When the 2010 NBA Playoffs began, all the hype and talk was focused on big-time scorers and performers like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant.
However, as we approach crucial games in both the Eastern and Western Conference finals, none of those guys are putting their signature on the NBA Playoffs.
Dwayne Wade is gone. Brandon Roy and Stephen Jackson didn't even get past the first round.
While games are still being dominated by the likes of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, and Rajon Rondo, an interesting theme that keeps coming up is the play of role players for these four remaining teams.
There are five guys in this year's playoff race that are playing extremely well, and whether or not they've already gotten fair credit, it's high-time they were featured in an article.
Read on for the top five players who are proving to be invaluable to their respective teams:
Goran Dragic, PG, Phoenix Suns
Dragic is basically an extension of Steve Nash. He sees the court with amazing vision and has the athleticism and instincts to make almost any pass or play, even when heavily guarded.
In fact, it's when he's facing extra defensive pressure that he's at the top of his game, weaving through defenders, finding open teammates, and getting to the hoop with elite penetration ability.
Until he does something else insanely special in these playoffs, he'll be best remembered for his 23-point fourth quarter outburst in the second round against the Spurs.
That, and his ridiculous drive and lay-up that sent Robin Lopez into a celebration frenzy on the sidelines.
Lamar Odom, F, Los Angeles Lakers
Is there any player more underrated than Odom? He may never be a true go-to guy in the NBA, but does anyone package athleticism, versatility, handle, defense, and shooting into one basketball resume?
Surely, very few players are as talented as Odom is and certainly could be.
So why wouldn't he make this list?
He's a bigger name than these other guys mentioned, but he still comes off the bench. And if you haven't noticed, when Odom plays big, the Lakers play big.
Odom is averaging a double-double off the bench in his current series and even grabbed 19 boards in Game One against Phoenix.
If Los Angeles is going to fend off panic-mode, Odom will have to raise his game another notch.
J.J. Redick, SG, Orlando Magic
Redick has stepped up in a big way, playing solid defense on Ray Allen when asked and helping to keep the offense in a solid flow when he's on the court.
His shot is falling like it did at Duke, as well, as Redick has scored at least nine points in all five games of the current series and has topped 12 in three of the five contests.
He's playing gritty, passionate basketball, and he truly seems like a guy with a huge chip on his shoulder. If we weren't fairly certain that Redick was a solid, complete basketball player heading into this postseason, it's safe to say we know he is now.
Rasheed Wallace, F/C, Boston Celtics
Wallace wallowed through the 2009-10 regular season with just nine points per game and shot a lousy 28 percent from three on the year.
However, he's come up big in the playoffs, especially against Orlando, as his excellent defense and timely shooting has gifted the Celtics' average bench a much-needed lift.
He may not be able to score in loads, but Wallace still brings great intensity and veteran experience. He even dropped in 21 points in Boston's Game Five loss.
There's little doubt that Wallace is nearing the end of his career and can't be a focal point of a team's offense anymore, but he can clearly still make an impact in the postseason.
Jared Dudley, F, Phoenix Suns
Dudley has been Phoenix's "everything man". When he's not hitting open threes, he's scrapping for rebounds and loose balls and playing solid defense.
Already a very underrated player, Dudley has made some big shots throughout the playoffs and has also been very active on the defensive end.
There is no question that his emergence as a strong role player has pushed the Suns' bench to the level it has been playing on. He's a pure energy guy, but he comes with a solid stroke and a nasty demeanor. He gives Phoenix an edge the Lakers are failing to present currently.
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