Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Roundtable: NBA Playoff's Most Surprising Player

Nate Robinson has stepped up into the spotlight and has taken full advantage of added minutes, but is he the most surprising player of the NBA postseason? (

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: Who has been the most surprising player of the NBA Playoffs thus far?

Klay Thompson.

His 34 points and 14 rebounds in game two of the Golden State Warriors' series against San Antonio was unexpected, to say the least. Thompson was a known shooter going into it, but hitting eight of nine 3-point attempts as the secondary guard to the NBA's current top long bomber makes waves. Thompson's singularly spectacular performance will garner him more defensive attention from a Spurs team already struggling to find solutions for the matchup problems presented by the younger Warriors. The problems are only going to increase exponentially when the teams meet in Oracle Arena and the Oakland crowd adds to a game of traded baskets with a downpour of rising decibels.

The Spurs have played from behind for the vast majority of two games in San Antonio, one in which Thompson exploded. They now have to deal with a passionate fan base, which Greg Popovich will ensure his veteran-laden team will do. But will they find an answer for Thompson, let alone Stephen Curry? Maybe one, but probably not the other, and Thompson is just as able to fill the bucket if need be.

Nate Robinson has been grabbing a lot of the headlines during the Chicago Bulls' injury-riddled playoff run, and for a good reason. He is the Bulls MVP of the postseason thus far. Robinson is accruing major minutes somewhat by default, with Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich both out, but he has taken full advantage.

Yet while he is playing better offensively than usual, this is somewhat expected of Robinson, whose athleticism and scoring ability has been proven before, which is why he has been able to stay in the league, as undersized as he is, for seven years.

He has a teammate whose contribution has been much needed and more surprising: Jimmy Butler. Butler, only in his second year in the league, has been a role player all season, averaging 8.6 points per game and four rebounds. But Butler has turned it up in the postseason, especially after a few bad games in game two and three of the Brooklyn series. Butler has averaged 12.4 ppg this postseason (a better postseason average than both Marco Belinelli and Joakim Noah), scoring in double figures in five of the nine games. Butler had the best game of the postseason in game one against the Heat, scoring 21 points and grabbing 14 rebounds (he's only 6-foot-7). The Bulls have shown their trust in Butler, extending his minutes from 26 per game in the regular season to 38.7 this postseason, and Butler has not disappointed.

The most surprising performance for me in this postseason for my money has come in a very, very small package.

Nate Robinson, in the absence of Derrick Rose, has helped lead the Bulls to a totally unpredictable matchup with the hands-down favorite Miami Heat. His performance against the Brooklyn Nets (34 points, 23 in the fourth quarter) was as clutch as it could get for the Bulls, who, while they have several very strong role players, are in need of having a guy they can go to down the stretch when the need a big shot. In the first game against the Heat, Robinson had another stellar performance, racking up 27 points and nine assists.

The Bulls are going to need him again, especially after getting run over in their last match up with Miami. It should be fun to see if Robinson can step up and keep on surprising.

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