NBA Playoffs 2012: 5 Overachieving Players Destined for a Playoff Slump
If you're a superstar, then you can't really "overachieve." Superstars are supposed to amaze us with their abilities. They're supposed to exceed already lofty expectation. If a superstar averages 30 points, we want 35. If he grabs 15 rebounds, we ask why he can't get 20 next time out.
Magic Johnson spent his rookie year overachieving. From that point on, he wasn't overachieving—he was just amazing.
The NBA regular season saw a number of players emerge as potential future stars. Some of those players are now in the playoffs. For some, it's their first trip; for others, it's their first trip where they're really expected to perform at a high level.
Expectations are tricky. Some players rise up to meet or even to exceed them. Others wilt under the unexpected pressures those expectations bring with them.
There are some young players coming off good seasons who may be in for a bit of a wake-up call in the playoffs. Here's a few to keep an eye on.
2011-2012 Regular Season Stats: 16.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 39.3 three-point shooting percentage.
Ryan Anderson had a prototypical "breakout" season. In his fourth NBA season, the lanky forward finally won a starting job and the 30-plus minutes that usually accompany it. Anderson's height (6'10") allows him to shoot over most defenders with ease.
He benefited greatly from the presence of Dwight Howard at the center position in Orlando.
Regardless of whether you like or dislike Howard, or even if you feel he's overrated as a player, the simple fact is that Howard's presence in the middle of the Orlando Magic offense creates open perimeter shots for his teammates.
That doesn't mean Orlando is automatically better with Howard. It simply means they get more open long-range shots as a result of him being in the lineup. Adding to that dynamic is that Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy has realized this and has designed an offense to take advantage of it.
Orlando led the NBA in three-point-shot attempts this season. They put up an average of 27.0 three-point shots per game. Anderson alone attempted an average of 6.9 per game.
The Magic pulled off an upset when they won Game 1 of their opening round series against the Pacers. The game was won on three-point shooting. A final score of 81-77, and Orlando was 9-of-24 from beyond the stripe while Indiana was only 4-of-13. That's a 15-point difference in production from long range.
Ryan Anderson looked a bit off, though. He was only 2-of-7 from the field and 1-of-4 from three-point range. He also grabbed only six rebounds. Perhaps Pacers coach Frank Vogel sensed that Anderson was the player he had to stop to ensure a victory?
Clearly, it didn't work out, and Anderson will have more chances to showcase his game in the playoffs.
There could be some added pressure since he's a free agent this summer. The difference between a good and bad postseason performance could be millions of dollars. He can't let that affect him, though, at least not after his poor Game 1 showing.
2011-2012 Regular Season Stats: 16.4 ppg, 6.6 apg, 3.7 rpg 1.3 spg.
The above numbers are good. The numbers since the All-Star break have been even better: more points, more assists, more rebounds and a better field-goal percentage. The trajectory on Ty Lawson entering the playoffs was pointed decidedly up.
The first game was a letdown, to say the least. It's only one game, but in a best-of-seven series, that one game can end up representing 25 percent of the total games. If Lawson has too many more games like the one he had on Sunday, then the Nuggets may very well end up going home in four straight.
A team that relies on an uptempo style of play really needs two things: depth and good point-guard play. The Nuggets are indeed one of the deeper teams in the playoffs. They have two point guards capable of leading a fast break.
One is veteran Andre Miller, who looked far more comfortable on the court against the Lakers on Sunday. The other is the starter Ty Lawson. Lawson looked anything but comfortable on the court on Sunday.
The Lakers took advantage of their superior size to dominate the boards, which slowed the tempo. Lawson responded by trying to force the tempo. The results were errant passes or ill-advised drives to the basket, which resulted in off-balanced missed shots or turnovers.
Lawson finished the day 3-of-11 from the field for seven points, two assists, two rebounds and two turnovers.
Lawson will no doubt improve on those numbers as the series progresses. Will he be able to play at the level Nuggets fans grew used to watching in the final two months of the regular season? Probably not.
2011-2012 Regular Season Stats: 8.8 ppg, 47.2 % three-point shooting.
Steve Novak's 8.8 points per game don't adequately illustrate his value to the New York Knicks this past season.
His league-leading 47.2 percent from three-point range and the fact that he was third in the league in made three-point shots while playing only 18.9 minutes per game do a better job of showing how important and efficient Novak was this season.
His postseason could easily end up far less impressive. That's not necessarily Novak's fault. The injury to Iman Shumpert will change the dynamics of the Knicks rotation.
Novak is a player who is a product of the system and players he plays alongside.
He's not able to create his own shot with frequency. What he can do very well is get to an open spot on the floor and wait for a defensive overload on one of his teammates. After that, it's as simple as that player recognizing the defense and then passing the ball to an open Novak.
The Miami Heat are aware of this. They're not going to leave Novak open. If the Knicks are going to beat them, they don't want it to be because of a role player off the bench.
On Saturday in Game 1, Novak played 24 minutes. He only attempted two three-point shots. To his credit, he made them both. For a player that averages 5.2 three-point shot attempts a game this season, two shot attempts won't get it done.
He shouldn't be forcing shots, either. Give him credit for not forcing up errant shots, but while his judgment in this series may be admirable, his production may very well fall off.
2011-2012 Regular Season Stats: 10.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 58.6 percent from the field.
Kenneth Faried had a very nice rookie season. In fact, as winter turned to spring, Faried heated up along with the weather.
His April regular season averages were 13.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. His playoff numbers aren't going to be at those levels.
To his credit, Faried is an undersized player who outworks opponents and has good footwork and athleticism. It's those qualities that allowed him to average over ten rebounds per game in April.
Yet with all of that going for him, he's just outmatched physically by the twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The Lakers' big men possess many of the same qualities that Faried does. They're both hungry players. They both know how to use their bodies, and they both have good instincts and good footwork.
Faried is only 6'8", 228 lbs, while Gasol is 7'0", 250 and Bynum is 7'0", 285. Faried will work hard and make a great effort, but in the end, this is simply a very tough matchup for the rookie—or anyone else Faried's size—to deal with.
2011-2012 Regular Season Stats: 20.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 54.9 FG percentage.
The closest thing to a true "superstar" in the slideshow. Blake Griffin's numbers were down almost across the board this season.
Part of that is because he had more help on his team. His points and rebounds per game were down from last season, but his team played much better. His field goal percentage was up.
His free throw percentage was down, and there was no excuse for that. It dropped off to an unacceptable 52.1 percent.
Griffin is a spectacular athlete who has not so much "overachieved" per se, but instead has benefited from being paired with one of the best point guards in the league and has seen many easy baskets as a result of it.
This is Blake Griffin's first trip to the playoffs, and he's not going to get as many dunks and easy baskets as he got during the regular season. Adding to his degree of difficulty is that his opponent probably won't be afraid to put him on the line.
This didn't hold true in the disastrous Game 1, but it seems like a common sense coaching maneuver to try and disrupt the offensive production of one of your opponents' top offensive players.
Look for Memphis to get more physical with Griffin. They'll force him to get his points from the free-throw line, and if he shoots free throws like he did during the regular season, then his production will drop off.