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The Five Most Important Rookies in the NBA Playoffs

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The Five Most Important Rookies in the NBA Playoffs
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Playoff time.

You know what that means...endless predictions and analysis' of each series, of each matchup, of every possesion.

But that's just playoff basketball, eh?

So many factors to consider...and rookies are just one of them.

The 2008 NBA Draft class was a lot deeper than anyone thought it was. There are a lot more potential stars than previously thought, and a lot of rookies are already having major impacts on their teams.

There are a lot more big name rookies in the playoffs this year.

And here is who I consider as the five who can have the biggest impact on the playoffs, in no particular order:

(Note: I'll be focusing mainly of what they'll be doing in the first round, as no-one knows who will be advancing and who won't, and if I get into that aswell, it'll be one long article)

 

5. Marreese Speights, Forward, Philadelphia 76ers

First Round Opponent: Orlando Magic

Season averages against opponent: 5.7 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.3 SPG

Marresse Speights isn't going to take over the series against Orlando, but he is still going to be important.

Going against Dwight Howard, you need all the size you have... and it just so happens that Speights is 6''10 and weighs 245.

Along with Sammy Dalembert, it'll be his job to simply try and slow Howard down. 

Although Speights role isn't to score, he does have the ability to, though he seemed to have lost his touch at the end of the season.

Again, he fits well with the Sixers style, being able to run and finish on the fast break.

 

4. Greg Oden, Center, Portland Trail Blazers

First round opponent: Houston Rockets

Season averages against opponent: 4.0 PPG, 0.0 RPG, 1.0 BPG

You thought he was gone, eh? But when it's all said and done, Greg Oden is in the playoffs, on a team with home-court advantage.

His season averages against Houston tell us almost nothing. Oden only played in one game against the Rockets, and there was only 11 minutes of action included in that.

The seven-foot rookie won't be called on to score 20 every game—he can leave the scoring to his teamates. He might not even be called upon to play more than 25 minutes.

But he will be asked to secure rebounds, take up space, and most importantly, try and bully Yao Ming a bit.

The past two years, Yao struggled against the stronger Carlos Boozer in the playoffs. Now, Greg Oden (along with Joel Przbila) will be asked to do the same.

 

3. Courtney Lee, Guard, Orlando Magic

First Round opponent: Philadelphia 76ers

Season averages against opponent: 10.5 PPG, 1.3 APG, 1.5 SPG

For a guy taken with the 22nd pick, Courtney Lee has been a big contributor to the Magic this season.

He started 42 of his 77 games, and has allowed a lot of flexibility for coach Van Gundy. His play has allowed Hedo Turkoglu to sometimes slide to the three position, and Rashard Lewis to the four.

Lee can shoot the ball well, adding to the Magic's game plan of almost every basket coming from three point land or a dunk from Dwight Howard.

In terms of matchups, he'll be facing mainly Louis Williams and Willie Green, whose games and roles don't differ too much from his own.

Lee does have a small height advantage though, and his defence may be slightly higher against them.

He could end up playing some important minutes if Turkoglu's injury situation worsens. Luckily, he has a lot of veterans around him to steer him in the right direction.

 

2. Michael Beasley, Forward, Miami Heat

First Round opponent: Atlanta Hawks

Season averages against opponent: 16.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 0.7 BPG

Michael Beasley is eager for his first taste of the playoffs.

Or at least, that's what is being said around the net at the moment. The Heat, the comeback team of the year, has moved all the way up to the fifth seed in the East.

This means they'll be facing the Hawks first, and matchup-wise, that's not too shabby for Mr Beasley.

Just this past week, while Miami sat two starters and the Hawks sat none, Beasley scored 23 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the loss.

He will most likely continue coming off the bench, to provide a scoring punch while MVP candidate Dwyane Wade is out.

I think the Hawks have no answer for Beasley. There isn't anyone in their second unit who can really match him.

It'll be interesting to see how Beasley copes with having his first two playoff games in a hostile arena (he actually scores a tad more and shoots a bit better in away games).

Beasley has grown and learnt a lot in his first year, he does all the little things well now, and is the most important player to the Heat not named Wade.

 

1. Derrick Rose, Point Guard, Chicago Bulls

First Round opponent: Boston Celtics

Season averages against opponent: 14.3 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.3 RPG

You knew he was going to be here, right? He is almost guaranteed the Rookie of the Year award, and deservedly so.

I focused more on other rookies this year, but the more I see of Rose, the more I become a fan.

It isn't just his statistical production. Rose has become a leader and a main cog of, believe it or not, a playoff team. He has taken all the expectations of being the first overall pick and shattered them.

The Bulls surged in the second half of the season, and a huge part of that was Rose. He can control tempo now, his decision making has improved, and his defense gets better every day.

Unfortunately, he's been given the reigning champion Celtics as a first-round opponent.

And, more specifically, Rajon Rondo, who could easily be the winner of the Most Improved Player award.

Rose's numbers against the Bulls are underwhelming when you compare them against other teams. Rajon Rondo can match Rose for speed, taking away one of his biggest strengths.

However, two of those three games were early in the season (the first actually being Rose's second game of the season), and Rose has improved greatly during the season. Not only that, but once Rondo goes to the bench, there is no way Eddie House or Stephen Marbury will be keeping Rose in front of them.

He is, undoubtedly, the most important rookie in the playoffs.

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