7 Players Who Are Impacting the NBA Playoffs With Their Hustle
When the NBA revealed its decision to track "hustle stats" during this year's NBA Playoffs it was like music to my ears -- or, more like numbers to my eyes.
Either way, you get the picture.
This is the NBA stat geek's dream. We finally get to quantify the will and scrappiness of players in the most high-pressure situations of the season. And now that each team has played two games in their individual series, we have some data to pull from.
Keep in mind that these aren't the only players showing great hustle. You can conduct your own research, but, for the purposes of this article, these are the seven players that stick out the most to me.
Who are these scrappers and hustlers? Wait no longer.
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks' center has been outstanding in two games thus far against the Boston Celtics. With averages of 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, Al Horford has taken full advantage of Boston's size deficiency down low. However, it's his overall defensive effort that makes him stand out from other playoff performers.
Horford's active hands have been very valuable to the Hawks' elite defense, producing a playoff-leading 4.5 deflections a game, and when he's not disrupting passing lanes, Horford has been doing a top-notch job at contesting shots.
The nine-year veteran has used his length and versatility to contest (defined as a defensive player closing out and raising a hand prior to the shot) an average of 17.5 shots, with 14.5 of those coming from two-point range.
Those figures rank first and second in the playoffs, signaling Horford's noticeable impact on the defensive end.
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
According to the numbers, Horford has been the best all-around hustle player early on in the 2016 playoffs. The title of best shot contester, though, has to go to (possible Defensive Player of the Year snub) Draymond Green.
When you see that Draymond is averaging two steals and more than two blocks in his first two games, it comes as no surprise that he's one of the premier defensive players, but it's not all talent and technique.
Green's ever-present hustle and fire is key to his 13.0 two-point contests, 5.0 three-point contests, and playoff-leading 18.0 total contest per matchup.
Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Throughout his epic comeback season, many have pointed to Paul George's offensive game as his greatest tool. But, it seems like we forgot about just how elite he was on the defensive end.
Through two playoff games, PG13 has tallied an average of 2.5 steals and a block while posting a Defensive Rating of 99.1 -- and more impressive is his 93.6 Rating in the Pacers' Game 1 win, in which he did this.
In addition to his two charges drawn, this is what George has prided himself on so far in this series: deflections and loose balls. In fact, the All-Star forward has produced 3.5 deflections a game and sits atop all others with 3.5 loose balls recovered per game. There's no question that Paul George wants it more.
Josh Richardson, Miami Heat
It's truly amazing that a rookie, second-round draft pick is playing 33.0 minutes a night in his first career playoff games. Oh, and did I mention that he's making a huge impact with his time on the floor!
Sure, Josh Richardson is contributing 11.5 points, but he's really made an impact on the defensive end of the court, where his long arms have created big problems for Kemba Walker and the Charlotte guards. He has kept Hornets shooters to 14.3% shooting on 7 attempts per game from three, leading the playoff field with 6.5 three-point contests through Games 1 and 2.
Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
On the totally opposite side of the spectrum from Richardson, Danny Green has earned a reputation for defending opposing shooters and trailing them around screens. He's been an excellent defender for a historically great defensive squad this season.
But, even knowing this, it's ridiculous that the Spurs' guard is averaging 4.5 deflections in no more than 20 minutes a game through two bouts with the Grizzlies. The only two players averaging the same amount of deflections are Kyle Lowry and Trevor Ariza, who are playing 40 and 37 minutes a game, respectively.
DeAndre Jordan and Cole Aldrich, Los Angeles Clippers
These two are listed as a package deal for good reason. With 8.0 and 5.5 screen assists per game, DeAndre Jordan and Cole Aldrich rank first and second among all players in the lone offensive hustle category. They have set several valuable screens that have led to buckets for shooters like Chris Paul and J.J. Redick. And the duo's impact doesn't stop there.
Jordan adds 11.0 two-point contests per game to go with his 3.5 blocks per game. Aldrich -- mind you in 13 minutes over the Clippers' first two playoff matchups -- has supplied 6.0 two-point contests and 2.5 loose ball recoveries (tied for second among all players). The backup center has complemented Jordan very well in his shift as paint patrol for the Los Angeles Clippers.