The NBA Playoffs is a completely different animal than the regular season. Defenses are tighter, game-play is slower, and games are closer. When this occurs, anything can happen. We saw the Cavaliers upset a Warriors team that was 73-9 in 2016, last year a veteran Los Angeles Clippers team was upset by a young Utah Jazz team in its first post-season appearance since 2012.
These upsets were caused by supporting players failing to step up when the defensive attention was placed elsewhere. In 2016 it was Harrison Barnes, who averaged just 9.3 points on 35.2% shooting and 31.0% from three in 31.7 minutes per game.
In 2017, it was Chris Paul‘s back court teammates J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Austin Rivers who failed to step up. The Clippers were up 2-1 on Utah, and Blake Griffin got hurt. Instead of scrapping it out and stepping up to the moment, those three shot a combined 17/59 in all three subsequent Clipper losses – 28.8% from the field. If the right players don’t step up to the moment, then their teams will fail in the playoffs. Here are the players who need to step up this season for their teams:
Washington Wizards: Kelly Oubre
Oubre in Wins: 12.1 PPG, 1.1 SPG, 43.8% FG, 1.14 PPP, 1.04 PPPA
Oubre in Losses: 11.9 PPG, 0.7 SPG, 39.4% FG, 0.99 PPP, 1.16 PPPA
Kelly Oubre has improved this season into the Wizard’s best non-starter, and while the Wizards have benefited from Oubre’s improvement, the improvement has come partially with an increased reliance on him. The reliance can be seen in Oubre’s splits. The scoring is consistently right at about 12 points per game, but Oubre is more efficient on both ends in the wins. Admittedly, the narrative of Oubre could change for either the better or the worse with an extended period playing with a ball dominant distributor like John Wall, but he is still very important. The Wizards inevitably are going to need Oubre for different small ball line-ups as well as big line-ups. Oubre’s versatility is one of his best attributes. Whether he’ll be effective is the question.