2009 NBA Playoffs: Who Has the Most to Prove?

Dudu JamesContributor IApril 15, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 19:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots a jumper against LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the game at Staples Center on January 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  The Lakers defeated the Cavaliers 105-88.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

As with each post season, some players have more to lose than others. Here are these years men with the target cross on their back.

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers.

Not a tough choice. To my opinion, this year's deserving MVP to be is playing his best basketball of his career and finally has the home advantage from day one of the playoffs. In a season were the Cavs have lost only once at home during regular season play, that's important.

His teammates around him have never been better, with a complimentary No. 2 in Mo Williams and all the Role Players you want in a contender. Is this the year the "chosen one" get his ring?

He's been to the finals once already, I think it's time LeBron gets his title. Not winning one in a year like this one will make all the Knicks and summer of 2010 rumors re-appear.

Stephon Marbury, Boston Celtics.

Boston seem vulnerable this season, especially with Garnett not a 100 percent for the play offs and not having home advantage like last season. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and the rest of the guys won it last year and actually have much less pressure on them, Garnett or no.

Marbury was given a chance to save his career by the Celtics, but so far hasn't done more than 3.6 ppg in 17 minutes a night. Boston need more from their bench, especially the back court so Rondo can have some resting minutes with the Celtics not falling apart. Can Marbury dig deep and give them that reliable back court sub they need?

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Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta are in the playoffs for the second year in a row, and this time don't have to meet with the Celtics who they almost knocked off last year. They have home court advantage against Dwayne Wade and his bunch. This year potential is not enough. They have to deliver, and when you talk about potential...

Josh Smith is considered by many to be the best athlete in the league and it's time he shows a bit more than just dunking and blocking. It's time he steps up and helps Joe Johnson lead this team and show that people have been talking about his potential for a reason.

Taking the Cavs to six games in the Eastern semi-finals (minimum) should give them a lot to build on for next season.

Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers.

Well, one of the biggest questions running around in the league, for good reason or not: Can he win one without Shaq? With Arguably the best squad in the league, it's (again) time for Kobe to lead Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and the rest for Shaq-less title.

Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets.

Ever since 'Melo was draft back in 2003, the Nuggets have made the playoffs each year. Each year they've been knocked out in the first round. Their record in those playoffs? 4-16. It's time Carmelo rises to the league of Lebron and Dwayne Wade and win a playoff series, or maybe he's content of being the next T-Mac.

Yao Ming, Houston Rockets.

Well, Yao is in the same situation as Melo. When healthy he just might be the best Center in the league. His Rockets are again after a good solid season in the tough west. And again, there's a feeling they're going to say goodbye to the post season in four to seven games.

Can Ming change the Rockets fate, and with the curse of T-Mac on the sidelines these playoffs win a playoff series for Houston for the first time since 1996-97?