The Miami Heat may have clinched their second consecutive NBA championship, but it wasn’t without two epic seven-game series. Along the way, the Playoffs witnessed some classic performances. Here are my top five players of the 2013 NBA Playoffs:
Honorable mention: Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies
Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies kept transforming themselves as games went by. They were sensational in the paint till the San Antonio Spurs outplayed them in the Western Conference Finals. Gasol’s stats were laudable; he averaged 17.2 PPG in over 40 minutes of game time and picked up 8.5 RPG.
This did not only prove instrumental in vitalising the progress of the Grizzlies in the playoffs but showed the improving upscale of Gasol from a prominent defensive powerhouse to an all-round contributor. Over the years, the Spaniard’s adjustment from a focal magnate in grabbing rebounds to a versatile presence in both offense and defence has been poignant in Memphis’ subtle ascent to becoming a playoff contender.
Gasol’s constant thrive in Grizzlies’ defence helped shut out the likes of Sergei Ibaka, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, while he also made the best of his size in grabbing offensive rebounds and his omnipresent postplay in the frontcourt.
5. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder
Although critics can argue that the Thunder’s run in the playoffs was severely plagued by Russell Westbrook’s injury, no sceptic can question the effort of Kevin Durant. Almost single-handedly, Durant took over Thunder’s ailing offensive game to a deep playoff run. He averaged the most points per game as the playoffs ended, adding more highlight to why he is one of the league’s best players.
Durant’s position in this list could have been higher had the Thunder made a deeper run like they did in 2011-12. However, it is incredible to see any player average nearly 10 rebounds a game and still shoot thirty points a night. Durant solidified a mention in the record books by becoming the first player in NBA history to score 30 PPG, grab 9 RPG and average a block and six assists in the playoffs.
4. Paul George of the Indiana Pacers
This was George’s first real test as a leader of an entire franchise. In a city where basketball will always have the Reggie Miller vibe and Danny Granger’s path to being enshrined, George was made the Indiana Pacers’ floor general for this year’s playoffs. And he didn’t disappoint. George put up numbers every third year in the NBA can only dream of. A year ago, his production column read 9.7 PPG, 2.4 APG and 6.6 RPG. These playoffs saw him leap up to as much as 19.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 5.1 APG.
Stats say only one thing about this man from Fresno State. His leadership was so effective that players with more experience looked up to him and the team’s executive, Larry Bird, spoke so highly of him. Now, it’s unworldly if you have one of the greatest players of all time appreciate your game. He guarded each man he was put on with so much vigour that even the league’s best player and Finals MVP, LeBron James found it hard to unlock George’s man marking.
Paul George has come a long way and still has several others ways to go. But the NBA should now take notice of a new superstar in its reckoning.
3. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors
Curry is not just a proven scorer. He is a point guard whose dexterity remains abound in the assist column as well. Averaging 8.1 APG in the playoffs from a 6.9 APG in the regular season, Curry was the focal point in the Warriors’ run to the semi-finals of the Western Conference – their first in years.
The Oracle Arena was lit up each time Curry sunk a three. Each and every one of his 42 threes was captivating, including the 6 that he hit in his 44 point night against the Spurs. While Curry’s performances began to curtail as his ankle injury aggravated, the point guard showed us that pure shooting and efficient dribbling is solely enough to notch MVP performances.
An interesting fact: Curry is only the third player in the NBA to stack up 23 PPG and 8 APG in his first playoffs. Surely, it will be interesting to see what Curry has in store for next year’s playoffs with a healthier and more playoff experienced Golden State Warriors line-up.
2. Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs
This is how the playoffs panned out for the Spurs: if Tony Parker shot 50% from the field which happened quite often, the Spurs ran out winners. If he failed to come close to that, the Spurs struggled incredibly – quite so much that it was the reason the Heat beat them in the NBA Finals.
Every team playing the Spurs had one thing set in stone; guard Parker efficiently and the Spurs were beatable. If not, it was a battering – so much that even the likes of LeBron James, faltered to prevent the tide switching San Antonio’s way.
Parker was such a nuisance for his opposition that coaches had to device different strategies each game. He even brought out the best from the rest of the Spurs’ roster including the aging Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. His shot making decisions in the playoffs were noteworthy and he showed us that he is a primo point guard on defence as well.
It was evident that Parker is not the most lucrative stealer or physical force in the game but Parker does what he does best – make the most out of his balanced team and work that into his strength. For that, Parker definitely deserves to be reckoned as one of the league’s best point guards, if not arguing to being the best.
1. LeBron James of the Miami Heat
To be LeBron James must be incredibly hard. Each time, the Heat lost, James was blamed even though the rest of the famed “Big 3” didn’t put the ball in the bucket. Night in, night out, James eclipsed his marvellous regular season performance to prove his critics. But everyone thought the Heat would lose to the Spurs. It was nerve-wracking but James showed us why is the best player of this generation, and definitely of the NBA playoffs.
Here is why: in 2007, he brought a mediocre team to the NBA Finals and in 2013, he won the NBA Championship with an elite team that played with the same level of mediocrity. Although, it is given that the likes of Dwayne Wade and Mario Chalmers stepped up to help James, the native of Akron, Ohio, added further talk to why he is leaps ahead of being the game’s best player.
Game 7 against the Spurs justified his mantle: 37 points in 12-23 shooting with the game winner. And who would not forget how he silenced Parker as the Finals went by. LeBron James’ performance in the playoffs only usurped his run in the regular season.