitchell, Tatum has quite possibly been one of the more impressive rookies in the league and with really no pressure on the Celtics, it will be his big opportunity to showcase his ability on the playoff stage.
14. Quinn Cook (Golden State Warriors)
When you have to replace a two-time league MVP and NBA champion, the expectations placed upon your shoulders are rather high to say the least.
With a new contract in hand, Quinn Cook will have to provide the Warriors with every bit of energy he has to offer until Curry returns, which is expected to be sometime in the second round. He does not have to ever be the best player on the floor at any given time, but he will need to do the little things that do not show up on the stat sheet to help lead the Warriors as they nurse themselves to full health.
15. Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
Can the Toronto Raptors overcome their playoff persona?
It will all start with Kyle Lowry who has shrunk under the playoff spotlight over the past couple of seasons. Prioritizing rest over the regular season and a new offensive system, Lowry has all the resources needed to show the NBA world that he is one of the game’s best point guards.
While DeMar DeRozan may be the team’s best player, Lowry can impact a game in so many ways, be it making the right pass, or even taking a key charge late in a game. These playoffs will tell the NBA a lot about what type of player Lowry really is when the lights shine brightest.
16. Chris Paul (Houston Rockets)
Chris Paul has never made it out of the second round of the playoffs, but this year is his best chance.
Playing alongside James Harden who is the unquestionable MVP of the league, Paul will need to hold his own. The Rockets are considered the biggest threat to the Warriors and if Houston can get a superstar-like performance from CP3 throughout the playoffs, an NBA championship is not out of the question!