Top Six NBA Postseason Assassins
When the calendar turns to May and June, these are six NBA players you don’t want to go against come playoff time.
In compiling this list, I had a few omissions that I already know are going to raise some eyebrows so let me explain:
There are some players in the NBA who are still getting started making their mark in the postseason (Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant among others) who didn’t make the cut. While others, who used to abuse opponents in their prime (Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd and Kevin Garnett to name a few) can still occasionally push their teams but aren’t as dominant as they used to be.
This list is compiled of six players (in no particular order) who are not only some of the best playoff performers of all time but still have the ability to take control of any given game or, in some cases, any series this postseason.
The reigning NBA Finals MVP has made a career of coming up big when the lights shine the brightest in the postseason. This is true especially when you compare his stats to the all-time playoff greats.
In the history of the NBA, Nowitzki’s 25.92 playoff points per game average ranks eighth all time – including third among active players.
Along with his monstrous scoring numbers, Nowitzki is also one of only two players in NBA history to average over 25 points per game and over 10 rebounds per in his postseason career. The other is two-time NBA Finals winner Hakeem Olajuwon.
Last season, en route to the Dallas Mavericks first NBA Title, Nowitzki averaged 27.7 points per game through the playoff run. Nowitzki shot 48.5 percent from the field, including 46 percent from 3-point range in those 21 contests.
Armed with one of the most unstoppable moves in the game – featuring the 7’0 Nowitzki creating space with a one-foot fade away mid-range jumper – everyone in the arena knows where the ball in going in crunch time but no one knows how to stop it.
The Mavericks, who are struggling to hang on to a playoff spot to close the season, are going to need more dynamic performances from Nowitzki to try to secure back-to-back NBA Titles.
As if his five NBA Championship rings weren’t evidence enough, Bryant’s postseason stats prove even further that he’s a prime-time performer in the playoffs. Among the top-15 in NBA history in scoring average per game in the postseason, Bryant’s 25.38 points per game ranks fifth among all active players.
Before last season’s four game sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, Bryant’s previous three postseasons were especially impressive. The Los Angeles Lakers made it to the NBA Finals in each of those seasons between 2007 and 2010, winning two championships in the process.
Bryant averaged nearly 30 points per game in those 67 playoff games over a three year span.
After struggling with injuries that he concealed from the public last postseason, Bryant looks to bounce back as he looks to be healthy going into the playoffs this year. In terms of coming through in the clutch in the postseason, not many in NBA history can match Bryant’s resume.
Say what you will about James’ ability to impose his will at crunch time, but the man’s postseason numbers as a whole are extremely impressive. The Miami HEAT small forward is fifth in NBA history in terms of points per game in the playoffs (28.02), second among all active players behind only Tracey McGrady’s 28.52 per.
But it doesn’t stop there.
James doesn’t just light up opponents with his scoring ability, he also features an all-around game that triple-double machine Oscar Robertson would be fond of. In terms of career postseason triple doubles, James ranks first among active players and sixth all-time with seven.
As usual, the numbers certainly blow you away with James but until he can consistently deliver in the fourth quarter throughout the playoffs there will always be lingering questions.
One thing you can’t question is James’ ability to dissect opponents on both ends of the floor when the postseason rolls around. If and when James decides to impose his will in the fourth quarter, the HEAT would look to be unstoppable with the combo of James and…
The NBA Finals MVP for the Miami HEAT in the 2005-2006 season, Wade has a habit of putting up spectacular numbers for his team in the postseason.
At fourth among active players, Wade has averaged 25.87 points per game over his seven playoff appearances – which ranks 10th all-time in NBA history.
While he doesn’t quite have the stats his teammate James does, Wade is the go-to guy with the game on the line for Miami. Wade’s explosiveness to the basket puts him in position in the clutch to either put up a quality shot close to the basket, or get to the line for free throws.
During the 2005-2006 NBA Finals, Wade averaged 34.7 points per game on 47 percent shooting to lead the HEAT to a title in six games over the Dallas Mavericks. Even though there were some controversial calls to say the least, Wade’s 16.2 free throw attempts per game were a byproduct of his willingness to drive to the basket.
Most recently, in last year’s NBA Finals against the Mavericks, Wade averaged 26.5 points on over 54.5 percent shooting while dishing out 5.2 assists and grabbing seven rebounds per contest.
History suggests Wade will be primed and ready to continue to deliver the pain this postseason.
While the off the court drama has taken center stage this season, many forget just how dominant Howard has been in the playoffs throughout his career with the Orlando Magic.
On the defensive end of the floor, Howard’s numbers are jaw-dropping to say the least.
Among active players, Howard ranks first all-time in both rebounds (14.3) and blocks (2.8) per game. In NBA history, only two players have averaged more blocks per game in the playoffs and Howard is in the top-10 all-time in rebounds per game.
Offensively, Howard is no slouch in the postseason either. Through 57 career playoff games, Howard is averaging nearly 20 points per game and his 60 percent shooting from the field ranks number one in NBA history.
Last season, even though the Magic were ousted in six games by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, Howard posted his best postseason yet. The best center in basketball proved it and imposed his will on the Hawks, averaging 27 points (63 percent shooting), 15.5 rebounds per game and 1.8 blocks per game.
At 26-years old, there’s no reason to think Howard doesn’t continue to post colossal numbers on the NBA’s biggest stage.
Even at 36 years old, Allen continues to be one of the most deadly pure shooters in the NBA. This is true especially when May and June come around.
In postseason history, only Reggie Miller has made more 3-pointers than Allen’ 285 career makes and the Boston Celtics’ shooting guard has a career scoring average of 19.4 points per game.
In the 2007-2008 NBA Finals, Allen averaged over 20 points per contest and shot 50.7 percent from the field (nearly 53 percent from 3-point range) as the Celtics took home the NBA Title in six games against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Most recently, just last season, Allen displayed a shooting prowess in the postseason that few in the history of the game can match.
In nine games for the Celtics, Allen averaged 18.9 points per game while shooting 52.3 percent from the field and making an average of 3.6 of his 6.2 3-point attempts per contest – a mind boggling 57.1 percent from behind the arc. Oh, and Allen made 96 percent of his free throws.
That’s 52 percent total, 57 percent from deep and 96 percent from the charity stripe through two NBA playoff series against some of the best in the business.
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here believing Allen continues to drop bombs from long distance at an alarming rate in less than a month when the 2012 NBA postseason gets underway.
The playoffs are right around the corner, who do you think is primed to light it up this year? Who will lead the next class of all-time great playoff performers?
Leave your comments below!
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