For Durant and his teammates, anything less than a return trip to the NBA Finals would be a disappointment. The Thunder are set up nicely as the No. 1 seed in the West and with Durant and Russell Westbrook coming off monster regular seasons.
2 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
Martin had a solid regular season replacing James Harden, but now the pressure on the sixth man to produce gets ratcheted up for the playoffs. A strong postseason (which begins against Harden's Rockets, no less) would help solidify the 30-year-old impending free-agent guard's market value.
3 of 16Greg Nelson/SI
Parker was rolling earlier in the season but he comes into the playoffs a bit rusty after missing a good chunk of March and April with injuries. With Manu Ginobili nursing a hamstring injury, the Spurs will lean heavily on Parker to facilitate one of the best offenses in the league.
4 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
The ageless future Hall of Famer produced yet another All-NBA-type season in leading San Antonio to the third-best record in the league. But the Spurs enter the playoffs at less than 100 percent, and they will have plenty of work to do just to earn a potential rematch with Oklahoma City in the conference finals. Duncan will get an immediate test down low from the Lakers' Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the first round.
5 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
Lawson, Denver's leading scorer, played sparingly down the stretch because of a heel injury. The deep Nuggets don't rely too heavily on any one player, but Lawson is very important as the guy who revs up their fast-paced attack and creates easy baskets through his penetration.
6 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
The mercurial McGee is always a wild card, whether it's the regular season or the playoffs. Remember last year's playoffs? McGee had games of 16 points and 15 rebounds and 21 points and 14 rebounds against the Lakers ... and in the other five games the 7-footer shot a combined 6-of-29 from the field.
7 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
Paul has made All-Star teams, finished third in the MVP voting and quarterbacked Team USA to Olympic gold. One thing he hasn't done is guide a team on a deep playoff run. Is this the year Paul pushes his team past the second round?
8 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
Here's what Chris Paul told SI.com's Ian Thomsen about Griffin earlier this season: "[I] understand that we don't have a chance without him being great. Not being good. Without him being great. That's why he is who he is and what he means to our team."
9 of 16Greg Nelson/SI
Marc Gasol has developed into a top center (Pau's brother is one to watch, too, for his work at both ends), Mike Conley is a steady presence at the point and the Grizzlies defend as well as anyone. But for the Grizzlies to score enough to win in the playoffs, Randolph has to be effective in the post and more efficient with his shooting than he was in the second half of the season.
10 of 16Greg Nelson/SI
If defense is your thing, keep an eye on Allen, arguably the best perimeter stopper in the league. Just don't expect much fireworks on the other end from Allen, who hit three three-pointers all season.
11 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
Could the playoffs serve as Curry's national coming-out party? Yes, he exploded for 54 points at Madison Square Garden and has dazzled all season with his shooting. But Curry has never made the All-Star team or been in the playoffs until now, so he could raise his profile by leading the upstart Warriors to a first-round upset of Denver.
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Bogut appeared in only 32 games in another injury-plagued season. The Warriors have been a surprise team even with only sporadic contributions from him, but Bogut could provide a much-needed lift on the defensive end in the playoffs if his health allows.
13 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
With Kobe Bryant out, the Lakers have become a more inside-oriented offensive team around Howard and Pau Gasol. Howard has increased his scoring from 13.9 points in January to 15.1 points in February to 17.9 points in March to 20.9 points in April. The Lakers will need April-type output and perhaps more from Howard to keep up with the potent Spurs in the first round.
14 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
The Lakers are hoping to have Nash back from hip and hamstring injuries for the playoffs. But it remains to be seen how effective the 39-year-old two-time MVP could be after missing the final eight regular-season games. It'd be fun, though, to see Nash renew his playoff rivalry with San Antonio.
15 of 16John W. McDonough/SI
Harden's first postseason as a leading man comes on the heels of a regular season in which he finished fifth in the NBA in scoring and transformed the Rockets into a dangerous run-and-gun upstart. The first-round narrative is easy: Harden will face his old mates from Oklahoma City.
16 of 16Greg Nelson/SI
Lin is set for his playoff debut, having missed the Knicks' playoff series last year with a knee injury. Though overshadowed by James Harden in Houston's backcourt, the undrafted point guard from Harvard has been quietly effective this season on the heels of his star-making turn in New York.
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