Fantasy Starting Five: The Best Players From Week 1 Of The NBA Playoffs
This postseason has seen its fair share of big performances.
On Sunday, Chris Paul put on a mid-range shooting clinic on his way to 34 points against the Spurs.
On Friday, James Harden scored a playoff career-high of 42 points en route to helping the Rockets take a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Mavs.
A select few of players, though, put together strings of great performances since the playoffs began two Saturdays ago. Here, we honor that select few.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is our team of the week. It's a simple fantasy starting five featuring the best performers from each week of the NBA Playoffs.
Straightforward enough, right? Cool, let's break it down.
Here's our selection for Week 1 of the postseason:
PG -- Stephen Curry
Here's the thing opponents of Curry's MVP case often miss. It's not just about the numbers (first in postseason scoring), it's the manner in which he gets them that's special.
All those running threes in transition, the license to shoot from anywhere, the constant dancing around the perimeter with crossovers and spins, the showtime passes... Those are the plays that make his performances a brilliant art.
And like fine art, Steph Curry's actions on the floor can be watched and appreciated by even the untrained eye.
Those performances had intangible benefits during the Warriors' sweep of the Pelicans. Just the idea of what Curry can do attracted attention from Anthony Davis, who often guarded Golden State's point guard around the perimeter.
On those occasions, Davis was not around the rim for rebounds or rim protection, an obvious plus for the Warriors.
As ESPN's Ethan Strauss put it,
The threat of Curry helped win this series just as much as Curry's actual, efficient 33.8 points per game did.
Now that's special.
SG -- Jimmy Butler
Before the season began, there was an idea that if Derrick Rose was even 80 percent of his former MVP self, then possibly, just maybe, the Bulls would win the East.
What people didn't expect was Jimmy Butler to reach this level. Butler was already a great defender, but he's been an elite scorer against the Bucks.
Now, with Derrick Rose successfully returning from his midseason injury, Chicago all of the sudden has an explosive backcourt that's only second to the Warriors' Splash Bros.
37.5% of the passes Jimmy Butler has received this series have come from Rose, and Butler is shooting 57.9% off those passes #BULLSvBUCKS — NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) April 25, 2015
Butler's emergence gives two perimeter players for LeBron to deal with in a potential series with the Bulls, instead of just one (Rose), a threat James handled during the 2011 East Finals with Miami.
That's huge for Chicago's chances of getting past Cleveland, which will almost certainly be without Kevin Love next round. Uh oh.
SF -- Kawhi Leonard
This is what the Spurs need. As their stars get older, they've needed Leonard's growth to compensate, and he's delivered.
After winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award last week, Leonard went out and show why he's a high level, two-way player. He was the standout player during the Spurs' blowout victory against the Clippers in Game 3.
Overall, he is not only averaging nearly 25 points per game, he's doing it with ridiculous efficiency, shooting 60 percent from the field. And that's a good thing for the Spurs because their formula for winning is simple.
Another startling fun fact: Including playoffs, Spurs are 21-3 this season when Kawhi Leonard scores at least 20 points. — Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 26, 2015
PF -- Draymond Green
During Game 3 against the Pelicans, Green featured at the five in a small-ball lineup that helped the Warriors regain ground during a 20-point fourth quarter comeback. In Game 4, his three shots from beyond the arc in the first quarter highlighted how he's become a legitimate threat from deep this season.
For the series, the Michigan State product recorded a double-double every game. Oh, and he had to guard Anthony Davis.
All things considered, Draymond Green is probably the most versatile of Golden State's collection of super-versatile, 6'7" players, and the stats show it.
Draymond's series stats: 15.8 points, 12.8 boards, 6.3 assists, 2.5 steals, 1.3 blocks. And he wore flipflops to the podium — Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) April 26, 2015
C -- Anthony Davis
The Pelicans' series against the Warriors was always about one thing: the pleasure of watching Anthony Davis play postseason minutes. And he didn't disappoint.
For four nights in the eyes of a national audience, Davis showed why he's next up behind LeBron for "best player in the world" status.
Davis does everything. He gets to the line (88.9 FT percent), rejects shots (3 BPG vs. GSW), guards different positions, dunks, shoots... You get the point.
He is real, like really real. So real, the Pelicans are ready to give Davis a max offer of $140 million over five years following his playoff performance. They know they can't miss out on him (and the league's salary cap will rise next summer).
#Pelicans offer Anthony Davis max deal 5yrs $140M. If he takes this he's a fool! NBA TV money kicks in after next season. — George Wrighster (@georgewrighster) April 26, 2015