If you haven’t been watching the NBA playoffs, you’re missing out.
The first round has been crazy so far. There were a couple of upsets during the opening weekend and most of the games have been nail-biters. As expected, the superstars have played well, living up to their billing in the regular season.
But what about the underrated stars? The players who flew under the radar during the regular season but have stepped up in the postseason. Who are they and how have they performed?
Here are six players who come to mind as underrated stars in the postseason.
Rondo turned back the clock in the Chicago Bulls’ 111-97 Game 2 victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old point guard scored 11 points and added 14 assists, nine rebounds and five steals. Rondo joined Michael Jordan as the only players in Bulls history to put up 10 assists and five steals in a postseason game and he finished one rebound shy of the first postseason triple-double by a Bulls player since Scottie Pippen in 1997.
It’s hard to believe that in December Rondo was benched for lackluster play, and the Bulls reportedly shopped the four-time All-Star ahead of the trade deadline. Little did they know that Rondo would play a major role in leading the team to an unlikely 2-0 series lead on the top-seeded Celtics.
Beverley averaged 9.5 points in 67 regular-season games for the Houston Rockets. Through two postseason games, however, the 28-year-old point guard is averaging nearly double that (18.0) and he had a playoff career-best 21 points along with 10 rebounds in the Rockets’ 118-87 Game 1 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. Not to mention he played outstanding defense against Russell Westbrook. The Thunder point guard went 3-for-9 from the field with two turnovers and eight points against Beverley.
After a terrific Game 1 performance, Beverley followed up with 15 points and six rebounds in the Rockets’ 115-111 Game 2 victory on Wednesday. So far, it’s safe to say that Beverley has been Houston’s second-best player in the postseason behind James Harden.
Lopez is averaging 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 70 percent field goal shooting over Chicago’s first two playoff games, all of which are significantly above his regular season averages. But the stat that stands out the most is his offensive rebounds.
The 29-year-old center is averaging a league-high 6.5 offensive rebounds in the postseason. He pulled down seven in the Bulls’ 106-102 Game 1 victory over the Celtics on Sunday and five in Tuesday’s Game 2 victory.
The Celtics have had no answer for Lopez on the boards. He’s simply outmuscling them and exposing their biggest flaw.
Schroder has really stepped up his game in the playoffs so far. The Atlanta Hawks point guard is leading the team in scoring with 24.0 points per game. He scored 25 points and added nine assists in the Hawks’ 114-107 loss against the Washington Wizards on Sunday and he finished with 23 points and six assists in their 109-101 loss on Wednesday.
The Hawks signed Schroder, 23, to a four-year, $70 million contract in October, and it appears to have been money well spent. Despite being down 0-2 in the series, the team has to be happy about what the future holds for their franchise point guard.
This is now Parker’s 16th postseason and it has been business as usual for the San Antonio Spurs point guard. After averaging a meager 10.1 points in the regular season, Parker had 18 points in 22 minutes in San Antonio’s 111-82 Game 1 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, which he followed up by scoring 15 points in the Spurs’ 96-82 victory in Game 2 on Monday.
The 34-year-old Parker averaged a career-low 25.2 minutes per game in the regular season, so he apparently has fresh legs for the postseason. Parker is a perfect example of why Spurs coach Gregg Popovich makes it a point to rest his veteran players.
When Rudy Gobert went down with a knee injury early in Game 1, Johnson answered the call for the Utah Jazz. He had 21 points off the bench and scored the game-winning basket as time expired to lift the Jazz to a surprising 97-95 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. Utah wasn’t so fortunate on Tuesday, though, as the Clippers held on for a 99-91 win. Still, Johnson continued to provide the team with a scoring lift in Gobert’s absence, contributing 13 points off the bench.
Johnson is now averaging 17.0 points in the playoffs, which is pretty impressive for a 35-year-old bench player. The Jazz undoubtedly need his scoring the rest of this series if they plan on sending the Clippers home early from the postseason.