We are currently about three weeks from the end of the regular season and teams are getting into playoff mode. Many teams are battling for seeding in both conferences making a lot of games have a playoff-type atmosphere. At this time of the year, some players who have been around the league a while tend to step their game up a notch. These veteran players could potentially win postseason games for their teams or even be the “X-factor” in a series.
Dwyane Wade is obviously not the player he once was, but he is the perfect leader for this Miami Heat team. Wade has always shown up in the playoffs, in his third season he had one of the greatest NBA Finals ever( After losing game one and two Wade scored 35+ in four straight games to win in six games). With age comes knowledge and Wade may not be as skilled as back then but, he knows when to pick his spots. Dwyane Wade has always been known to turn it up in clutch situations and with him returning to Miami I don’t think he will be content just making the playoffs. With the Heat having such a solid all-around roster they will compete with whoever their first-round matchup may be. As long as it remains within reach Dwyane Wade will be able to close even in his 15th season. Look for the Miami Heat to take a top team to at least six games this postseason.
Rajon Rondo is not a name that comes up in many top Point Guard conversations anymore, but when thinking about pass-first players he is still amongst the best. Someone who has always played his best in big moments, Rondo is no stranger to the postseason having played in two NBA Finals with the Boston Celtics. Even in last years playoffs, Rondo showed he’s still got it in only two games. The 8th seeded Chicago Bulls won their first two games against the first seeded Celtics guided by Rajon Rondo. Having two near triple-doubles and playing his heart out Rondo made a statement to the league not to underestimate him. Unfortunately, he went down with an injury after the second game, but this season hopefully will be a different story. Having Anthony Davis on his team should help but, Rondo is the X-factor for the New Orleans Pelicans. They will not pass the first round unless Rondo plays at his highest level, but I don’t believe he will let them down.
We consistently will see flashes of greatness from Manu Ginobili. Whether it is a posterizing dunk or a game-winning three, every 10-15 games Ginobili will give NBA twitter something to go crazy over. Now, with that being said he is 40 years old making him one of the oldest active players in the NBA. So what should be expected of Manu Ginobili in this year’s playoffs? Clutch plays. Ginobili is always a guy that has taken and made big shots for the San Antonio Spurs and even if Kawhi Leonard returns, he will still be the guy to take the critical shots. If Leonard returns and is playing at 100% San Antonio has the potential to upset a few teams, but Ginobili will have to be the real hero for this team.
Joe Johnson hasn’t played very well since signing with the Houston Rockets, but don’t expect that to be the case in the postseason. Last season Joe Johnson hit a game-winner and had two 20+ point games in the first round vs the Los Angeles Clippers, while he was a member of the Utah Jazz. This output pretty much won them the series, this is just his most recent playoff outing his resume is loaded with more clutch moments. This year I don’t believe he will have a ton of high scoring games but, if Chris Paul or James Harden has an off game look for him to step up and be the secondary ball handler. Joe Johnson will Bring the Rockets some instant offense if one of their stars struggle and hit very timely shots when they are needed most.
These are the types of players that play at their highest in the postseason and they know what it takes to win. Age may actually have hit some of these players this season we don’t quite know. I am just not one to bet against history, so watch out for these veterans to make a difference in this year’s playoffs.