Mar 17, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) brings the ball up the court during the first quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Playoffs: 5 X-Factors Who Will Decide the Playoffs

The NBA Playoffs are quickly approaching. Maybe not as quickly as last season, but they’re coming.

The Golden State Warriors should make the playoffs this year.  Different teams, however, will go further based on their players, and how they’ll play. This is a basic list of certain players who could be deciding factors.

Klay Thompson/Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

The Warriors are holding the 6th spot firmly, and are closer to clinching every game. They’re currently 4 games up on the 8th seeded Jazz and 9th seeded Lakers, who both seem to be struggling as of late. Kobe has picked up his game, but he and Nash are both battling injury. This makes the Warriors almost a lock for the Warriors.

Two of their role players in Thompson and Barnes, however, don’t produce each night. When Thompson scores 20+, the Warriors often end up with the win. When Barnes scores 10+, the Warriors end up with the win. Really, it all depends on how these guys down in the playoffs. Will the Warriors get eliminated quickly, or will they survive the first round? It’s on these guys to produce.

J.R. Smith, New York Knicks

The Knicks are the hottest team in the NBA, currently on an 8 game winning streak. They just knocked off the Celtics and are headed straight to the second seed in the East, if they continue to play like this. We know that they have plenty of scorers and veteran experience, but off the bench, it’s all J.R. Smith.

Smith has been phenomenal as of late, and is looking like a lock for the 6th man of the year award. In fact, he is one of the leading scorers in the NBA this past month. He’s averaging 17.7 PPG on the season, and 22.5 in the month of March. He continues this play style, the Knicks are going to the conference finals.

Jeff Green, Boston Celtics

If the Celtics do meet the Knicks in the first round, they’re going to have some serious trouble. They’ve lost the last two games to the Knicks, road and home, and they need some magic to lift them up. If Jeff Green can battle Jr Smith and beat him, the Celtics have a good shot. Off the Bench, Green is an incredible scorer and dynamic player. His open-heart surgery and medical history makes it all the more better.

Earlier this season, he scored 47 points against the Miami Heat in a losing effort. While the Knicks did outlast 54 from Stephen Curry, I don’t think they can divert their attention to him, while also worrying about Pierce and Garnett.

Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers

Step one for the Lakers: make the playoffs. Dwight Howard has been the main reason the Lakers have not been doing well. In Orlando, Howard was playing his best basketball, and even made a championship run. Widely considered one of the best centers in the NBA, he hasn’t lived up to the hype.

In the past month, he’s being trying harder to work and not play. He hasn’t taken the game seriously, but when he starts to, he and Kobe will be like Shaq and Kobe. If the Lakers make the playoffs, they will do some damage to San Antonio.

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Funny how these things work. The X factor is on one of the best teams in the NBA. Leonard is the Spurs only flashy player who can produce highlights. When guys like Parker and Duncan are lost to fatigue, Leonard will have to be the one to come out and score some points for his team. With all the young talent that he brings to the table, the Spurs are really going to rely on him to prevent another playoff meltdown.

Tags: Boston Celtics Golden State Warriors Los Angeles Lakers New York Knicks San Antonio Spurs

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