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Thursday, April 27, 2017

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Eyes On NBA: Top 5 Players In The 2017 First Round

By @TrueGodImmortal

The first round of the playoffs is nearing the end. As of this writing, there are three teams that have already advanced to the Semifinals: Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and the Houston Rockets in that order. While those three teams have moved on, there are still five teams playing, looking to close out their series in game 6. The San Antonio Spurs are looking to close out the Memphis Grizzlies, the Toronto Raptors are looking to close out the Milwaukee Bucks, the Utah Jazz are looking to finish the LA Clippers, the Boston Celtics are now looking to move on and defeat the Chicago Bulls, and the Washington Wizards are one game away from finishing the Atlanta Hawks. With that picture shaping up for the next round, what players have been the best so far this round? We take a look at the top 5 players this first round.

*Russell Westbrook 
(37.4 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 10.8 APG, 2.4 SPG, 5 Games)

-The projected regular season MVP was absolutely amazing in the unfortunate 5 games he had when he was literally a one man show. While Harden played well in the series for the most part (he had two subpar games), it was clear, as we've all seen, that he has a good amount of help on his team. Russell on the other hand, was struggling to get his teammates involved and they relied heavily on him. A 50 point triple double that resulted in a loss, and a tendency to go cold in the 4th after carrying the load for the first three quarters is more of a testament to the lack of help he received from his teammates, and it should not be a shock that the man who pushed his team to the 6th seed, 47 wins, and played 81 of the 82 games on the season would be just as epic in the playoffs. I hated seeing Russ have his season end earlier, but seeing him average a triple double over those 5 games, and keep his team in the game when they looked out of it made him the star of that series even in a losing effort.

*Kawhi Leonard
(31.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.8 SPG, 5 Games)

-The Klaw is really becoming one of the best players in the game. Truthfully, 3 of my top 5 players make this list and Kawhi is one of them. Kawhi is the 3rd best player in the NBA behind Bron and KD (and just ahead of Steph and Russ for his defense), and in my opinion, he's the most consistent and best two way player in the game. He isn't explosive offensively like Bron or KD, and his stats don't always show how he effects the game on both ends, but Kawhi gets the job done. He's been superb in this Grizzlies series, with his best showing coming in his 43 point performance against the Grizzlies in game 4, which went to OT and is honestly the best game of the playoff season so far. Kawhi put up 16 straight points of offense for the Spurs and willed his team back into the game. That's a new level we are not used to seeing Kawhi being on and he keeps growing as a player. If he keeps this up, he will be an all time great when it's all said and done, but through the 5 games so far, he's been amazing. I wonder what he does in game 6.

*Stephen Curry 
(29.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 6.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 4 Games)

-The two time MVP is back. There are two big reasons for the Warriors success, and they are the heart and soul of this team: Steph and Draymond Green. It was tough not to put Draymond on this list given his amazing play and stats (13.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 7.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 4.3 BPG), but the main catalyst for their success when they needed it was Steph. He is the true soul of the team, while Draymond is the heart. Without KD for two of the four games, Steph stepped up, and when KD was there, Steph still did his thing. In game 1, Steph was extremely clutch, and while he wasn't hitting as many shots in game 2, he still helped to run the offense and come away with steals. His two best performances came in games 3 and 4, where he helped to lead a march back from 16 points down alongside Klay Thompson, and hit two dagger shots to put the Blazers away when it counted the most. Game 4, he was just superb, shooting 60% from the field, going 7-11 from three and putting up 37 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists. For the Warriors, Steph was one of the most vital components and the leader for that team.

*LeBron James 
(32.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 9.0 APG, 3.0 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 4 Games)

-You know damn well that Bron would be on this list. The best player in the world got it done on both ends of the floor when it counted. After 14 seasons, there's no one quite like playoff Bron, and he showed why in the Pacers sweep. Make no mistake about it, the Cavs struggled and will likely have some struggles going forward, but Bron himself has nothing to worry about. He's getting steals, blocks, pulling down boards, finding his teammates, and scoring efficiently. His biggest moment of the first round came when the Pacers had the Cavs down by 25 at the half, and Bron willed the team back from that deficit by placing them on his back when it counted most. The Cavs leaned on Bron a lot and he played the most minutes of anyone I believe in the first round, and he didn't disappoint. He was a true star of the first round, as he is every round of the playoffs and every season.

*John Wall 
(27.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 10.8 APG, 5 Games)

-The Wizards are one win away from advancing to the 2nd round. John Wall is a big reason for that. There's no denying that Wall has turned all attention to him this season, showing he can lead the Wizards to playoff prominence. The Wizards have struggled a bit against the Hawks, but the one player who hasn't seemed to have a problem is Wall. He's assisting and scoring at will, and his infamous dunks have been followed with trash talk, perhaps none better than his "Fuck Wrong With You Boy" statement to Dennis Schroder. Over the first 6 games of this season, Wall has averaged a double double and has managed to be the true leader and the most vital part of the Wizards to lead them to their 3-2 advantage in the series.



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