NBA Playoffs First Round Stars and Disappointments
The Playoffs; put up or shut up time. It is during this high-stakes period where some players emerge and elevate their game to unforeseen levels while others fold under pressure. Who have the biggest breakout stars and disappointments been thus far in these playoffs?
Thus far throughout their series with the Nuggets, The Spurs haven’t gone as LaMarcus Aldridge goes, or even as Demar DeRozan goes, but rather as sophomore sensation Derrick White goes! Out of seemingly nowhere, White has not only become the floor general of the Spurs but also their go-to-guy. He is averaging 17.8 points in the playoffs, up almost 8 points from his regular season average!
White has proven that he can be an all-around point guard, with his ability to penetrate and create shots for himself but also dictate play and create for others. He has slowed down a bit in the last few games as the Nuggets have realized he can play and have changed their defensive scheme, but make no mistake about it, should the Spurs find a way to win this series, it will be because of Derrick White.
I need to preface this by saying that Russell Westbrook has only been a disappointment to those who expected him to elevate his game in the playoffs. In other words, his playoff performance hasn’t been anything out of the ordinary, it his been a continuation of his poor, inefficient and underwhelming season. And it’s not necessarily the numbers themselves, as he still almost averaged a triple-double and played with his usual intensity.
His pervasive issue remains his selfishness and low basketball IQ. Look no further than the conclusion of Game 5; with Paul George red-hot, 14/20 from the field, Westbrook (11/31 on the night) takes matters into his own hands, and with the game on the line, puts up two horrible, contested shots, leading to the Thunder ultimately losing the game. His turnovers are alarming, his lack of playmaking is crippling, and quite frankly, the Thunder should really be questioning their future title aspirations with him.
We know that Siakam is likely the Most Improved Player Of The Year based on regular season performance, but now, he’s elevating his game even more. I mean seriously, how much better can this guy get? From his 16.9 point and 6.9 rebound regular-season average, Siakam dominated the Magic in 5 games, averaging 22.6 points and 8.4 rebounds! Add to all of this, his very effective 53.3% field goal percentage and elite defense!
Siakam is without any doubt, Toronto’s second best player and if he continues playing like this, he willbe an All-Star next season. Together with Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors have one of the most dynamic two-way duo’s in the NBA.
I think we ought to organize a search party…has anyone seen Nikola Vucevic? I’ve been trying to locate him since the start of the playoffs, but he has completely gone missing. All joking aside, the Raptors literally erased Vucevic and his production. The first-time All-Star, averaging 20.8 points and 12 rebounds on the season was expected the lead the Magic in their attempt to put up a valiant effort.
Instead, he was completely shut down by Marc Gasol, averaging a meagre 11.2 points and 8 rebounds throughout 5 games. These numbers are concerning for Vucevic, as he will be a free agent this summer and team’s may look at his playoff performance and question his future production.
Harrell is the closest thing that we’ve seen to Dennis Rodman. The motor this guy plays with leaves me speechless. He treats every single play and possession like it’s the game-deciding one. Listen, what he lacks in talent, he more than compensates in with sheer effort. In the playoffs he has upped his average to 20 points per game, though of course we know that all of his effort plays and intangibles aren’t listed in statistics.
Harrell, in his own right, is a star. There is not a single team in the NBA who would not open Harrell with open arms into their rotation. He is exactly the kind of player a championship team requires.
Utah Jazz Role Players
We’ve known that the Jazz are no offensive juggernaut and that they rely primarily on their defense, but this team is just way too dependent on Donovan Mitchell. It’s literally feast or famine, if Mitchell is on they’re in the game, but if he’s not, this team severely lacks offensive firepower.
Guys like Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver were complete no-shows in these playoffs. These are players that the Jazz depend on to space the floor, make outside shots, and open the floor for their guards and bigs. Not surprisingly, when shots weren’t falling, they couldn’t keep up with the Rockets, resulting in multiple lop-sided Rocket victories.
Houston Rockets Defense
This version of the Rockets is not the Houston Rockets of old! Sure, they still put up a crazy amount of threes and push the pace constantly, but this team is absolutely elite defensively! And it’s interesting because they don’t really have many great individual defenders. Clint Capela is one of the better rim protectors in the league and PJ Tucker is known for his defense, but aside from those two it’s players that are known more for their offense. The fact is the Rockets have bought in to a team defense approach and this is what will give them a great opportunity to knock out the Warriors.