The NBA playoffs are unlike any other tournament in sports. More often that not, the best team in the regular season advances to the NBA Finals. The Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs have dominated the past decade. The Dallas Mavericks are an exception.
The reason is that there are so many games that it's hard for a single fluky performance to take precedence in a seven-game series. Baseball has a five- or seven-game series, but football is a total crapshoot with just 60 minutes of game time to decide the better team. Hockey is just a different animal come playoff time. And we all know about college basketball and March Madness.
Last year, Mike Miller single-handedly blew open a game the Oklahoma City Thunder absolutely had to win. After what seemed like two hours of Miller bottoming threes, the Thunder had no answer and were on their way to a quick NBA Finals exit. But not all role players show out in such an acute fashion.
It could be an offensive rebound here, or a Robert Horry shove to Steve Nash there, that can swing a game and even a series.
The Golden State Warriors are clinging on for dear life in the sixth spot in the Western Conference, but the percentages still favor them making the playoffs because of the Utah Jazz's tough schedule.
When they get there, be it against the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Thunder or Spurs, they'll need plenty of help from players other than Stephen Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson. Even Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry aren't role players as much as integral pieces to the team's success.
The following three players aren't flashy nor are they stars, but if the Warriors want to win a series, or even a couple of games, they'll need consistent production from spots they haven't got it from this season.
Bogut has been hurt all season and relatively ineffective when he's played; that lack of playing time has made him a role player so far. Yet without any new complications, he should be set to play around 28-30 minutes a night for the last several weeks. After the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Warriors only have two back-to-backs left, so this bodes well for the oft-injured and somewhat out-of-shape big man.
The Warriors need a 100 percent Bogut to win a playoff series. However, that's extremely likely anyway given the way he is avoiding contact on the low block, giving the impression his legs aren't exactly under him yet. He should be fully recovered by playoff time.
An apt statistical analysis would start with Bogut's number in the post but there is no need. Bogut has shot the ball 11 times in the past three games, including a made three at the shot-clock buzzer. His passing is still solid but defenders have no need to double-team him right now.
The Warriors need Bogut to not only provide a strong defensive presence—something he has done quite well in his return—but to provide something on offense too. The small sample size here could benefit the Dubs as Bogut gets healthier.
Festus Ezeli and Andris Biedrins won't cut it at the center position in a heated seven-game series.
Against the Houston Rockets, Mark Jackson drew up a late-game play for a Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry pick-and-roll. Besides the fact that Stephen Curry was a decoy on the opposite baseline—unacceptable—Jack threw the ball in the corner to Barnes.
Barnes almost seemed surprised the ball was heading his way in such a crucial situation, proceeded to nearly drop it and took a dribble against an inferior defender in Carlos Delfino and shot a long pull-up jumper. Not the ideal play.
That has pretty much summed up his season. Hesitant to a fault, but showing enough potential to warrant minutes in big moments.
The Warriors will need an aggressive Barnes on the offensive end to balance their offense. Because of the way teams are playing Curry—trapping him early on pick-and-rolls—the Warriors need another ball-handler to initiate the offense. Jarrett Jack has been solid all season but his recent slump has contributed to the Warriors' losses.
Draymond Green is shooting 32.4 percent from the field this season and has contributed nearly zero offense from whence he stepped foot on the Warriors team. His defense and overall toughness has gotten him 14.2 minutes per game, but it might not be acceptable during the playoffs. If it weren't for Brandon Rush's injury, Green may not even be playing seven minutes a game.
In stepped the 32-year-old Jefferson.
Ignore the large contract, that's done for. But Jefferson has silently been decent the past month and a half. Jefferson has attempted a layup on 20.2 percent of his shots this season, according to nbawowy.com. That's not an elite percentage but it's similar to Ezeli (20.0), Barnes (21.8) and Klay Thompson (13.2). The Warriors need a slasher the same way they crave a dynamic interior defender.
In the off chance that the Warriors win a series in the playoffs, they'll thank Jefferson, Barnes and Bogut for playing a huge role.