National Basketball Association

How Terry Rozier, Andrew Wiggins and others could swing the play-in games

May 18

The NBA Play-In Tournament is set to begin Tuesday, ushering in a new wrinkle to the NBA's postseason.

With it, there is no shortage of storylines or star power, with a monster matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors on Wednesday headlining the play-in slate.

However, while the stars will garner the headlines, there are a few key role players who will be just as key to determining if their respective teams advance this postseason.

Here are six X-factor performers who will help decide the play-in round.

Terry Rozier, Charlotte Hornets
Stats: 20.4 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, 4.2 assists per game, 45% field-goal percentage, 38.9% 3-point percentage

LaMelo Ball has been the box office attraction for the Hornets this season, taking the league by storm as the odds-on favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award.

But the team's leading scorer has been Rozier.

Rozier is averaging a career high in points and assists while shooting a career-best mark from the field, and the Hornets will need the best version of the high-scoring guard to show up if they plan to survive their play-in game with the Indiana Pacers.

He has recorded 36 games with at least 20 points scored this season, nine of which were 30-plus-point outings.

If he can replicate that type of magic against the Pacers, the Hornets could be in position to play a second play-in game to secure a playoff spot.

Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
Stats: 18.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.4 APG, 47.7% field-goal percentage, 38% 3-point percentage

It's not often that a former No. 1 overall pick can be considered an X-factor, but that is the position in which Wiggins finds himself with the Warriors.

Wiggins isn't having his best scoring season, but he is having by far his most efficient season from the field and from 3-point range.

Having played in only four career playoff games, Wiggins will presumably be tasked with guarding LeBron James when the Warriors face the defending champion Lakers in the play-in round Wednesday.

Wiggins has been particularly torrid on offense as of late, scoring at least 20 points in six of his past nine games.

With the Warriors playing only eight players in their current rotation and only one player 6-foot-8 or taller, they will be undermanned against the Lakers and their size advantage in the frontcourt.

The Warriors will need Wiggins to continue to be productive and provide a reliable secondary scoring option next to Stephen Curry in order to spring an upset against the Lakers.

Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs
Stats: 15.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 5.4 APG, 45.3% field-goal percentage, 31.7% 3-point percentage

The San Antonio Spurs' roster is younger than it has been in nearly two decades, with just four players over the age of 30.

The youth movement in San Antonio is being led by Murray, the team's starting point guard.

Murray has been progression personified in his four years with the Spurs, as his points, rebounds and assists have risen in each of his first four seasons in the NBA.

He has already been named to the NBA's All-Defense team in his young career, and he will be the primary defender on Memphis Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant in their play-in matchup.

Murray's 6-foot-4 frame could prove troublesome for Morant, and if so, the Spurs will be in position to take out the Grizzlies and inch closer to the playoffs.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Stats: 14.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 42.4% field goal, 28.3% 3-point

Year 3 for Jackson has been anything but smooth sailing, with the forward missing the majority of the season while recovering from the torn meniscus he suffered during the 2020 season in the Orlando bubble.

In his time back on the court, he has struggled to find a rhythm and consistency for the Grizzlies. But through it all, he has managed to average 14.4 PPG and be a force as a rim protector for the Grizzlies.

He remains one of the most talented young players in the NBA and has begun to find his footing in the month of May, shooting 44% from the field and scoring in double figures in six of seven games.

When he is on, the 6-foot-11 forward has the ability to space the floor with his shooting while dominating at the rim with his length and athleticism.

Rui Hachimura, Washington Wizards
Stats: 13.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 47.8% field-goal percentage, 32.8% 3-point percentage

What the Wizards' star backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal has done this season is the stuff of legend, with Beal averaging north of 30 points for the second consecutive season and Westbrook averaging a triple-double for the fourth time in five seasons.

But the third wheel for this team has been second-year forward Rui Hachimura.

Hachimura is the Wizards' third-leading scorer and provides a little bit of everything in terms of scoring, rebounding and defense.

He could find himself facing off against Boston Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum in their play-in matchup, and though he won't be depended on to match Tatum's output, if he can stymie the Celtics' superstar, that could help the Wizards overtake a short-handed Boston team.

Andre Drummond, Los Angeles Lakers
Stats: 11.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 53.1% field-goal percentage (with Lakers)

The Lakers will enter as the favorites in their matchup with the Warriors, and that has a lot to do with their overwhelming interior presence, which now features Drummond.

The Lakers are 2-1 in games against the Warriors this season, with an average margin of victory of 28.5 points, and those two wins came without Anthony Davis.

Adding Davis and Drummond into the fold could prove to be too much for the undersized Warriors' frontcourt if the two show up with their A-games.

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