Ranking the Players Left in the NBA Conference Finals
We’re four games deep into the NBA Conference Finals. In the East, the Celtics and Cavaliers are tied at two as that series heads back to Boston for Game 5 on Wednesday. Out West, a tough fought Game 4 by the Houston Rockets have their series with the Warriors tied at two as well. That series heads back to Texas for Game 5 Thursday. Here’s my ranking of the top 25 players still playing in the NBA Conference Finals.
25. Jordan Clarkson
- Despite not playing in Game 2 and only logging 4 minutes in Game 4, it’s hard to dismiss Clarkson from this list. Out of the three midseason Cavalier additions, Clarkson is most likely to impact the rest of the series. We all know what Clarkson is capable of given the opportunity.
24. George Hill
- After joining the team late in the season, George Hill has logged solid minutes for the Cavs this postseason. His previous postseason experience is definitely a bonus. In four games, Hill is averaging 8.5 points per game in the Conference Finals.
23. Shaun Livingston
- Since joining the Warriors four years ago, Livingston has been a solid force off the bench. These playoffs are no different. Livingston’s impact is felt more on the court than shows up on the stat sheet, but his 15 minutes per game are crucial to the Dub’s success.
22. Marcus Morris
- Marcus Morris is the Celtics’ goon but is quietly averaging 13 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in the Conference Finals. If Boston is going to win the series, Morris’ physicality will need to be felt.
21. J.R. Smith
- We all know J.R. Smith is the ultimate microwave. Though he’s only averaging 6 points and 3 rebounds per game in the Conference Finals, it only takes one big three to go in to light Smith on fire. In Cleveland’s two losses, Smith did not make a 3 pointer. In the Cavs two wins, JR hit three 3’s in each game.
20. Kyle Korver
- Korver’s defensive intensity in Game 4 may have been the difference in the outcome. The 37-year old was all over the court causing havoc for the Celtics, some of which are almost 20 years younger than Korver. KK is averaging 11 points and 3 rebounds per game in the Conference Finals.
19. Clint Capela
- Capela has better stats in the Rockets two WCF losses than in the Rockets two wins. It most likely has everything to do with their opponent. Capela is still averaging close to a double-double with 9.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in the Conference Finals.
18. Marcus Smart
- Marcus Smart is the spark off the C’s bench. He’s a defensive bulldog and one of the best full-court defenders in the league. In the Eastern Conference Finals, Smart is averaging 8.8 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game playing roughly 28 minutes per game.
17. Trevor Ariza
- Ariza does a little bit of everything for the Rockets. In the Conference Finals, Ariza is averaging 10.5 points on 51.9% shooting to go with 3 rebounds, 2.3 assist, and a steal per game.
16. Andre Iguodala
- The fifth member of the Hamptons 5 was absent from Game 4 with no soreness. His status for Thursday’s Game 5 is still up in the air. His inability to go in Game 4 definitely affected the Warriors rhythm and could be the reason Golden State couldn’t stop the Rockets late in the game.
15. P.J. Tucker
- In Houston’s two wins in the WCF, P.J. Tucker has been huge in one way or the other. In Game 2, Tucker poured in 22 points out of nowhere on 8 for 9 shooting from the field. Two games later, Tucker came up big on the glass, pulling down 16 boards.
14. Tristan Thompson
- I know. This seems high, but when you think about it, it’s not. When Tristan Thompson is involved, the Cavs usually play well. That was evident in Game 4 when he looked like the player we know he can be. He’s slightly under averaging a double-double (9.8/9.3) in the Conference Finals.
13. Terry Rozier
- In Kyrie Irving’s absence, Scary Terry has been an unsung hero for the Celtics in the playoffs. Rozier is averaging 13.8 points, 5.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds in the Conference Finals. He’ll need to continue his big postseason if the C’s want to get past Cleveland.
12. Eric Gordon
- Despite a rough 1 for 8 performance from three-point land in Game 4, Gordon still finished the evening with 14 points. Since his 27 point showing in Game 2, where he shot 6 for 9 behind the arc, EG has gone cold from downtown. On the road in games 3 and 4, Gordon combined for 3 of 16 from three-point. He’s going to need to find his stroke in Game 5 if the Rockets are going to take control of the series at home.
11. Jayson Tatum
- JT had an awesome rookie season, but his game has risen to the next level in the playoffs. Tatum is scoring 15.5 per game on 47.8% shooting from the floor in the ECF. Not bad for a kid that was preparing for the combine this time last year.
10. Al Horford
- After Gordon Hayward and Kyrie went down with injuries, the Celtics have turned to Horford for veteran leadership. Horford has delivered. Big Al is averaging 14.3 points and 7 rebounds per game in the ECF.
9. Kevin Love
- Kevin Love is an enigma. Idk. He’s good, I just don’t like his fit with the Cavs. In the ECF games he’s contributed by scoring 17+, the Cavs lost. The two games the Cavs won, Love scored 13 and 9 points respectively. Love has been big on the boards throughout the series tallying 8-15-14-11 in the four games.
8. Jaylen Brown
- A star has been born. JB is averaging 20.3 points per game in the ECF and has been the Celtics main scoring threat in the playoffs. Though Horford, Rozier, and Tatum have been outstanding this postseason, the C’s hopes ride with this kid and the genius of Brad Stevens.
7. Klay Thompson
- Out of the Warriors Big 4, Klay has struggled the most in the Conference Finals. Aside from his 28 point output in Game 1, Klay combined for 31 in games 2-5. Furthermore, when Klay shoots better than 40% from the field in the WCF, the Warriors win. In the two games he shot below 40%, the Warriors lost.
6. Chris Paul
- CP3 went for 27 in the Rockets Game 4 victory, including a 5 for 9 shooting clip from behind the three-point line. Houston will need more scoring like this from Paul the rest of the way if they hope to keep pace with the Warriors firepower. Harden can’t do it alone.
5. Draymond Green
- Per usual, Draymond is up to his usual tactics. He’s annoying, yappy, and frustrating to his opponents on the court and I love it. On the stat sheet, he’s Mr. Everything for Golden State. In the WCF, Green is averaging 8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 2 steals.
4. Steph Curry
- Chef Curry found his shot in Game 3 and went for 35 in the 40 point blowout. He then came back with 28 in the Game 4 loss. With every game, he looks closer to form. It could be at the perfect time, they’ll need a big performance from him if they want to survive the WCF.
3. James Harden
- Harden vs. Curry is somewhat of a toss-up. Since Curry is still getting back into the groove following injury and Harden is playing at an All-World level, edge Harden. In the WCF, Harden is averaging 29.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.8 assists.
2. Kevin Durant
- KD is a walking 30 points a game. He had his worst performance of the Western Conference Finals in Game 4 where he shot 9-24 from the field for 27 points. I know, it’s weird to call a 27 point game a bad game, but I expect a much better game from Durant in Game 5.
1. LeBron James
- Did you think it would be anyone else? LeBron is doing LeBron things again, essentially willing his team to victory. He’s dropping 40+ like its nothing. He’s still the best player on the planet, people.