The NBA playoffs often come down to the positive or negative contributions of a single player.
While one person cannot win a championship by himself, a strong performance can put a team over the top in a number of games. Conversely, some poor plays down the stretch can derail a squad's hopes for victory.
In this postseason, we have seen surprising games out of players like Lance Stephenson and Matt Bonner, but their teams do not depend on their performances on a nightly basis. A bad game does not automatically mean a loss.
However, these players must do well in each game, or else their teams could end up entering the offseason earlier than expected.
10. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
The "other" member of the Big Three has become somewhat forgotten in Miami. However, he displayed strong defense against Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer of the Chicago Bulls and his play was a big reason that the series was over in five games.
Indiana has as good of a frontcourt tandem in David West and Roy Hibbert, so his contributions will be needed once again in this series.
9. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
As the most experienced player in the playoffs, Tim Duncan has already won four championships with the Spurs. However, he is there for more than just leadership. He is also a big-time contributor in the frontcourt.
Against Memphis, he will especially be needed on defense against Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The Spurs are a little undersized inside, so Duncan needs to do anything in his power to slow down that duo throughout the series.
8. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Few players have raised their game as much in the postseason as Mike Conley. After averaging 14.6 points and 6.1 assists in the regular season, he is averaging 17.3 points and 7.7 assists in the playoffs.
He has been a great distributor all along, but he needs to continue to hit outside shots in order to spread the floor against the Spurs.
7. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
The Defensive Player of the Year will have to continue to patrol the middle of the court against San Antonio, because the team cannot expect to hit 14 threes in every game.
On the other hand, he will have to adjust if the Spurs continue to play with a smaller lineup.
6. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
After easily winning the league's Most Improved Player award, Paul George continued his strong play in the playoffs. However, his assignment gets much harder in this series on both ends of the court as he opposes LeBron James.
The Pacers play great team defense, but George needs to fuel the offense, otherwise they will simply be outscored in every game.
5. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
For Dwyane Wade, health has become the biggest concern. He was obviously at less than full strength against the Bulls, as his knee was bothering him throughout the series.
However, when healthy there are not many guards better in the NBA. While the focus is on James, Wade has the ability to win games on his own. The only question is whether he has the physical ability to accomplish that.
4. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
While Roy Hibbert is not even close to being the team's leading scorer, he is the most important player against the Heat. With his size and strength, he is one of the few players in the league that can take advantage of an undersized Miami frontcourt.
In addition, Indiana has struggled mightily when its center gets into foul trouble, so that will be something to watch during the series.
3. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
We saw what happens when Zach Randolph has a bad game in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The big man scored only two points on 1-of-8 shooting and had a plus/minus of -28. As a result, the Grizzlies lost by 22 points.
Randolph will have to step up his efforts in a big way for Memphis to get back in this series.
2. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
As good as Duncan is, this is now Tony Parker's team. The point guard had one of the best years of his career, averaging 20.3 points and 7.6 assists during the regular season.
He will have a tougher time succeeding against Tony Allen in this series, but the Spurs will be just fine if the veteran keeps playing the way he has all year.
1. LeBron James, Miami Heat
LeBron James is the league's Most Valuable Player for a reason, as his contributions make the Heat the best team in the NBA. If Indiana can find a way to at least slow him down, Miami will seriously struggle.
Unfortunately, no team has found a way to do that this season. Still, every player on the court will be aware of where he is at all times, which proves that he is the most important player remaining in the playoffs.
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