By the time the NBA playoffs roll around pretty much all is known about teams and their rosters. We know that teams will need their superstars to play well to move on but many teams depend on their lesser-known players to play key roles. So, if you wondered who they are you are in luck because these are lesser-known NBA players to watch in the playoffs.
Julius Randle, Knicks
If you wonder why Julius Randle is headlining this list the reason is quite simple. He is a lesser-known player in the whole NBA grand scheme of things.
He is the Knicks’ best player and he was an All-Star in 2021 but you won’t find many labelling him a superstar. The Knicks have a favourable matchup against the Hawks in round one of the playoffs but they will only go as far as Randle can take them.
One of those criminally underrated NBA Players, Randle is extremely valuable both offensively and defensively with a much-improved shot.
A good fit in the NY scheme, his improved play is the reason the Knicks turned around their season in the final 3rd of the year. He will have favourable matchups versus the Hawks and he is a player to watch in the 2021 postseason.
Jrue Holiday, Bucks
When people mention the Milwaukee Bucks and their NBA playoff chances people oftentimes overlook the importance of Jrue Holiday.
Yes, it’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, yes it’s Middleton, but Jrue Holiday possesses something that might propel the Bucks further than they ever went and something Eric Bledsoe could not do last year.
In the postseason when defences get tighter, Giannis has shown an inability to successfully create his own shot which severely hurts his team.
Middleton is not great at it and neither was Bledsoe but Jrue Holiday is a player that can do it and very efficiently.
While not necessarily an underrated NBA player his importance to Milwaukee is overlooked. He is a lesser-known NBA player to watch in the postseason and he if plays well enough his name might end up being on the list of NBA Finals winners.
Bojan Bogdanovic, Jazz
Bojan Bogdanovic will finally play a playoff game for the Jazz. He was supposed to play last year but an injury prevented him from doing so and the Jazz missed him badly.
Over the last 10 games, he was one of the hottest players in the league, averaging over 25 points per game. With Mitchell returning, the average should go down but his shooting will prove valuable against a team like the Grizzlies.
For a very long time, he has been one of the most underrated NBA players in the league but with the bright lights of the NBA playoffs, he should prove everyone wrong.
Mikal Bridges, Suns
Mikal Bridges is not the first name when you think of on the Suns but his value to the team is only second to Chris Paul and Devin Booker. A defensive stopper with the ability to cut and shoot the three, Bridges’ skill set is well suited for the NBA.
With a contract extension looming in the summer, Bridges is certainly one of the NBA players to watch in the postseason.
He will have his hands full by guarding the Lakers best players and his cutting and shooting will prove key for the Suns if they hope to move on. If he plays well, he will be looking at a big bag of cash in the summer.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hawks
Bogdan Bogdanovic is certainly one of the more underrated players in the league whose rise has come with the appointment of Nate McMillan. A player who utilizes the pick and roll well and shoots the lights out of the ball is tremendously valuable to a team that lacks shot creators except for Trae Young.
McMillan finally found a good role for him at which he excels and it will prove key in the matchup against NY. The Knicks defend the three-point shot well and the Hawks will need to hit it a decent clip if they hope to win. Their best shooter of late has been Bogdanovic and that could be decisive.
Michael Porter Jr, Nuggets
Michael Porter Jr. hit the biggest shot of the Nuggets’ 2020 season. His three-pointer against the Clippers saved that series and allowed Denver to move to the Finals.
His role this year will be even bigger with Jamal Murray out. The Nuggets are not expected to repeat the success of last year but for Porter Jr., this is a chance to shine.
The 2nd best scorer on the Nuggets since Murray went down, Porter Jr. will need to score a lot if the Nuggets hope to keep up with the mammoth offences of the Jazz or Clippers. The first-round matchup of the Blazers should be a high scoring affair as well and the points will need to come from somewhere.
Norman Powell, Blazers
Norman Powell has been a steady performer in the postseason for several years and in Toronto he oftentimes outshined DeMar DeRozan when it mattered the most. Since his trade to Portland, he became an even bigger scoring threat than usual. The Blazers play a high-octane offence and Powell fits right in.
A player who possesses a large arsenal of tricks will be useful in the postseason especially against a team that lacks firepower in Denver. The Blazers will try to outscore Denver simply because they can and Powell will need to contribute a large chunk of those points if they want to succeed.
Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies
A player who has had a quiet season but also a player who always does his job is Jaren Jackson Jr. Jackson is certainly a player to watch in a very tough matchup against the Jazz. His role will not be scoring in this matchup but rather playing good team defence which will be key for the Memphis Grizzlies.
An important part of that is the need for him to absorb some center minutes as well, as Jonas Valaciunas will have his struggles against Rudy Gobert. His ability to hit the three should make him a headache for the Jazz defence who will worry mostly about Ja Morant and Valaciunas. In a constellation like that, Jackson Jr. could play a huge role.
Alex Caruso, Lakers
Nothing Alex Caruso does on the court is out of this world.
Occasionally he will have a dunk or two but his value to this Lakers team is immense.
An instant energy guy from the bench who always plays his maximum is always important for a team. He played a key role against the Warriors and they don’t win that game without him.
He will play pesky defence, commit a hard foul here and there, hit a huge three when needed (40% on the season) and essentially always do the right thing on the court.
Talen Horton-Tucker, Lakers
Another Lakers who could play some heavy minutes this postseason is Talen Horton-Tucker.
At the mere age of 20, Horton-Tucker has proved the ability to step up in key moments and hit the big shot.
He is a microwave player who can score in stretches especially when the starters get cold. For a Lakers team that is 26th in offence, he will need to step up when called upon.
The Lakers don’t have many instant scorers from the bench so Horton-Tucker is essential. In the final 10 games of the season, he shot 54% from the field and 50% from the field heating up at the right moment.