The postseason is where heroes are made — and scapegoats are born.
Earlier this week, we ran through the top 10 players from the first round of the 2017 NBA playoffs. Now, the other shoe has to drop.
We went through all 16 playoff teams to identify the most disappointing players so far, judged by each player's postseason stats relative to their regular-season production, their team's expectations, and how much they've faded into the shadows in the biggest moments.
Not everyone can be a winner in the pursuit of the Larry O'Brien trophy.
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Dwight Howard, C, Atlanta Hawks
Regular-season averages: 13.5 points, 12.7 rebonds, 29.7 minutes per game
Playoff averages: 8.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, 26.2 minutes per game
Howard is a perennial disappointment at this point in his career, and it's a real shame. By just making a few minor adjustments to his game, he still could be one of the best big men in the NBA. Instead, he's a cautionary tale of how injuries and the sport's evolution can turn even the most super of men into mere mortals.
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DeMar DeRozan, SG, Toronto Raptors
Regular-season averages: 27.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 35.4 minutes per game
Playoff averages: 22.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 36.6 minutes per game
DeRozan is a victim of the heightened intensity of the playoffs, where teams will dare a poor 3-point shooter to pull up from 3 rather than give up a mid-range shot (see: Antetokounmpo, Giannis as well).
Teammate Kyle Lowry, whose numbers have dipped across the postseason, would be a worthy inclusion on this list as well, yet the Raptors somehow managed to knock off the Bucks in the first round. That's a testament to GM Masai Ujiri and the work he did at the trade deadline.
Klay Thompson, SG, Golden State Warriors
Regular-season averages: 22.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 34.0 per game
Playoff averages: 18.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 34.3 minutes per game
This feels like tempting the basketball fates. Sooner than later — perhaps Tuesday night against the Jazz — Thompson is going to go thermonuclear and drop something like 26 points in a quarter.
For now, though, he's flying under the radar as the Warriors destroy their opponents, scoring four fewer points per game in the playoffs than in the regular season in about the same amount of time.
Disappointing might be a strong word to describe anything Golden State is doing, but we're greedy. We want the Warriors to be clicking on all cylinders in their pursuit of a championship because it's so much fun to watch.
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Dwyane Wade, SG, Chicago Bulls
Regular-season averages: 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 29.9 minutes per game
Playoff averages: 15.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 31.7 minutes per game
Wade had a chance to show he can take over a game even in his later years when Rajon Rondo went down for the Bulls against the Celtics, but the future Hall of Famer just couldn't put Chicago on his back.
He had several impressive bursts in the first round, most of which came in the first half of games as he petered out in the closing quarters. What else do you expect from a veteran with Wade's injury history?
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DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers
Regular-season averages: 12.7 points, 13.8 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 31.7 minutes per game
Playoff averages: 15.4 points, 14.4 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, 37.7 minutes per game
Like Wade, the Clippers needed Jordan to step up when Blake Griffin went out for the rest of the season with a toe injury. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Jordan disappeared over the final few games of this series as Rudy Gobert rediscovered his health and turned the Clippers center into his own personal training dummy.
With Chris Paul left to do it all for L.A., the Clippers were ultimately doomed against the Jazz.
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Steven Adams, C, Oklahoma City Thunder
Regular-season averages: 11.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals, 1.0 blocks, 29.9 minutes per game
Playoff averages: 8.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 1.8 blocks, 31.4 minutes per game
If Russell Westbrook had received the slightest modicum of help, maybe the Thunder and not the Rockets would be taking on the San Antonio Spurs.
Yet Adams was a total non-factor for Oklahoma City in the first round, to the point most people probably forgot he was on the Thunder roster in the postseason.
Adams turns 24 this summer, so he has plenty of time to figure out how to make his game fit best with Westbrook's. But in the first year post-KD, Adams showed he's not quite ready to play second banana to the likely NBA MVP.
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LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C, San Antonio Spurs
Regular-season averages: 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 32.4 minutes per game
Playoff averages: 13.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 35.6 minutes per game
Aldridge has reverted to all of his worst habits in the postseason: holding the ball too long on offense, overhelping and getting out of position on defense and generally mucking up the Spurs' entire system. And on top of all that, Aldridge isn't even filling up the box score like he typically does.
The Spurs big man became the butt of infinite Twitter jokes Monday night as the Rockets constantly attacked him on both ends of the court. Unless he can turn things around overnight, San Antonio is in for an early playoff exit and a very angry Gregg Popovich.