Last week I shared my opinion on my favorite teams that I believe could come out on top in the playoffs. Today, I’m going to share a few X-factors that mean a lot to their teams. In the playoffs, role players have such a significant role and a breakout game can change the entire momentum of a series. So I’m going to give you my players to watch and explain why they mean so much to their respective teams.
Terrence Ross is a piece of Toronto’s system that they need if they want to be successful in the playoffs. Statistically, he’s not having the season that many thought he would. Upi could look at the numbers and think he doesn’t mean much to his team, but it’s beyond the numbers.
A quick clip of the lockdown defense Terrence Ross played in last year’s playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets.
Ross plays a huge part for the Raptors on the defensive side of the ball. Guarding the best wing players in this league and in the playoffs, it’s going to be important that he can constantly contain whoever he’s up against if he wants his team to move forward. Also, Terrence Ross is going to get a lot of open shots due to the penetration from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Terrence is a 37.2% three-point shooter, making approximately 2 threes a game, so it will be crucial for him to be able to knock down shots in the playoffs. With all the focus on DeRozan and Lowry, Ross could have some unexpected big games and become a huge contribution to their desired postseason success.
My pick for Rookie of the Year, Nikola Mirotic, is the X-factor for the Chicago Bulls. Early in the season he wasn’t given much of a chance, as time went on he became a centerpiece for the production of the second unit. In the playoffs, bench production means everything. Teams study each other immensely so as defenses lock down on the top players and the starters become fatigued, it’s imperative that teams have backups that can pick up where the others started off. Mirotic will be very important if the Bulls want to advance in the playoffs. During the regular season, he ranked 4th on their team with a usage percentage of 23.2 and a points percentage of 24.4 which is also ranked 4th on the team. When you compare the wins to the losses, you can see the correlation in Mirotic’s numbers. Throughout the season, in Chicago’s 50 wins, Nikola averaged about 3 more points than he did when they lost and he also shot a way better percentage overall and from three. He has been playing great since the All-Star break and there’s no better way to go into the playoffs than how he’s playing. The Chicago roster along with the coaching staff all have faith in Mirotic and know that if they want to move far in the playoffs, he has to big huge variable in that equation:
“The beauty of Niko is he’s not afraid,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s been great throughout the season, and if he has a tough game he bounces right back in the next one. He’s got a great scorer’s mentality and his approach to the game is so good. He’s only going to get better and better. And just him on the floor — you put him on the floor, it creates space.”
“With Niko on the floor, it’s like another dimension,” Rose said. “Because of the way he spaced the floor. I hate when he hesitates, hate when he hesitates, but I think he’ll grow out of it.”
I honestly believe that the Golden State Warriors wouldn’t be as successful as they have been if it wasn’t for Draymond Green. He’s the hustle player that every coach loves to have on his team that leads by example. Green’s effectiveness comes from everywhere, whether it’s his ability to pose mismatches on the offensive end or cause disruption on defense. Steve Kerr likes to run a lot of pick and roll with Steph Curry and Draymond and since Curry draws so much attention off the pick, Green likes to pop often and take that open three that he’s added to his game. When he’s knocking down that shot, the Warriors become impossible to stop because either someone else has to help which leaves someone open, or Draymond can just take the open jumper.
|Shot Type||Field Goals Made|
Field Goals Attempted
|Pull-up Jump Shot||44|
|Steph Curry assisted on 135 of Draymond Green’s Shots|
In Golden State’s recent games, Draymond Green has been getting into early foul trouble, causing him to miss time in games. However, he can’t afford to commit stupid fouls because this team really needs him to be able to cap off what has been a spectacular year. The playoffs is all about making great decisions and doing what it takes to win, and from what we’ve seen this year, we know that Draymond Green has the will to win — but does he have the mentally to not make bad decisions and hurt his team?