All-NBA Role Player Team: Playoff Edition
During the NBA postseason, the game slows down, execution is at a premium, and the stars shine their brightest. From Kevin Durant’s unstoppable scoring, Kawhi Leonard’s two-way excellence, and Damian Lillard waving goodbye to the Thunder, the 2019 playoffs have been dominated by heroic, big-name performances.
Behind the scenes, however, it is the role players that give their teams a chance to succeed. One must look past the high-profile players to see how games are truly one.. Here’s my All-NBA Role Player Team: Playoff Edition.
This pick may have been too easy as Sweet Lou was the primary scorer for the Clippers despite coming off the bench. Williams truly is up there with Jamal Crawford as one of the best sixth men of all-time, and his performance this postseason may have been his best work to date.
The Clippers were wildly outmatched on paper and shouldn’t have been able to give the Warriors a tough series. Through incredible coaching, excellent contributions from various players and never-give-up attitude, the Clippers were able to claw out two wins against the Warriors. In each of those two wins, Williams was a walking bucket, putting up 30+ points and 10+ assists to lead the way.
Gordon is shooting nine threes per game this postseason at a 41 percent clip and is averaging nearly 19 points per game. That’s a solid offensive performance that has helped to catapult the Rockets to a 2-2 series tie with the Warriors.
Per Second Spectrum, Klay Thompson scored 4 points on 1-8 FG in the 125 possessions he was defended by Gordon in games 1-3. During the previous series, Donovan Mitchell scored 38 points on 13-41 FG with 9 turnovers in 180 possessions defended by Gordon in the first round.
Gordon is wreaking havoc on opposing guards. He’s providing the defensive stability and physicality needed to take down the Warriors.
If the Rockets are going to beat the Warriors, physicality will be the key to making the Warriors uncomfortable. Dubs coach Steve Kerr even acknowledged that being physical with GSW is “the best way to try to beat us.” Kerr comically compared the Rockets’ players to middle linebackers while the Warriors are volleyball players.
Well, if the Rockets are a bunch of middle linebackers, P.J. Tucker is Von Miller- the physical leader of the pack whose heart is being poured out on the court on a nightly basis. Tucker is the perfect three-and-D type of role player needed to dethrone the Warriors, and only time will tell if the Rockets have created the perfect formula to take down Golden State.
Here’s a list of the top-four per-36 scorers this postseason: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and… Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
RHJ had a standout postseason in limited minutes (13.3 PPG in 15.5 MPG) and provided great energy off the bench for the Nets in its hard-fought series against the 76ers. One could argue that he deserved more playing time despite a very deep Nets roster; regardless, RHJ gets the nod here as he excelled greatly in his role for the Nets.
The Washington Post
After we saw Kanter separate his shoulder in the first half of game 5 of the Blazers’ first round series against the Thunder, it would’ve been logical to expect him to sit out the rest of the playoffs, let alone see him return for the second half of that game. With the loss of Jusuf Nurkic to a scary leg injury, losing Kanter would’ve been demoralizing for the Blazers; luckily, Kanter is proving to be one of the toughest and most resilient players in the league. What he’s done in these playoffs, with one arm and being tasked with banging in the post with Nikola Jokic cannot be overstated. He’s provided steady scoring and rebounding for a team that is desperate for a reliable third option.