Rather than arguing the eternal MVP battle of Harden vs Westbrook, I decided to hand out my own title, the Most Essential Player.
The Most Essential Player, is the player whose performance can make the biggest impact.
Here are your most essential players, of each team in the post-season:
(1)Golden State Warriors: Steph Curry
The two time MVP has hit a couple rough patches this season, which were likely expected. Regardless of his inconsistency, Curry playing well has to be a sure thing for the Warriors to succeed. When he’s on he’s on, and no one in the league is better than Curry when he’s hot.
(1) Boston Celtics: Al Horford
The Boston Celtics weakness has been exposed through two games with the Bulls, their rebounding. Horford has been in the league for 9 years, a veteran no doubt. In 2012-2013, he averaged (17) points and (10) rebounds, a rebounding presence on the offense and defense. For the Celtics to win, or even make it out Round 1, Horford needs to grab those boards.
(2) San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge
The Spurs are the Spurs, and they’re going to play well assuredly. However, big games from LaMarcus Aldridge can secure a road to the Finals. Since moving up the ladder in the Western Conference, Aldridge has taken a sidekick role to defensive star Kawhi Leonard. Finding a balance of scoring through each star, could eventually lead them to a championship.
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers: Kevin Love
The Cavaliers had a rough last month for the regular season, going 4-6. Now, in an easier match up with the Indiana Pacers, they have found themselves up 2-0. Facing injury this season, Love hasn’t been as strong as he once was. A clutch three-point shooter, and great rebounder, finding him open looks will be a huge requisite for success in Cleveland.
(3) Houston Rockets: Patrick Beverly
James Harden and the Rockets are off to a great start, two games up on the Oklahoma City Thunder. One thing we’ve seen time and time again, despite his character, is that Patrick Beverly is one of the best defenders in the league. The Western Conference is tough competition, and for the Rockets to advance further Beverly’s defense will be required.
(3) Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry
The point guard of the Raptors, hasn’t had much success in the playoffs. After losing Game 1 to the Bucks, they became 1-11 in the first game of playoff series. In Game 2 the Raptors topped Milwaukee, 106-100, behind Lowry’s (22) points and (5) assists. If the Raptors point guard can find his shot more often throughout this playoffs, his team will be better off.
(4) Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin
Griffin has been injury prone in season’s past, and it prevented a high anticipated Finals run last season. This year, since recovering from injury, he’s been on a tear. With Rudy Gobert out with a bone bruise in his left knee, the Clippers first round series with the Jazz has become his own. In the series, Griffin is averaging (25) points and (6) rebounds. Chris Paul and Deandre Jordan’s performances are almost guaranteed at this point, but Blake’s will be necessary for a deep run.
(4) Washington Wizards: Otto Porter Jr.
The Wizards starting five has meshed better than most in the East this year. Out of nowhere, Washington climbed the ranks and found themselves at the four seed once the playoffs commenced. One of the best three-point shooters in the league, Otto Porter Jr., has been a key contributor to wins this season. He hasn’t shown up much yet in Round 1, but as the Wizards continue through the playoffs his clutch playmaking will be a winning factor.
(5) Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward
Rudy Gobert fell out of this series due to injury in his left knee, just a couple minutes into Game 1. Utah has now lost one of their biggest scorers, and arguably the Defensive Player of the Year. In this series with the Clippers, Gordon Hayward is averaging (36%) from the field, after shooting (47%) through the regular season. The Jazz’ star forward is going to have to find his shot to ensure success over the Clippers.
(5) Atlanta Hawks: Dwight Howard
Atlanta has found themselves down 0-2 to the Washington Wizards. Although Howard grabbed 14 boards in Game 1, he only caught seven in Game 2. Gortat isn’t the best center in the league, but at least he’s been consistent with (14) and (10) in both games. Dwight will have to get offensive in the next games with Washington, should the Hawks make a run to capture this series.
(6) Oklahoma City Thunder: Andre Roberson
The Thunder (as expected) have fallen to 0-2 against the Houston Rockets. A lot of things are going wrong with OKC, but a couple are worth noting. Specifically, the effort of contribution by forward Andre Roberson. IF the Thunder are to make a comeback and clear this Round 1 match up with the Rockets, Roberson needs to continue his run. He’s played both sides of the ball, defending Harden and (apparently) making, not just shooting the three ball.
(6) Milwaukee Bucks: Greg Monroe
The Bucks backup center has never been to the playoffs prior to this season. It appears the timing was right. The Bucks took Game 1, and Monroe scored (14) and grabbed (15) boards off the bench. His impact in Game 2 wasn’t as heavy, but head coach Jason Kidd was more reliant on the starting lineup, while looking at a loss. The Bucks can take this series, in six or seven. But they’ll need that sixth man performance from Greg Monroe.
(7) Memphis Grizzlies: Mike Conley
The Grizzlies starting point guard had a rough Game 1, but found his way into the second. In Game 2, Conley scored (24) points and dished (8) dimes. Memphis lost the game, but it was a more controlled effort. The Grizzlies need to find a point of offense that can break through the San Antonio defense. Conley pacing the floor and moving the ball as a true floor general can ensure that.
(7) Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner
The Indiana Pacers have fallen to 0-2, after two games in Cleveland. Turner, the Pacers starting center, has only managed to grab (13) rebounds through two games this series. Tristan Thompson, a player I personally find overrated, is not the better center (nor is he bigger). Turner needs to take advantage of this match up and get aggressive on the boards, not just against Cleveland, but in the entire tenure that is the post season.
(8) Portland Trailblazers: Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is a fantastic point guard, and one of the best matches for Steph Curry. A great scorer, Lillard posted (34) points in Game 1. However, in Game 2, he only put up (12) points on (5-17) shooting. This point guard needs to shift his attention from scoring, and facilitate the ball movement for his team.
(8) Chicago Bulls: Rajon Rondo
The Chicago Bulls have taken a 2-0 lead over the Boston Celtics, the biggest surprise of the post season. I won’t say Rajon is solely responsible for their success, but he has made the biggest impact. Through two games against the Celtics, he has stuffed the stat sheet: (23) points, (20) assists, (17) rebounds, and (7) steals! He’s in playoff mode, and he’s locked in. It’s essential that Rondo keep up this level of play, should the Bulls aim to advance.
Every player in the playoffs is contributing for their respective team. The players I chose for Most Essential Player need to go above and beyond, to make success certain.