By Michael Terrill @MichaelTerrill on April 14, 2014
The 2014 NBA playoffs officially begin Saturday. With only one regular season game left on the schedule, the time to get excited for postseason basketball is now. Everyone is hoping the big-named players put on a show, unless you happen to be a fan of an opposing team. However, the reality is plenty of popular players struggle this time of year. Check out 15 NBA stars who will choke in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s not just Roy Hibbert who will choke. The entire Indiana Pacers appear to be destined to get bounced out of the first round, despite the fact that they will probably hold onto the No. 1 seed in the East. Hibbert has struggled during Indiana’s downfall over the past 12 games, including being non-existent against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Expect Hibbert to continue to do nothing in the playoffs.
The Toronto Raptors will be in unfamiliar territory as their postseason berth is the first since the 2007-08 season. If the Raptors want to succeed in the first round, they will need DeMar DeRozan to continue to be a game changer. However, the pressure of the playoffs tends to change players. Toronto better hope that doesn’t happen to DeRozan in his playoff debut.
Likewise, John Wall and the Washington Wizards will be in unfamiliar territory as well. The ironic part about it is the Raptors and Wizards are scheduled to square off in the first round. Wall has a tendency to try to take over games, but instead, simply turns the ball over. If he can’t get a grip on his 3.6 turnovers per game, which ranks as one of the worst in the league, the Wizards could be in trouble.
For whatever reason, Blake Griffin chokes every year in the playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers have high hopes for this season, but they will need Griffin to take flight if they want to make it past the first round. In all honesty, Griffin is on this list simply because I don’t think he will be able to break the spell.
Monta Ellis struggled a bit for the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs last season. The Dallas Mavericks are hoping a change of scenery will allow him to be a productive player. Ellis has been on a tear the past few games, which should have fans excited. Unfortunately, peaking at the wrong time is detrimental to a playoff run. Hopefully, that isn’t what happens when the Mavericks face off against the Thunder.
The Golden State Warriors are hopeful for another impressive postseason performance. In order to do that, David Lee will have to be a force around the basket. The problem with that is Lee will be going up against Griffin, who has the potential to put on an offensive show. Not to mention, Lee is not the greatest defender in the league. If he’s unable to get going on offense, it could be a one and done for the Warriors.
The Houston Rockets wanted Dwight Howard for making a magical run in the playoffs. In theory, Howard should have his way with the Portland Trail Blazers. With that being said, Portland is the best rebounding team in the NBA, which means all of those clears on the boards could affect Howard’s ability to excel. Howard’s history of success in the playoffs should prevail. On the other hand, stranger things have happened.
Speaking of the Trail Blazers, Wesley Matthews will have his hands full going up against James Harden. If Matthews gets burned on defense and is unable to convert his shots from the field, Portland is in very big trouble. The hope is that he will be able to slow Harden down. The reality is Matthews will be a non-factor in the series.
The Atlanta Hawks barely squeaked their way into the playoffs. Nonetheless, all that matters is they are one of eight in the East. Paul Millsap is having a career year, which should bode well for the Hawks when it matters most. Unfortunately, he has historically underperformed in the postseason. Not to mention, he will have his hands full with Indiana’s big guys. That alone is worrisome.
This postseason might be the last time the Miami Heat’s “Big 3” is united. The Heat had their way with the Charlotte Bobcats during the regular season. However, the slate gets wiped clean in the postseason. Chris Bosh struggled in the playoffs last year, and going up against Al Jefferson in the first round will be no easy task. If Jefferson has his way around the glass, Bosh could become a non-factor in the series.
One of the reasons the Bobcats are in the playoffs is because of the play of Kemba Walker. Typically, Walker is very successful on the court. Unfortunately, facing the Heat in the playoffs could easily tell a different tale. There’s no way Walker comes close to his season average of 17.8 points per game, especially with LeBron James taking over games.
Zach Randolph has been stellar in the postseason the past few years. If he can dominate like he did last season, the Memphis Grizzlies should have a fighting chance. With that being said, the San Antonio Spurs have the look of a team destined to repeat as Western Conference champs. If Randolph doesn’t bring his ‘A’ game, the Grizzlies will have no chance.
The Brooklyn Nets have pulled it together at the right time of year. Joe Johnson has been terrific, which is something that is expected to continue into the playoffs. However, Johnson has been known to not exactly be his self in the postseason. The Chicago Bulls and Jimmy Butler’s stellar defense could prevent Johnson from getting into rhythm, which would be a huge blow to the Nets.
Andre Iguodala has been terrific from the field, but the Warriors will need him to score points as he did for the Denver Nuggets in the playoffs last season. It’s that performance that has everyone assuming Iguodala will be lights out. The reality is he could easily fall the other way. The Clippers have the power to take his game away, which could be exactly why the Warriors don’t advance.
Carlos Boozer has posted one of the worst statistical seasons of his career. On top of that, he has really struggled in the playoffs the past few seasons for Chicago. It won’t take much for the Nets to make him feel out of his element, which will be all that’s necessary to ensure he’s unproductive.
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