The 2017 NBA Playoffs are officially upon us. The quest for the Larry O’Brien Trophy will begin this afternoon when the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers begin their first round series. It will be the first of four games today, as the NBA Playoffs take center stage for the next couple of weeks.
That is one of the many intriguing matchups we will see in the first round. Everyone is interested to see if the Cavaliers and get things back on track, led by LeBron James. The Golden State Warriors will garner a ton of attention as they look to make it back to the NBA Finals with Kevin Durant in the fold. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets will be must-see television as well with MVP candidates Russell Westbrook and James Harden matching up.
The postseason is usually when the stars shine brightest. Everyone knows what to expect from the stars; they will get their stats no matter what; opponents just hope to contain them. There are certain players capable of carrying their team for multiple games, willing them through the postseason.
But if a team wants to pull off an upset or sustain success in the playoffs, it will take production from multiple players. Some under-the-radar players will pop up with big games, stealing a win or two for their teams and gaining momentum.
Which are players capable of doing that this season? Check out our slideshow of 10 X-Factors in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Rajon Rondo, at least in name and pedigree, would not normally be an X-factor. He is a former NBA champion and was once considered a top point guard in the league. But, given the circumstances he went through this season with the Chicago Bulls and playing alongside Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, Rondo is this season.
There is also the legend of National TV Rondo. Rondo has a penchant for performing on a national stage in front of an audience, which the playoffs will provide. No one knows that as well as the Boston Celtics, where Rondo began his career and who he will be facing off against in the first round.
Rondo has a lot to prove this postseason. He was benched multiple times in the regular season, getting back in the rotation almost out of necessity with injuries arising. Despite all of the difficulties faced, Rondo had a pretty solid season, averaging 7.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.4 steals in only 26.7 minutes per game.
If the Bulls are to pull off the upset against the No.1 seed Celtics, they will certainly need National TV Rondo. He will not be phased by the big stage with plenty of playoff experience under his belt. Rondo will play a major part in this series for the Bulls on both ends of the court.
Damian Lillard said that the Portland Trail Blazers will defeat the Golden State Warriors in their first-round series in six games. Whether it was tongue in cheek or not, the Blazers will have their hands full. The Warriors were the best team in the NBA in the regular season as they dominated on both ends of the court.
The Blazers will find it difficult to slow down the Warriors, so they will need players to step up offensively if they want to keep pace. The biggest advantage the Blazers have on the Warriors is on the inside with Jusuf Nurkic. But Nurkic’s status is unknown as he was injured just a few weeks ago. As a result, the Blazers will need other players to step up.
One of those players is Allen Crabbe. The backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum garner all of the attention, but Crabbe has been a solid contributor throughout the regular season.
Crabbe finished the season third in three-point shooting, making 44.4 percent of his shots from deep. Portland will need a lot of scoring to keep up with the high-powered Warriors and Crabbe is capable of providing a scoring punch off the bench.
Crabbe missed the final three games of the regular season with a foot injury. He is expected to play in the first round against the Warriors, which is good news for the Blazers; they need all hands on deck to hang with Golden State.
Source: Fox Sports