THE second round of the 2018 playoffs wasn’t as exciting as the first.
With Steph Curry returning to the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers finally finding their groove, this year’s playoffs is slowly shifting back into the predictable nature that has haunted the past few years.
Nonetheless, the second round still provided us some great performances from the players and a lot of enjoyable moments.
Only one team, however, can win the championship every season. And it would be foolish to deem any accomplishment short of the title as irrelevant.
Here, we rank the players who performed the best in the second round. The statistic we will use to rank these players is their Player Impact Estimate or PIE.
While it is impossible to encapsulate a player’s ability or performance in one single statistic, PIE is one of the best single statistical player evaluations that is available to date. PIE measures a player’s overall statistical contribution against the total statistics in games they play in.
Per the NBA, in its simplest terms, PIE shows what percentage of game events that player did or the team achieved. The stats being analyzed are the players’ traditional basketball statistics (PTS, REB, AST, TOV, etc..) A team that achieves more than 50% is likely to be a winning team. A player who achieves more than 10% is likely to be better than the average player. A high PIE percentage is highly correlated to winning.
According to their PIE, the best players of the second round are:
5. Kevin Love, PIE: 16.1 (20.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steal, 1.0 block)
Cavs fans finally saw the Kevin Love they’ve been clamoring for. After a dismal first round series against the Pacers, Love bounced back with one of the best playoff series of his career against the Toronto Raptors. The Cavs surely hope that he can sustain this level of play.
4. James Harden, PIE: 16.7 (28.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 2.2 steals, 90.7% ft)
In their series against the Utah Jazz, Harden only shot 40.4% from the field and 29.5% from the rainbow country. He may not have been efficient, but Harden was still efficient. The presumptive MVP of the regular season was still able to bend the defense to his will and make crucial plays when it mattered. Nonetheless, everyone knows that if the Rockets want to pose as a serious threat against the Golden State Warriors, they will need The Beard playing at his very best.
3. Jonas Valanciunas, PIE: 18.0 (16.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.8 blocks)
Yes, even I am surprised to see Valanciunas on this list.
The big Lithuanian was one of the unsung heroes in the Toronto Raptors’ first round series win against the Washington Wizards. And with the Raptors’ star duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (particularly DeRozan) kept in check by the Cavaliers, Valanciunas heeded the call and played the best play-off series of his life. Unfortunately, it was all for naught against
Thanos LeBron James and the rest of the Cavs.
2. Chris Paul, PIE: 19.8 (24.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 2.2 steals, 44.1% 3fg)
Chris Paul went to the Houston Rockets for one main reason: to win a championship. But first, he had to reach the Conference Finals – something he has never done before in his Hall of Fame career. If you wanted proof of how badly CP3 wanted (and needed) to reach the Conference Finals, look no further than his performance
1. LeBron James, PIE: 21.6 (34.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 11.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.0 block)
Just like in the first round, the best performer in the Conference semifinals was LeBron James. But unlike the first round, the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers finally started to show up and play great basketball to support The King. If LeBron and the rest of the Cavs continue to play the way they did in the second round, they might just be able to reclaim the throne.
Side note: It is worth noting that two of the conference finalists – the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics – weren’t represented in this list.
Kevin Durant was the highest-ranked Warrior at sixth spot while Draymond Green and Curry ranked 11th and 12th respectively. The Celtics only had two players in the top 20 (Terry Rozier at 14 and Jayson Tatum at 18).
For the Warriors, this is a testament to their talent and willingness to sacrifice individual numbers for the greater goal, which is to win the championship.
For Celtics, meanwhile, this is yet another reason to be impressed with the job Brad Stevens and the rest of his coaching staff has done. They have convinced all their players to buy into their system yet at the same time flourish under the bright lights of the playoffs, all while the team’s two best players are out injured.