LeBron James. Kevin Durant. James Harden. These are all names that most households around the world are familiar with or, if not, have at least heard once or twice. They are the best players on their respective teams, and their teams have legitimate shots at a championship partially due to their excellence and presence on the court.
But if you took any of these players and all the supporting cast out of the equation, none of these guys could win a single game one-on-five, no matter how good they are. Everyone on the basketball court needs help in one way or another, and often times these supporting cast players appear to make the studs better. Here we will talk about the non-stars who are making a difference so far this postseason and how they could possibly lead their contending team to a championship.
After averaging less than 10 minutes per game and not even five points or three rebounds in his limited playing time, JaVale McGee has come alive in the playoffs as the Warriors starting center. He propelled them to an early lead in Game 1 against the Spurs and was solid in Game 2 as well. His two-game playoff averages are currently at 12.5ppg on 71 percent shooting, 5.5rpg, 1.5s, and 1.5b in just 17.5 minutes.
These per-minute numbers are just phenomenal and could get more minutes if 1) he didn’t make simple mistakes and 2) fewer teams went small against the Warriors. He is a great defensive presence and has helped the Warriors in a great way so far in this series. If Zaza comes back, I think Javale deserves the starting role and most of the minutes at the five regardless of his return. Finals MVP?
Sticking with the theme of important centers, Clint Capela was huge in the Rockets’ Game 1 win over the Timberwolves, racking up 24 points, 10 boards, a steal and three blocks in the dominant performance. Chris Paul and James Harden both said great things about him after the game, calling him dominant and describing his energy as “contagious”.
One of the most important takeaways from this is that he did it against Karl-Anthony Towns, who is a fairly decent basketball player. He truly held his own and outscored the starting All-Star center by 16 points, which speaks wonders. Harden and Paul’s elite passing abilities do make Capela’s offensive job a bit easier, but he takes all credit for his tough defense. We’ll see what kind of game he and Towns have in Game 2.
This is a very non-household name, but Wright leads the way on the best bench in the entire league. The Toronto Raptors have a couple stars, a few other solid starters, and the rest of them are just very consistent contributors off the bench. Wright and other bench guys like Fred VanVleet, Jakob Poeltl, C.J. Miles, and Pascal Siakam have all been a great part of Toronto’s first-seed berth this season.
Wright has averaged 14.5 points in two games so far in these playoffs, helping the team go up 2-0 on the Wizards. While the points are important, the defense he brings to the table is something else, already averaging three steals and a block and a half in his two playoff games. Wright and the rest of the bench have a great chance of assisting in taking the Raptors far in this race for the championship, and I think they could surprise some people.
Ever since Kyrie Irving went down, Terry Rozier has been fantastic for the Celtics, especially in these playoffs. Once again, this is not necessarily a household name for most NBA fans. Heck, not even his current opponent Eric Bledsoe knows who he is. When asked how personally he takes the matchup with Rozier, Bledsoe said: “I don’t even know who the f— that is”. Granted, this was not the nicest thing Bledsoe could have said after the loss, but Charles Barkley said it best: Rozier is the guy who is “kickin’ yo ass”.
Excuse the profanity, but Chuck isn’t wrong here. Rozier has led Boston to a 2-0 lead over Giannis and Milwaukee behind averages of 23.0ppg on 47 percent from the floor, 3.5rpg, 5.5apg, and 1.0spg. He has defied all expectations, and while he is no Kyrie Irving, he should be huge for this team’s playoff run. Bledsoe, meanwhile, is sitting at just 10.5ppg on 36 percent shooting, 5.5rpg, 4.0apg and not much else. To add to the embarrassment, Bledsoe is averaging three turnovers per game, while Rozier hasn’t committed a single one this series.
There is plenty of media and talk about the studs that carry their respective team and have great nights consistently, but some guys truly don’t get enough credit. Despite not even hearing about some of these names in an average basketball-related conversation, their opponents have heard plenty about them, and are vital to the success of their respective teams. A lead role is nothing without his supporting cast members, and some of the support these stars have been getting has exceeded all expectations for fans and teammates alike.