NBA Playoffs 2013: Non-Stars Having Major Impact Thus Far
When it comes to the NBA playoffs, we often glue our eyes to the stars and place them on a pedestal above the rest. As seems to be the case with every passing postseason, however, some of the less notable players have stepped up in a significant manner.
The question is, which non-stars are having the most powerful impact thus far?
Certain players have made their leap to elite during the 2012-13 NBA playoffs, thus disqualifying names such as Stephen Curry from being included. Other players have been stars since day one, but injuries have forced us to forget, such as Andrew Bogut and David West.
With that being said, there are countless players exceeding expectations and shaping their respective series.
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Rookie Harrison Barnes is the only lottery pick remaining in the 2013 NBA playoffs. While there, he's certainly put on the look of a star, averaging 15.4 points and 6.4 rebounds on a slash line of .476/.421/.857.
Stephen Curry has been the leader, but without Barnes, we're not even looking at the Warriors in the second round.
Barnes began his postseason with a 24-point performance in the Warriors' stunning Game 2 upset of the Denver Nuggets. The following game, he stepped up with 19 points and seven rebounds in a 110-108 victory.
Despite losing 129-127 during Game 1 of their series against the San Antonio Spurs, the Warriors were thrilled to see Barnes step up with 19 points and 12 rebounds while playing 53 minutes.
If you doubted Barnes before, you shouldn't anymore.
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Mike Conley is commonly viewed as an average NBA point guard that plays well enough to help his team. The truth of the matter is, Conley's quality of play is parallel to or exceeding that of the more notable point guards.
It's all about defense and clutch scoring for Conley.
For the second consecutive postseason, Conley has gone toe-to-toe with Chris Paul and not looked overmatched. While CP3 won the individual battle, Conley is averaging 17.9 points and 7.8 assists thus far and won the series.
He scored 23 points in the series-clinching win.
Against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Conley led the Memphis Grizzlies to a Game 2 victory with 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. This is yet another huge postseason performance by one of the NBA's best kept secrets.
With the 2013 Grizzlies looking a lot like the 2004 Detroit Pistons, could Conley be their Mr. Big Shot?
Nate Robinson, Chicago Bulls
Nate Robinson has made it very difficult to avoid using the star label for him. Not only was he a hero early on, but he's embraced that role throughout the postseason and maintained that level of play.
Robinson is averaging 18.3 points and 4.3 assists on a slash line of .504/.366/.810—sounds pretty star-like, doesn't it?
Robinson's first claim to fame came during Game 4 of Chicago's first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets. He finished with 34 points on 14-of-23 shooting, dropping 23 of those points during a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback.
Robinson fell one point short of Michael Jordan's Bulls record for fourth-quarter scoring—that's what we call legendary.
Including that game, Robinson is averaging 22.2 points in his past five contests. That includes Game 1 of the Bulls' series against the Miami Heat, when he dropped 27 points and nine assists in an upset win.
Stephen Curry has been sensational, but Robinson may just be the postseason MVP as Chicago continues to win without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich.
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers
Lance Stephenson isn't the flashiest player, nor is he the most well-known name on this list. In fact, the Indiana Pacers' starting shooting guard is one of the least-known players in the 2013 NBA playoffs.
Even still, Stephenson has been a key to the Pacers' postseason success.
Thus far, the former Cincinnati Bearcat is averaging 8.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Stephenson, who stands at a generous 6'5", topped double-digit rebounding in three consecutive games.
In the game prior, he went for 10 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
The key to Stephenson's impact, however, is on the defensive end, where he has helped to limit two dominant three-point attacks. Against the Atlanta Hawks, he controlled Kyle Korver and forced him to shoot a combined 5-of-23 during Indiana wins.
It's been more of the same against J.R. Smith and the New York Knicks.
Stephenson won't blow you away with his scoring numbers, but he's one of the most well-rounded young players in the league. His presence on the glass is invaluable and the fact that he's, more or less, replacing Danny Granger is quite the burden.
Stephenson has carried it with pride and produced at quite the impressive level.
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