East, 1-4-5-8 Region (Chi, Orl, Atl, Ind)
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Main stats: 27 ppg, 16 rpg, 11 blocks, 88 free throws, 33 turnovers, 63% FG, 68% FT (6 games)
Much in the way Chris Paul completely carried NO, Howard completely carried the Magic through their 6-game exit in Round One. He was the only Orlando player hitting shots or playing defense, and he was fantastic at both.
The lack of support Howard received is quite clear when you look at his point-rebound pairs from their four losses: 46-19, 21-15, 29-17, 25-15. He also had 9 blocks in those games, but his 33 turnovers for the series were the turd in the punchbowl. With a series like this for him and his team, you can’t imagine he’s long for this franchise without a massive overhaul in surrounding talent.
Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks
Main stats: 19 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg, 13 steals, 44% FG, 43% 3FG, 81% FT (12 games)
Johnson didn’t have great stats nor a particularly great post-season overall, but his performances most aligned with his team’s success, a good sign of how valuable his contributions were. In Atlanta’s 6 wins, Johnson’s point totals ranged from 20 to 34 with a 50% FG%. In their 6 losses, his point totals ranged form 5 to 19 with a 37% FG%. When he was on, so was his team, and vice versa.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
Main stats: 15 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg, 25 blocks, 13 steals, 67 free throws, 40% FG, 60% FT (12 games)
Smith’s offensive numbers aren’t that good, but his defensive presence was immense against Orlando, and especially against a deceptively-loaded Chicago frontline. He nearly pulled off a triple-double in the Game Four win to tie up the Bulls series (23-16-8), and he was an all-around more versatile and consistent contributor underneath than Al Horford.
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Main stats: 29 ppg, 8 apg, 5 rpg, 17 steals, 10 blocks, 102 free throws, 42% FG, 25% 3FG, 83% FT (11 games)
Rose had a terrible-shooting, high-turnover-having series against the Pacers, but he picked things up in Round Two, shooting a much better 45% from the field with an impressive 59 to 21 (2.8) assist-to-turnover rate while frustrating Atlanta’s defenders in a multitude of ways. Although the refs gift wrapped many of his trips to the free throw line in Round One, Rose managed to get back to the line under a little less fishy circumstances by the middle of the Atlanta series. His ankle appears to be much better, and he’s doing a lot of things right to get Chicago back into the Finals.
Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Main stats: 10 ppg, 10 rpg (4.3 offensive), 3 apg, 24 blocks, 9 steals, 46% FG, 77% FT (11 games)
Noah is the anchor of the NBA’s best defense, which certainly counts for a lot. Not only that, his playoffs-best 47 offensive rebounds helped make up for a lot of his teammates’ poor shooting performances throughout the post-season, particularly Rose’s. Throw in 33 assists against only 13 turnovers, and Noah’s offensive game was far more valuable than one might think, and again, his part of the Bulls’ great defense is the most crucial.
East, 2-3-6-7 Region (Mia, Bos, NY, Phil)
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Main stats: 26 ppg, 8 rpg, 5 apg, 17 steals, 13 blocks, 95 free throws, 48% FG, 25% 3FG, 80% FT (10 games)
Wade was dominant at both ends for large portions of both series (duh), so I’ll nitpick a little bit. His 50 to 29 (1.7) assist-to-turnover rate could have been better. He could have shot less 3’s considering he’s not that good at them usually, he wasn’t that good at them in the post-season, and he’s great at driving. He shot less than 47% (league average FG%) in 7 of their 10 games. The big however, though, is that Wade is keeping James motivated, which might be enough to get LeBron into his second Finals ever.
LeBron James, Miami Heat
Main stats: 26 ppg, 9 rpg, 5 apg, 13 steals, 13 blocks, 92 free throws, 47% FG, 36% 3FG, 75% FT (10 games)
James gets too darn cute for his own good at times, needlessly putting extra mustard on some passes and dribbling out the shot clock in order to toss up a long bomb that forces his teammates to become statues for 23 seconds. We all know and have seen his dominance, so there’s no use retelling it in great detail, but James will need to be more careful with the ball against the Bulls after giving up 17 turnovers to the Celtics (with only 18 assists). Again, he looks motivated in a way he hadn’t in many previous trips to the post-season.
Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
Main stats: 16 ppg, 10 rpg, 11 blocks, 10 steals, 60 free throws, 45% FG, 78% FT (10 games)
Most people suspected it before the season started, and now most people feel OK stating it as fact, but Bosh is a distant third fiddle on a team that really only has a Big Two. That being said, he’s still more than capable of carrying large scoring loads at times and grabbing 10-12 rebounds in a contest. Although his defense and shooting percentages won’t wow anyone, he is getting it done in an all-around way while the opponents’ attention is diverted to the other two. Bosh barely earned the fifth spot over Elton Brand.
Main stats: 15 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 apg, 9 blocks, 17 steals, 44% FG, 76% FT (9 games)
Garnett was a terror on the boards in both series, snatching 11.3 rpg against New York and 10.6 rpg against Miami. His shot wasn’t always falling, but he certainly kept both defenses honest and did go off for 15-28 ppg outbursts half the time. His hustle and magnificent defense never faltered, but it’s clear he and the Celtics again need a half-decent (or at least powerful) center who can control things in the paint a little bit so it’s not all on KG.
Main stats: 19 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 11 steals, 32 threes, 52% FG, 57% 3FG, 96% FT (9 games)
Allen was a 3-point monster, hitting at least 1 in every game, at least 2 in all but one of the games, and at least 5 in three of the games. Obviously he did his share of scoring, but his passing (22 assists to 10 turnovers) and defense were also decent in both series. His age showed a little bit against a much younger, more athletic Miami club, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s time to count out the soon-to-be 36 year old.