LeBron James is currently leading his team to a first round sweep over the Toronto Raptors, and the man who was able to beat his team in the first round of the playoffs, Kawhi Leonard, is facing his team in a one-sided conference finals match up. These two players have had stellar careers, but have faced ups and downs throughout their careers. Leonard has had a career filled with injuries, while James has had to deal with failed teams and expectations through his entire career.
If you’re an NBA fan, a first-round playoff series is like Christmas come early. However, even if you’re not a fan, you’ve probably heard of the names of five players who have had disappointing first-round playoff exits. They include two legends of the game, one of which is widely regarded as the greatest player the game has ever seen, and two current stars who have been on the NBA’s top teams in recent years.
It’s common knowledge that good players dominate in the regular season, but become legends in the playoffs. Year after year, some players take it upon themselves to lead their team to greatness, while others fall far short of expectations. The playoffs are a time when a few players can make the difference between life and death. They know that their legacy is at stake and that their success or failure may determine what those around them think of them. That’s why so many players succumb to the pressure. Whether it’s due to opponent adjustments, bad luck, fatigue, injuries, or a bad series, they can’t play at the same level they did in the regular season. Needless to say, the first round of the 2020-21 playoffs was no exception. And today we’re talking about the 5 NBA stars who are currently having major problems with their game.
5. Chris Paul
9.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 41% FG
Orange County Register Chris Paul’s inclusion in this list may be unfair, as he has been injured since Game 1. On the other hand, no one can deny that he hasn’t played at the same level as during the regular season, even if it’s because of a shoulder injury. Paul slows down throws he normally makes, uses one hand, and makes mistakes we would never see in his performance if he were healthy. Let’s hope he’s ready for the final two games of the series.
4. Kristaps Porzingis
15.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 46% FG
(via TalkBasket) Last year, it looked like the Dallas Mavericks would beat the Los Angeles Clippers with a healthy Kristaps Porzingis. This season, Tyronn Lue’s team has fully exposed him. There’s no way that a 6-foot-4 player playing over 32 minutes a night is only getting an average of 4.0 rebounds per game. He picks difficult, contested jump shots and refuses to go to the post even when he is 5 or 6 inches taller than his defender.
3. Julius Randle
16.8 PG, 11.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 27% FG
The hoop habit. Julius Randle was the clear favorite to win the Most Progressive Player award this season. He was the New York Knicks’ best player and the main reason they made the playoffs. Unfortunately, he did not meet his usual standards in the first round. The Atlanta Hawks block Randle and put 2 or 3 bodies in front of him every time he tries to run with the ball, and it clearly puts him off balance. He only throws 27% from the floor, and they force him to pass the ball more often than he should.
2. Kemba Walker
12.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 31% FG
Credit: Getty Images Overall, it has been a difficult year for Kemba Walker. He failed to rebound from his disappointing first season with the Boston Celtics, partly because of a lingering knee injury and partly because of his physicality. He missed one game in the first round with the same injury, but it didn’t look like he could give them much on the court: he scored just 31% of his points from the field and was completely eaten up by Kyrie Irving on the defensive end.
1. Jimmy Butler
14.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 29% FG
Jimmy Butler was by far the most disappointing player in the playoffs. If Paul George had played even half as badly as Butler did against the Milwaukee Bucks, he would have gone all over the internet and been the subject of countless memes and clips. Butler was not aggressive like he usually is. He shot very poorly, and his confidence declined as the series progressed. He couldn’t break through Jrue Holiday’s defense and shot just 29% from the field.
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