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Sam Miguel

NBA Playoffs: Bangs and Busts

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With the NBA Playoffs about to enter the Conference Finals stage for both East and West, it is time to take a look at the players who have so far been boons and banes in these playoffs.

Bang: Stephen Curry, Guard, Golden State Warriors

Steph is averaging over 27 points and nine assists so far in these playoffs, and he has been a heck of a leader for a Golden State team that was for years an underachieving bunch. All Star power forward David Lee went down with an injury and yet Curry still found a way to help his Warriors even their second round series at two game apiece against the savvy San Antonio Spurs. He's been shooting like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western and he's been making all of his teammates better, especially second point guard Jarret Jack, on the drive-kickout.

Bust: Jeremy Lin, Guard, Houston Rockets

Lin, the Harvard graduate who was last season's feel-good story of hanging in there and making the most of a big break, was just awful in his first NBA Playoffs against the then-rampaging Oklahoma City Thunder. Ranged against the speed and athleticism of the Thunder perimeter, Lin wilted for a woeful average of four points per game on 25% shooting. Lin punctuated this unmitigated apocalypse of a playoff debut with a chest contusion.

Bang: Zach Randolph, Power Forward, Memphis Grizzlies

When it comes to the top power forwards in the league, Randolph is always in the conversation. For a guy who is by all accounts far from the chiseled, sleek and buff prototype of the modern NBA power forward, he certainly knows how to put together consistent double-doubles and keep his team in the Win column. He totally outplayed jumping jack Blake Griffin when his Grizzlies ousted Griffin's Clippers in the first round. Now he is making life difficult for the Thunder with his crafty moves and patience operating inside.

Bust: Dwight Howard, Center, LA Lakers

With all the injuries the Lakers had going into the playoffs, there was only one way they would make their first round series against the Spurs competitive: Howard would have to dominate inside. A four-game sweep later, and the big man who would be the future of the NBA's most glamorous franchise was mumbling through media availability. Tim Duncan and the rest of the Spurs went to town against Howard and what was left of the Lakers, beating Los Angeles by double digits in each of those four first round games.

Bang: Paul George, Swingman, Indiana Pacers

Paul George was the NBA's Most Improved Player and deservedly so. He is averaging over 18 points and nearly nine rebounds per game in these playoffs. He brought a rare combination of size, length, athleticism and all-over-the-place scoring to help his Pacers down the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. If they catch enough of a break here and there they might face the reigning champion Miami Heat in the East Finals.

Bust: Blake Griffin, Power Forward, LA Clippers

Anybody who thinks Griffin is a great player is seriously deluded. This is a guy who can hardly drop step, really doesn't know his way going box to box at the NBA level, and gets rebounds only through his crazy leaping ability. Griffin MIGHT become a great player someday, and certainly someone only 24 years old, 6-foot-10 and with his strength and athletic ability will surely if slowly learn the game. For now though, the earth-bound but cunning Zach Randolph just took him to power forward school in the first round.

Bang, Honorable Mentions:

Klay Thompson, Off-guard, Golden State - Thompson is making a living playing off the brilliance of Curry in the Warriors' perimeter. His dead-eye shooting is certainly making the second round against San Antonio still very much a toss-up.

Chris Bosh, Forward-Center, Miami Heat - Bosh has finally abandoned all notion of his being part of a Big 3 in Miami, and as a result he has allowed the transcendental play of LeBron James make him the most valuable teammate in the NBA.

Tim Duncan, Center, San Antonio Spurs - A lot of people tend to forget how old Duncan is (pushing 40...) because he still maintains a high level of play and anchoring the inside. He is the one, true reason the Spurs are still a contender even though their three superstars at advancing in age.

Bust, Dishonorable Mentions:

Andre Igoudala, Off-guard, Denver Nuggets - For all he's done, including becoming a US Olympian, Igoudala remains just a second-tier star in the NBA. A lot of Denver fans were looking to him to step up in these playoffs. Instead he and the Nugs crashed whimpering out of the first round.

DeAndre Jordan, Center, LA Clippers - A young, dynamic, athletic 7-foot presence, Jordan still has yet to develop anything resembling a real game. He got pushed around by the stronger, more patient, and more intelligent Marc Gasol in the first round.

Josh Smith, Power Forward, Atlanta Hawks - This guy routinely puts in a double-double, and has been unfairly snubbed for an All Star berth. But being unable to get his Hawks at least competitive enough against the Pacers in these playoffs perhaps explains part of the reason why.

If you have any of your own bangs and busts, please feel free to share in the comments.
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  1. MrM's Avatar
    Bust: JR Smith - NBA 6th Man of the Year but has been playing awful since those unnecessary comments against Boston in the first round (he could still turn things around but considering NYK is down 1-3, it's a tall order).
  2. Sam Miguel's Avatar
    Zach Randolph turned into a bust at the absolute worst time, the conference finals. He just could not get anything done against the intelligence and patience of the veteran San Antonio frontline.

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