Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and several other superstars face injury entering the NBA playoffs. The Crossover staff decides whose ailment will have the largest postseason impact.
These NBA playoffs have been insanely entertaining for many reasons, as the competition has reached rare levels and teams have played closer than ever. Behind all of this has been a new, wider swath of star power on display. With LeBron James and the Lakers at home, other players have earned our attention and shined in the process. From Kevin Durant to Nikola Jokic, the list of amazing performances is endless. The Crossover decided to narrow in on the players who have dominated most consistently. Below, we debate and name the player we believe to be having the best postseason showing.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
There’s a reason the Bucks have the fewest losses of any team this postseason and his name is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Khris Middleton has definitely pulled more than his fair share of the weight, but at the heart of the most dominant team this postseason is the most dominant player in these playoffs. Giannis is averaging nearly three more fastbreak points per game than the next closest player this postseason, and he’s well ahead of the pack in free throw attempts per game as well. Sure, his jumper is nowhere near as pretty as Harden, Durant or Kawhi Leonard, but when you finish at the rim like he does (74.6%) while forcing defenses to foul you more than any other player in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter too much. In the three games since Milwaukee’s lone playoff loss he’s averaged 33.3 points on 60% shooting with 12.7 boards, 5.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.7 blocks and 16.7 free throw attempts. He’s also gone 4-for-10 from three, making it harder to just pack the paint and stay connected to his shooters. And we haven’t even discussed his defense. — Khadrice Rollins
Kevin Durant, Warriors
Kevin Durant fielded question after question about Patrick Beverley's defense until he finally reached a breaking point. Confused by the efforts to build a rivalry, he looked around and reminded reporters, "I'm Kevin Durant." In the moments since he uttered those words, there has been no question what he is or what he is capable of. In the contest immediately after his famous press conference, Durant dropped 38 points on 14-of-23 shooting and led the Warriors to a Game 3 win. For the final four games of that series, he averaged an absurd 41.5 points on 57% shooting. Those numbers just don't happen over an extended run of games. If that's not dominant, I have no idea what is. The ease with which Durant completed this feat only added to the mystique, as he put his back to the basket for midrange fadeaways and stepped behind the three-point line for deadly shots from deep, barely breaking a sweat the entire time.
Durant has extended that dominance into the Warriors' second-round series with the Rockets, shielding Golden State from a below average Stephen Curry showing and a cold-shooting Klay Thompson. The best player in basketball is competing head to head with James Harden and putting 36.0 points per game and remaining uber-efficient. The Warriors have been the favorites to win everything since the day the season started, and while the team effort hasn't been as seamless as expected, Durant has buoyed his team and kept the dream of a three-peat alive. Along the way he's defied positions and logic, and if the Warriors bypass Houston and win another title it'll be through their two-time Finals MVP. — DeAntae Prince
Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
I maintain that Jokic is the most fascinating player in the league to witness in action right now. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s not, but he might be the premier offensive conduit in the league at this point. Whenever I watch the Nuggets, instead of keeping track of where the ball is, I inevitably find my eye just following him around. He’s not doing it in remotely similar fashion as anyone else, but if we’re talking dominance, it’s not a ball-dominant guard or prolific jump shooter, but Jokic who best dictates the run of play at all times. It’s nothing particularly new. — Jeremy Woo
Kawhi Leonard, Raptors
Round one of the postseason belonged to Kevin Durant, but the full body of work thus far tilts in Kawhi’s favor. Toronto’s gamble has paid off in full as Leonard goes full Terminator on the Eastern Conference, averaging 32.3 points and 7.7 assists per game this postseason. Leonard’s efficiency numbers are even more impressive. He’s shooting 58.7% from the field and an insane 50% from three, including a 5-7 mark from deep in Game 4. Leonard can get to any spot he wants. He’s a master of the midrange, creating separation without Durant’s extreme height advantage. And don’t think the two-time defensive player of the year has lost an edge on the other end of the floor, either. The Raptors could lose to Philadelphia in the East semis and lose Leonard just over a month later, but his brilliance this postseason makes the move worthwhile nonetheless. — Michael Shapiro