April 17, 2010
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The 2010 NBA Playoffs are right under our nose, as Saturday is closing in, and we're all about to get a huge dose of "anything is possible" and "where amazing happens ".
Take a deep breath, make your predictions, and enjoy the show.
Oh, if it could ever be that easy .
Every year, the playoffs are hyped-up all season, as experts and analysts alike talk about the top rookies of the year, the candidates for the year's MVP award, and even the NBA Draft .
Then there's the yearly talk about Kobe Bryant vs.LeBron James. Who's the next Michael Jordan? Which is the best player in the game today? The spotlight often gets shifted around so much, we as NBA fans start to lose focus.
Like it or not, the NBA regular season and playoffs cannot be dumbed down to just two players facing off. This isn't about one-man shows and scoring titles. An NBA team will claim the championship this season.
However, on that same note, there are always X-Factors that we must account for. Whether it's a starting player we tend to forget about, the team's sixth man, or a role player we never saw coming off the bench.
Read on for the top X-Factor for each team heading into the NBA Playoffs:
Mo Williams, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
Williams is a shoot-first point guard on a team where the small forward is the best play-maker, and the player with the ball in his hands the most. Still, Williams comes up big in clutch situations, provides timely scoring, and helps the flow of the offense stay fresh.
When things don't go as planned, and Shaq, Antawn Jamison, and LeBron James are struggling to carry the offense, Williams will step up into his role.
Kirk Hinrich, G, Chicago Bulls
This is Derrick Rose's world, and Kirk Hinrich just lives in it. Despite basically being replaced by Rose through the NBA Draft two years ago, Hinrich is still alive and kicking in the Bulls' starting line-up.
Despite having an excellent stroke, his shot is inconsistent, and he doesn't provide the punch in scoring that a starting shooting guard normally does. However, his 30-point night in a huge win over the Boston Celtics last week showed he has the fight in him that will keep the Bulls competitive.
While he can be a fantastic shooter and distributor, Hinrich's real value will come with his excellent defense and ability to be disruptive.
J.J. Redick, SG, Orlando Magic
Matt Barnes loses out in a close race for Orlando's top "X-Factor" spot, as Redick has been on a tear off the bench to end the season, topping at least 14 points in six of his last 10 games, and at least 10 points in eight of those contests.
Redick has emerged as a capable defender, as well as one of Orlando's best bench players. He knows how to work the ball on offense extremely well, is unselfish, brings timely offense, and knows exactly when and how to get the ball into Dwight Howard down low.
With his game evolving by the day, Redick should be able to make an impact by driving and creating chances for himself at the free-throw line, a spot where he's connecting on 86 percent of his shots on the season.
Larry Hughes, G/F, Charlotte Bobcats
Most people would say Tyrus Thomas or Boris Diaw with their first thought, but a closer look, especially at their first-round match-up, shows Hughes could be the answer the Bobcats are searching for.
Hughes is getting longer in the tooth and has been bouncing from team to team, but it looks like he's found himself once again in his last few weeks with Charlotte. Hughes has topped at least 10 points in three of his last four games and has slowly been worked into a bigger offensive role.
If the Bobcats' star performers struggle, don't be shocked to see Larry Brown turn to Hughes to help shoulder the offensive load.
Mike Bibby, PG, Atlanta Hawks
Bibby's scoring, minutes, and overall effectiveness have taken a back-seat in Atlanta ever since the Hawks acquired multi-purpose guard, Jamal Crawford.
However, a closer look suggest it's not necessarily that Bibby is regressing. He's taking four less shots per game compared to last season, and has seen his minutes drop from over 34 to just over 27.
With fresh legs, Bibby can give the Hawks more energy and effort in the playoffs, and hopefully can return to his vintage Sacramento Kings-performances. While that may be a stretch, the Hawks will certainly rely on Bibby's poise and control in the playoffs, and will look to him for clutch shots when the offense is starving.
Jerry Stackhouse, SG, Milwaukee Bucks
The interesting thing about the Bucks in these playoffs is that they're literally filled with X-Factors. Just about anyone on their squad, outside of maybe Brandon Jennings and John Salmons, have the ability to shock some people with elite performances or clutch moments.
And even more importantly, most of them are actually going to do it. Who better to start it off with than the veteran scorer, Stackhouse? It may not lead to a series victory over the Hawks, but this could very well be Stackhouse's last hurrah as a true offensive leader in the playoffs.
This is Brandon Jennings' team and John Salmons is the top scoring threat, but Stackhouse can still get it done, and he'll be relied on for heavy minutes in this opening round series.
Carlos Arroyo, PG, Miami Heat
Arroyo has been starting at point guard for the Miami Heat for over a month now, and has just recently in the past month solidified himself as a reliable scorer and distributor.
He's come a long way from his days in Utah and Orlando, and now Arroyo is back in the limelight, despite playing second-fiddle to Dwayne Wade. However, even Wade can't do it all by himself, so anticipating Arroyo stepping it up in the playoffs and playing at a whole new level isn't unrealistic. Especially considering his experience in Olympic games.
Nate Robinson, G, Boston Celtics
Robinson hasn't managed to carve a specific offensive role with the Celtics. He's never been to the NBA Playoffs. And he's a small, small man.
But the kid can still jump out of the gym, keep an offense in flow, and shoot the light-out when he's on. If the Celtics are dying, tired, and on their last leg, between Robinson and Rasheed Wallace, who do you think they turn to?
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