NBA Playoff Stars out for Redemption

Ben LeibowitzCorrespondent IIIMay 18, 2013

NBA Playoff Stars out for Redemption

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    As the 2013 NBA playoffs inch ever closer to the finals, some of the league’s biggest stars are out for redemption.

    The Miami Heat’s big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh aren’t on the list of players out for “redemption,” because they won it all last season. They’ll certainly be under a great deal of pressure. Therefore, proving they’re the best again by establishing league dominance is their goal over redeeming anything.

    Players on teams that have been counted out all season long, however, will be looking to prove themselves.

    The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs will battle it out in the Western Conference Finals, while the Indiana Pacers will move on to face the Heat.

    NBA teams remaining in the postseason have already proven a great deal, but a collection of players are out to redeem events of the past.

5. Ray Allen, Miami Heat

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    The intro slide explains why LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh aren’t out for “redemption” in 2013, but Ray Allen is part of a different narrative.

    Loyalty is a rarity in today’s sports realm. Steve Nash left the Phoenix Suns to join the rival Los Angeles Lakers last summer. Johnny Damon left the Boston Red Sox after the 2005 season to join the bitter rival New York Yankees, opening the floodgates for many Red Sox players to follow.

    Allen, meanwhile, left the Boston Celtics via free agency last summer to join the championship favorite Miami Heat. Even though Allen won a championship when the original “big three” joined up in Boston, he left for less money to chase another in Miami.

    Celtics fans obviously weren’t thrilled with that prospect, but Allen can prove he made the best individual decision by winning another ring in South Beach.

    He’ll need to recuperate from a tough Chicago series, though, as he shot just 23.5 percent from downtown in five games. That was a stark decline from the 46.4 percent shooting from long range he posted in the first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

    Allen is now a role player for a very, very good team. But even so, winning a second championship would justify leaving Boston (at least for Allen himself).

4. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs

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    At 35 years old, Manu Ginobili is two years younger than Ray Allen. Despite being younger, Ginobili has suffered through a great deal of injury woes for two straight seasons.

    The Argentinian veteran shot 42.5 percent from the field during the regular season, which is the lowest percentage he’s notched since his sophomore year in the NBA. He also averaged just 11.8 points per game for San Antonio, his lowest average since his rookie year.

    It was certainly a season to forget for Ginobili, even before adding the fact that he missed 22 games due to injury.

    His fortunes haven’t improved much in the postseason, thus far, either. Yes, he did drain the game-winning three in Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors, but he shot 34.2 percent from the field and 27.5 percent from beyond the arc in the series.

    Ginobili is out to prove that he’s still worthy of his two All-Star appearances, Sixth Man of the Year Award and three championship rings. Health has held him back in a big way, but he can still prevent coach Gregg Popovich from “wanting to trade him on the spot” (h/t Barry Petchesky of Deadspin.com).

3. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers

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    Roy Hibbert is one of the league’s best defensive centers. During the regular season, he swatted a career-high 2.6 blocks per game and anchored an Indiana Pacers defense that was among the best in the NBA.

    With that said, the 7’2” skyscraper’s offensive capabilities declined during the 2012-13 season.

    Hibbert shot a career-low 44.8 percent from the field and averaged 11.9 points per game (lowest since his sophomore campaign). Had Hibbert not improved by shooting 47.9 percent in March and 57.3 percent in April, his regular-season numbers would have been significantly less attractive.

    Now that the Pacers have disposed of the New York Knicks, they’ll face the mighty Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. If Indy is to upset the defending champions, Hibbert will be its key to success.

    The Pacers sent their series with Miami to six games in 2012 and finished with a 2-1 record against the Heat this season. Due to that, it’s easy to argue that Indiana has the best chance of beating Miami of the three teams remaining.

    Because of Miami’s distinct lack of interior size, the Pacers can exploit that weakness with Hibbert both defensively and offensively (if he can show up on offense consistently enough).

    Hibbert had a breakout game against the Heat in the 2012 playoffs when he posted 19 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks. Indy will need more of that production to have a shot against LeBron James and Co.

2. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

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    The veteran tandem of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker in San Antonio has collected seven championship rings, four finals MVPs and 19 All-Star appearances. Seeing those two win another championship would be amazing, but far from career defining.

    Marc Gasol, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, is eyeing redemption following an egregious snub.

    Despite winning DPOY, Gasol wasn’t one of two centers voted to the 2012-13 NBA All-Defensive First Team. Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler both made the first team behind 24 voter points, while Gasol was relegated to the second team, despite winning the league’s highest defensive honor. That may not bother Gasol, but I doubt it.

    The 28-year-old Spaniard would gain the ultimate redemption for that snub by winning his first NBA championship.

    He’s raised his scoring average from 14.1 points per game during the regular season to 18.3 points during the postseason. His 2.2 blocks per game average in the playoffs is also significantly better than the 1.7 he posted during the season. Those numbers have led the Grizzlies to their first Western Conference Finals appearance in franchise history.

    After the trade that sent Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors, many pundits and fans were ruling out the Grizzlies’ championship aspirations. Gasol continues to prove that Memphis is a legitimate title contender regardless.

1. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies

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    Zach Randolph is a long way removed from a short, disappointing stint with the New York Knicks and an even longer way removed from the Portland “Jail Blazers” era that started his career.

    As Jonathan Abrams of Grantland.com chronicles in a must-read article, the maturation of Z-Bo throughout his NBA career is truly remarkable.

    Randolph morphed himself from an overpaid schlub on a six-year, $84 million contract, to a team leader and folk hero in Memphis. But Z-Bo’s road to redemption would come full circle if he added a championship ring to his resume.

    Randolph’s career has been a roller coaster of high highs and some admittedly low lows. However, the big man out of Michigan State has been on a tear in the 2013 postseason. He’ll now set his sights on the experienced San Antonio Spurs.

    Memphis and San Antonio match up extremely well against one another, so Randolph will have to lead the way by dominating the paint once again.