NBA Playoff Preview: Players With Something to Prove

Remember when you thought in October, “This season is going to be boring. The Warriors are going to win the championship, they’ll be playing the Cavaliers again. Wake me up for the playoffs, I guess.”

Guess what? The Warriors chances at repeating are the same as the Rockets, with presumptive NBA MVP James Harden playing the best ball of his career, thus far. LeBron James is marching into the playoffs with an entirely different supporting cast than we anticipating at seasons start, as the number four seed in the Eastern Conference.

Point is, these playoffs should be exciting & meaningful. Look below as we walk through each series see who has the most to gain or lose in each series:

(1) Toronto Raptors vs. (8) Washington Wizards

Player with the most to prove:

John Wall – He’s arguably the best player in the series (depending on how you feel about Demar Derozan). You wouldn’t know it based these article headlines, “Are the Wizards better without Wall?” “The Wizards have found a new life without Wall”. That’s not including Marcin Gortat throwing a little shade at Wall via the media as well.

Yes, the Wizards were spunky, and they did rip off a 10-3 run at one point without Wall. The truth remains the same though, to beat elite teams, you need elite talent. Wall is an elite talent. Expect these conversations to continue if the Wizards don’t put up a fight against the Raptors.

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Milwaukee Bucks

Player with the most to prove:

Al Horford – He’s getting max money, and he’s not even the best player on active the roster with Kyrie Irving & Gordon Hayward out. Yet, he’s expected to play in impact role for the number two seeded Celtics. He was a good fit on the C’s that overachieved (thanks to coach Brad Stevens). This is a new squad that’s expected to be competitive despite the injuries.

Oh, and if the Celtics advance further and meet LeBron in a later round, Average Horford is 1-16 in the playoffs vs. his teams. Lets see if Horford can do anything more than be an ‘Agent of Averageness’ during these 2018 playoffs.

(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Miami Heat

Player with the most to prove:

Brett Brown – I cheated, I’m actually putting a coach in this spot.

He endured YEARS of trusting the process, now he’s in the playoffs with a squad that’s only going to get better. If the Sixers underacheive, I anticipate him receiving the brunt of the blame. Now’s the time to prove he’s the coach for this team, not to mention his from the Greg Poppovich tree #LoftyExpectations.

(4) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (5) Indiana Pacers

Player with the most to prove

LeBron’s Supporting Cast – I cheated again, this is a multiple person watch. Because it is LeBron, more eyes than normal for a 4 seed vs 5 seed matchup will be watching this series (no NBA TV treatment for them).  This supporting cast doesn’t include the playoff tested vets he’s normally accustomed to either.

The elephant in the room of course is where LeBron will go at season’s end. Will this group make that decision a hard one for him?

(1) Houston Rockets vs. (8) Minnesota Timberwolves

Player with the most to prove:

James Harden, Chris Paul, Mike D’Antoni –  If anyone tells you otherwise, theyre fooling themselves. All three of these gentlemen have playoff warts: Harden laying down against the Spurs last year; CP3 never making it to the Conference Finals; D’Antoni making proper coaching adjustments and holding his team accountable on defense.

Anything less than a finals berth is probably considered a failure at this point.

(2) Golden State Warriors vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs

Player with the most to prove:

Kevin Durant – It seemed like he was wrestling away the “Best Player in the World” title from LeBron after last years finals. Yet, the Warriors have struggled tremendously without Stephen Curry, going 17-14. Can Durant turn it on for the playoffs and become the Slim Reaper again?

Doing it against a Poppovich team that will definitely make everything difficult for him will give us an excellent barometer for his performance these playoffs.

(3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (6) New Orleans Pelicans

Player with the most to prove:

Dame Lillard & C.J. McCollum – Their arguably a top three backcourt in the league, yet the one whose skills seem to overlap the most. Despite that perceived redundancy, Portland has surprisingly secured the number three in the blood bath of a Western Conference.

If they get bounced early, will the rumbles for them to trade one of these ball dominant guards grow louder?

(4) Oklahoma City vs. (5) Utah Jazz

Player with the most to prove:

Carmelo Anthony – The Bernard King of our generation seems to be how Melo will be remembered. No fall has seem so greater from upper echelon of the league to an ESPN NBArank of 64.

Can he turn it on in the playoffs, and make the open shots he should be given in this offense? When Westbrook or George sits, will he be able to carry the offense? He has an opt out clause this offseason as well. . . Will his play dictate whether he’ll use it and end up?

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