Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Which generally under-the-radar player do you see making a big-time impact in the first-round of the playoffs?
David Aldridge: I see Jeff Green poised for a breakout in Boston. If the Cs hold onto second and play Philly or New York in the first round, you’d anticipate a small ball series, which would allow Doc Rivers to play Green a lot at power forward. I like that matchup of Green over either a Thaddeus Young or a Jared Jeffries or ‘Melo.
Steve Aschburner: Gerald Wallace seemed to disappear with his coast-to-coast move from Charlotte to Portland, so he’s managed to be both an All-Star and under the radar for me. Wallace is a versatile player at both ends of the floor, allowing Nate McMillan to exploit mismatches with Wallace against both bigger and smaller foes. He’s active and aggressive, and he should be enthused by the Blazers’ postseason involvement, period, never mind their prospects.
Fran Blinebury: If the Sixers meet the Celtics in the first round, Thaddeus Young could make things interesting and difficult for Boston. Young’s defense and ability to attack the basket is everything coach Doug Collins wants out of his team. If an aging Celtics team continues to have health problems, Young is the kind of spark that could turn into a fire.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Kyle Korver, Bulls. Hardly an unknown, but can pass for under the radar on a team with Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. He has playoff experience, he has playoff success and he is the perfect weapon for the conservative pace of the postseason. Catch. Shoot. Impact.
Shaun Powell: Tony Allen is a tough, brass-knuckles defender with heavy postseason experience from his previous stops, so don’t be surprised if he helps Memphis pull a surprise. He was a bit lost in the shuffle for most of the season, getting sparse minutes behind O.J. Mayo, but has turned it on recently, even offensively, averaging 15 points on 60-percent shooting in his last six games (with 23 points against the Spurs).
John Schuhmann: I’ve got a short memory and I just watched this guy make a big impact against his team’s likely first-round opponent. I’ve also kept a close eye on the numbers that say his team has been better with him on the floor (especially defensively) than they’ve been with their All-Star starter. Eric Maynor is the guy, and though he plays only about 15 minutes a game, he usually moves the scoreboard in the right direction for the Thunder. In the East, Jason Collins’ defense on Dwight Howard will clearly be critical in the Orlando-Atlanta series, as it has been in the regular season. And beyond the first round, I think Ronnie Brewer’s defense will be a key for the Bulls against the best scorers on the other East contenders.
Sekou Smith: Philadelphia‘s Thaddeus Young is one of the captains of the league’s All-Under The Radar team, along with teammate Jrue Holiday and Golden State’s Steph Curry. Young‘s work on both ends of the floor (12.6 points and 5.4 rebounds) in limited minutes off the bench should have made him a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Instead, he’ll have to settle for the opportunity to attack the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics on the big stage. Young’s length and ability to play inside and out causes matchup nightmares. And Doug Collins has found the perfect niche for him as a reserve. A potential free agent in 2012, Young won’t have a better time or opportunity to showcase his array of skills than he will on the playoff stage.