The Players To Watch Out For In The Upcoming 2019 NBA Playoffs
We’re almost at the NBA Playoffs, folks!
Say what you will but the NBA Playoffs are always a big deal—you can even say it’s one of life’s reliable constants. What does change every year, however, is the set of players that get our attention. For this 2018-2019 season, we have our eyes (and expectations) on a few key players that will undoubtedly keep their names, moves and numbers in the headlines.
Portland Trail Blazers
To be quite frank, not a lot has been said about Damian Lillard—at least not in subjectively against his other constituents. But the 28-year-old point guard deserves the recognition, no matter how the Portland Trail Blazers might fare in the 2019 Playoffs.
His current season performance is arguably the best of his career thus far and he’s more efficient on the court than ever before. He was named first-team All-NBA, ahead of the likes of Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry. Lillard helped the Blazers to the third-best record of the Western Conference. An underrated player? Arguably, yes. A force to be reckoned with anyway? Definitely.
A favorite in the running for the 2018-2019 Season KIA NBA MVP Award, to say that Giannis Antetokounmpo will continue to deliver at the Playoffs is a no-brainer. He can rest a little easy right now, with the Milwaukee Bucks sitting relaxed after claiming a home-court advantage throughout the Playoffs.
In the Bucks’ game against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Greek Freak worked in 45 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and five blocks in his 35-minute run—and despite point guard Eric Bledsoe’s early absence. It goes without saying, but Giannis’ pre-Playoffs performance helped guarantee Philadelphia’s seat in the next round of the season.
Despite the arguably subpar performance of the Houston Rockets at the early part of the season, the team is still going into the Playoffs strong. And if it weren’t for James Harden, we can’t tell if they would have even made it this far.
With Chris Paul at his right side, the Beard has grown this season in terms of leadership and defense. And with the Rockets so vocal about their confidence coming into the next games, the team—and Harden—cannot afford to let up soon.
While his last efforts against the Milwaukee Bucks slightly pales in comparison to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s, it cannot be forgotten that—just three minutes into that same game—Joel Embiid got into a scuffle with opposing point guard Eric Bledsoe, of which the latter was ejected from the game due to two technical fouls.
That game aside, Embiid’s performance in the season thus far cannot be overlooked. With his frequent double-doubles and MVP-level runs in the court, The Process has been zooming past the rest of the league’s centers. And thanks to him, the Sixers can clutch their hope at an NBA Finals’ chance.
Let’s be real and say it hasn’t been a seamless season for the Denver Nuggets. With several injuries spread throughout their games, it became vital that Nikola Jokić step up to the plate. And at 24-years-young the record-holding center came to the Nuggets’ offensive save.
The Serbian’s passing is impactful in his team’s plays, but it would be a mistake not to look Jokić’s scoring as well—which has improved tremendously in the current season. In what ended as a 116-113 win against the Portland Blazers, Jokić scored a season-high of 40 points with 65.2 percent shooting. Not to mention the fact that he is the third youngest player in NBA history to reach 20 career triple-doubles (trailing only after Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson).
Thunder Boys (Russell Westbrook, Paul George)
Oklahoma City Thunders
Just earlier this week, it looked as if OKC was out of the game after they experienced a 13-point deficit against the Houston Rockets. But hey, the team was nowhere near finished and pulled together a 15-0 run midway through the last period—a big part of which was Paul George and Russell Westbrook’s doing.
Together, the two seem to be capable of the impossible. A clear example of which is the play they put together with just 9.4 seconds left on the aforementioned game. With the ball in Westbrook’s hands again after a pass to Steven Adams, Brodie dribbled to the wing and spotted George in the corner. Simple, effective and might just be the biggest proof of why the Thunder Boys shouldn’t be missed at the Playoffs.
Warriors Boys (Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry)
Golden State Warriors
With the Golden State Warriors entering the 2019 Playoffs looking pretty, it’s no question as to why we need to keep our eyes on Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. Together, these two might be the key to giving their team a three-peat championship.
Durant is currently the 31st in the NBA All-time Scoring List with 31,286 points—trailing behind the likes of Allen Iverson, Vince Carter and Carmelo Anthony. And while he’s approaching free agency this year, it doesn’t look like KD is stopping anytime soon (and definitely not if it’s his last chance at a championship with the Warriors).
Meanwhile, Curry might have played limited minutes in the games that clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference for the Warriors, but this is exactly why he’s still a must-watch-out-for in the upcoming Playoffs. To have his star player at top shape in the next few games is a smart move on the side of coach Steve Kerr.
The 2018-2019 NBA Playoffs kick off this week. And yes, we can’t tell for sure who will shine and who won’t—anything is possible—but we can’t wait to find out.