The second round of the NBA Playoffs are coming to a close. And so far, we’ve seen surprising exits, new faces, and multiple dominant performances. As we all know, the postseason is the brightest stage under the NBA spotlight. Although a lot of players fail to come up big during their past playoff performances, it doesn’t mean that they’ll falter next time around.
In fact this year, we’ve seen a handful of players having a better postseason campaign compared to their previous years. For this piece, let’s take a look at five players who’ve achieved NBA Playoffs redemption so far.
5. Jordan Clarkson
After an uneventful playoff debut, that saw him become a non-factor for the Cavs, Clarkson has had a chip on his shoulder come the postseason. Although the Cavs made the Finals that year, his presence wasn’t felt on the floor given that he only averaged 3.0 points per game in limited minutes during the team’s title defense.
Aside from his disappointing first playoff appearance, Clarkson was also part of the Jazz team that blew a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in the first round last year. However, the newly crowned Sixth Man of the Year was firing on all cylinders this time around.
Clarkson averaged 18.6 points per game in the first round to dispose the Memphis Grizzlies in five games. In the second round, he put up 16.7 points per game, while shooting a deadly 43.6% from deep. Although the Jazz were eliminated in six games by the Clippers, individually, Clarkson has had arguably the most successful campaign to cap off the best season of his career.
4. Lou Williams
Being a three time Sixth Man of the Year winner, Lou Williams has had a relatively successful career off the bench. His scoring, including his composure in the clutch, made him a valuable piece for championship contenders. However, his NBA Playoffs history has been dismal.
In the 10 appearances he made in the playoffs, he only averages 11.6 points per game, while shooting a horrendous 39.7% from the field and 26.7% from the three-point line. These numbers are huge drop-offs compared to his averages in the regular season.
It is worth noting that deepest run Williams ever made was only in the Conference Semifinals. Furthermore, fans are aware of his disappearing acts in the postseason from his time with the Rockets in 2017 and the Clippers just last year. As we all know, Williams violated league protocols during the NBA bubble and was part of the Clippers team that gave up a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals.
However, Williams is finally finding his rhythm in the postseason this year. Now playing with his old team, the Atlanta Hawks, Williams looked unstoppable in Game Five against the Sixers in the ongoing Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Despite facing a formidable Sixers team led by Joel Embiid, Williams was one of the main cogs alongside Trae Young in mounting the epic come-from-behind win. Williams dropped 15 points to help the Hawks recover from a 26-point deficit to stun the Sixers. If Williams has another game like this, an upset for the Embiid-led team can be on the horizon.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Although Giannis is clearly one of the elite players today, given that he has two MVPs under his belt, he hasn’t had a lot of playoff success in his career. Sure, he has reached the Eastern Conference Finals once, but as a face of the Bucks’ franchise and a two time MVP, you’d expect more from the Greek Freak.
However, Giannis is finally translating his MVP form into NBA Playoffs success. The Bucks star redeemed himself immediately in the first round this year by leading the charge in sweeping the Miami Heat, which was the same team that eliminated them last year. Giannis averaged 23.5 points, 15.0 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.
Aside from this, Giannis has been defiant against a star-studded Nets team led by Kevin Durant. Despite suffering blowouts in the first two games, Giannis has brought out all he can in the succeeding games to force a Game Seven. In the ongoing series, Giannis is averaging a monster 30.5 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.
Beating the Nets is a tall order, given that they are the favorites to win it all this year. However, if there is a player who can lead his team against them, it would be Giannis himself who can pull the rug from the Nets’ championship homes.
2. Chris Paul
Before CP3 was held out due to COVID protocols, he was having arguably the most dominant NBA Playoffs campaign of his career. Known by many as the “Point God’, Paul hasn’t had a lot of postseason success in the past. With injuries, things have never gone right for him during this time of the year.
During the first round, CP3 was instrumental in orchestrating the Suns’ system in their conquest over the defending champs, the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite struggling with a shoulder injury, he managed to help his team beat the LeBron-led Lakers in six games.
After a successful first round, CP3 finally broke out. He registered 25.5 points and 10.3 assists per game. And more importantly, thanks to him, the Suns swept the Nuggets who were led by no other than newly crowned MVP Nikola Jokic.
If only the Suns can hold on while CP3 clears league protocols during the Western Conference Semifinals against the Clippers, there is no doubt that he won’t be messing around once he returns to the hardwood. With him approaching Father Time, there aren’t much opportunities for him to win a championship. Fortunately, this is another golden opportunity to finally silence his critics.
1. Paul George
If there is another player who has a chip on his shoulders in the NBA Playoffs, it would be Paul George. After a series of first round exits and poor showings, critics have often questioned his playoff form. In fact, his latest failure came last year when the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead against the Nuggets. PG simply failed to deliver in the NBA Bubble and even earned the monicker “Pandemic P”.
With the hopes of resurrecting Playoff P, PG has been relatively successful this year. The Clippers star was integral in the first round when the Clippers successfully dispatched a Luka Doncic-led Mavericks in seven games. George averaged 23.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 5.7 assists despite a slow start.
Furthermore, PG was phenomenal against the number one seed Utah Jazz. He averaged 29.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game to help the Clippers punch a ticket to the Western Conference Finals. His best game came in the win in Game Five, when PG dropped 37 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
With PG redeeming himself in the NBA Playoffs so far, the Clippers curse might get broken at this rate. Although this still seems like a long shot at this point, but for as long as PG is putting up MVP numbers, the Clippers’ championship hopes are well alive and kicking.