2013 NBA Playoffs: 5 Role Players Who Need to Step Up Now

Michael PinaFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2013

2013 NBA Playoffs: 5 Role Players Who Need to Step Up Now

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    Now that we're in the second round, down to the league's eight best teams battling for an opportunity to advance, the pressure is heightened for superstars and role players alike.

    With final score margins getting smaller and smaller, it's guys like the seventh man off the bench or the starter who doesn't typically close games who must step up and make a difference. 

    Here are five under-the-radar performers who need to bring their games to a higher level if they want to make the conference finals. 

     

    All statistics in this article are from NBA.com/Stats and Basketball-Reference.com.

Danny Green

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    During last season's Western Conference finals, Danny Green fell off the face of the Earth, scoring 20 total points on only four three-pointers in six games. By the final two contests, he had been completely removed from Gregg Popovich's rotation.

    It was an epic collapse from a player who had lost both his confidence and self-awareness.

    This year, the Spurs will need Green to stay consistent if they want to reach the Finals for the first time since 2007. He's usually deadly from behind the three-point line, and so far in these playoffs, he's answered the call.

    In Game 1 of the second round, Green made six three-pointers on his way to 22 points, a total that he only surpassed three times during the regular season.

    He's averaging 10.0 points in just over 27 minutes per game this postseason, shooting an incredible 47.6 percent from deep.

Iman Shumpert

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    In the first round, Iman Shumpert was a defensive menace who haunted Paul Pierce's nightmares. When Shumpert was on the court, the Celtics star's assist-to-turnover ratio was a porous 0.83, but when he took a breather, it jumped to 1.44.

    Pierce also shot 43.2 percent with Shumpert on the bench and 33.3 with him hounding every dribble, according to NBA.com. In other words, he helped demolish an offense that didn't need any help locking itself inside a dumpster.

    Offensively, Shumpert has shown glimpses of being more than a spot-up shooter from the corner (though he's been phenomenal there this season, shooting 46.2 percent from distance in the playoffs and 40.2 percent in the regular season).

    In these playoffs, 26 of his 64 field goals have been three-pointers, as the second-year star has shown some versatility on drives to the hoop. 

    In Game 2's victory over the Indiana Pacers, Shumpert scored 15 points on just 11 shots in just under 30 minutes of action. He isn't there to score, but if he's efficient, New York will take it.

Harrison Barnes

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    Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson shocked the world (sort of) when he bumped his rookie small forward up a position to fill the void left by All-Star power forward David Lee.

    Harrison Barnes responded with the type of play his team needs. Through seven playoff games, he's averaging 15.2 points and 7.4 rebounds, making the Warriors an impossible team to defend by knocking down 38.7 percent of his threes (and he's jacking up 6.2 per game, which is a ton).

    Though Stephen Curry deservedly receives all the headlines, it's players like Barnes who need to step up as opposing defenses tighten the screws on the perimeter.

    Open shots will be had, and if Barnes continues to make them, Golden State will continue to be a serious problem for its opponents.

Quincy Pondexter

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    The Memphis Grizzlies have a relatively bad offense that gets even worse when Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph hit the bench.

    But Quincy Pondexter is the key player off the pine who not only makes the offense better (the Grizzlies score two more points per 100 possessions with him on the court than off), but holds his own on defense with his good size and range.

    Pondexter is averaging five more minutes per game in these playoffs than he did last year and attempting twice as many shots, hitting 39 percent of 2.9 three-pointers per game.

    The Grizzlies are searching for shooters to keep the floor open for Randolph and Gasol in the post, and Pondexter is their best option. He doesn't need to make every shot he takes, just enough to force defenses to respect his jumper. 

Kevin Martin

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    In the two games immediately following his wretched 1-for-10 Game 5 performance in the first round—a game in which the Oklahoma City Thunder loosened the stranglehold on their series with the Houston Rockets—Kevin Martin scored 50 points on just 27 shots.

    But then he shot 2-for-11 in Game 2 of the second round. 

    If the Thunder are to fill Russell Westbrook's scoring void, Martin will need to play up to his potential on offense. He knows how to put the ball in the basket and is potent at drawing fouls off the dribble, but goes through stretches where he can't seem to find the bottom of the net. 

    The pressure Martin will feel for the rest of this season is far and away the most he's ever seen on a basketball court, and how much of a scoring impact he's capable of making for the rest of this series will go a long way in deciding if Oklahoma City advances or falls short.