The MVP of the NBA regular season was Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant. Durant won his first regular season MVP and gave a tearful acceptance speech recently. The playoffs are a whole new season that are judged every single game on your and your team’s performance. At times we get caught in the moment and overreact or overlook a performance from certain players. The top performers listed are all on teams that are already playing their second round series, but led their respective squads to that point in the postseason. The playoffs are far from over and the MVP is not spoken for but from what was done is done and these stars made a distinctive footprint in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs.
The top performer in the first round was Miami Heat SF Lebron James (Series Average: 55% 30 Points 8 Rebounds 6 Assists 2.3 Steals .3 Blocks) who was played primarily by the Charlotte Bobcats’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Bobcats were arguably the worst team in the NBA playoffs this season. Kidd-Gilchrist struggled at times defensively this season for the Bobcats, defending 3 of the 4 top scoring performances this season. Small forward is the premier position in the NBA and defending players like James, Durant and Carmelo Anthony is not an easy task for any defender but Kidd-Gilchrist often looks star struck against certain players. James and the defending champion Heat swept the Bobcats and really did not receive a test at all but in the end that is not James fault. James played the talent in front of him and dominated like he should.
The second best performer is Thunder PG Russell Westbrook (Series Average: 38% 25.6 Points 9.7 Rebounds 8 Assists 1.6 Steals .6 Blocks) who was played primarily by Memphis Grizzlies Mike Conley. Westbrook was not even the best player on his team in the regular season with Durant winning the MVP, but he was the best player in the first round for the Thunder. Westbrook nearly averaged a Triple Double against one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Grizzlies Conley who is no slouch at the defensive end, said about having to defend Westbrook “If you let him get behind you, it’s a wrap.” Westbrook is one of the quickest players in the NBA and is looking explosive in the playoffs thus far. Westbrook battled injuries all season long and credit to Durant for leading the team to the second seed in the tough West without Westbrook at his best for most of the season. Westbrook looks to be back to form just in time for the playoffs, leading his team to a tough 7 game series win over a tough team Grizzlies. Critics of Westbrook will say that he shoots too much as a point guard and at times limits Durant’s potential. That may be but he also dominates games and can fill up the box score.
The third best performer and hero of this season thus far is Portland Trailblazers PG Damian Lillard (Series Average: 46% 25.5 Points 6.3 Rebounds 6.7 Assists 1.3 Steals .2 Blocks) who was played primarily by Houston Rockets Jeremy Lin. Lillard knocked down the game and series win with .4 seconds left in game 6 in front of a sold crown in Portland Oregon. Lillard is a star on the rise for the Trailblazers in his second year leading his team to a second round upset of the much hyped Rockets team. The Rockets had high expectations going into the season with pairing Dwight Howard with James Harden but were beaten by a team on the rise in the Trailblazers. Lillard will only continue to grow as a player and to be mentioned as the third best player in the first round of the NBA is an incredible accomplishment for a second year player with no playoff experience.
The forth best performer of the first round was Indiana Pacers SF Paul George who was played primarily by Atlanta Hawks DeMarre Carroll. (Series Average: 45% 23.9 Points 10.7 Rebounds 4.6 Assists 2.4 Steals .6 Blocks) Pacers have struggled at times this post season. George has played well for the team throughout the series and led the team to a 7 game series win. George is the constant performer for the team that is dealing with teammates not showing up to play at all. George is a rising star in the NBA that plays both sides well. If George gets paired with another quality player that can play consistently well for the team, the Pacers will be a threat. For right now the Pacers will rely heavily on George for any chance to go further.
The fifth best 1rst round player was Los Angeles Clippers PF Blake Griffin (Series Average: 52% 23.3 Points 6.3 Rebounds 3.6 Assists 1.6 Steals .9 Blocks) who was played primarily by Golden State Warriors David Lee. Griffin led the Clippers all season despite being projected to be Chris Paul’s #2. Griffin has been the best player for the Clips in the regular season and the post season. Griffin and the Clippers had to overcome the media circus that was the TMZ Donald Sterling story. On top of dealing with the drama in the front office, the team beat a good Warriors team. Griffin should have been in my opinion the most improved player in the NBA. Griffin finished 7th for the award but to me he took a step from being a questionable #2 star to a #1 player for a team with high expectations.
The sixth best player was Washington Wizards SG Bradley Beal (Series Average: 43% 19.8 Points 4.6 Rebounds 4.2 Assists 1 Steal .4 Blocks) played primarily by Chicago Bulls Jimmy Butler. Beal has improved tremendously as well, and is now one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. Beal and point guard John Wall are a very dangerous backcourt for the Wizards. Wall can at times be up and down, but Beal is consistently good for the Wizards. Beal is a lights out shooter but also does a little bit of everything. Beal and the Wizards beat the Bulls in 5 games despite a suspension of teammate Nene Hilario.
The seventh best player was San Antonio Spurs PF Tim Duncan (Series Average: 58% 17.3 Points 8.4 Rebounds 1.3 Assists .1 Steals 1.9 Blocks) that was played primarily by Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki. Duncan is playing in his 17th NBA season after playing all 4 years in college for Wake Forest. Duncan has played competitively at a very high level for 21 years. That is incredible, what is even more remarkable is that he is still the best player on the floor for the Spurs. Duncan is a transcendent legend in the NBA and his accomplishments are far from over.
The final player on the list of the top performers is Brooklyn Nets PG Deron Williams (Series Average: 41% 16.9 Points 2.1 Rebounds 5.6 Assists 1.4 Steals .1 Blocks) was primarily played by Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry. Williams came into the season a bit under the radar after the off season acquisitions of former Boston Celtics Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Williams played quietly well for the Nets under first year coach and former point guard Jason Kidd. Williams played well against the Raptors and rising star Lowry. Williams was good defensively and was a consistent performer for the team.