The NBA’s regular season can drag and lose the interest of the casual fan. When the lights turn up in the playoffs, some players shrink and others rise to the occasion. Responding in the postseason can change a player’s career. With free agency and a potentially wild offseason around the corner, players around the league are eager to earn extra money or solidify their spot on their team’s payroll.
This postseason, we’ve seen a crop of players stand out from the crowd, from big names growing bigger, to unknowns making the leap, to castoffs mounting a comeback. Each is a great story, only matched by their great play on the court.
Here’s a look at some of the breakout performers of the 2017 NBA playoffs.
1. John Wall, Washington Wizards
There’s no doubt that Wall was a star before these playoffs started, but he has absolutely elevated his game this postseason and raised his profile league-wide.
In 13 playoff games, Wall averaged 27.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.7 steals. On both ends of the floor, he changed the game for Washington and dictated everything for the Wizards. He assisted on 45.7 percent of his teammates’ field goals while on the floor, good for 10.3 dimes per game, while only turning the ball over on 14.6 percent and shooting 45 percent from the field. The only ever player to post those numbers in at least 13 playoff games was Magic Johnson in 1987. Any time a point guard can be mentioned in a group with only Magic, that is rarefied air.
Now Wall will enter next season not as a semi-star like he has in years past, but as a contender for the title of the league’s best two-way, pure point guard. While James Harden and Russell Westbrook have the ball in their hand nearly the entire game, but don’t contribute much on defense, Wall could supplant the aging Chris Paul as the best passing and scoring floor general in the league.
In an Eastern Conference devoid of real threats to LeBron James’ crown, Wall’s rise to superstardom could be the beginning of something building in our nation’s capital.
2. Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz (more…)