NBA playoffs 2018: Five players who could rock the postseason
The NBA is about the players. It's not an owner-driven league, but one that thrives on the talents of individuals and the impact they make on the court.
Entire postseason series can change on the back of one man. Reggie Miller in Indiana, Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas, LeBron James in Cleveland; all completely changed the outlooks of their teams on their own.
Who will be those players this season?
Jimmy Butler (Minnesota Timberwolves)
When Minnesota acquired Butler from the Chicago Bulls, the Twin Cities were thrilled, but Butler was just as excited to be reunited with coach Tom Thibodeau. The two share equal intensity like few other coach-player combinations in the NBA, and Butler could very well be the key to upsetting the apple cart in the Western Conference. The small forward will match up with the Houston Rockets' likely MVP James Harden in the first round. Butler held Harden to 36 per cent shooting in four games this season, and he could very well lead an upset for the Timberwolves.
We are indeed, Jimmy. We are indeed. pic.twitter.com/1uhBXfY8RB-- x - Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) April 12, 2018
Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)
Since Kyrie Irving went down for the Celtics, it has been Brown who has taken over the scoring mantle in Boston. Brown averaged 20.8 points per game in five matches in April and 13.6 points per outing in March. He has come into his own since he emerged in the playoffs last season, and if he performs well in the first round, Boston could overcome its lull to end the season.
Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Pelicans)
The Portland Trail Blazers are an isolation team. They are last in the NBA in assists per game at 19.5, and this plays right into Holiday's hands. One of the most efficient defenders in the league, he will lock up Damian Lillard and attempt to make Portland one-dimensional. If his defense helps the Pelicans get to the second round, the combination of Holiday and Anthony Davis could be scary for the Golden State Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs.
The @PelicansNBA top the @spurs 122-98 behind Jrue Holiday (23 PTS, 7 AST) and Anthony Davis (22 PTS, 15 REB, 4 BLK)!-- NBA (@NBA) April 12, 2018
NOP awaits the result from Portland for their playoff seeding and SAS will take the West's #7 spot in the #NBAPlayoffs.
Mirotic: 21 PTS, 15 REB#DoItBigpic.twitter.com/64zZ7xiERd
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
This one is simple. Whenever Embiid gets back, he will be the most challenging player to stop on the court. Following surgery on a facial fracture, the towering center will be a match-up nightmare in each of the first two rounds and even a potential Eastern Conference Finals. The question: when will he be back?
"No one cared who I was until I put on the mask".... The Phantom of The Process pic.twitter.com/JOkQxCAxYA-- Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) April 12, 2018
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
By the same token, whenever Curry returns, the Warriors could be back to their old selves. The team lost six of 10 after the two-time MVP went down with a knee injury, and it is no-brainer that their offense is better when he is on the court. You might say the only way to beat the Warriors is before Curry gets back.