Every year when the playoffs roll around, there are a good amount of players that have a lot to gain from a strong showing in the postseason. This season is no different.
Here is a look at 10 of the players who look to gain the most from a strong showing this postseason, whether it be respect they are playing for, or a contract.
10. Stephon Marbury
Believe it or not, Marbury could very well still have some good years left in him, but if he does, this is his chance to show it.
Boston took a chance on him and signed him to a contract late in the season, and he will be getting a steady 10-18 minutes per game throughout the playoffs, and if he is able to play team ball and be effective, he could very well play himself into a contract.
9. Aaron Brooks
After the trade that sent Rafer Alston to Orlando, many Rockets fans were unsure of the production they would receive from the point guard position.
A combination of Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry proved to be inconsistent, yet promising during the Rockets' end of the season run, and Brooks has a chance to cement his position in the postseason.
It was said by many college coaches that Brooks always showed up for big games in at that level, and it proved true during game one of the Rockets and Blazers series on Saturday night.
Brooks played amazingly, dropping 27 points to go along with seven assists. If he keeps that up throughout the series, Houston will be tough to beat, and Brooks will have the whole city behind him.
8. Greg Oden
Oden, who missed his whole first season due to an injury, is faced with the tough task of facing Yao Ming in the first round.
Though, to help him, he does have Przybilla picking up the bulk of Yao's early work. If Oden is planning on making a statement in the playoffs, it will have to be soon.
Oden can do a lot for himself with a strong series, especially against such a superior opponent as Yao Ming.
Get by him, and he is faced with the tough task of Andrew Bynum/Pau Gasol. Nobody said it would be easy, but, no challenge, no glory, right?
7. Dwyane Wade
After an MVP-caliber season, Wade has led his team back into the playoffs, rebounding from an abysmal season last year.
Wade already has the 1-0 championship edge on LeBron, so he isn't playing to overcome the stigma of not winning big games. But rather, he is playing to prove that he deserves to be mentioned in the MVP talks.
Wade is surrounded by an inexperienced team, and they need to step up and prove that they can play with the best in the league, or else, who knows, maybe Wade won't be around Miami for as long as people thought.
A strong playoff performance by both Wade and the team, ensures that Wade isn't dismissed as the only scorer on a poor team, and that Wade doesn't walk.
6. Jermaine O'Neal
A curious case for a while now, Jermaine O'Neal seems to be in do-or-die time. Miami fans are skeptical that he can make an impact, and his contract next year is a ridiculous burden on their payroll.
If Jermaine is able to show his legs still have life left in them, not only will Miami have a better chance of moving his contract for cap flexibility, but he may be an intricate part of some team's playoff run next year as well.
Matching up in the first round against the fresh legs of Atlanta isn't a dream matchup for O'Neal though, and in game one, he looked lost on the court. That will have to change, or else Jermaine may find himself an unwanted, overpaid, team killer next season.
5. Zaza Pachulia
Made famous last year by butting heads with Kevin Garnett, Pachulia is in the final year of his four-year, $16 million contract, and is surprisingly, due for a raise.
Just 25 years of age, Pachulia is in his sixth season, and has proved to be a spark off the bench, an enforcer, and a big man who can change the game with his hustle, regardless of how much he resembles a bull in a china shop.
Remember the contract Jerome James commanded after his showing in the playoffs a few seasons ago?
Pachulia already recorded a double-double in game one of the series, and looks to be able to rebound easily on Miami if all they do is throw Jermaine O'Neal and Joel Anthony at him.
4. Yao Ming
Unable to advance past the first round for his whole career, Yao Ming is at a critical crossroads.
With Tracy McGrady out for the season, the load is now squarely on Yao's shoulders, with a slight helper in Ron Artest.
But Yao has been around for all those first-round exits, and the city realizes that.
He is now the No. 1 option, and I expect him to relish the opportunity, judging by his Game One performance.
He finally seems to be healthy, and that is bad news for Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, and whoever else has doubted the big man's ability to take over.
3. Dwight Howard
Criticized recently for being "too nice", Dwight Howard can change all that in one postseason. Even Stan Van Gundy has told Dwight Howard that he needs to develop that mean streak if he wants to intimidate his opposition.
It is hard to criticize a guy who was an absolute beast during the regular season though, and if averages of 25 points and 12 boards in the playoffs makes him a nice guy, nobody is going to want to burn him at the stake.
But in a league full of stars who exhibit that killer instinct when necessary, is this the year that Dwight Howard sees what he needs to do?
Another team with too many early playoff exits, they will need Howard to step up, and Howard could very easily develop a much scarier reputation around the league if he comes out with that fire in his eyes that so many want to see.
2. LeBron James
Time is running out for LeBron James in Cleveland, and don't think that he doesn't realize it.
Sure, the Cavs had the best record in the NBA this season, their coach won Coach of the Year, and LeBron could very well be on his way to taking the MVP honors, but the championship is what is needed to keep him planted firmly in Cleveland.
Anything less, and the Cavs have but one more chance next season to convince him that Cleveland is where he should be. A championship this year all but keeps him in the Cavaliers uniform. You don't think they all feel the pressure in Cleveland?
1. Joe Johnson
For the last four seasons, Joe Johnson has been a quiet star in Atlanta, making three consecutive All-Star teams, but not really being recognized for it. Well, this year he was given the perfect matchup to change that.
Johnson faces a first-round meeting with Dwyane Wade, and a possible second-round matchup against LeBron James. What better way to have a coming-out party than by inviting two of the best at your position and outplaying them?
Johnson has the combination of offense and defense that makes it possible for him to outplay Wade on offense, and, be the one to shut him down on defense. If he succeeds in that, he can't go unnoticed for long.
So many analysts around the country criticize Johnson for playing too much isolation, and not having what it takes to lead his team to elite status.
But what will they say if he is able to ruin ESPN's dream matchup of Wade and LeBron, or even worse, LeBron and Kobe? What, he didn't do it convincingly enough?