NBA Players Who Need to Step Up for Playoff-Bound Teams
With the NBA playoffs less than a month away, teams around the league are making their final push to make the postseason. It's important for teams to continue to win,even if they are already locks for the playoffs. The playoff picture in the Eastern Conference is becoming clearer, but the seventh and eighth seeds in the Western Conference are still up for grabs.
The Los Angeles Lakers might barely make the playoffs, which not many people thought would happen at this point in the season. The Miami Heat look unbeatable, but can they continue their great play into April and May? There are certain players that need to step up if their teams are going to have success in the postseason. Here are five players that have to step up for the playoff-bound teams:
USA TODAY Sports
Small forward Joe Johnson has really underperformed this year for the Brooklyn Nets. Over the last seven seasons, Johnson has averaged 18 points or more and at least four rebounds per game. This season, the Arkansas native is recording 16.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. The Nets could be one of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference if Johnson would play up to his potential.
With all of the talent on the Nets' roster, they are a much better team than their record shows. If Johnson can start to get into a rhythm and practice perfecting his jump shot, then the Nets could be in better shape. If not, then this team could get knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
Harry How/Getty Images
Caron Butler hasn't played up to his full potential while playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. He is a player that averages 15.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game over his 10-year NBA career. This season, the UConn grad averages 10.3 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. Butler's numbers have really gone down since his days with the Washington Wizards in the mid-2000's.
One of the reasons Butler is not having such a good season could be due to all of the talent on the Clippers roster. Butler is being outplayed by sixth-man Jamal Crawford, who was acquired by the team this past offseason. Even small forward Matt Barnes is averaging more points per game than Butler. Butler needs to pick it up and become more of a go-to guy in the playoffs.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
With the injury of guard Derrick Rose, veteran Carlos Boozer should have been one of the players to get bigger numbers—but hasn't. Although the Chicago Bulls are doing very well without Rose, Boozer is averaging below his normal points per game. Other players like Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson have had to step up in the absence of Rose.
As a team, the Bulls rank 29th in the league with 92 points per game. Boozer has to play better because Rose will not be returning as soon as people thought he would be. If Boozer can play better on the offensive side and continue to rebound well, then the Bulls might make a run in the playoffs.
Harry How/Getty Images
Dwight Howard hasn’t been playing nearly as well as he can. There were high expectations for the Los Angeles Lakers and Dwight Howard this season, but both have fallen below those expectations. Injuries, coaching changes and player drama have made this a very dysfunctional team this season. Howard is in the prime of his career, but he is surely not playing up to his potential.
The player problems between Kobe Bryant and Howard caused unnecessary mid-season drama. These problems have seemed to die down and now the team has a shot at making the playoffs. Howard needs to post big numbers for the rest of the season if the Lakers are going to make the postseason.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Even with the Miami Heat’s winning streak, Chris Bosh is not hitting his normal numbers this year. Over his career with the Toronto Raptors he averaged over 20 points and at least 10 rebounds per game during three of his seven seasons. But, the main reason Bosh is averaging only 16.9 points per game is because he is not the star of the team.
LeBron James and Dwayne Wade have done a great job of scoring a majority of the team's points every game. Bosh has the ability to provide more scoring on his end, since he has the talent to be a great big man in the league. If Bosh plays like how he did last year in the playoffs, then the Heat should be on path to their second title in a row.