• Kyle Zwiazek

Which NBA Players Have the Most to Prove in the Playoffs?

As a basketball fan, the NBA playoffs are one of the most exciting times of the year. With each year there are many players that have a lot to prove in the playoffs. Given that the NBA is a star driven league, here is a look at the top five players with the most to prove in the NBA playoffs. (Hint LeBron James has proven enough where he does not belong on this list)

1. Kevin Durant-Golden State Warriors

Remember last summer when Kevin Durant decided to join the best team in the NBA? Well when you make a move like that you instantly go from hero to villain. That is not necessarily a bad thing though. The problem with making that move is that there is way more pressure on Durant now that he is on a team that is expected to win. Granted, Kevin Durant is coming off an injury so he might get a bit of a pass but he should have the most to prove this year. Anything but a championship will be disastrous for his career, especially if the Thunder get further than the Warriors. With the way Russell Westbrook is playing that may actually be possible. Durant needs to prove that he made the right choice and did not mess up the mojo of the Golden State Warriors. During the season the Warriors were still excellent, but there will definitely be some added pressure on the star forward in the playoffs.

2. Chris Paul –Los Angeles Clippers

Any of the players on the Los Angeles Clippers could be put at the two spot for this list. Chris Paul is the leader of that team though. How many years does it take for the Clippers, as currently constructed to win a championship? The answer could be never. Chris Paul needs to lead the charge and bring the team to that next level. The talent is on the roster; the championship coach is there yet the Clippers still have not made much noise in the playoffs. Even though the Western Conference is tougher to succeed in, Chris Paul needs to find a way to win a championship for the Clippers. If things do not change soon that whole team will probably be dismantled as early as this summer. There has been plenty of talks of Blake Griffin moving on and even some rumbles of Doc Rivers going back to Orlando. The window of opportunity is shutting in Los Angeles and Chris Paul is the key to getting through that window.

3. LaMarcus Aldridge – San Antonio Spurs

When the face of a franchise leaves the replacement always has plenty of added pressure. Tim Duncan was a force that drove the Spurs to Championships during his 19-year career. There is no way that any player could come in and completely replace the future hall of famer. LaMarcus Aldridge is a very good player though. He will face a lot of adversity during these playoffs because it is the first year the team does not have Tim Duncan. The Spurs will definitely make a lot of noise, as the team transfers from the old guard of Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker to the new guard of Aldridge and Leonard. What will alleviate some pressure off Aldridge is the veteran play of Pau Gasol and the coaching of Gregg Popovich. Still if the Spurs do not perform like their fan base expects, the blame will go to Aldridge as the replacement for Duncan.

4. James Harden – Houston Rockets

James Harden had a monster season for the Rockets. If it was not for his former teammate Russell Westbrook breaking records, Harden would probably be the favorite for the MVP. Coming off a down year for Houston last season, the Rockets really have an opportunity to make some noise in the playoffs. They are a solid team that is led by the bearded wonder. Harden is an excellent player, but has not led his team to the promise land yet. Every year players do not win a championship there is more and more skepticism about their play. Just ask LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Harden is starting to fall into that category. He has had much success in the regular season, but needs to prove that the Rockets can make a deep run into the playoffs.

5. Isaiah Thomas – Boston Celtics

The general consensus going into this season was that the Boston Celtics were about a year away from making a case to win an NBA Championship. Well now the team sits atop of the Eastern Conference and has brought some added pressure because of that. Isaiah Thomas is the hands down best player on the Celtics and has spoken like that during the season.

According to a report by Chris Forsberg of ESPN, Thomas said “Nobody holds me in check.” He continued, “I made plays, I average 30 points for a reason”. If that statement alone does not put a target on your back, then nothing does. Thomas was not going to be on this list, but his extreme confidence definitely put him here. Thomas has to live up to his mouth. If he will tell everyone he is such a great player he better show the world that on the biggest stage. There have been plenty of NBA players that have been successful in the regular season and failed in the playoffs. We will see if Thomas can back his words with his play in the playoffs.

Bonus Round

6. DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors

Anytime you sign a big contract in the off-season there comes added pressure to win. The Toronto Raptors made it to the Eastern Conference finals last year and are looking to make some moves further this year. The Raptors have the same record as the defending champion Cavaliers and are a big threat to the Cavs returning to the Finals this year. DeRozan is the star of the Raptors and the leader on the court. He has had an excellent season and in all honesty lived up to his contract. There is pressure on him to take the Raptors to the Finals though. When you get so close, but fall short the year before it is Finals or bust the next season. DeRozan will not have an easy go of it this year, but he certainly has the skills to bring the Raptors as far as they went last year and maybe further.

Extra Bonus Round

7. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers

Unfortunately, LeBron James does belong on this list. When you are considered to be the best player in the NBA there will always be pressure on you. People love to compare LeBron to Jordan or Oscar Robinson, but the reality is he plays in a different era. James does get pressure because he is the face of the NBA. The problem though is LeBron does not necessarily thrive in the pressure like Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan did. He has won NBA titles and probably will win a few more, but being a superstar is not an easy thing to live up to. There is no shame if the Cavaliers do not win the title again this year. If they do not though the LeBron critics will be out in full force.

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