NBA Playoffs 2021: Here Are 16 Players To Keep An Eye Out For During The Postseason
Yasss, the NBA Playoffs 2021 are finally here!
If you've been following the play-in tournament so far, it's already been one helluva ride, with big showings from the league's biggest stars, like Lebron's game-winning dagger and Tatum dropping 50 points against the Wizards.
And how about that overtime thriller between the Warriors and the Grizzlies, with Morant putting on a show and leading Memphis for the big win. If the play-in is any indicator of what the playoffs will look like this year, it's gonna be exciting.
For those of you who aren't familiar, the NBA first introduced the play-in tournament in last year's NBA bubble. This year, the play-in tournament featured the 7th to 10th seed of each conference, with Boston Celtics, LA Lakers, Washington Wizards, and Golden State Warriors advancing to the playoffs.
With the first game between the Bucks and the Heat scheduled for this Sunday, 23 May, we'll be taking a look at some of the stars (and intriguing role players) to watch out for in the NBA Playoffs 2021.
1. Joel Embiid (C) | Philadelphia 76ers
Points: 28.5 | Rebounds: 10.6 | Assists: 2.8
Joel Embiid has just had the best season of his career, posting up 1.0 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Despite missing some games this year due to an injury, he is part of the MVP conversation, having led the Sixers to the best record in the East.
How far Philadelphia can go in the playoffs will largely depend on how dominant and healthy Embiid is on the court.
2. Kevin Durant (SF) | Brooklyn Nets
Points: 26.9 | Rebounds: 7.1 | Assists: 5.6
The last time we saw Kevin Durant in the playoffs was in 2019, before he went down with a torn Achilles. This year, the big trio in Brooklyn of Durant, Harden, and Irving is set on making their first playoffs push together.
With Durant averaging a career high 54% from the field and 45% from three during the regular season, it will be interesting to see how Durant turns up the heat this postseason.
3. Jrue Holiday (SG) | Milwaukee Bucks
Points: 17.7 | Rebounds: 4.5 | Assists: 6.1
During the last offseason, the Bucks pretty much traded their entire roster depth for an upgrade in Jrue Holiday, who has provided them with tough defense and three-point shooting.
With a first round series against the Heat, who eliminated the Bucks in five games last year, Holiday will likely be tasked to shut down Butler. The matchup between these two All-Defensive stars could decide which team moves on.
4. Julius Randle (PF) | New York Knicks
Points: 24.1 | Rebounds: 10.2 | Assists: 6.0
Julius Randle and the Knicks have far exceeded expectations this year, and it's mostly due to the former's major improvement on all ends of the floor. Not only is he having career-high points per game, he also nearly doubled his assists this year.
A bona fide star with toughness and grit, Randle has suited up for the Knicks in 71 of 72 games this season. If the postseason is an extension of the Knicks' run this year, it's gonna be something worth watching.
5. Trae Young (PG) | Atlanta Hawks
Points: 25.3 | Rebounds: 3.9 | Assists: 9.4
Trae Young will need to be at his best while playing against the defensive-minded New York Knicks. While he's averaging 44% from the field and 34% from three in the regular season, the Knicks held him to 36% on field goals and 21% from three during their three regular season matchups.
Unless Young and the Atlanta Hawks unleash their scoring prowess, they may have a hard matchup against the Knicks.
6. Bam Adebayo (C) | Miami Heat
Points: 18.7 | Rebounds: 9.0 | Assists: 5.4
Bam just had one of the best years, upping his efficiency in nearly every area inside the arc, while posting career bests in scoring, assists, and steals.
The Miami Heat will need their fourth-year center to step up on his aggression throughout their first series against the Bucks, and be a reliable co-star alongside Jimmy Butler.
7. Jayson Tatum (SF) | Boston Celtics
Points: 26.4 | Rebounds: 7.4 | Assists: 4.3
While the Celtics' season has been a disappointment, especially with Jaylen Brown going out late in the season, Tatum has been a bright spot for the team.
Nevertheless, with a first-round matchup against the Brooklyn superteam, Tatum will need to be flat-out amazing every game for Boston to stand a chance. Thankfully, his latest 50-point game is a reminder that he can be the best player on the floor on any given night.
8. Bradley Beal (SG) | Washington Wizards
Points: 31.3 | Rebounds: 4.7 | Assists: 4.4
The Wizards' season didn't start as expected, but they made a surge late in the season to make it into the play-in, then scorched the Indiana Pacers to earn the eighth seed.
Nevertheless, the Wizards will need their leading scorer Beal to be outstanding in the playoffs for a chance to get out of the first round. Coming back from a hamstring strain, Beal's health is also a major factor moving forward.
9. Mike Conley (PG) | Utah Jazz
Points: 16.2 | Rebounds: 3.5 | Assists: 6.0
Donovan Mitchell is eyeing a return for Utah's first postseason game, and Rudy Gobert has been playing at an All-Defensive level, but Mike Conley is the team's X-factor going into the playoffs.
With 61 playoff games under his belt, Conley is a seasoned player that's made deep runs with the grit-and-grind Grizzlies. His experience and leadership will come in handy for the number one seeded Utah Jazz.
10. Devin Booker (SG) | Phoenix Suns
Points: 25.6 | Rebounds: 4.2 | Assists: 4.3
The Suns missed the NBA playoffs last year despite going 8-0 in the bubble. This year marks the first time Devin Booker makes an appearance in the postseason, and it's his time to shine.
Having Chris Paul on the team has lessened his playmaking burden, allowing Booker to do what he does best – get buckets. Their first game matchup against the Lakers will be a test of how far Booker and his "bright future Suns" have come.
11. Michael Porter Jr (SF) | Denver Nuggets
Points: 19.0 | Rebounds: 7.3 | Assists: 1.1
Ever since Jamal Murray's season-ending injury, Michael Porter Jr has embraced a bigger role as a secondary scorer for the Nuggets. In the midst of a breakout year, Porter will need to continue filling up the scoring void, due to the absence of their key players.
Aside from scoring, Porter has also shown flashes of defensive brilliance, which will be key going into the playoffs.
12. Kawhi Leonard (SF) | LA Clippers
Points: 24.8 | Rebounds: 6.5 | Assists: 5.2
After a meltdown against the Nuggets last year, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers are back looking stronger than ever. While no longer the clear-cut favourites to win a championship this year, any team with Kawhi is gonna be dangerous in the postseason.
Even when Kawhi's shot is not falling, he can come through in many ways, be it through steals, blocks, or assists. Nevertheless, the Clippers will need Kawhi's shots to fall if they want to challenge for a championship.
13. Luka Doncic (SG) | Dallas Mavericks
Points: 27.7 | Rebounds: 8.0 | Assists: 8.6
After a memorable playoff series against the Clippers last year, Doncic and the Mavs are gearing up for a first-round rematch. Nevertheless, the Mavs are going to need all the firepower they can muster to have a chance to move on.
While Porzingis and the supporting cast need to step up, Doncic will also need to hit another gear as he gets his second taste of postseason basketball.
14. Damian Lillard (PG) | Portland Trail Blazers
Points: 28.8 | Rebounds: 4.2 | Assists: 7.5
One of the most clutch players, Damian Lillard is one of the best playoff performers of all time. Dame is gonna do Dame things in the playoffs, but the question is how far that'll bring the Blazers.
While we can expect high-scoring games and logo shots from Dame, his teammates will need to get involved, while playing high-level defense if they want to advance to the next level.
15. Lebron James (SF) | LA Lakers
Points: 25.0 | Rebounds: 7.7 | Assists: 7.8
After Lebron and AD missed time because of injury, the Lakers slid in standings, ending up in the play-in tournament. But they've made it to the playoffs, and King James is ready for his 15th playoff run.
At 36 years old, age and health will be a concern, but going up against a hot and locked-in James will be a nightmare for any opponent.
16. Ja Morant (PG) | Memphis Grizzlies
Points: 19.1 | Rebounds: 4.0 | Assists: 7.4
The Memphis Grizzlies have made it into the playoffs. After winning Rookie of the Year last season, Morant has expanded his game this year, producing at a high level and leading Memphis to a 38-34 record.
While markedly improved in his second year, Morant has struggled from the three-point line, making only 30.3% of his threes. He'll need to improve in that regard, while keeping defenses busy with this penetrations and short jumpers.