The 2021 NBA playoffs have been an enthralling affair so far, with eight teams currently vying for berths in their respective conference finals.
Stars like Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell have grabbed headlines for their sumptuous performances lately. But there are some bench players who have been operating out of the limelight, playing a crucial role in their team's success as well.
The Utah Jazz and the Atlanta Hawks can attribute a significant quantum of their regular-season success to their bench, which has played a significant role in the two teams reaching their respective conference semi-finals. On that note, let's look at the five most influential bench players in the 2021 NBA playoffs so far:
#5 Cameron Payne (Phoenix Suns)
Cameron Payne has been a spark plug off the bench for the Phoenix Suns this season, tallying 11 points, three assists and a steal on an incredible 40% shooting from the deep.
Payne was brilliant in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs against the LA Lakers, hurting the reigning champions with his exemplary shooting and playmaking prowess.
Payne has averaged almost 22 minutes in the 2021 NBA playoffs, which shows how much head coach Monty Williams values him.
#4 Kevin Huerter (Atlanta Hawks)
It's difficult to fathom that Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kevin Huerter is playing in his first postseason, considering the 22-year-old's exploits in the 2021 NBA playoffs so far.
Huerter is logging close to 26 minutes per game, averaging 11.7 points, three rebounds and a block on a staggering 48.5% shooting from behind the 3-point arc.
The Atlanta Hawks are currently tied with the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. The chances of the Hawks progressing to the Conference Finals will largely depend on how the bench unit led by Huerter and Danilo Gallinari performs in the remainder of the series.
Also Read: NBA Rumors: Kristaps Porzingis 'frustrated' with his situation at Dallas Mavericks.
#3 Bryn Forbes (Milwaukee Bucks)
Bryn Forbes' performance in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs was one of the key reasons leading to the Milwaukee Bucks' sweep over the Miami Heat. The former San Antonio Spurs man has thrived in a bench role under head coach Mike Budenholzer, averaging 12.5 points on 50% shooting from the field and a brilliant 45% shooting from deep in the postseason.
The Milwaukee Bucks have been heavily reliant on their bench unit in the 2021 NBA playoffs. So Forbes and co. will have to step up their games in the third match of their team's second-round series against the Brooklyn Nets to stand a chance at progressing to the Conference Finals.
#2 Monte Morris (Denver Nuggets)
In Jamal Murray's absence, Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone has opted for a Monte Morris-Nikola Jokic pick-and-roll in the 2021 NBA playoffs.
Morris' penchant for scoring and finding teammates for open shots has been extremely valuable for the Nuggets. That was evident in their first-round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Monte Morris has added 12 points and 5.5 assists from the bench in the 2021 NBA playoffs. He will look to continue his good form when the Nuggets host the Phoenix Suns at the Ball Arena for Game 3 on Friday.
#1 Jordan Clarkson (Utah Jazz)
NBA Sixth Man of the Year award winner Jordan Clarkson has proved why he is deserving of the accolade. The former Lakers star has averaged 18.5 points in 25.8 minutes off the bench in the 2021 NBA playoffs.
Clarkson has a score-first mentality, which has helped the Utah Jazz in balancing out their scoring in minutes when Donovan Mitchell rests. Clarkson scored 18 points for the Jazz in their ongoing Western Conference semi-finals over the LA Clippers and is set to play a crucial role as the series progresses.