There have been a lot of great performers in the 2022 NBA Playoffs, but there are some guys who either could be playing better or NEED to be playing better. Today, we’re looking at three of them:
It may come as a surprise that Tatum is on this list, but Tatum has been in a little bit of a slump lately. While he does show up in the game’s biggest moments, in Game Three Tatum was invincible. In 41 minutes of action, Tatum only produced 10 points, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 4 blocks on 21.1% shooting from the field and no threes. Yet, Boston only lost Game Three by two points. The loss being that close shows just how good Tatum’s supporting cast is around him; but Tatum is the leader of his team. Right now, he’s averaging 22.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists on 38.3% shooting from the field. The Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo are the reigning champs and a formidable foe; if the Celtics want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, Tatum needs to take his game to a whole other level. Tatum has not played badly in this series, but he does need to step it up even further.
When Devin Booker was injured against the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round, Paul took over the series while sending Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, and Jonas Valančiūnas home. During the six-game series, Paul averaged 22.3 points and 11.3 assists while shooting 57% from the field. However, in the second-round series against the Mavericks, Paul has been in a bit of a slump. He was fine in Phoenix, but Paul averaged 5 fouls per game in Games Three and Four (both played in Dallas), and has committed 17 total fouls in the series. His averages for the series have decreased to 14.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 6.4 assists while looking like his age. I don’t doubt Phoenix will win in the 2nd round, but Paul needs to play better if the Suns want to make the NBA Finals for a second straight season.
I’m really starting to get worried about James Harden. During the first three games Harden played for the Philadelphia 76ers, he looked like his old self, Joel Embiid looked so much happier, and Daryl Morrey appeared to be a genius. Unfortunately, come playoff time, Harden has shown why his nickname is “Small Game James.” The Miami Heat are a relentless team on defense, with Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, P.J. Tucker, Kyle Lowry, and Victor Oladipo. In this series, Harden’s been averaging 19.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists. In Game Four, he dropped 31 points, which was great. But what came after the game worried me.
Almost every social media platform or news network had a headline along the lines of, “Vintage Harden Drops 31,” or “James Harden Looks Like Himself Again.” You know that as soon as a good performance by an NBA All-Star is called “vintage” that the player is well out of his prime.
Even worse, it appears as though Philly is set to offer Harden a contract in the offseason that will not only be the largest in NBA history, but more money in four years then Harden’s made in the rest of his career combined. We could be seeing a 36-year old Harden making $60 million. Compared to that, John Wall and Russell Westbrook might as well be on veteran minimum deals.
Harden’s 32 years old, and his best days are behind him. If he continues to play like this, then I don’t think he deserves a max contract. Pay the man the way he’s playing as of right now. Plus, he’s going to get worse as he gets older, unlike players such as LeBron James and Ray Allen. We’ve seen how Harden’s hamstrings are, and how much he enjoys a good party.
I’m rooting for Harden, but I’m expecting the 76ers to be eliminated by the time most people read this.
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