Power Ranking the Biggest Surprise Stars of the 2012 NBA Playoffs
My, oh my, are we amid an entertaining NBA postseason or what? Easily better than last year's playoffs, 2012 is shaping up to be a great year in sports.
So far we've seen underdogs, injuries, up-and-comers and plenty of intense playoff basketball. There are so many storylines already, and we aren't even done with the second round.
Are the Lakers finished?
Is Boston still a contender?
Are the Heat going to choke in the second round? Can they do it without Bosh?
The Bulls are out?
We have seen plenty of horrid playoff performances from players expected to step up and amazing games from players not expected to do much.
Today, let's examine those players who don't get talked about most nights but have been most impressive during this year's exciting postseason.
9. Steve Blake/Devin Ebanks
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Both Devin Ebanks and Steve Blake are no-namers to even some of the most avid NBA fans. During this postseason, they have stepped up in a big way for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers have shown flashes of brilliance but have also appeared very vulnerable. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol will have brilliant games, and then they'll disappear the next night.
The overall effort by Blake and Ebanks, especially in the first round, definitely deserves recognition on this list.
8. Nick Young
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Nick Young may not be putting up ridiculous numbers in the playoffs this year, but he doesn't need to. On a team with offensive weapons like Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Caron Butler, Young is expected to just be ready when the ball comes his way.
He's shooting 43 percent in the playoffs, and nothing stands out more than his epic Game 1 performance in the first round against the Memphis Grizzlies.
When the entire world thought the Clippers were out of the game and had turned off their TVs, Nick Young proved everyone wrong and drained three straight three-pointers to will Los Angeles back into the game and steal the victory in Memphis.
It was a memorable individual performance and a team performance that should go down as one of the greatest in postseason history.
7. Glen Davis
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With Ryan Anderson disappearing during the playoffs and Dwight Howard injured, a lot of responsibility was placed on Glen Davis' shoulders.
He answered in a very respectable way. While his team was only able to pull off one win against an impressive Indiana squad, Glen Davis tried his hardest to make us all forget about Mr. Howard.
He was the team's leading scorer and rebounder during the playoffs.
He also had the best field-goal percentage, with the exception of Earl Clark (who played less).
Poor Big Baby did everything he could to keep his team relevant when all hope was lost.
6. Serge Ibaka
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Serge Ibaka is definitely one of my favorite players to watch. While he's not necessarily a surprising contributor, his performance during this year's playoffs can definitely be considered surprising to some extent.
The man is blocking almost four shots per game, and that's been against some of the best big men in the league (Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, who are expected to do this regularly). He even blocked seven shots in Game 2 against the Lakers. That's production.
Ibaka is definitely making a name for himself in this league, and sooner rather than later, his production won't come as a surprise to anyone.
He's also not expected to contribute much offensively, but he does get it done when his number is called. In Game 1 against Dallas, Serge was able to put up 22 points on 75 percent shooting.
The guy is doing all the little things for OKC, while James Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook shoulder most of the offensive load. Without Ibaka, this team would not be where they are.
5. David West
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Could Indiana actually push the Heat out of the playoffs in the second round? It's still early, but Indiana has dismantled a Heat team without Chris Bosh and given itself home-court advantage with a 2-1 lead over the disabled Big Three.
One of the key cogs to this roster during the postseason has been former New Orleans Hornet forward David West, a player the average fan doesn't know exists.
West has been getting it done for an up-and-coming Indiana squad that seems poised to prove the doubters wrong. He's averaging a double-double with 16 and 10, while showing an efficiency rating of plus-19.1.
But he's not even been the most impressive player on Indiana's roster during the postseason. Stay tuned.
4. Ty Lawson
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While the Nuggets weren't able to advance to the second round, they certainly made a series out of the entire thing, especially with the help of Ty Lawson.
Lawson is definitely key to the Nuggets rotation and seemed to shine during the postseason when the lights were brightest. He is the one player on the Nuggets roster (with the exception of Kenneth Faried) who I see as a legitimate All-Star and borderline superstar in the future. But that's all up to him.
It seems like he is taking strides in that direction. With playoff lines of 19 points, six assists and 51 percent field-goal shooting, Lawson definitely had his way with the Lakers defense, running circles around them. He was one of the key reasons why Denver was able to push this series to seven games.
Ty posted an efficiency rating of plus-19 during the postseason alone, which is definitely impressive in its own right and good for 22nd overall amongst players in the season. On that list alone, he's above players like James Harden, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker and Blake Griffin.
A surprise star on a team most had written off early? Most definitely so.
3. Kevin Garnett
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Kevin Garnett finds his way on this list simply for the fact that he's on the wrong end of his career and hasn't played like the KG of old very consistently.
But, during this year's playoffs, it seems that KG has found new life in his legs and wants to single-handedly will his team into the NBA Finals (with the help of a scorching Rajon Rondo, of course).
He looks very much like the KG of yesteryear with his impressive lines of 20 points per game and 11 rebounds. Add that along with his 55 percent playoff scoring average, and we are seeing a reemergence of the Boston star.
Garnett, a player many thought was long past being capable of performances like this, still has much to say about who will be taking home the trophy in the end.
2. Roy Hibbert
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The honor of most impressive Indiana player belongs to Mr. Roy Hibbert, a first-time All-Star who seemingly had his way with the entire Heat frontline during Game 3 in Indiana.
It may not be a surprise to many Indiana fans, but to people like me (I also seem to forget about Roy), it's been an eye-opener.
Roy is simply playing out of his mind and definitely capitalizing on a weak Miami frontline that is sorely missing Chris Bosh.
In Game 3 in Indiana, Hibbert had 19 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks. That's a dominating playoff performance if I've ever seen one.
Andrew Bynum who? NBA fans, meet Hibbert. Don't forget about him.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
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The effort this team has individually and collectively put together has been nothing short of phenomenal. This year's Cinderella story, the 76ers have found themselves not only playing but competing against the Boston Celtics in the second round after dismantling the top-seeded Chicago Bulls (minus Derrick Rose, mind you).
Evan Turner, while not shooting a fantastic percentage, has shown us all why he was drafted so high last year. And everyone else on the roster—like Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday and Louis Williams—has been stepping up in a big way to make Philly a relevant team and possible title contender.
Look at it this way: They have five players averaging double figures in points (Spencer Hawes, Williams, Iguodala, Turner and Holiday). A team many thought couldn't compete at all is proving us all wrong, and we love it.
It's been fantastic and exciting to watch for us diehard NBA fans. Everyone loves a good Cinderella story.