The NBA playoffs kicks off Saturday at 3:00 with the New York Knicks hosting the Boston Celtics. There will be a strong Duke presence in the playoffs this season, as 10 Blue Devils are employed by teams who made the post season. Here’s a rundown of who is still playing for the Larry O’Brien trophy:
Shane Battier, Miami Heat: Battier and the Heat are once again the favorites to win the NBA title. Battier isn’t the type to stuff a statsheet, but he will be a vital part of the Heat’s playoff rotation. The 6-foot-8 forward will be tasked with defending some of the game’s best scorers and will be counted on to be a marksman from beyond the arc, where he shot 43 percent this season.
Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls: Boozer proved to everyone this season that he is still a productive starting power forward, averaging 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. With Derrick Rose missing the entire season and Luol Deng, Richard Hamilton and Joakim Noah fighting injuries of their own, Boozer provided the Bulls with some much needed stability in the starting lineup. Chicago will need Boozer to continue being an offensive force if they hope to best the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.
Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls: Deng had been fighting a hip injury earlier this month but played close to a full compliment of minutes over the Bulls’ final five games of the regular season. One of two Chicago All-Stars this season, Deng led his team in scoring at 16.5 points per game, becoming the team’s No. 1 option in the absence of Derrick Rose. In addition to his offensive contributions, Deng will be asked to defend first Joe Johnson of the Nets, then LeBron James if the Bulls advance to the second round.
Chris Duhon, Los Angeles Lakers: Duhon played in just 46 games this season, averaging 2.9
points and 2.9 assists per game. Even with starting point guard Steve Nash ailing and his former head coach Mike D’Antoni patrolling the sidelines, Duhon has appeared in just four games since the start of March. He doesn’t figure to see much playing time, if any, unless there is a slew of injuries in the Laker backcourt.
Mike Dunleavy, Milwaukee Bucks: Dunleavy has been a key part of the Bucks’ bench this season, averaging 10.5 points per game while shooting 42.8 percent from 3-point range. Dunleavy’s production had slipped after the All-Star break in mid-February, but he re-found his form in April, averaging 12.0 points per game for the month. He’ll join J.J. Redick as another scorer off the bench in his team’s first round matchup against the Miami Heat.
Grant Hill, Los Angeles Clippers: Age may have finally caught up to the 18-year NBA veteran. Hill played in just 29 games this season due to injury and has played in just two games in the month of April. Hill may not see too many minuts behind Caron Butler and Matt Barnes at the small forward, but will provide his team with needed veteran leadership as the Clippers try to prove they’re the team to watch in Los Angeles.
Dahntay Jones, Atlanta Hawks: Jones was acquired by the Hawks in a midseason trade with the Dallas Mavericks, but his role didn’t change too much when he made the move to Atlanta. It is hard to tell what sort of factor Jones will be in the playoffs considering the Hawks have been resting most of their regulars over the past few games. When Jones is on the court he’ll provide gritty defense, but won’t do much in the way of offense.
Miles Plumlee, Indiana Pacers: Plumlee appeared in just 14 games in his rookie season with the Pacers, spending much of his time honing his skills in the NBA Development League. Plumlee will not see significant minutes unless the Indiana frontcourt is completely decimated by injuries.
Shavlik Randolph, Boston Celtics: Randolph was in training camp with the Washington Wizards, but took his talents to China when he was released. Now, Randolph is back in the NBA and is making a surprisingly large contribution to the Celtics. Randolph is averaging 12.4 minutes per game over his first 16 in Boston, scoring 4.2 points and grabbing 4.4 rebounds per game. He will play scrappy defense when giving Kevin Garnett a breather.
J.J. Redick, Milwaukee Bucks: Redick was enjoying a career-year in Orlando before being shipped to the Bucks at the trade deadline. Despite seeing his points per game drop more than two points since the trade, Redick is still a feared shooter and a potent scorer off the bench to compliment talented starting guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. He is Milwaukee’s sixth man this postseason.