The NBA playoffs are just weeks away and it’s time to see which teams this year are the best of the best. It should be one of the most exciting playoffs that we will see in a very long time. There are many players having tremendous seasons, but a lot of them do not get the attention they truly deserve. Here’s my list of these players who are ready to break out in this year’s playoffs.
1) Rajon Rondo- New Orleans Pelicans
Rajon Rondo is sort of an enigma. There is no doubt that he is a fine basketball player. Not too long ago he was considered to be one of the top point guards in the league and a key cog to the Boston Celtics in the late 2000s. But since his trade from the Celtics to the Mavericks in the 2014-2015 season he most certainly fell off. He’s been on four different teams the past four years. This makes it seem like this turnover is due to Rondo’s skill, but many reports have come out saying that it is due to his behavior in and out of the locker room rather than skill set. I mean the stats he’s put up prove this.
He’s consistently ranked in or close to the top-5 in assists since he rose to prominence with the Celtics. There is no doubt about the fact that Rondo has the skills to be very successful against the high level competition of teams in the playoffs, especially the Western Conference. In fact, I think that this level of competition will bring out the best in Rondo.
2) Steven Adams- Oklahoma City Thunder
Ok, I may be cheating a little bit with this one. Steven Adams has been getting a lot of attention for his stellar play lately, but I still feel that he is under-appreciated especially with the presence of stars like Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. Adams has been a force this season, showing the entire NBA he belongs in the upper echelon of centers in our league. His play was one of the big reasons they felt good enough to trade Enes Kanter off to the Knicks to acquire Melo. He’s rewarded the Thunder with career highs in points (13.6 points) and rebounds (8.8 rebounds). Not only that, but his field goal % is a whopping 63%. Plus, he leads the Thunder in Offensive Win Shares and Win Shares per 48 minutes, just like we all predicted in the beginning of the season. After this year's playoffs, people will know about how good Steven Adams really is.
3) Jrue Holiday- New Orleans Pelicans
The other PG the Pelicans have on their roster who really has had one of the better seasons that nobody is talking about. Since the Demarcus Cousins Achilles injury a few months ago, Holiday has played a huge role in the success this Pelicans team is experiencing. He’s exceptional either running the offense with the ball in his hands or play off-ball keeping the offense in check. This season he’s averaged a stat line of 19 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. He also gets about 1.4 steals a game, showing off his skill as a two-way player. Plus, he’s shooting a ridiculous 50% from the field as a point guard. Anthony Davis’s rise to MVP contender would not have even happened had it not been for this guy. Though he’s never made the playoffs in his 9 years in the NBA, this year should provide him ample opportunity to show his worth.
4) Eric Gordon- Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets are one stacked team. Probably just as stacked as the Golden State Warriors. You have a three headed monster in MVP winner James Harden, 9x All-Star Chris Paul, and surging big man Clint Capela. But without Gordon, there is no way this Rockets team would be where they are right now. Gordon plays a huge role coming off the bench, providing a scoring touch just about equal to any starter on any other team. He’s far outpaced his career scoring average with 18 PPG this season. He is continually in the running for 6th man of the year almost every year. He takes excellent shots and provides the punch needed off the bench where most teams have their weaker players. Without Gordon, this team would be nowhere near first place in the Western Conference (ok maybe not but they still wouldn’t be as good). He’s ready to continue making a huge impact in the playoffs.
5) Quinn Cook- Golden State Warriors
The G-League star turned NBA pro has turned heads since the Warriors signed him to a 2-year deal not too long ago. They even had to cut established player Omri Casspi in order to make room for the guy. Replacing a former MVP (in this case it’s Steph Curry) is tough, but Cook has played exceptional despite this. Depending on how much longer Curry will be out for, we may be able to see even more what he can do in the playoffs against high level competition. The first round will give him ample opportunity to show the league that he has what it takes. His PER of 12.8 is very good considering he is a rookie who many didn’t project to be an NBA caliber guy. This guy is ready to play and show the world what they missed out on in himself.