NBA Playoffs: James Harden and the Unsung Heroes in the Playoffs

Pat MarrujoContributor IMay 23, 2011

NBA Playoffs: James Harden and the Unsung Heroes in the Playoffs

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    When the playoffs role around, you hear a lot of talk about the superstars. The role players’ names seem to unfairly disappear.

    So this article points out and commends the role players that have been unsung heroes for their teams in the playoffs.

    Note: The players included are all on teams that have yet to be eliminated.

Shawn Marion

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    Shawn Marion had a reputation of not showing up in the playoffs when he was in Phoenix. In the current series against the Thunder, however, Marion has shown up.

    In Game 3, he had his best scoring total of the series, racking up 18 points en route to a 94-87 win. But offense is not what is making Marion so successful in this series—it is his defense and rebounding.

    He uses his quick leaping ability to make an impact on the glass every night. Then, in Game 3, his defense on Kevin Durant was sensational.

    He held the scorer to only 24 points and a field-goal percentage of only 31.8 percent.

Taj Gibson

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    Even though he has not been totally consistent during the playoffs, Taj Gibson deserves a spot on this list solely for his game one against the Heat.

    Gibson was a highlight machine that was the poster child for the Chicago victory in Game 1. He dropped 11 points and grabbed nine boards against the Heat in that game.

    Playing 18 minutes per game, Gibson provides the Bulls with a great reserve to give Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah breathers.

Luol Deng

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    Luol Deng is one of the most valuable players in the Heat-Bulls series. He is the lucky player that is assigned to guard LeBron James.

    Deng has done a great job of it, too. James has yet to have a single game in which he scored 30 points against the Bulls.

    Just because Deng is a great defender does not mean he has been a slouch on defense, though. He has still averaged 16.4 points during the playoffs.

    His most notable game was his 21-point performance against the Heat in Game 1.

Tyson Chandler

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    The difference between Dallas teams in the past and this Dallas team is Tyson Chandler. He gives them a big man who can dominate defensively and on the boards that they have been seeking for years.

    In the current series against Oklahoma City, Chandler has been great for the Mavs. He has a combined 36 boards and three blocks throughout the series.

    This allows Dirk Nowitzki to have easier defensive assignments, giving him more energy on the offensive end.

Chris Bosh

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    Chris Bosh might be a stretch to put on this list. However, he definitely is not the star of his team.

    Although Bosh has been key in the series against the Chicago Bulls.

    Through the first three games, he is averaging 24.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. However, offensively is not where he is making his biggest impact.

    On defense, Bosh is giving Carlos Boozer a tough time. Boozer is averaging just 15.6 points per game and was held to just seven points in Game 1.

Serge Ibaka

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    In my opinion, Serge Ibaka is one of the most under-appreciated players in the NBA. He is a beast.

    Ibaka is currently averaging 9.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and an amazing 3.1 blocks per game.

    Serge also has the impossible task of guarding Dirk Nowitzki, something Ibaka has improved at every game so far.

    In Game 3, he did his best work yet. He held Dirk to just 18 points and 33.3 percent shooting from the field.

J.J. Barea

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    A similar situation as Taj Gibson, J.J. Barea finds himself on this list solely because of his performance in two games: Game 4 against the Lakers and Game 1 against the Thunder.

    In these games, Barea provided a huge spark off the bench. He scored over 20 points in each and carried his team for extended periods of time.

    Standing at just 6’1”, 175 pounds, this young guard will be key for the Mavericks if they intend on making a push for the NBA Finals.

James Harden

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    When Russell Westbrook has struggled for the Thunder, James Harden has become the second option behind Kevin Durant.

    Harden is an excellent all-around player. He provides the team with good defense, solid scoring, a good three-point shot and he might be the best playmaker on the team.

    When Harden is on his game, the Thunder are almost impossible to beat. He is the X-factor for his team.

    If Oklahoma City wants to come back in this series against the Mavs, they will need Harden to be at his best.

    If he can hit threes and make plays for his teammates, he is going to make Dallas “fear the beard.”