We are fast approaching the end of business for the NBA season, with attention increasingly focused on this year’s playoffs. In both the Eastern and Western Conference, the post-season picture looks increasingly clear as many teams defy analysts’ predictions before the season.
As the recent history of NBA playoff odds has shown, betting on the outcome of the NBA playoffs is never easy, each team’s rotation is shortened and form goes out the window. What often brings teams across the border is the clutch performance of their best players.
Who will take the playoffs by storm this year? We took a look at which NBA stars to look out for at the end of the season.
After missing the entire last season due to injury, Kevin Durant is determined to prove a point in this year’s playoffs – provided he can avoid further fitness problems. Durant currently plays his trade for the Brooklyn Nets, which will seal one of the top spots in the East, and is one of the most natural scorers in NBA history.
If he can get going and stay fit through the postseason, he could be the spark that inspires Steve Nash’s team to their first NBA championship. Even if he doesn’t stay injury-free, the Nets still have James Harden and Kyrie Irving who can make it big in the playoffs. Because of this, the nets are a lot of people’s choice to make it to the finals.
Not only is LeBron James one of the best basketball players of all time, he’s always a great athlete of all time and a world famous celebrity. After leading his LA Lakers to the NBA championship last season, many are backing King James to repeat the trick this season.
Despite his advanced age – he is currently 36 years old – his strength does not seem to be weakening. Before he sustained an ankle injury in March, he averaged 25 points, eight assists, eight rebounds and one steal per game. He’s also the highest-scoring player in postseason history, which bodes well for the Lakers in the playoffs.
With James’ experience and clutch scoring record, nothing stands in the way of winning the championships one after the other in the summer.
Despite winning the NBA Most Valuable Player Award for two seasons in a row, Giannis Antekounmpo has not yet had any success in the playoffs. The Greek freak came closest to postseason glory when he lost to the Raptors in the 2019 conference final.
This season, Antekounmpo has maintained its ridiculously high standards, averaging the third highest points per game in the league, and also winning an All-Star MVP trophy. Could this be the season he finally leads the Bucks – most expect to finish third in the East – to the NBA championship?
With the Bucks’ other scoring opportunities nowhere near as reliable as Giannis, he will need to stay fit during the postseason to give his team a chance at stardom.
Despite only being selected 13th in the 2017 NBA draft, Donovan Mitchell has built a reputation for being one of the league’s top Guardians over the past two seasons. Mitchell is a devastating volume scorer who is likely only to get better with age. One thing that could hold back the soaring Utah jazz is that Mitchell can be an inefficient marksman. When he has a day off, his team feels it because they are so dependent on their goals.
He climbed to playoff pressure last year by scoring a staggering 57 points against a formidable Denver Nuggets team in the first game of the couple’s dramatic seven-game series. The jazz likely to take first place in the Western Conference will need more of these scoring exploits to make their way to the finals.
He may only be 21, but don’t let that fool you. Luka Doncic has the ability to make a huge impact in the NBA playoffs this season. The accurate Slovene has achieved an average of almost 30 points per game as well as over eight assists and eight rebounds this year.
He’s keeping his Dallas Mavericks ticking, and while they’re unlikely to secure a top spot in the Western Conference, a player of Doncic’s skill means there’s always a chance they’ll come up with a surprise. Leading the Mavericks to the final, however, could go too far for Doncic.
After impressive playoffs last year helping the Denver Nuggets advance to the Conference Finals, Nikoloc Jokic has taken his game to a new level this season. The rangy center averages the top 26 points of its career per game and this is not the only area where it has improved.
The Serb also has the best numbers of his career for rebounds, steals and three point percent. Having a well-rounded tall man is always an essential ingredient for any successful playoff team, and the Nuggets have several solid contributors to join in too.
As with every player on this list, however, Jokic’s form will be absolutely crucial to his team’s success. Which of these stars will rise up in the summer and inspire their franchise to fame? We can’t wait to find out.