With the NBA season resuming on July 30th, teams will look to play their hardest for the remainder of the season. Role players can elevate their team's success in the 8-game schedule and the postseason. These are 13 players, one from each Western Conference playoff team, who could help their team in a bigger way than you think.
Ever since Green came in the league, he's been known as one of the best shooters in the entire NBA, with a career 3-pt % of 40%. Green is a 2-time champion with the Spurs and the Raptors, and has been on a winning for his entire career. Green is a great defender and is a valuable role player to any championship contender, which the Lakers are right now. He's their starting shooting guard and has arguably been their 3rd best player behind Lebron James and Anthony Davis. What makes him so great is that he can be a threat on the offensive and defensive end for any team. Green's elite 3-pt shooting, veteran leadership, and good defense can be valuable for the Lakers if they want to win their 17th championship.
If there are traits that describe Pat Beverley on the court: gritty and feisty. Beverley is playing his 3rd year as a Clipper, and is contributing tremendously to the team's success this season. Beverley is averaging 8 PPG, 5 RPG, and 4 APG on decent efficiency. However, like Green, stats don't show the impact Beverley makes on the court. Beverley takes pride in his defense which is why he is getting paid $14 million dollars per year. Beverley made the All-Defensive 1st team last season and is one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. Beverley has had many clutch stops including sealing a win against the Lakers where Beverley blocked Lebron James to end the game. Beverley plays a huge part in why the Clippers are one of best defensive teams in the league, which they could use to their advantage if they want to win their first championship in their franchise.
The Nuggets picked up Grant last off-season because he is young, athletic, and a great 2-way role player. This season, Jerami has proven that the Nuggets wouldn't regret it. Grant had his best season last year as OKC's starting power forward and was signed to Denver to be their backup forward behind Paul Millsap without many expectations. However, Grant's been a younger version of Millsap this season and in less opportunities, Grant has had as good of a season as last year. Grant was one of the most underrated signings last season and could be part of Denver's future. At just 26 years old, Grant is an elite defender with a 40-inch vertical. If the Nuggets want to make a deep postseason run, they'll need to rely on Grant to be a quality power forward.
It feels disrespectful to call Conley a role player since he had his best scoring season last year. Conley started off the season horrendous and has struggled ever since, but he is still a great point guard with good defense. Now with Bojan Bogdanovic out for the restart due to a wrist injury, the Jazz need Conley to score like his best years. Bojan was a 2o point scorer this season and if nobody fills Bojan's role, Utah is very likely to lose in the 1st round. With Conley being their most experienced playoff performer, Utah needs to rely on him if they want to make a deeper playoff run than people might anticipate. If Conley can stay efficient, can play good defense, and can score better than he did in the regular season, the Jazz might still have hopes making a deep playoff run.
If there is any player that needs to be relied on the most, it's PJ Tucker. Tucker has been an essential role player for Houston ever since he got to the team, because he complements James Harden perfectly. He didn't play from 2007-2011 because he was playing overseas, but ever since he came back to the NBA, he has been a great role player for the Suns and the Rockets. Tucker led the league in corner 3-pointers this season because his job is to get the ball from either Harden or Westbrook and catch & shoot. He plays his role perfectly and over 50% of his shot attempts are 3-pointers. The Rockets haven't been the best postseason team and now with experimenting Tucker as their center, Houston might struggle rebounding against other teams. If Tucker stays aggressive on the glass, and keeps up his elite 3-pt shooting, the Rockets could surprise people.
The Thunder have been a pleasant surprise this season led by their 10-time All-Star Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous Alexander who is a developing star, and Danilo Gallinari who is been one of the most slept on players in the NBA. Another guy who has had a decent season is Nerlens Noel. Noel was a 6th overall pick and hasn't even been close to living up to it. Noel has been a great shot blocker and has been a backup center for Philadelphia, Dallas, and OKC. If Chris Paul wants to have a deep playoff run in his first season with the Thunder, then role players like Noel could heavily be relied upon.
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Other than Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, one player that could have a future in Dallas is Dwight Powell. Powell has been a consistent center for Dallas for the past 3 years. Last year, if he played 36 minutes per game, he would've averaged 18 PPG, which proves if you give him the opportunity, he can be a great center. Powell is a solid defender and is definitely a developing offensive talent. Luka is the main thing Dallas is looking forward to in the future, but Powell could be part of their supporting cast. He could be a quality starting center for Dallas. Dallas might need a couple of years to compete, but if they want to do more than expected in the postseason, Powell could be a key part for this postseason and many more to come.
Even though Justise has never played a game with Memphis this season, we know what he can provide based on his days in Miami. Justise was traded from Miami t0 Memphis and is now a part of their future as their best small forward. The Grizzlies are way ahead of their rebuild as they are currently the 8-seed in the Western Conference, led by future star PG Ja Morant. Justise is a small forward but had his best season in Miami last year being their starting point guard. Now since in Memphis he won't need to play PG, he will be a dependable SF, so the Grizz can keep their playoff spot. Memphis has many more years ahead of them to confront postseason success, but Justise would be a valuable asset to the bright future in Memphis.
Last year, one of Portland's top players and their starting center Jusuf Nurkic, broke his leg right before the 2019 postseason. Now with Nurkic back for the season's restart, Portland is ready to make the playoffs after a Conference Finals run last season. With Hassan Whiteside as their current starting center, Nurkic will upgrade that team tremendously. With the 8-9 seed play-in tournament introduced in the restart, Portland has as good of a chance at making the 8-seed in the West. Jusuf is a great pick & roll player with Damian Lillard, who has solidified himself as the 2nd best PG in the league. Nurkic is the teams best interior defender and can go off on offense occasionally for example, when he got a 5 x 5 game last year. If Portland makes the playoffs, Nurkic could be the piece that helps them compete with the Lakers.
After JJ had a phenomenal regular season with the 76ers last year, he has been a great veteran leader for this young Pelicans team. Even though JJ doesn't get more attention than young guys like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and of course Zion Williamson, JJ has been their 3rd best scorer and is consistently one of the best shooters in the league. This season, JJ made 46% of his 3-pt attempts despite taking some of the toughest 3-pointers in the league. The Pelicans presumably have the easiest schedule out of all 22 teams participating, which means they have a chance at participating in the play-in tournament and potentially sneaking into the playoffs, but if JJ wants to keep his 12-year playoff streak alive, he might need to do more than shoot.
Bogdanovic has been a great addition for the young Kings team and can help them finally make the playoffs, since they haven't, since 2006. Bogdan was drafted in 2014, but only played his first minute in 2017, because he was playing internationally for 3 years. With the Kings being in competition for the 8-seed, they need to depend on their young players such as De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. However, Bogdan has been very underrated for Sacramento and on offense, is arguably their 3rd biggest weapon. He's a great shooter, and averages almost 15 PPG on respectable efficiency. The Kings aren't favored to make the playoffs by any means, but Sacramento has proven to beat tough teams because of their young guys stepping up. The Kings have a long way to go, but they need to go 100% if they want to be the one of the 16 teams in the postseason.
Not many people realize that in his prime, Rudy Gay was a 20 point scorer on the grit & grind Grizzlies. However, he has been a role player for the struggling Spurs this season, and now since Aldridge is out for the season's restart, it's safe to say that their streak is coming to an end. However, Popovich has proven that he can lead the Spurs to the playoffs even if they struggle during the season, but the other pieces have the step up other than DeMar Derozan. Gay has been a solid defender, a great scorer, and gets $14 million a year for his veteran presence. Gay hasn't had his best season and neither have the Spurs and even if they have the worst chance in the West to make the playoffs, anything is possible.
The restart starts on July 30th and this is one player from each Western Conference playoff team that could be key to their team's success.