Teams have only played a game or two in the 2008 NBA playoffs, but a number of players have already made waves. Some good and some not so good. Here’s a quick tracker of player trends through games played April 21.
Of the five players going up, the average age is 23. Of the five players going down, the average age is 28. Basketball is a young man’s game. Just don’t tell that to the San Antonio Spurs.
- Pau Gasol, 27, Los Angeles Lakers
After enjoying zero playoff wins in Memphis, Gasol wasted no time erasing his playoff demons in L.A. The 36-point, 16-rebound, eight-assist stat line was impressive, but it was the little things Gasol did, including three blocks and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line that have Laker fans wondering if Shaq and Kobe was only an appetizer.
- Dwight Howard, 22, Orlando Magic
As Orlando tries to win its first playoff series since Shaquille O’Neal was in town, the Magic is relying heavily on its fourth-year center. In each of the first two games, Howard had 20-20 vision – 20 or more points, 20 or more rebounds – against Toronto. Only four other players have recorded 20 and 20 in four straight games.
- LeBron James, 23, Cleveland Cavaliers
The King made the leap to an elite level last season with his 2007 Eastern Conference Finals performance. If his first two playoff games this season are any indication, LeBron is going to give Boston all they can handle in round two. LeBron is asked to do more with less than any other NBA superstar. And in just his fifth NBA season, he is already a don’t-you-dare-bet-against-me-in-crunch-time player.
- Chris Paul, 22, New Orleans Hornets
In his first two playoff game, all Chris Paul did was lead his team back from a 12-point halftime deficit against a playoff-tested, veteran bunch from Dallas in game 1 and then scorch them for a 24-point win in game 2. Paul scored 67 points, dished out 27 assists and added seven steals in the two impressive victories.
- Deron Williams, 23, Utah Jazz
Chris Paul’s MVP campaign buzz has overshadowed Deron Williams’ own candidacy as the best young point guard in the league. He beat Paul to the postseason by a year – leading the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals last season – and has Utah up 2-0 in its first round series with Houston this year after netting 42 points and 15 assists in the Jazz’s two wins on the road.
- Gilbert Arenas, 26, Washington Wizards
He was considered a top-20 star early last season. After missing the end of last year and much of this year with injuries, however, Arenas has likely cost himself a lot of money. He’s now no better than the third best Wizard player and some critics have made the case that his insertion into the lineup actually hurts the team.
- Andrea Bargnani, 22, Toronto Raptors
Last year’s number one overall selection, Bargnani scored just five points in 28 minutes of action in game 1 against Orlando. Perhaps even less impressively, the 6’10” power forward managed to grab just three rebounds. Among the players who have already had better performances in this year’s playoffs are ’06 draft classmates Rajon Rondo (21st selection), Jordan Farmar (26th) and Daniel Gibson (42nd).
- Mike Bibby, 29, Atlanta Hawks
Remember 2002? It was Bibby’s first trip to the playoffs, and playing for the Sacramento Kings, Bibby averaged more than 20 points and five assists per game, while shooting 42 percent from long distance and nearly 83 percent from the line. Six years later, Bibby’s teams have never made it as far as that Kings team, which lost in game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Now in Atlanta, Bibby was outplayed by a next generation playoff newbie, Boston’s Rajon Rondo, who tripled Bibby in points (15-5), doubled him in rebounds (6-3) and torched him (8-1) in assists.
- Jason Kidd, 35, Dallas Mavericks
Once a top defensive point guard, Kidd has no answer for Chris Paul. And Kidd’s offensive production from two games – 18 points, 17 assists – is not equal to what Paul did in game 2 alone (32 points, 17 assists). He was brought in to lead the Mavericks in the playoffs. It’s not working.
- Tracy McGrady, 28, Houston Rockets
It’s not his fault that Yao Ming went down mid-season, but the Rockets’ 22-game winning streak gave the Houston fans hope that this team could finally win a playoff series with McGrady as the catalyst. After two straight home losses to open the series against Utah, McGrady is in serious danger of going 0-7 for his career in playoff series.
For more information, visit MattHubert.com.