The playoffs are a time for players to make a name for themselves. The spotlight is on and the local TV coverage no longer has to suffice as the nation turns to teams across the country.
Not every single NBA player receives the attention of LeBron James, but the playoffs allow for a moment to give them a chance to blast off into stardom or, on a much lesser note, to enjoy 15 minutes in the limelight.
This exercise gives us a chance to focus in on a few players that may be a bit less heralded, but will have an opportunity at making a significant impact in the playoffs. We’ll tackle the seven teams that are currently slotted to play in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
There might be some truth to the idea that Strus has had an impact on the starting lineup. The team won six games in a row after he was inserted into the starting lineup after a string of games in which they were looking very unlike the team that was ranked atop the Eastern Conference. He hit over 40 percent of his 3-pointers this season, which is incredibly vital on a team that can sometimes be shooting bereft when it comes to their closing lineup.
Strus is in his third year in the NBA and is the embodiment of the success the organization has had in scraping the bottom of the barrel for talent. He presents the same issues as Duncan Robinson as a below average defender, but he gave enough effort near the end of the season that he may avoid being a complete liability on that end of the court.
Williams was the darling of all the analysts out in the NBA universe that thought he might be a good trade target for a variety of teams. He presents a bigger body that can stretch the floor and bang on the boards. His switchability di lui makes him a key cog in the rotation for the Celtics, especially now that they are down Robert Williams.
Grant Williams is a decent offensive rebounder but his difference making ability will be from his 3-point shooting. Kevin Durant has been one of the better defenders on the Nets this season and if they choose to hide him on Williams in order to preserve his stamina / use him as an active help defender it may give the 3rd year rotation player an opportunity to hit some big buckets for the Celtics.
Carter may be the least likely of the players mentioned to actually get minutes in the 1st round. With that being said Mike Budenholzer isn’t afraid to spin the carousel of rotation players until he finds a combination that works. Carter brings an undeniable skill as a defender at the point of attack and if he can drain enough open 3-pointers he is sure to stay on the court.
A repeat in the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns may make him a priority so the team can wear down Chris Paul over the course of the series with 48 minutes of hounding defense. Carter drained over 50 percent of his 3-point shots since the team picked him up in February. Anything close to that level of a performance will give him a real shot to be a key part of the team.
The news surrounding Reed right now is, unfortunately, rooted in a video that went viral of Doc Rivers “explaining” his lineups.
Reed looked pretty good in the last few games that he has earned minutes, making Philly fans clamor for less DeAndre Jordan. His effort and activity level on the boards can make a meaningful difference for Philadelphia. It’s been known that the team has been crushed when Joel Embiid is off of the court and if Reed can hold his own di lui he could solve some of the issues that have plagued the 76ers in past playoffs.
The wily veteran has played solidly for the Raptors since he was acquired at the deadline from the San Antonio Spurs. He’ll continue being a part of the rotation that can count on him being reliable in a defensive scheme that is surely going to change by the moment.
The most common 3-man lineup that Young has been a part of as a Toronto Raptor involve both Chris Boucher and Precious Achiuwa. The wildness that those two bring to the table can be offset by the steady presence of Young, especially with his ability to move the ball on offense.
Green has been a solid contributing rotation player all season long for the Chicago Bulls. It’s a step in the right direction for the 28-year-old as he’s failed to earn consistent rotation minutes since linking up in the NBA during the 2019-2020 season.
He may be tasked with the toughest assignment of all: guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo. It’s likely the Bulls use a variety of different options, but Green may be the best choice on the two-time MVP. If he can make a difference it could be an opportunity for him to gain some value across the NBA as he heads into the last year of his deal.
At this point Brown may be considered the team’s 3rd most important player so it may not be saying much to spotlight what he can bring to the table. His activity level and propensity to make plays out of the short roll make him a humongous piece to what the Nets do. If he can play like he did against the Cavaliers the Nets may be bound for the 2nd round, and he may be in for a big pay this summer.