NBA Playoffs: Five Players Who Drowned In The Postseason Pressure
The NBA Finals are upon us, and that means the playoffs are coming to a close. Throughout the postseason, we saw various players shine for their teams. But unfortunately, we also saw some shy away from the bright lights of the NBA Playoffs.
The postseason is a different monster altogether. Not only are the top teams playing, but also, it tests the team’s depth, chemistry, and desire to win the championship. Because of this, it is highly possible to see notable players see their game dwindle in the playoffs. For this piece, let’s take a look at five players who dipped in the NBA Playoffs.
Season: 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.6 blocks
NBA Playoffs: 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds. 1.2 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.3 blocks
After LBJ’s arrival to L.A., the Lakers shipped out most of their young core in exchange for Anthony Davis and only kept Kyle Kuzma with the hopes that he’d turn into the team’s third star. However, Kuzma never really materialized those expectations.
The 6’10 forward did have some bright performances in the Purple and Gold. He had a solid performance last year that helped the team win the championship. Afterwards, Kuzma followed that up with a slightly improved season. He also improved his offensive rebounding numbers and shot the three-ball better at 36%.
However, the NBA Playoffs was a different story. Kuzma saw his production cut into half. While the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers expected more from Kuzma especially when Anthony Davis re-aggravated his injury. Kuzma also shot the ball poorly at 29% overall and 17% from deep which were also huge drop-offs compared to his regular season performance.
With another disappointing performance by Kuzma, rumors have emerged that the Lakers forward is now in the trading block. In fact, Kuzma has also provided a hint that he could be done playing for the Purple and Gold, as seen in the tweet below.
— The Laker Files (@LakerFiles) June 18, 2021
Season: 21.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.3 blocks
NBA Playoffs: 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks
After leading the Heat to a magical run to the Finals last year, people had expectations that Butler would help the team duplicate that feat this year. However as we all know, the Heat put up a disappointing playoff-run this year that saw them get swept by a familiar opponent in the Bucks.
Butler had an up-and-down season as he dealt with COVID protocols and injuries. However when he played for Miami, glimpses of their successful run last year were apparent. Butler put up solid numbers during the regular season, as he even led the league in steals per game. Furthermore, Butler helped the team clinch a spot in the postseason as the sixth seed which spared them from going through the Play-In Tournament.
But unfortunately, despite facing a former nemesis, Butler and the Heat couldn’t assert their mastery. He struggled throughout the series. Although his all-around game was present, the Heat star shot only 29.7% from the field overall. His shooting was a far outcry to his 49.7% field-goal percentage during the regular season.
Season: 20.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.3 blocks
NBA Playoffs: 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks
Kristaps Porzingis has been dealing with multiple injuries in his career. Aside from this, playing alongside Luka Doncic has certainly hampered his individual production. But nevertheless, Porzingis is still a unicorn who could give opposing teams trouble. The Mavs forward put up a near 20-10 stat-line this year and registered one of his best seasons yet. Unfortunately, this didn’t follow through in the NBA Playoffs.
Porzingis’ playoff stints have been uneventful and his latest one was no different. Although the Mavs raced to a 2-0 series lead, thanks to Luka’s magic, the team faced another first round exit for the second straight year. A big part of their elimination has been Porzingis’ disappointing play.
Porzingis started the postseason by violating COVID protocols, as he attended a club. Thankfully for the Mavs, their star forward was only fined without having to sit-out games. But nevertheless, Porzingis put up a subpar performance. In the series against the Clippers, his points and rebounds dropped mightily. To make matters worse, KP didn’t even finish in double figures in Games three, five, and six. However, what really highlighted Porzingis’ struggles was his inability to defend.
Had Porzingis maintained the All-Star form he showed all season long, there’s no doubt the Mavs would’ve gotten past the Clippers in the first round. But with another disappointment in the books, the Mavs might be looking to move on from their unicorn.
Season: 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks
NBA Playoffs: 18.0 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.0 blocks
Julius Randle had the best season of his career. He collected an All-Star selection and made the All-NBA Team. But more importantly, Randle won the Most Improved Player Award. Given his improved numbers and the way he led the Knicks back to relevancy, Randle achieved a tremendous feat.
Unfortunately, this didn’t translate in the NBA Playoffs. In his playoff debut, Randle struggled mightily as he saw his production dwindle. Randle only shot 29.8% from the field overall and made only 33% of his three-point shots. It is worth noting he shot 45.6% overall and 41.1% from beyond the arc during the regular season.
Randle’s postseason disappointment was surprising, given that he dominated the Hawks during the regular season. He averaged 37.3 points and 12.3 rebounds against them. But with the Hawks’ defense focused on limiting the Knicks’ star, Randle would never find his rhythm. Thus, Randle’s redemption season would end on a bitter note.
Season: 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.6 blocks
NBA Playoffs: 11.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.8 blocks
The Sixers were great during the regular season, and a huge part of that was Ben Simmons. With his all-around play and elite defense, it looked like the Sixers were going to win it all. However, in contrast to expectations, the number one seeded team in the East was booted out as early as the Conference Semifinals as they were upset by the fifth-seeded Hawks. Although Simmons shouldn’t take all the blame, there’s no question that he’s largely responsible for that.
If you look at his production, there aren’t really any major differences. However, if you take a look at his free-throw shooting, Simmons was terrible. According to StatMuse, the Sixers swingman logged in the worst free throw shooting displays in a single playoff run at 34.2%. Given that he doesn’t take jump shots and drives to lane a lot, this hurt the Sixers’ chances of making it past the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
Lowest FT% in a single playoffs in NBA history (min 70 attempts):
34.2 — Ben Simmons in 2021
37.4 — Shaquille O’Neal in 2006
38.0 — Wilt Chamberlain in 1968
Elite company. pic.twitter.com/s14R8cCSKm
— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 21, 2021
Aside from his free throw shooting woes, Simmons was seen passing up open shots. As the team’s secondary star, the Sixers expected more aggressiveness from Simmons. Unfortunately, his scoring was nowhere to be found. The regular season saw Simmons attempt 10.1 shots per game. But in the postseason, the three time All-Star only jacked up 7.9 shots per game and only 6.4 in the series against Atlanta. In addition to this, Simmons also shied away during the fourth quarter. According to StatMuse, he only made and attempted three shots in the fourth quarter during the entire series.
Ben Simmons 4th quarter this series:
Game 1: 2-2 FG
Game 2: 0-0 FG
Game 3: 1-1 FG
Game 4: 0-0 FG
Game 5: 0-0 FG
Game 6: 0-0 FG
Game 7: 0-0 FG
(Submitted by @isaacvibehrs)
— StatMuse (@statmuse) June 21, 2021
With Simmons’ disappointing play in the NBA Playoffs, trade rumors have swarmed the Sixers star. There’s no question that Simmons is a legitimate asset to have for any team with his size and skill. However, he’ll need to work on his free-throw shooting during the offseason. Furthermore, being a little selfish to take some open shots won’t be a bad idea either.