With just five teams remaining as of Friday, we’ve seen a lot of notable trends unfold during the playoffs so far. And as I continue to lament the fact that my two favorite players to watch (Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry) have been eliminated, here are some of my key takeaways from the postseason:
Mr. Barnes, Your Table is Ready.
Before the season, I read a quote from a player (can’t remember where) who described Harrison Barnes as having the offensive repertoire of a 10-year NBA veteran. That wasn’t always evident during the regular season, when an inconsistent Barnes averaged 9.2 ppg. But in the playoffs, the No. 7 pick broke out.
After a quiet postseason debut (eight points and two boards in a Game 1 loss to Denver), Barnes scored a career-high 24 points in Game 2 – one of four times he topped 20 points in the playoffs after topping 20 just three times during the regular season. All in all, he averaged 16.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 1.6 3s in 12 playoff games, and improved against a tougher San Antonio defense (19.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 1.2 3s through the first five games of the series, before a head injury limited him to nine points and four rebounds in Game 6).
You may have noticed the absence of steals and blocks from Barnes’ stat line, and that could put a ceiling his fantasy value going forward. (Barnes averaged just 0.6 spg and 0.2 bpg this season – playoffs included – after posting 0.9 spg and 0.4 bpg in two seasons at North Carolina.)
The good news is that Barnes is still only 20 (he turns 21 on May 30), and does have potential to improve in defensive stats (he had a nice swat off the backboard in Game 5) even if he never becomes a defensive dynamo. Either way, I’ll gladly draft him next season as a nice source of points, boards, 3s and percentages – he shot 85.7 percent from the line in the playoffs.
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Don’t Overpay for Klay
His 34-point, 14-board, eight-trey performance was so noisy that I was able to remember those numbers without looking them up, but don’t let the memory of that big game influence your draft plans for Klay Thompson next year. In the four games after that monster performance, Thompson averaged just 10.3 ppg and 3.5 rpg, finishing at 15.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.0 spg and 2.1 3s for the postseason. The points and 3s certainly make him roster-worthy (and start-worthy) next season – and it’s easy to see him improving into the 18 ppg range – but I wouldn’t expect a major surge in stats based on what we saw during Game 2. Thompson should have plenty of big scoring nights next season, but the 14 boards from Game 2 marked the only time he topped double-digit rebounds in 94 games this year.
Green Means Go
In an extension of what we saw late in the regular season (17.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.3 3s from March 1st onward), Jeff Green posted 20.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.7 bpg and 1.7 3s in six playoff games. At age 27, and with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett’s situations uncertain, there should be a major opportunity for Green to keep building momentum next year.
The Brook Lopez Bandwagon
In seven playoff games, he averaged 22.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 0.9 spg and 3.0 bpg. He’s only 25 years old. Draft accordingly.
People Who Will Be Aggressively Drafting Mike Conley Next Season: Me
With Rudy Gay gone from Memphis, the solid but sometimes frustrating Conley has finally developed into a bona fide statistical rock. From March 1 onward (26 games), Conley averaged 17.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 6.3 apg, 2.0 spg and 1.3 3s. And in the playoffs, he has been even better: 17.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.6 apg, 1.6 spg and 1.3 3s. I still cringe a little when he loads up his mechanical outside shot, but that doesn’t matter in fantasy leagues. Conley has top-20 potential next year.
Other Playoff-Related Thoughts: Kawhi Leonard hasn’t had any monster games in the playoffs, but it’s great to see him consistently putting up strong numbers when the Spurs aren’t resting anyone (13.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.5 spg and 0.8 3s). He is dealing with a lingering knee issue, but the upside should outweigh the risk when it comes to drafting Leonard next year. … Pau Gasol is carrying around a big injury red flag, and there’s uncertainty surrounding the Lakers' roster, but Pau still has a lot of potential in the right situation. He averaged 14.0 ppg, 11.5 rpg and 6.3 apg in L.A.’s first-round loss, and will be playing for a new contract next year. … With Danilo Gallinari (knee) potentially out until December or January, Andre Iguodala could be headed for a monster first half next year. In 12 games after Gallinari’s injury (six regular season, six playoffs), Iggy averaged 18.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 6.9 apg, 2.0 spg and 2.0 3s. … Part of my brain is still having trouble processing the fact that this Tayshaun Prince dunk actually happened. … With the three teams I wanted to root for (Hawks, Warriors, Thunder) eliminated, I think I have no choice but to say: Go Spurs.