5 players on NBA underdog teams that need to step up in the playoffs
The NBA playoffs are finally here. It has been a long time coming and we are ready for some high-level basketball. This postseason features some interesting matchups that will be sure to produce some great games and potential classics.
But as with every other season, there are some teams that definitely have the odds stacked against them in the first round. These underdog teams will need to play near-perfect basketball in order to advance.
More specifically, key players on those teams will need to play their absolute best to give their team the best chance possible. Let’s take a look at five of those key players on underdog teams.
1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
This may come as no surprise, but one player that will need to be on his game in the first round is Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic. Doncic has been one of the best players in the league since entering the league as the third overall pick by Dallas in the 2018 draft. And he has stepped his game up in a big way this season.
Coming into the playoffs, Luka is averaging 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game on 46-32-76 shooting splits, and a Player Efficiency Rating of 27.6. Outstanding numbers for anyone, let alone a second-year player who is just 21 years old.
But Luka may have to take his already great play to an even higher level in these playoffs, as the 7 seed Mavs face the 2 seed LA Clippers in the first round, a team that many consider being a favorite to win the title this year.
Luka is going to have to bring it on both ends of the floor. While he isn’t known as a great defender, just by the nature of his position he will likely get switched onto either Kawhi Leonard or Paul George from time to time. That is where he is going to have to take his game to another level. Everyone knows Doncic’s playmaking ability on the offensive end of the floor. It is on the defensive end that games could be decided in this series.
And although he is one of the premier offensive players in the league, he is likely going to be defended by either Leonard or George at all times, who are two of the best defenders in the league. Nothing on the offensive end is going to come easy either. This definitely pose some challenges considering so much of the Mavs offense is run through Doncic (Usage rating of 35.5%, good for third-highest in the NBA in this season).
One way the Mavs could get around this is to get Kristaps Porzingis involved early. Get him and Luka going in the pick and roll, pick and pop, or simply post him up if need be. Anything to get him started. He is much bigger than anyone on the Clippers and should prove to be a mismatch for them. Doncic, being the generational passer he is, should have no problem getting others involved if he can’t get shots for himself.
On top of all that this is Luka’s first appearance in the playoffs. While it is not normal circumstances for playoff basketball, that must be taken into consideration as well.
But if anyone is up for the challenge, it is Luka Doncic. Look for him to play some of the best basketball of his career against the Clippers in this first round.