The cagey 38-year-old is still getting acclimated to his supporting role since clearing waivers and signing with the Celtics in early March. But the seasoned postseason veteran, hardened through playoff tours with Houston, New Jersey, Milwaukee and the Clippers, gives Boston a valuable insurance policy for first-timer Rajon Rondo -- and yet another player not afraid to take and make big shots.
2 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
With breakout star Andrew Bynum still sidelined with a knee injury, the Lakers will turn to the former Gonzaga standout for production off the bench when Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom or Vladimir Radmanovic need a puff. Can Turiaf shake his April slump and re-emerge as a reliable sparkplug off the bench?
3 of 16David E. Klutho/SI
The 33-year-old native of North Philadelphia has enjoyed perhaps his finest all-around season, averaging 12.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while helping the Pistons to a 59-23 record -- the league's second-best mark. If seedings hold and Detroit meets Boston in the Eastern Conference finals, the Pistons will count on Wallace asserting himself as the alpha dog in the star-studded frontcourt trenches.
4 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
If Paul isn't the league's MVP, he's certainly the league's Most Improved Player. But whether the 22-year-old point guard can survive the historically stacked Western Conference playoff gauntlet in his first postseason trip remains to be seen.
5 of 16John Biever/SI
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy has employed prized free agent signing Lewis as an undersized power forward throughout the season, creating matchup nightmares for opposing teams with his athleticism away from the basket and three-point shooting ability. But how will the mismatched Lewis fare against first-round counterpart Chris Bosh, who averaged 33.0 points against the Magic in a pair of meetings this year?
6 of 16Greg Nelson/SI
San Antonio's savvy front office struck again with this underrated deadline deal, acquiring the rough-and-tumble Thomas for Brent Barry, Francisco Elson and a 2009 first-round draft pick. The impetus for the trade was Phoenix's acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal, which led the Spurs to feel they needed another interior body for a potential playoff showdown against the Big Cactus. The impulse proved prescient: San Antonio faces Phoenix in the first round.
7 of 16John Biever/SI
Considered an overwhelming disappointment since inking a lucrative free-agent contract with the Bulls two offseasons ago, this year's playoffs could provide Wallace a shot at redemption. Fans of the reigning conference champs hope the four-time Defensive Player of the Year can inject some meanness in the defense and rebounding departments, providing a much-needed frontcourt star presence to complement Cleveland's supernova on the wing.
8 of 16Greg Nelson/SI
Since joining the Jazz midway through the season, Korver has helped spread the floor with his lights-out shooting ability from beyond the arc, creating invaluable space for leading contributors Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. Utah's gaudy 38-12 record since the December trade reflects Korver's value within Jerry Sloan's system.
9 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
The North Carolina product averaged personal bests with 10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks this season for a Washington side ravaged by the injury bug. It's obvious the Wiz will require standout efforts from their reunited Big Three -- Arenas, Butler and Jamison -- if they hope to make a deep playoff run. But if Haywood can extend his career season a couple weeks longer, don't be surprised to see the Wiz give the Celtics a spirited challenge in the Eastern Conference semis.
10 of 16Damian Strohmeyer/SI
A trendy pick for Rookie of the Year entering the season, the Argentine power forward endured a sluggish start before finally cracking the starting lineup on Jan. 27 -- just two days before Houston embarked on a 22-game winning streak. With Yao Ming shelved for the season, the Rockets will depend even more heavily on Scola for frontcourt production. His 22-point, 10-rebound performance in Wednesday's final playoff tune-up opposite All-Star forward Elton Brand is encouraging.
11 of 16AP
The Slovenian native is enjoying one of his finest seasons, averaging 7.8 points on a career-high 55.0 percent from the floor while adding 4.8 boards. He's played even better down the stretch, averaging 16.3 points on 59.6 shooting in April. But can Nesterovic contain first-round assignment Dwight Howard by himself -- or will the seven-footer require assistance from Chris Bosh, creating opportunities for perimeter threats like Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis?
12 of 16Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Since coming over to Phoenix in the most divisive deadline trade in recent memory, O'Neal has played 29 games, with the Suns winning 18 times. While this might not be the same Shaq as five years ago, the big man's formidable presence allows Amare Stoudamire to rove the floor as a true four while cutting down the youngster's foul trouble. If Shaq can reduce his turnovers, the Big Experiment could yield the franchise's first title.
13 of 16AP
One night after Philly slipped to 16-28 on the year with a listless performance in New York, the first-year combo forward made his first career start. Maurice Cheeks moved Young in and out of the lineup throughout the rest of the year as the 76ers -- a consensus pick for the East cellar in October -- finished with 24 wins in their last 34 games to climb as high as fifth place in the conference. Look for the lengthy teenager to enjoy a prominent role in Philadelphia's first-round upset bid against the Pistons.
14 of 16Bob Rosato/SI
Kidd has averaged a modest 9.9 points since joining Dallas -- to go with a not-so-modest 9.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds. But a stable of vastly talented teammates has enabled the nine-time All-Star to pick his spots and shoot a career-best 42.6 percent from the floor. Can one of the premier point guards of this generation finally chase down his elusive first NBA title?
15 of 16Bob Rosato/SI
Horford has averaged close to a double-double -- 10.1 points and 9.7 rebounds -- for an Atlanta side that qualified for the postseason despite a 37-45 record. If the Hawks can engineer perhaps the most unlikeliest upset in the history of the NBA playoffs, the first-year Florida product will assuredly play a central role.
16 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
Nobody in sports gets more out of his body. Denver's diminutive point guard might not post the same eye-popping numbers from his Philadelphia days -- but Iverson still finished third in the scoring race and ranks second all-time behind Michael Jordan in playoff scoring average. Iverson turned 33 on June 7 -- but still led the NBA in minutes playing at a high altitude. The Answer gets another shot at the Lakers starting Sunday, seven years after Los Angeles knocked off his Sixers in the NBA Finals.
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