Star players may win games but role players make plays that win championships. Year after year players like Andre Iguodala, JR Smith, and Metta World Peace have made big plays in the NBA Playoffs. Here are five guys that are key to their respective teams Playoff hopes.
If the Celtics are to upset the more fancied Raptors and Bucks to make the NBA Finals, Marcus Smart needs to be the defensive rock in the front court. Smart has been shooting the ball at career highs across the board this year. His three point shot alone has risen to a strong 37% this season.
This jump in offensive production is massive for the Celtics when it comes to Playoff time. Teams wont be able to sag off Smart when he has the ball outside anymore.
On defense he has been a menace as usual. One of the best on ball defenders in the league, Smart doesn’t mind guarding players in the post. He leads the league in steal % this season and this year averages a career high of 1.8 steals per game also.
On a wing heavy team, Smart is the scrappy guard that can change the direction of a Playoff game.
Sharpshooter JJ Redick is key to the Philadelphia 76ers playoff hopes this season. The 76ers will rely heavily on Redicks playoff experience as well as his elite shooting.
In his twelve seasons in the league he has made the Playoffs every year, including one Finals appearance and 98 total Playoff appearances. With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons playoff inexperience, Redicks experience will be called on as they look to make it to the Conference Finals for the first time since 2001.
Redick’s two man game with Joel Embiid is a key part of the 76ers offense. This is evidenced by the +10.5 net rating when they are on the court together. He has timed his run well after an up and down season. In April he is averaging 54% from the field and 47% from three point range.
If Redick can get going he can ease some of the spacing issues that have plagued the 76ers this season.
Joe Ingles is a key cog in the Utah Jazz franchise. Ingles has been the calming influence on a team that didn’t skip a beat when franchise player Gordon Hayward left in Free agency two years ago.
Stepping directly into Haywards starting position, he has been part of two consecutive trips to the Conference Semifinals. A tough competitor on the defensive end, its been his passing in the pick and roll that has been a real go to for the Jazz this season. He is leading the Jazz in three pointers made this year while averaging a career high in assists.
When the going gets rough, Ingles is the type of guy you want on the floor next to you. He is a strong rebounder and under-rated defender. As a second option behind Donovan Mitchell he can stretch the defense or put the ball on the floor.
If the Jazz are to make the second round again they will need another massive month from Ingles.
Jerami Grant is experiencing a breakout year with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Averaging career highs across the board, Grant is also turning into a legitimate stretch shooting option.
On a team that has Paul George as their only knock down shooter, Grant has taken it upon himself to be their next option shooting the three. Since the All-Star break Grant has averaged an elite 41.1% on five attempts a game.
Though this number may level out, Grant has worked hard on his game and this shooting will be important in the Playoffs.
Defensively he is also very important to the Thunder. An improved shot blocker, Grant has shown he has the ability to defend multiple positions. His athletic play alongside front court partner Steven Adams will be vital for the best rebounding team in the league.
Grant’s hops and long arms can provide extra opportunities for the Thunder as they move into a Playoffs where they may be as low as the seventh or eighth seed.