Facets Factors: NBA Playoffs Edition

Everyone knows the stars and how vital each are to their teams success. But no team wins with just stars. Intangible guys, X-Factor’s, as you will, win you games and ultimately championships. Some x-factor’s chosen may in-fact be stars or trying to once again achieve stardom. This article is about 16 of those guys, one from each postseason team, that their teams will need them playing at the highest level they can.

Eastern Conference

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Atlanta Hawks

DeMarre Carroll: This Hawks team took the NBA by storm and was one of two teams that won 60 or more games. Everyone knows about the four all-stars they had, the potential Coach of the Year in Coach Budenholzer but everyone seemingly forgets the fifth starter in Atlanta, DeMarre Carroll. DeMarre doesn’t shoot like Kyle Korver, dribble like Jeff Teague, or score and rebound like Paul Millsap and Al Horford, but what Carroll does is round out one of the best starting fives in the league. He scored almost 13 points per night while grabbing five rebounds and had over one steal per game as well. He shot great all season and was JUST south of 40 percent from behind the three-point arc. He was actually Atlanta’s third highest scorer post all-star game. The Hawks are one of the favorites to make it the finals and they’re going to need Carroll’s contributions if they want to contenders and not pretenders.

Cleveland Cavaliers

J.R. Smith: Earl Smith Jr. has arrived in Cleveland and has made an instant impression on his teammates and the rest of the league. J.R is one of the few players since I can remember that went from the worst team in the NBA to a team who has championship aspirations. Since his arrival, he’s been a completely changed player from earlier this season. Shooting a mere 35 percent in NY this season, once he changed jerseys it was like he acquired a power-up hitting three-pointers at a 39 percent clip. The biggest jump, statistically, might be his 94 offensive rating in New York, to 113 in “The Land”. Anyone and their mother would think the big-three need plus playoff performances, but with J.R being able to spread the floor the way he has, he’s vital to Cleveland’s playoff success.

Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose: Derrick, in my opinion, is the x-factor of ALL x-factor’s. This Bulls team, maybe more than ever, is ready to contend for a championship. Adding Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic has improved this team offensively tremendously. Jimmy Butler scored exactly 20 points per game for the entire season and that’s another added dimension to Chicago’s offensive repertoire. What Derrick Rose will show up in the postseason and how many minutes per game can he endure are the main questions we as analysts, fans, and everyone else want to know. If Rose is healthy and can give the Bulls 30 quality minutes per game, Chicago can be a threat in the East, just like everyone thought they’d be before Derrick’s third serious knee injury.

Toronto Raptors

Kyle Lowry: Kyle Lowry reminds me of Harvey Dent’s character when he was two-faced in batman. He was great in the first half of the season, just as Harvey Dent in the first half of Batman. But Lowry has gone off the deep end and has been significantly worse during the second half. Like Lowry, Dent became bad, in a villain-y sort of way, but the comparison works. Lowry NEEDS to be better than a 37 percent shooter from the floor if Toronto, not only plans on making a run in the postseason, but if they plan on getting past Washington.

Washington Wizards

Marcin Gortat: The second half the season was rough for the Wiz. They went 13-15 and blew any chance they had at home-court advantage at the same time. For any playoff success the Wizards are thinking they’re going to have, Marcin Gortat needs to be the x-factor. Gortat lead the team in offensive AND defensive ratings. He also lead Washington in win shares. Yes, ahead of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Gortat’s stats were actually significantly better in wins averaging a greater shooting percentage, more points, rebounds, assists, blocks than in losses. As much as people think the Wizards go as John Wall does, the numbers Gortat puts up in wins don’t lie.

Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo: If you don’t like this kid and how good he’s going to be, it’s time you do. The “Greek Freak” is in his first postseason and he’s provided us with some jaw-dropping plays recently that have us asking for him to do it on the big stage; the playoffs. Jason Kidd has handed the reigns to his young-budding star the second half of the year as his minutes spiked along with his points, rebounds, and assists. Look for a heavy reliance of Giannis in the postseason too. He’s played very poorly versus the Bulls this year so it’s time he picks it up in the postseason.

Boston Celtics

Evan Turner: I was pretty sure I was never going to write an article about NBA playoff x-factors with Evan Turner’s name attached to it, but here we are. Turner had a great second half of the season and Brad Stevens got the most out of him. He became the Celts primary play-maker as his assists per game soared by two a game from 4.6 to 6.9. He finished third in the league with three triple-doubles. The former second overall draft pick has found a home this season with Boston and they’re going to need his continued success if they’re going to have any chance of winning any games against Cleveland.

Brooklyn Nets

Brook Lopez: The Nets and their high payroll have disappointed from day one they brought everyone together. When healthy, the best player Brooklyn has, has been Brook Lopez. Brook lead the Nets in points scored, rebounds, and blocks per game. Reason I chose him as the our facets factor is because he needs to be brilliant versus Atlanta. He needs to be better than brilliant. He needs to be the star, the x-factor, everything he possibly can be, he needs to be it.

Western Conference

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Golden State Warriors

Andrew Bogut: Let’s face it, the Dubs are chalk full of x-factors. An anchor of the number one rated defense is in that group of x-factors. Bogut had the best defensive rating on the team at 96.8 and not only best on the team, he was second in the entire league. Golden State was 58-9 with Bogut in the lineup, so it’s safe to say they feel most comfortable with the big Aussie in the lineup.

Houston Rockets

Dwight Howard: James Harden played role of superman for the Rockets this season, but they need their real superman in the form of Dwight Howard. Howard missed 26 games with a right knee injury but came back in time to get in shape for the playoffs. In nine games since his return, he’s averaged a mere 13.8 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per. Houston has been lacking the second option Dwight can provide and even if he’s not the same, his mere presence will open things up for Harden and the rest of the offense. Oh, let’s not forget, Dwight is an elite rim protector. Pretty nice to get one of those back just in-time for the playoffs, huh?

Los Angeles Clippers

Entire Clippers Bench: Let’s be honest. The Clippers starting 5 is great. Their bench is far from that. With Crawford missing a large chunk of the season it’s been even worse without him. Outside of Crawford their bench is highlighted by…..Austin Rivers and Glen Davis. Yeah, that’s a real thing. Time is dwindling and CP3 is hungry NOW. The bench needs to give quality minutes when called upon so Doc doesn’t need to play his starters for 40 minutes per.

Portland Trailblazers

Arron Afflalo: AA was the pickup Portland needed to deepen their bench and help them accomplish their title accomplishments. Well here we are on April 17th and Wes Matthews is out for the remainder of the season and Afflalo has been thrown into the starting lineup, removing any depth Portland had off the bench. He won’t pick up the slack that Matthews left when he was saddled with his injury, but his production is vital if Portland wants to win a series and make a run at the Finals.

Memphis Grizzlies

Tony Allen: The Grizzlies identity is defense. They grind you out, as indicated by their arena being called the “Grind House”. The best perimeter defender in the game of basketball, in my opinion, needs to be just that in a conference that is stacked at guards and even some forwards he’ll be assigned to guarding. Just in the first round, he’ll be matched up a lot with the likes of Damian Lillard and Arron Afflalo. TA needs to be that go-to defensive-stopped Memphis fans have grown to know and love.

San Antonio Spurs

Kawhi Leonard: The 2014-2015 Spurs went as Kawhi Leonard did. The moment Kawhi got healthy, the Spurs took off and finished the season stronger than every team around the league. A potential defensive player of the year award in his future will be the hardware he and his teammates are least worried about. He brings a nastiness defensively and has greatly improved offensively. The Spurs can isolate him in the post using his length to his advantage or hit him with a chest pass for a corner three. The torch has been passed to Kawhi as the heart and soul of the team and they’ll go as far as last years final MVP takes them.

Dallas Mavericks

Rajon Rondo: When the Mavericks landed Rajon Rondo in a trade back in December a lot of people, including myself, thought that was the piece Dallas needed and was now poised to make a run at the west’s elite, but that hasn’t been the case. An elite Mavs offense has faded and hasn’t been the same at all since acquiring Rajon. But, Dallas is not dead in the water just yet. They have a lot of playoff tested veterans that have won it all before, included Rondo. Dallas needs him to distribute and d-up the way he has throughout all of his years in Boston.

New Orleans Pelicans

Jrue Holiday: The forgotten man this year in New Orleans, primarily due to injury, Jrue Holiday is key to the Pelicans winning ways. Jrue missed half of the season and has been a complete different player in wins. In wins, Holiday is a +/- +15.3, losses +/- -7.3. His offensive rating in wins ended at 116 and losses it was 102. On the flip side of the ball, his defensive rating is a lot better on defense in wins; 105 and in losses it’s 113. The Pelicans need him to play well. They need a third option and Jrue is that guy.

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