NBA Playoffs 2012 Predictions: 3 Players Poised for Success in the West
The 2012 NBA Playoffs will rekindle the annual tradition of producing the most memorable moments on the most monumental stage, as well as providing a showcase for several players to shine in the postseason spotlight.
The NBA regular season is never short on scintillating made-for-TV moments courtesy of the league's best and brightest, with a recent example being the New York Knicks 100-99 OT victory over the Chicago Bulls—a game in which Carmelo Anthony hit both the game-tying three-point bucket to send it into overtime and the game-winner in the extended period, finishing with 43 points, with the kind of dramatic display which could certainly continue to enhance his reputation in the annals of historically significant Knicks players.
These kind of games, which are won by all-encompassing individual performances, take on an increased level of prominence within the postseason, as it is within that realm that individual legacies are validated and legends are born.
A game-winning shot, or conversely, a victory-saving defensive stop, a player putting the team on his back or refusing to back down in the face of season-ending circumstances are all tenants of those individuals who are able to manufacture a level of play which ultimately encompasses their careers.
Here are a few players out of the Western Conference who are poised to perform at a high level in the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
Blake Griffin has the kind of innate highlight-creation ability that makes one feel that even in his everyday off-the-court undertakings such as teeth-brushing, he is able to do so in a crowd-wowing-worthy way.
He is a man who has built a still-young legend, with dunks over parked cars and his equally unreal in-game athletic feats, but his gravity-defying displays are not what defines him, He has continued his consistent statistical output from his rookie year, averaging 20.6 PPG, with 10.9 RPG and 3.1 assists.
He has also improved upon his efficiency from the field, at .545 on the season. And perhaps his most significant stat is that after having season-ending knee surgery in what would have been his rookie year in 2009-10', Griffin played in all 82 games last season, as well as every game this year.
Griffin has achieved what previously seemed unachievable, not only making the Clippers viable within Los Angeles' basketball landscape, but also establishing the franchise's credibility nationally within the league, and he can further this team development in addition to his own personal legacy in what will be his inaugural appearance in the playoffs.
With the addition of Chris Paul and the Clippers having won 11 out of their last 13 games, and with Griffin registering double-doubles with his points and rebound totals in eight of those games, both he and Los Angeles are poised to make noise in this year's playoffs.
As with Griffin, this year will be Rudy Gay's first taste of playoff basketball, despite having played in six NBA seasons at the still-tender age of 25.
The similarity between the two players, being that Gay has also been a poignant figure in the Grizzlies ascendancy up the league credibility ladder, in the midst of different preventative factors, as the Clippers are competing in a market that includes the Lakers, while Memphis' deficit is created by the smallness of the Memphis market as an NBA city.
Gay has played his entire career in Memphis, and is the leading scorer on a team which features five other players averaging double figures in points on the season.
He has assumed a leadership role on a Memphis team which is currently second in the competitive Southwest division to the San Antonio Spurs and ahead of defending NBA Champions, the Dallas Mavericks, in a division which stands to send four out of its five teams into the playoffs.
The Grizzlies have won eight out of their last 10 games, among those wins, a 94-89 win over the Dallas Mavericks on April 7, in which Gay scored 25 points, shooting 60 percent from the field, as well as hitting three out of five from beyond the arc, four out of five from the line, and five rebounds and three assists. The kind of stat line which is representative of Gay's abilities to propel his team to winning results, against one of the more prominent teams within their own division and the league at large.
Ironically, if the season were to end today, the Grizzlies would be facing the aforementioned Griffin and his Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, which would provide intrigue in team matchups as well as those between individuals. Gay will most assuredly feature prominently within this potential matchup, as well as against whomever the Grizzlies ultimately face in the first round.
Unlike Griffin and Gay, Houston Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry has previous experience in the playoffs, during the 2008-09 season in which he put up less-than-impressive numbers, including 5.3 PPG, with 2.5 assists, 2.9 rebounds and shooting a poorly .333 from the field.
However, since that season, Lowry has improved steadily and readily in his role as the floor leader of the Rockets, as well as one of the top point guards in the league. Lowry's 15.3 points, 7.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game, are each categorically the highest of his career, as well as his 38 percent shooting from three-point range. He is also shooting his second highest career percentage from the charity stripe, at 86 percent, as well as his highest steals per game average, at 1.7 per game.
The Rockets currently are slotted to play the division rival Spurs in the first round, and have split the season series so far with San Antonio, in what would present a very intriguing matchup between Lowry and Tony Parker. If the matchups stay as they currently are, this series would provide an ideal setting for Lowry to not only establish his worth amongst the point guard elites of the league, but also help to improve upon his only other playoff experience back in 2008-09.