With the NBA season coming back on July 30th, teams are looking to make the most out of their remaining 8 games. There are obvious best players from each team, but role players could have a tremendous impact on a team's postseason performance. These are 9 players, one from each Eastern Conference playoff team, who could help their team in a bigger way than you think.
After losing Malcolm Brogdon in last year's off-season, the Bucks were projected to not be as good this season since they didn't sign a guard to fill Brogdon's role. However, they have been even better this year because Giannis is having another MVP season, but Giannis's teammates have been great as well. One player who has stepped up is Donte DiVicenzo. The 23-year-old sophomore has been a great bench asset to the team because of how he complements Giannis. Donte's a great shooter and is great defensively. He plays better than his stats because of his ability to be a spark plug when you need it. The Bucks are still the favorites to win the East, but if Donte performs well, that'll help their chances much more.
Since winning his 1st championship last season, Marc has been a key part in helping the Raptors, without their star, be the 2nd best team in the East. Marc is having his worst statistical season of his career, but has still been one of the better defenders in the entire NBA. He plays hard, can shoot the ball well, is a great passer for his size, and most importantly, an exceptional leader. Marc is a former Defensive Player of the Year, which is what makes him essential. The Raptors have had great breakout players this year, including Pascal Siakam, Fred Van Vleet, Norman Powell, and OG Anunoby. Unlike them, Marc has been consistently notable for his entire career, and his defense may be a big reason why Toronto may win the East for the 2nd straight year.
Boston's new addition in Kemba Walker has helped boost this team's young talent, including helping launch Jayson Tatum as a superstar. However, one guy that has been on this team for his entire career is Marcus Smart, who is known for his great defense. Marcus is the best defender on a great defensive Celtics team and brings that every night. He's also a great shooter, breaking the Celtics' record for most 3's in a game. Smart's offensive production gets overlooked because he is known as an All-NBA defender. He's a reliable scorer and one of the best shooters on his team. If Smart continues to bring his effort on the defensive end, all while being an offensive weapon, then he can help Boston have success in the postseason.
If you need to depend on a veteran wing that is clutch, can defend, and knows how to perform in the postseason, Andre Iguodala would be ideal for that role. Iggy was traded to Miami at the Trade Deadline and played 14 games there before the season shut down. Iguodala was acquired for his veteran leadership and clutch play, which could help Miami surprise people in the postseason. Iggy is not known for his scoring, and he has never averaged double digits PPG since 2012, but he is a 3-time champion, and a Finals MVP. Iggy has hit a lot of clutch baskets in his career and was an essential part to the Warriors 3 championships. If he can continue to play his role in the season's restart, Miami could be a dangerous playoff team.
The 23 year old PG out of UCLA, Holiday didn't get much opportunity in his rookie season since the guard minutes were going to Darren Collison and Cory Joseph. However, when Victor Oladipo announced he wouldn't be playing for most of the 2019-20 season, the young guys managed to step their play up to lead the team back to the playoffs, and Holiday was one of them. Holiday is Indiana's backup PG and has been extremely under-utilized in Indiana's offense for the past 2 seasons. Holiday has developed into a efficient shooter, an offensive threat, and a great play maker at the PG position. Like Donte, Holiday can be a spark plug for your offense and he can possibly play well with Oladipo coming back. Holiday might not be anything special, but he can be Indiana's hidden weapon.
In his 13th season, Horford is arguably having his worst season in his career. He was given a very huge contract in the 2019 off-season because he was supposed to be the piece that would put Philadelphia over the top this season, so they could win the Eastern Conference. However, Horford and the team have underachieved and that the team needs to perform well in the playoffs if they want to make a deep run in the postseason. Even though Horford has struggled, he is a great team defender on a great defensive team with guys like Ben Simmons who leads the NBA in steals. He has made the playoffs multiple times and has been a vital part for the Celtics and the Hawks in helping them make deep playoff runs. If he can do the same in Philly and provide good veteran leadership, he can help Philly prove people wrong.
The Nets are in a tough position because their top 4 players are opting out of the season's restart due to either injuries, or a positive Covid-19 test. Brooklyn is currently in the playoffs but with a tough 8 game schedule, Brooklyn's role players need to play their best basketball if they want to remain in the playoffs. Caris, Jarrett, and Joe need to be their top scorers, which they have proven to be able to do. However, their defense is questionable with Jarrett Allen being the only notable defender on that team. They need to surprise people if they want to keep their playoff position.
With Orlando being the 8th seed right now, they are probably going to make the playoffs with all their players being healthy. However, the real question is if they can do anything in the playoffs since last year they got completely blown out by Toronto. With many quality players such as Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, Mohamed Bamba, and Jonathan Isaac, the team has talent on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. If there is a guy on that team that can be an offensive spark plug and can play well whenever he needs too, it's Markelle Fultz. Markelle has been struggling with shoulder problems ever since he got to the NBA, but when he has played on the court, he sometimes looks like the best player on the team. He uses his athleticism to his advantage and if he plays well, he can be a key part to a surprise playoff run.
The Wizards are just outside the playoffs and have a very slim chance of making it because 2 of their key players won't be participating in the season's restart. Even though Bradley Beal is a proven star in the NBA, his teammates need to step up if he wants another playoff run. Shabazz was acquired by the Wizards in late January and has been a very overlooked backup point guard for his entire career. He scores the ball well, is a good play maker, and can shoot the ball well. Washington doesn't have another scoring threat but if Shabazz can pair up with Beal in the backcourt, he could look promising for the future
The restart starts on July 30th and these are key players from each Eastern Conference team that might be a key part to their team's success.