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#pounditMonday, January 18, 2021

5 unheralded NBA players who will be key when the season resumes

Montrezl Harrell

We know who the star players are on the 22 NBA teams that will participate in the resumed 2019-20 season in Orlando. There are others players who deserve attention, though. Every contender has an X-factor or an unheralded player who will have a big say in how well his team does in the playoffs.

Here are five unheralded NBA players who will play a key role in the conclusion of the season.

5. Robert Covington, Rockets

The Rockets added Covington in February, and he could be a key complementary piece to the Russell Westbrook-James Harden combination. Well known for his perimeter defending prowess, Covington can also make a valuable offensive contribution to the Rockets. He was averaging 12.8 points per game since moving to the Rockets, a nice total for a secondary player. Also of note: Covington is a 35.8 percent career three-point shooter. That’s not elite, but it’s viable for a team that has had shooting issues in previous playoff eliminations.

4. Daniel Theis, Celtics

The Celtics’ lack of size has been well documented, especially in an Eastern Conference that boasts the likes of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Theis is only 6-foot-8, but he’s going to have to hold down the middle for Boston in the playoffs. He’s managed to do okay in that regard, though he is rather limited as an offensive player. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are entirely capable of leading this team quite far, but Theis will have to serve as an anchor in the middle.

3. Eric Bledsoe, Bucks

Bledsoe is somewhat overlooked on Milwaukee’s roster, as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton tend to be the focus of the attention. That is, in part, what makes Bledsoe so dangerous. He comfortably averages 15 points per game and is a reigning member of the All-Defensive Team. While Antetokounmpo sucks up so much of the attention, Bledsoe can create and score, all while playing lockdown defense on the perimeter. With all the talented guards the East has to offer, that makes Bledsoe invaluable, though questions exist about how he will do in the postseason.

2. Montrezl Harrell, Clippers

Calling Harrell an energy player doesn’t really do him justice. Playing primarily off the Clipper bench, Harrell is still averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. His size means he can play in the post, and while not known for his defense, he can at least hold his own. All eyes are on a possible matchup between the Lakers and Clippers, which is the type of series where Harrell’s offensive ability can really shine and cause problems for the opposition.

1. Norman Powell, Raptors

The Raptors had a lot of work to do to replace Kawhi Leonard. Defensively, that was impossible. Offensively, they’ve gotten help from an unlikely source. Norman Powell’s emergence on the offensive end has been huge for the Raptors, as he’s gone from role player to a wing player averaging 16.4 points per game. He shoots nearly 40 percent from three, and is Toronto’s only real wing scorer. That will have to keep up in the playoffs, but Powell’s sudden offensive capability gives the Raptors much more of a chance.

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