The 2023 NBA Playoffs are upon us, and as always, there are bound to be unsung heroes who enjoy breakout performances. Here are 4 players that could be breakout performers this postseason.
Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets have been a much different team post Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but managed to remain in the playoff picture thanks in large part to the play of forward Mikal Bridges. Since joining Brooklyn, Bridges has averaged 26.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He’s had to become the Nets’ main scoring option while still maintaining the same defensive tenacity he flashed as a member of Phoenix Suns. Regardless of whether or not Brooklyn wins their first round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Bridges will be a crucial part of the Nets’ game plan, and have the chance to show the NBA that he’s a legitimate superstar.
Julius Randle, New York Knicks
Former Kentucky Wildcat, Julius Randle did not perform well in the 2021 playoffs. That season’s New York Knicks were a defensively strong bunch that struggled to score on the other end of the court. Randle was relied on to provide the majority of the scoring, and the Atlanta Hawks exploited this element of New York’s strategy in the opening round.
Two seasons later, Randle is a much more mature player who’s playmaking and defense have also taken significant steps forward. Additionally, now that the Knicks boast players such as Jalen Burnson and Josh Hart, Randle will not be the sole focus of their opponents. The Cleveland Cavaliers won’t be able to place the bulk of their attention on Randle in the first round in the same way Atlanta did in 2021. New York has multiple players who can hurt you offensively, and Randle will have more space to work with as a result. Assuming the Texas native is healthy, he’ll have a shot at rewriting his checkered playoff history.
Jarred Vanderbilt, Los Angeles Lakers
As one of the Los Angeles Lakers key trade acquisitions, Jarred Vanderbilt will be expected to play a major role in their postseason push. The 6’9″ forward is not a scorer by any means, but his defensive aptitude could help LA compete against high-powered Western opponents. Vanderbilt averaged 7.5 rebounds per game as a member of both the Utah Jazz and Lakers over the course of the regular season. Additionally, their first round matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies will mean a showdown between the 14th (LA) and 15th (MEM) best rebounding teams in the NBA. Vanderbilt will have a prime opportunity to make his mark on the 2023 playoffs.
Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics will enter the 2023 NBA playoffs as one of the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown will all have to perform well in order to get past a treacherous east, but it could be Malcolm Brogdon who provides the biggest boost. The former Virginia Cavalier plays well as a starter or off the bench, and is in the 88th percentile in terms of points per shot attempt this season according to Cleaning the Glass.
Assuming Brogdon comes off the bench for majority of Boston’s playoff games, he’ll be the main force of the second unit and have numerous chances to flash both his shooting ability and playmaking.