The first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs is nearly in the books. With that said, the early portion of this year’s playoffs have witnessed a fair share of breakout performers, ones who have either came out of nowhere or are now finally given the chance to succeed. In this regard, here are the five noted players that have lit a spark on their team’s playoff charge the most so far.
1. Gerald Green – Boston Celtics: Boston’s first round series against Chicago changed as soon as Gerald Green was inserted into Game 3’s starting lineup. It was then, where the 6-foot-7 small forward invigorated a presence to the Celtics that they had lacked in the first two games of the series, both of which were losses. Green’s versatility on defense – being able to defend both the 3 and 4 positions – as well as rebound made life easier for Brad Stevens when running his “small-ball” unit. More so, Green has so far been able to score and shoot proficiently, averaging 11 points and shoot 45.9 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from three during 20 minutes of action in his four games starting.
2. Norman Powell – Toronto Raptors: Toronto entered the postseason in need of an impact wing off the bench to help the likes of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. So far, the Raptors’ prayers have been answered as second-year shooting guard Norman Powell has provided options for coach Dwane Casey to use at various points in games. If Casey wants someone to knock down a series of three-pointers, Powell has delivered making 10 of his 11 perimeter shots in this year’s playoffs. If Casey wants someone to score moderately and rebound on the defensive end, Powell again has shown up in that category, averaging 12.4 points and securing 3.1 defensive rebounds per game.
3. Markieff Morris – Washington Wizards: Markieff is already a staple to the Wizards’ tough and nasty persona, but in the playoffs he’s redefined his role in a multitude of ways. For instance, while Morris isn’t performing to the same degree on the glass now like he did in the regular season, he is making up for it by blocking shots at a proficient rate – swatting 12 shots in total this postseason. It’s also been difficult for Morris to get it going from the perimeter thus far since he’s attempted just 13 three-pointers, however, he’s made Washington’s offense more efficient by running the floor and finishing well inside the paint.
4. JaVale McGhee – Golden State Warriors: All 12 of JaVale McGhee’s minutes per game off-the-bench has been spent catching lobs, blocking shots, running the floor, and providing nothing but energy for Golden State so far. It’s safe to say, but the journeyed center is making the most of his limited playing time for the Warriors: averaging 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting 78.3 percent from the field. Overall, McGhee is emerging as Golden State’s perfect complimentary big to Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia; one that can alter the game in a myriad of ways, non-traditionally.
5. Lou Williams – Houston Rockets: The wily, 30-year old shooting guard is proving to be just another toy for Mike D’Antoni to play with in his lethal and high-powered offense of the Rockets. Since the start of these playoffs, Williams is justifying his role as Houston’s most explosive Sixth Man – exemplifying the skills to make an impact on both-ends of the floor. Through 28.5 minutes per game, Williams is the Rockets’ second-leading scorer (18.8 points per game) and most efficient 3-point shooter (40.9 percent) in the postseason. Williams is also proving to be more than just a gunner on the perimeter, too, by showing signs on defense and on the boards – issuing 1.1 steals per game and cleaning up 15 percent of opponents missed shots. All in all, “Sweet Lou” is playing up to his name while Houston’s playoff lives grow and James Harden’s beard thickens.