Obviously, there are stars on both teams in the Eastern Conference Finals. But outside of stars Giannis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young, and Khris Middleton, which players are going to have to step it up for their team to make it to the NBA Finals?
5 Most Important Non-Stars
1. Jrue Holiday
Jrue Holiday has an argument for being the most important Milwaukee Buck in the Eastern Conference Finals. The task of slowing down a superstar averaging nearly 30 points and 10 assists a game is a heavy one, but Holiday has proven to be up to the challenge in the past. Playing in the Western Conference, Holiday has been tasked with slowing the likes of Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry. So this defensive match-up is nothing new for Holiday, but the Bucks defensive success starts with slowing Trae Young, which makes Holiday arguably the most important player.
2. John Collins
Collins did not have the best offensive series against the Philadelphia 76ers. However in the last four games of the series, he averaged just over 12 rebounds, and those rebounds will be necessary as the Bucks had 15 team offensive rebounds and 18 offensive rebounds in games 6 and 7 respectively. So securing defensive boards will be task number one for Collins and Capela.
Another reason Collins will play an important role is that he will be one of the Hawks tasked with slowing Giannis. He is not known as a lockdown defensive player, but with his size and wingspan, he may be able to slow Giannis down.
3. Danilo Gallinari
Gallinari averaged just about 15 points and shot 42% from behind the arc. That ability to stretch the floor can be able to draw some of the Milwaukee big men out of the paint. On top of his offensive ability, Gallinari’s size will be able to match up with Giannis a couple of possessions a game. His veteran experience also makes him one of the more important players in this series.
4. Pat Connaughton
If Gallinari hits his three-pointers at a similar rate as he did against Philadelphia, it allows the Hawks to play a smaller lineup and draw the Milwaukee big men out of the paint or even the rotation. If that does happen, the Bucks will have to counter by going small and that means more Connaughton minutes.
Connaughton averaged 20 minutes in the Brooklyn series and a similar workload will be played in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, he will have to shoot a little better than 19% from behind the arc to fulfill the fourth most important role player in the series.
5. Bogdan Bogdanovic
With an elite defender like Jrue Holiday on Trae Young, Bogdanovic will have to shoot better than 36.5% from the field to relieve some of the pressure on Trae Young. Also, did someone say revenge game? Bogdanovic was actually part of a sign-and-trade to Milwaukee before the season, but the NBA rejected it. Revenge will be on the mind during the Eastern Conference Finals for Bogdanovic.
Non-Star Player MVP Prediction in the Eastern Conference Finals
Jrue Holiday is my Non-Star Player MVP of the Eastern Conference Finals. He may not be the offensive star and put up the big stat sheet on a night-to-night basis, but his defensive performance on Trae Young will cement his legacy as an elite guard defender.
Danilo Gallinari is the second Non-Star MVP prediction for me. His ability to stretch the floor as a forward will throw a wrench in the Bucks rotation throughout the Eastern Conference Finals.
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