With this year’s, NBA Playoffs now kicking its way into round two, everything has gone according to plan. The Clippers were once again knocked out early, the Warriors and Cavs swept, and the remaining teams are all the ones we knew would be here before the playoffs even started. So far, everything has gone according to plan. Part of the reason why is because some players have been stepping up more than others.
Big stars on the top teams have “flipped” the switch, while some other guys have seemed to have lost their way. With certain guys stepping up, and other guys that are not, it has paved the way for the playoff standings so far and may determine their teams’ fate. Here are the best and worst performers of those still standing in the 2017 NBA Playoffs:
LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers remain just one of two unbeaten teams in the 2017 post-season. LeBron James, obviously, has been a huge part of that. So far for these playoffs, he’s averaging a near Triple Double at 33.2 points per game, 9.8 rebounds, and 8 assists.
He’s been great on defense, has been leading the team on offense, and has lit a fire under this Cavs team that should have the whole league scared. LeBron does this type of thing a lot, but this year it just seems different.
John Wall – Washington Wizards
John Wall has taken his game to a new level, and the Wizards have become a much better team because of it. In the 2017 Playoffs, he’s averaging 28.1 points per game with 11.1 assists and 4 rebounds. The best part is, he’s shooting 51% from the field and 41% from the three. Somehow, he’s just been an absolute beast on offense.
He outplayed Dennis Schroder in round one against Atlanta, but can he outplay Isaiah Thomas in round two? The way he’s played so far says yes, as Wall seems poised and ready to lead the Wiz to a long post-season run.
Kawhi Leonard - San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi is showing everyone why he may be a top 3 players in the league. Although he did have the greatest game in Game 1 against Houston, he has been spectacular otherwise. ISO plays have been Kawhi’s thing this post-season, using pull-up jumpers and turnaround fadeaways to add some offense to a team that needs it. So far, Kawhi is averaging 29.7 points per game on 52.5% shooting with 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. But, as always with Leonard, his defense is the biggest game changer.
He has changed the tide of many games so far with his defensive aggressiveness and his ability to hold basically anybody on the court.
James Harden – Houston Rockets
The Rockets have been on FIRE. They’ve only lost a single game so far, and they’ve been pinned up against some pretty good teams. What really hurts when you look at Harden’s numbers though, is that he’s only shooting 41.7%. Compared to those higher on this list, that’s just plain bad. But with the way Houston has been playing and the numbers Harden has been putting up (31 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists), it would be a crime to say he has not been playing well.
Gordon Hayward – Utah Jazz
Not many people truly appreciate the game of Utah All-Star, Gordon Hayward. He’s a leader on the floor, acts professional, and can get buckets from just about anywhere. Hayward doesn’t just jack up shots, he takes them with precision and within the flow of the game. Hayward has been averaging 23.7 points with 7 rebounds and 2.9 assists for the playoffs, and lead his Jazz team to the First Round “upset” over the short-handed Clippers. Everything is looking great for the Jazz, except for the fact that the Warriors are waiting.
Andre Iguodala – Golden State Warriors
Iggy hasn’t been the worst performer so far, but he sure hasn’t been very good. The post-season is the time when Andre is supposed to step up and be the difference maker for Golden State. But we haven’t seen that so far. Where’s the guy that won Finals MVP just a few years back? Now, he’s only averaging 7 points per game, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. And while scoring 15 points a game isn’t his job, he just hasn’t seemed like himself so far. The Warriors are going to need him to step up if they want to beat the red-hot Cavaliers.
Marcus Smart – Boston Celtics
In case you didn’t know how bad he’s been, Smart admitted to taking himself out of the game because he didn’t want to “hurt his team.” This is no hate towards the Celtics or toward Smart, but he just hasn’t been putting on a good performance. Because Smart is just a role player, it’s no necessarily his job to score 20 points a game. But 7.7 points on 37% shooting is just unbearable. Imagine how much better Boston could be if Smart made at least 45% of his shots? On the bright side, he hasn’t stopped being a Pitbull on defense, which has helped Boston win 5 straight post-season games.
Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
Some like to call him a top 5-point guard in the NBA. Some like to call him the best Raptors point guard in History. But right now, he’s not looking like he deserves any of those titles. He is a fantastic player, but he just can’t seem to ever get it right in the Playoffs. Because he’s a top option on his team, and a multiple time All-Star still in his prime, Lowry must get graded harshly for his mediocre performance in the most important stage of his career. He’s averaging 15 points on just 44% shooting.
Lowry has the potential to be a true game changer in any playoff series, but when will he start acting like it?
LaMarcus Aldridge – San Antonio Spurs
Like Kyle Lowry, it is Aldridge’s job to score the ball and be the second option for San Antonio. He’s a 6’11’’ 31-year-old big man who weighs 260 pounds. Yet for some reason, he has completely lost his post-game. In Game one of the Conference Semis vs Houston, Aldridge had just 4 points on 28% shooting. No, that is not a typo. In order for the Spurs to even make it past this round, they’re going to need for LaMarcus to average more than 13 points on 43% shooting.
Without Aldridge, the Spurs may not have enough firepower to compete with the high offensive oriented Rockets.
Manu Ginobili – San Antonio Spurs
When you average just 3 points on 26% shooting, it may be time to hang it up for good. At 39 years old, Ginobili just hasn’t found the energy to be his usually productive self. He’s air balling open shots, missing close baskets, and making foolish turnovers.
Although his body may be done, he still has the mind of a basketball savant, which is why Pop can’t help but put him in. For Spurs fans, this post-season may be the last they’ll ever get to see of a legendary career.