The NBA Playoffs features the best talent in the league, and allows fans the opportunity to see legendary matchups. They pin the top teams against one another, and they truly allow for epic showdowns. This year’s NBA playoffs have been no different. There are plenty of dynamic coaches, talented all-stars, and passionate fans. Although there are numerous studs playing every post season, only a handful truly elevate their game to the next level as they lead their team to victory. Hoping to get a ring and be crowned an NBA Champion, these athletes sacrifice everything and dedicate themselves solely to team development. Here are my top five standout players of the post season so far:
- Kevin Durant: I know Durant is a top talent, but he surprised me this postseason. Durant is averaging 8.2 more points per game in the playoffs than during the regular season. During this postseason run, Durant is averaging 34.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. He is dynamic offensively as he utilizes his length to knockdown jump shots, hit 3-pointers, and drive at the basket. He is the best offensive player in the league, and the stats clearly reflect that. He is transforming the Warriors’ offense, and he is the reason that they are the team to beat. If Durant is held out for a long period of time with this right calf strain, the Warriors may not be able to escape the Rockets, let alone a team like the Nuggets or Trailblazers. He is the heartbeat of the team, and the team needs him desperately.
- Kawhi Leonard: Leonard has transformed the Raptors and may just be the MVP right now of the playoffs. He can shoot 3-pointers, attack the basket, and utilize a fluid jump shot. He isn’t just a force on offense; Leonard is one of the best defenders in the league. He is averaging 31.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game in the playoffs- all higher than his regular season averages. He led the Raptors past the Magic in five games and although they were down 2-1 against the 76ers, the Raptors stormed back and took a 3-2 lead over their Eastern Conference foes. He continues to elevate his play each game, and he needs just one win to reach the Eastern Conference Finals.
- Damian Lillard: Lillard is one of the most underrated players in the league. He gets little notoriety, but he simply continues to go about his game. Lillard played phenomenal against the Thunder in the Trailblazer’s first series, and he continues to play at a high level in his current series against the Nuggets. He is averaging 29.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2 steals per game in the playoffs; moreover, he is carrying the Trailblazers despite the tough competition n front of him. Everyone will remember his clutch shot against the Thunder, but he has shown in every game just how electric he can be. He has elevated his game to another level, and he may just wield the Trailblazers to an upset over the Nuggets.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo: Antetokounmpo is unique because he is a 6’11’’, 242 lbs. forward, but he utilizes his length and mobility in a guard-like manner. His length is a problem for opposing teams, and he averages high points totals because of his ability to attack the rim. Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game this post season. He intimidates opposing offenses with his length, and he utilizes his wingspan to deter shots. Antetokounmpo forces teams to focus on him; as a result, other shooters and playmakers on his team find their shots easier. After sweeping the Pistons, the Bucks made quick work of the Celtics in five games. Look out for the Bucks, the “Beasts of the East”.
- Nikola Jokic: The versatile big does it all. Per game, Jokic is averaging 24.5 points, 13.1 rebounds, and 9 assists- all numbers higher than his regular season averages. He is terrific in his ability to not only score but also his talent for finding other open players. It is uncommon to see a center that averages so many assists. Jokic fills the stat sheet with many numbers, but he also draws in defenses and allows other players to score because opposing teams are so focused on him. He helped lead the Nuggets past the Spurs in the first round, and he has helped the Nuggets take a 3-2 lead over the Trailblazers.