NBA Playoffs 2013: Power Ranking the Most Important Players in Postseason
There are 16 teams in the NBA playoffs, but the entire postseason will be decided by the performances of only a few players.
If a star of a top seed is unable to live up to expectations, there is a good chance that squad is going down early. Conversely, a big-time player can lead his team to an upset in the first round with some huge games.
While deeper teams like the Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies are less reliant on singular players, other squads need these top performers to show up in the postseason.
This is not a list of the best players in the NBA, but the most important ones from here on out.
10. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are one of the deeper teams in the league and have already overcome the loss of Danilo Gallinari. However, the offense will only go as far as Ty Lawson will take it.
He leads the team in both points and assists and is the reason that Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee are able to get plenty of points on easy dunks.
Although Andre Miller could step in at point guard if needed, the Nuggets will only be able to pull off a deep run in the postseason if Lawson plays to his ability.
9. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Few people are expecting the Golden State Warriors to win a series in this postseason. Still, Stephen Curry will do anything in his power to help his team contend.
The three-point specialist has been absolutely spectacular this season as he has become a leader on the Warriors and someone who can keep the team in any game.
Curry is almost impossible to defend, and he will make anyone pay if he is given space. This could be enough to help Golden State pull off an upset.
8. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets
The Miami Heat are the overwhelming favorite to win the Eastern Conference, but the Brooklyn Nets have the ability to knock off the top seed thanks to Brook Lopez.
With size, athleticism, and a great ability to score around the basket, he is incredibly difficult to defend. He can take advantage of Miami's lack of size and have a huge series.
Deron Williams will also be important in these playoffs, but this has become Lopez's team to lead.
7. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Excluding Rajon Rondo who has been out since January, Chris Paul is the NBA's leading assist man. This skill has helped make everyone on the Clippers much better this season.
In addition, he is the player that the team looks to if someone needs to make a play late in the game. While other players on the team might score more points throughout the game, the fourth quarter usually belongs to Paul.
Los Angeles will need to lean on the point guard in order to advance through a tough bracket.
6. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
It is easy to almost forget about Dwyane Wade nowadays while playing alongside of LeBron James. However, do not count him out as one of the best guards in the NBA.
He has a great deal of skill on the defensive end, and he helps balance out the offense when James spends his time down in the low post.
Wade was the eighth-leading scorer in the league this season, and he is certain to make an impact over the next couple of months.
Who will win the NBA Championship?
5. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
At 30 years old, Tony Parker put together one of the best seasons of his career. Despite missing time with injury, he still had close to career-highs in points and assists per game.
The point guard has passed Tim Duncan as the most important player on the Spurs, a squad that remains a top contender for the NBA title despite the recent struggles.
If Parker is healthy and plays to his ability, San Antonio will be very tough to beat.
4. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
If Oklahoma City is going to win its first championship since moving from Seattle, it will need Kevin Durant to shine.
Of course, Durant always seems to shine as one of the most consistent scorers in the NBA. He has scored in double figures in every game this season and only twice had fewer than 20 points since the beginning of March.
We saw in last season's NBA Finals that the team could struggle even with great games by Durant. As a result, he is not the most important player on the roster.
3. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
The 2012-13 NBA scoring champ has been incredible all season, and he has been even better recently, averaging 36.9 points per game in April.
With this type of ability, New York can beat anyone in the league.
However, the Knicks are now expecting this level of production from the small forward. It will be tough to imagine J.R. Smith and others replacing Anthony's scoring if he goes cold for a couple of games.
If the Knicks are to challenge the Heat in the Eastern Conference, they will not want to find out.
2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Unlike Durant, Russell Westbrook is much more inconsistent, which means the Thunder's hopes are more strongly tied to him.
Against the Heat in last year's finals, the point guard had a few really poor showings where he took way too many shots, but then added 43 points in Game 4.
This season, Westbrook has actually taken more shots per game than Durant, although with much less efficiency. If the Thunder are going to win a title, he will need to take smarter looks at the basket and make as many as possible.
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat
Who else did you expect at the top spot?
LeBron James is the best player in the NBA and the one with the biggest impact. He does not have many bad games, but it is likely the Heat will struggle if he were to get injured and be unable to play.
The superstar is likely going to win MVP for the fourth time this year, and he can do it all to help Miami win. If a team has any hope of defeating the Heat this season, it will need to find a way to at least slow down the King.
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