West, 1-4-5-8 Region (SA, OKC, Denv, Mem)
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Main stats: 29 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 apg, 10 steals, 12 blocks, 118 free throws, 46% FG, 38% 3FG, 82% FT (12 games)
Despite not shooting particularly well, Durant’s shooting percentages (including eFG%) were actually pretty good considering how much of a grind-it-out killer the series with Memphis was. Durant came alive and did his best work when he absolutely had to: to close out Denver (41 points on 27 shots), in the Game Four thriller with Memphis (35 points on 20 shots), and in Game Seven with Memphis (39 points on 25 shots).
Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder
Main stats: 6 ppg, 5 rpg, 8 blocks, 9 steals, 58% FG (12 games)
Collison’s stats obviously don’t stack up well with many other players in this bracket, and he didn’t start any playoff games (only two all year, for that matter), but his impact and imprint on the Thunder’s post-season success has been undeniable. His all around hustle, intelligent play, and feisty defense against some really good post players is a major reason for OKC’s advance into the Western Finals. If you’ve been watching their games, it should come as no surprise that Collison’s great-without-stats play has resulted in the team’s highest plus/minus for the playoffs and the Game Seven victory (+70 in the series, +26 in Game Seven), plus the top Advanced Plus/Minus (+9.11).
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Main stats: 15 ppg, 11 rpg (3.2 offensive), 28 blocks, 14 steals, 73 free throws, 51% FG, 70% FT (13 games)
Randolph was the better scorer throughout the playoffs, but Gasol was the better shooter, passer, and defender (by quite a bit). He never takes plays off and can provide the muscle of Randolph but against bigger players and without getting riled up. With a noticeably more consistent and well-rounded game than Z-Bo, Gasol rightfully ended up with a much higher plus/minus throughout the post-season (+29 compared to +8).
Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
Main stats: 22 ppg, 11 rpg (3.3 offensive), 14 steals, 10 blocks, 106 free throws, 45% FG, 82% FT (13 games)
Randolph came up with some really great scoring nights, appearing unstoppable for large stretches of games, particularly against the hobbled Duncan in Round One. He overwhelmed a variety of good defenders in both series and was able to get to the free throw line at least 8 times in eight different games, including a magnificent 16-for-17 performance in the Game Four triple-OT nail biter with the Thunder. His shot didn’t fall nearly as well against the younger, more athletic frontline of Oklahoma City, but he forced both opponents to work their tails off to slow him down.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Main stats: 13 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 apg, 15 blocks, 48% FG, 63% FT (6 games)
On a bad ankle, Duncan had a hard time contending with Memphis’ Gasol-Randolph combo, but he still registered the most blocks in the series and was darn close in rebounds (Gasol barely topped him). Much like he has been most of his career, Duncan was steady (although rarely spectacular) and his coordination of SanAn’s defense was again some of the best you’ll see in the NBA. A case can be made this should be Ginobili’s honor if a Spur is to be included, but a volume scorer who barely has more assists than turnovers out of the backcourt doesn’t compare to 11 boards and 2.5 blocks per.
West, 2-3-6-7 Region (LA, Dal, Port, NO)
Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
Main stats: 22 ppg, 12 apg, 7 rpg, 11 steals, 55% FG, 47% 3FG, 80% FT (6 games)
Paul carved up a far more talented Lakers squad, taking a series that never should have gone past a 4-game sweep into Game 6. With every defender and defense imaginable thrown at him, Paul lead the overmatched Hornets (remember that David West was hurt and didn’t play) in points, rebounds (yes, rebounds), assists, steals, 3-pointers, free throws, and FG and 3FG shooting percentages. In his career, he’s done more with less than pretty much any other star in the league (except for Jason Kidd).
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Main stats: 27 ppg, 8 rpg, 3 apg, 79 free throws, 50% FG, 60% 3FG, 90% FT (10 games)
Nowitzki did alright against Portland in Round One, but he absolutely torched the Lakers’ vaulted frontline in a Second Round sweep. Although he averaged only 25 ppg against the defending champs, Dirk shot 57% against them, including 73% from deep (8-for-11), plus he paced the Mavericks in rebounding for the series at 9 rpg.
Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks
Main stats: 18 ppg, 2 rpg, 4 apg, 11 steals, 22 3-pointers, 52% FG, 50% 3FG, 85% FT (10 games)
Just like in the regular season, Terry isn’t a playoff starter but is third in minutes played for Dallas. He bombed 3’s out of his mind against the Lakers (13-for-19, chiefly on his historic 9-for-10 performance in Game Four), plus he simply found a variety of ways to make the opponents pay with his passing, defense, and multi-faceted scoring game.
Tyson Chandler, Dallas Mavericks
Main stats: 7 ppg, 9 rpg (3.6 offensive), 7 blocks, 60% FG, 70% FT (10 games)
His stats aren’t that good, but his impact was profound. By forcing Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom to account for him on offense while being a terribly disruptive force on defense (all three had uncharacteristically bad series against Dallas, and it’s not like Dirk was locking them down from the PF spot), Chandler was the key to cracking the Lakers’ frontline that had stomped everyone in the past three post-seasons.
Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
Main stats: 14 ppg, 10 rpg (3.6 offensive), 14 blocks, 54% FG, 83% FT (10 games)
With Pau Gasol, the Lakers’ top interior player the last three playoffs, doing poorly due to some personal drama, Bynum had a much heavier load to carry for a team that relies on its big men so much. Bynum lead the team in shooting by a huge margin and was without question their strongest inside presence on both ends. His massive amount of offensive rebounds (36) kept the poor shooting Lakers in more games than they should have been. It’s a shame he went out like a total punk.