Thursday, April 23, 2009

Who's the Next Play-off Surprise Star?

Every year, some bench players suddenly explode in a series for several games in a row. Sometimes, this is a young player who has a good match-up in the series; other times, we get to watch the true unveiling of a star. Some of my favorites over the years are how rookies Tayshaun Prince and Raja Bell turned out to be the keys to vital play-off wins for their teams.

This year, we have Glen Davis averaging 22 ppg (?!) in two games and Courtney Lee averaging 21 ppg to keep the Magic in the series against the surging Sixers. It's probable that those numbers will go down as both teams go on the road, but I think that those two players do indeed have match-up advantages in this series.

So who else do you think might make the jump? I have my eye on three players:
1. Roger Mason. He's hit some key shots this year already, and is averaging slightly higher than his regular season average in the play-offs. Look for him to become a weapon as Tony Parker's drives to the basket free him up for shots.
2. Rudy Fernandez. He closed the regular season on a hot streak, shooting over 50% from the field in 5 of his last 6 games and benefiting from extended minutes as Coach Nate rested his starters. After an awful Game 1 (3 points in 20 minutes), he had 11 points and 2 steals in Game 2. If he has a good series, I think the Blazers win.
3. Daequan Cook. After a hideous Game 1 (along with the rest of the Heat), he earned 34 minutes off the bench, and responded with 20 points, going 6-9 from 3-point land. The Hawks do not have good guards coming off the bench: Cook can take full advantage of this match-up if he stays patient and works to open spots on the floor.

Anyone I missed?

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