Who is one X-factor for each NBA playoff team in the Eastern Conference seeds 6-10? An X-Factor is not always the team’s best player, but someone whose unpredictable performance can make or break their team’s season
With the NBA playoffs days away, it is time to analyze which teams have a shot to make a deep run, and what they have to do to pull it off.
Toronto Raptors: Scottie Barnes
Toronto is back in the postseason after a one year absence, and it is largely due to their influx of young talent. Fred Van Vleet and Pascal Siakam were key pieces in the 2019 championship run, and now are leaders and the best players on the team.
Now, players such as Gary Trent Jr. and Scottie Barnes are expected to step up come postseason time and play supporting roles to the team’s all-stars.
Barnes in particular has potential to tear apart the playoffs, as the six foot seven rookie provides defense and slashing to the starting lineup. His outside scoring is inconsistent, but if he can become a reliable scorer, Toronto could put a top team on upset alert.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Caris Levert
The injury of Jarrett Allen for the season is a brutal loss for a young, ascending Cavalier team. Allen was a first-time all star alongside teammate Darius Garland, and Cleveland looks primed to make the playoffs for the first time since Lebron James left.
In order to make it through the play-in games, Cleveland will need scoring from players outside of Garland, and Caris Levert will be the first player expected to elevate their production. Levert is a very capable scorer, as the former Net and Pacer even has a 50 point game on his resume.
Levert will be depended upon to be an offensive leader for this team in the playoffs.
Atlanta Hawks: DeAndre Hunter
Despite reaching the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021, Atlanta is struggling to make it out of the play-in games a year later. Trae Young is still scoring at an MVP level, averaging 28 points per game on 45% shooting.
However, the supporting cast that performed so well in last year’s postseason is unable to repeat their production. The offense is regressing, and their defense is not playoff-caliber.
DeAndre Hunter is the Hawks’ best defender and will be relied upon to guard the best wing players of the conference. If Hunter can slow down the likes of Kevin Durant and Caris Levert in the play-in tournament, Atlanta can make it back to the tournament of sixteen.
Charlotte Hornets: Miles Bridges
Attempting to redeem their play-in defeat from a year ago, the Charlotte Hornets return with a roster a year older in experience, and with a healthier roster. Power forward Miles Bridges is no stranger to dunk highlights, but in order for Charlotte to get past the play-in tournament, he must be a reliable scorer.
Bridges averages 20 points a game on the year, and has developed a reliable outside jumper. In a potential matchup against the vaunted Brooklyn Nets, the Michigan State alum must perform like a superstar for Charlotte to stand a chance.
Brooklyn Nets: Ben Simmons
Who would have guessed in the preseason that the Brooklyn Nets will have to play in the play-in tournament and the Los Angeles Lakers would not make the playoffs at all. The Nets’ sinking in the standings is mainly attributed due to the lack of availability of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but that does not mean there is any room for error.
Brooklyn’s offense is number one in the league when Irving is on the court, but also last defensively. To offset their defensive struggles, the Nets need Ben Simmons to suit up. Simmons is already confirmed out for the remainder of the regular season, and there is no confirmation that he will play at all.
However, adding one of the three best defenders in basketball makes Brooklyn a threat to win it all.
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