The ballots are just about in, and while there are still first-round games to be played, it’s not too early to see who’s bringing it in the playoffs and who left it at home.
A handful of players have risen and taken their games above the regular-season level, while others are crashing and inviting unwanted questions about whether they’re rolling down the other side of the hill. This is the time of year when reputations are born, others are made, and still others start to crumble.
We take a sampling.
Jamal Crawford. Nobody takes more crazy shots than Crawford, and just the same, nobody makes more, either. He’s playing the best ball of his career and the main reason Atlanta is pulling off a surprise.
Ray Allen. Jesus Shuttlesworth destroyed the Knicks from deep, hitting an astonishing 65 percent. Jee-zus.
Chris Bosh. Not the best, only the most consistent of the Big Three in the postseason so far. Bosh has had his way against the Sixers’ big men, but we’ll resist going full slobber until he does this against KG.
Dwight Howard. The league’s leading scorer and rebounder in the playoffs is being wasted by an inferior surrounding cast. Is he starting to look forward to 2012 free agency?
Marc Gasol. I guess he snatched all the “tough guy” pills from the cabinet and kept them away from his brother Pau when they were kids.
Rajon Rondo. After a late-season swoon, he’s finally playing like the point guard who drove the Celtics in last year’s playoffs.
Chris Paul. He’s been the best player on the floor in the Hornets-Lakers series, and no, we didn’t forget about Kobe.
That guy who coaches the Pacers. As interim coach, Frank Vogel spent much of his three months on the job hearing how Mike Brown was the favorite to take over the Pacers next season. Well, right now, the job is Vogel’s to lose. Pacers have represented against the Bulls.
Hedo Turkoglu. Not a missprint: 23-percent shooting through four games with Atlanta. It’s a long way from three years ago, when he was a major factor in Orlando’s reaching the Finals.
Tim Duncan. He. Looks. Old. And it’s painful to watch Duncan being outplayed and outhustled by players who couldn’t carry his bank shot in his prime.
Pau Gasol. How can he look this soft against a Hornets team without a franchise big man? Pau is a better player than this, and for the Lakers’ sake, that player better show up in a hurry.
Derrick Caracter. Push (allegedly) a pregnant woman? What a character.
J.R. Smith. On a team of few if any stars, he was supposed to stand out and take the load from the departed Carmelo Anthony. Instead, the Nuggets are getting 35-percent shooting and plenty of pouts from J.R.
Carlos Boozer. He’s shooting 37 percent and at times outplayed by Tyler Hansbrough. If the Pacers had pulled even with the Bulls, he’d be catching a lot of heat by now.
The Knicks. Still without a playoff win since 2001.
Your turn to add to either list.