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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

10 standouts of the NBA playoffs so far

LeBron James winner

We’re through two rounds of the NBA playoffs, and we’ve seen some outstanding performances across the league. Some of them come from the sources you would expect, while others have been more unlikely and surprising. Some didn’t even last that long, but were so impressive that they have earned the recognition.

Here are ten players who have stood out above the others during the NBA playoffs thus far.

1) LeBron James, Cavaliers

It may be obvious, but even now, there is no one who impacts games more than James. The Cavaliers are a fringe playoff team without him, and if you take him out of the equation, they certainly don’t get past the Indiana Pacers in the first round. James leads all playoff performers with 34.3 points per game, and he adds 9.4 rebounds and 9 assists per game to his tally. Ultimately, the Cavaliers might be favored in their series against the Boston Celtics solely because they have James and their opponent does not.

2) Anthony Davis, Pelicans

The Brow had only made one playoff appearance prior to this season, a four-game sweep in 2015 at the hands of the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. His second appearance lasted longer and was very impressive. In nine games, Davis went for 30.1 points and 13.4 assists per game, posting a double-double in each playoff game as even the Warriors struggled to contain him. We already knew Davis was a star, but these playoffs were further proof that he can do it consistently against the best when the pressure is on.

3) Terry Rozier, Celtics

After serving primarily as a backup for the Celtics during the regular season, Rozier has stepped up in place of the injured Kyrie Irving and put on many different hats. He’s been a scorer, a creator, and an agitator, and he’s quickly matured into Boston’s second-leading scorer in the playoffs. He’ll be a key piece against the Cavaliers after effectively taking on the role of the team’s heart and soul.

4) Ricky Rubio, Jazz

Rubio waited a very long time to make his playoff debut, but he didn’t disappoint when he finally got the chance. Rubio was so good against the Oklahoma City Thunder, he had Russell Westbrook singling him out as a problem after a 26-point, 10-assist performance in Game 3. He slowed down toward the end of the series, and sadly for the Jazz, a hamstring injury he suffered in the decisive Game 6 kept him out of the entire Houston series, but when he played, he made his mark.

5) Chris Paul, Rockets

Paul will finally play in his first career conference final, which is long overdue and well-deserved. Likely MVP James Harden has received a lot of the publicity, but Paul continues to be a driving force in Houston, as exemplified by his 41-point performance in the Rockets’ clinching victory against the Utah Jazz. It’s fair to say he’s proving that he was never the problem in Los Angeles, and it’s largely down to him that the Rockets are a serious threat to Golden State’s Western Conference dominance.

6) Clint Capela, Rockets

While Paul is a known commodity, Capela is bursting into the scene during this playoff run. The Swiss center has been pretty well-known to serious NBA fans for a while now, but this may be his introduction to the casual viewer. All he’s done is average a double-double and lead the NBA in rebounds during the postseason, providing a valuable interior complement to the Harden-Paul backcourt combination.

7) Jayson Tatum, Celtics

This is just a quick reminder that Tatum just turned 20 two months ago and is leading the highest remaining seed in the Eastern Conference in playoff scoring. Without Kyrie Irving to carry the load, Tatum has stepped up, with seven consecutive 20-point games and counting to carry the undermanned Celtics past the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. He’ll be huge against LeBron James and the Cavaliers, but the young man has proven to be quite fearless so far — don’t expect him to back down from this challenge.

8) Victor Oladipo, Pacers

It’s something of a shame that Oladipo only got seven games in his first playoff as his team’s starring attraction. He finished a fabulous season with a fabulous series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging 22.7 points per game and 2.4 steals, shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc. The good news for Pacers fans is that it certainly sounds like there’s more to come from their star guard.

9) Dario Saric, 76ers

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons get most of the 76ers’ publicity, and deservedly so, but Saric had an outstanding postseason in his own right. The young Croatian had a outstanding second season and something of a breakout performance in the playoffs, scoring 17.2 points per game and knocking down 38.5 percent of his three-point attempts. He may not be a star, but he’s an outstanding complementary piece and has a bright future ahead of him.

10) Kevin Durant, Warriors

The Warriors dominating the Western Conference playoffs is so old hat at this point that they’ve sort of been ignored so far in these playoffs. That’s a shame, because they’re playing excellent basketball, nobody moreso than Durant. With Stephen Curry hurt for the start of the playoffs and some of his teammates struggling at times, Durant has consistently been great, with a pair of 30-point games so far. He looks to be in fine form as the Warriors try to keep their title.



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