Players With The Most To Prove In The 2019 Playoffs

nba playoffs

This year’s NBA Playoffs are intriguing for a number of reasons. LeBron James won’t be able to win the Eastern Conference for the first time in close to a decade. The Golden State Warriors will look to continue their dynastic run atop the league. And, most importantly, a crop of players will be looking to write a positive chapter in their legacies. Max Kesler, who writes for the basketball blog HOOPSBEAST, shares his top five players with the most to prove, as their legacies hinge in part on what happens in this year’s postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

One of the best stories in the NBA in recent years, Giannis Antetokounmpo has taken the league by storm with a combination of incredible athleticism and likeability. And even though he has likely done enough to secure the 2018-2019 league MVP award, none of that means anything if he isn’t able to guide his Milwaukee Bucks to a deep run in the playoffs. Just ask Dirk Nowitzki, who won the MVP after leading the 2007 Mavericks to the West’s top seed only to be bounced in the first round by the Warriors.

James Harden

James Harden is as good at scoring a basketball as anyone, and he’s needed to be this season on a Rockets team that spent a lot of time figuring themselves out. But now that he is in the playoffs, he needs to seek redemption after last season’s disappointing end to the season. That end to the season, of course, saw Harden and the Rockets seemingly forget how to shoot the basketball in dropping games six and seven to the eventual champion Warriors with a chance to get to the Finals. Harden will need to be at his best every night to make up for that collapse, especially with Clint Capela’s injury concerns for Houston.

Russell Westbrook

Ever since Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors, Russell Westbrook has been averaging triple doubles and showcasing just how dynamic he is. But Westbrook has also been falling short in the postseason, and making many wonder if he can lead a team to glory without multiple stars around him. This year, Westbrook has another opportunity to settle that debate, and will need to be great if the Thunder are going to make a run in a loaded Western Conference.

Kawhi Leonard

This is Kawhi Leonard’s first postseason without Gregg Popovich to coach him. Without one of the greatest coaches of all-time, in a city that has struggled in the postseason in recent years, will Leonard be able to guide the Raptors to some of the same success that he had in San Antonio? Without LeBron in the East to thwart the Raptors as he has in previous years, Leonard could become a legend North of the border if he were to help the Raptors get to the Finals.

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

There has been a ton of hype surrounding the young core of the Philadelphia 76ers, specifically Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The two dynamic young stars are clearly going to have great careers, but getting over their first hurdles in the playoffs will determine just what kind of stars they are.