How These Role Players Will Be Key to Their Team’s Success During the Postseason
Superstar players are usually credited with the responsibility of carrying their team to a championship. Elite caliber players such as LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, and Stephen Curry have exhibited their ability to perform and shine on the big stage under the bright lights of the NBA playoffs. Neither of these superstars would have won a ring without the unexpected play from a role player who stepped up when it mattered the most. Remember the clutch shots Robert Horry made during for the Lakers and Spurs in crucial moments during their title runs? How about Bruce Bowen’s defense playing a major factor in the championships the Spurs won over the years? And who can forget Andre Igoudala’s heroics for the Golden State Warriors in the Finals winning the MVP award?
These role players are just as crucial to their team’s success as the superstars, as we have seen over the years. Who will be that key role player to step up and elevate their team in this year’s playoffs?
Louis Williams - Los Angeles Clippers
Williams is an instant offense and a scoring machine who can shoot from anywhere on the floor In the event of Kawhi Leonhard or Paul George having a bad game and struggling on the offensive end, the Clippers can count on Williams to pick up the slack and give them a spark off the bench playing huge minutes. The 3-time Sixth Man of the Year has plenty of experience in the playoffs and will be a valuable asset for the Clippers going forward.
Gordon Hayward - Boston Celtics
As talented as he is, Hayward could very well be considered an elite player, but the role he plays for the Boston Celtics fits head coach Brad Stevens scheme perfectly. With so much attention being given to Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown and Kemba Walker, Hayward will have favorable matchups offensively that he should easily exploit.
Fred Van Vleet - Toronto Raptors
Van Vleet was the x-factor on the Raptors championship team last season. He especially came up big in the clutch in the 4th quarter of the series-clinching Game 6, scoring 12 of his playoff career-high 22points in the final period. Van Vleet is very efficient from behind the arc, shooting 39% on the season. He is also efficient on the defensive end, ranking 12th in the NBA in total steals. It’s even more important for Van Vleet to have a repeat performance this time around as the Raptors are without last year’s Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, as we can expect Van Vleet to play an even bigger role.
Kyle Kuzma - Los Angeles Lakers
Teams know that there really is no answer to slowing down the dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But who else could be that third offensive option that they can depend on to deliver in clutch situations? Even though he has struggled with bouts of inconsistency, Kyle Kuzma is the best man for the job. He has had moments when he has played great, but he will have to play that way consistently if he is going to take some pressure off of James and Davis.
Carmelo Anthony - Portland Trailblazers
While he has graciously accepted his role within head coach Terry Stotts system, Carmelo Anthony has excelled beyond expectations. While he isn’t the elite scorer he used to be during the prime of his career, Anthony can still provide double-digit scoring totals every game as a threat on the perimeter. A lot of critics wrote Anthony off thinking that his career was over and had nothing left in the tank or nothing left to offer an NBA team, but he has revived his career with this team and has proved that he can be a contributor to a championship-caliber team.
Myles Turner - Indiana Pacers
Myles Turner is a great defensive player and excellent rim protector, evidenced by him having the 5th most blocked shots in the league. While he is not considered a viable scoring option the Pacers can depend on down the stretch, it would benefit the Pacers if he became more aggressive offensively. He averaged 12.1 points per game during the season, but if he could increase his scoring average by just a small margin, it could make a huge difference. Turner will also need to step up on the boards in the absence of all-star Domantas Sabonis who was lost to a season-ending injury.
Tyler Herro - Miami Heat
While all-star forward Bam Adebayo has developed into a dangerous threat offense, the Heat has been running the offense through him. Jimmy Butler will assert himself and become more aggressive as the Heat will need him to score. Opposing teams can adjust their game plan and find ways to neutralize the other team’s best players, but that’s where players like Tyler Herro comes into the picture. Herro put up impressive numbers during his rookie season, scoring 13.5 points and shooting 38.9% from downtown. While playoff experience is viewed as a valuable asset, Herro can make a major impact during his first playoff run as a dangerous shooter giving the Heat a dynamic option who can score and knock down jumpers with ease.
Torrey Craig - Denver Nuggets
Torrey Craig is a do-it-all type of player who excels on the defensive end of the floor. He has a nice size with a long wingspan and athleticism and provides a ton of value as a defender. Craig will play a role similar to the one Deshawn Stevenson played with the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks when he helped to hold LeBron James to a 17.6 scoring average in the series.