When it mattered most, Kevon Looney’s offensive rebound in the 2022 NBA Finals came at the right moment. The 2021 NBA Finals were determined in large part during the dreadful time that the Phoenix Suns used their backup center. If Markieff Morris and Rajon Rondo don’t improve as 3-point shooters, the 2020 Lakers won’t be able to win the NBA Finals.
The NBA has earned a reputation as a league where only the best players can succeed. Stars help teams get to the playoffs, but once there, it’s frequently the unexpected performance of a vital bench player that determines the winner. As Stephen Curry misses a game-winning shot, Kevon Looney is there to collect the rebound and give his team another opportunity to win.
The all-in nature of the NBA has increased the importance of such guys. Most of the clubs that have stars now have to give up a lot of depth to obtain them since the cost of doing so has skyrocketed. Several of this year’s favorites didn’t manage to keep the supporting casts that helped them last year, but Golden State and Milwaukee did. This spring, the success of a couple of contenders hinges on the shoulders of a handful of role players who must each perform like a Looney or VanVleet.
3. Isaac Okoro
This season, we have our choice of phony 40 percent 3-point shooters. The Suns have a good chance of winning the NBA Finals if Torrey Craig maintains his current shooting percentage of 40%. For a while during the start of the season, Yuta Watanabe had the highest 3-point percentage in the NBA.
These are the kinds of players with whom we need to draw comparisons to Isaac Okoro, who has a career-best 43.6 percent three-point clip over a 30-game sample. In that time, he’s attempted just 2.6 three-pointers a game.
2. Josh Green
Green, who has seen limited postseason action the past two years, is now the starting shooting guard for the Dallas Mavericks and, depending on how things shake out, one of the most important defenders in the Western Conference, which features Stephen Curry, Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, Ja Morant, De’Aaron Fox, and Anthony Edwards. The Dallas Mavericks won’t get it far in the playoffs without facing up against an All-Star point guard. Maybe it will have to deal with three in a row.
1. PJ Tucker
With Joel Embiid on the court, the 76ers have played 1,354 minutes in the playoffs. They have a 335-point advantage in Embiid minutes, which equates to a win rate of one point every four minutes. Yet despite having him on the team, they’ve never made it to the conference championship game.
In the 864 postseason minutes they have played without him, they’ve been outscored by 168 points. In the playoffs, when the 76ers have Embiid, they play like a championship contender, but in the regular season, they are a lottery club.