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Players with most to prove in 2023 NBA playoffs

Here’s a look at which players need a big postseason in 2023.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NBA playoffs are here, and everyone is looking to make a run at the Finals. However, only a handful of teams have a legitimate chance of actually winning the entire thing. Most times teams win, its because of their superstars, and there are some who have yet to carry their team across to the promised land. Let’s take a look at some players who have a bit more to prove as the playoffs near.

Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

Career playoff stats (48 games): 26.4 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 6.4 apg
NBA championships: 0

Jokic is a two-time league MVP, but that hasn’t equaled much playoff success for him and his team. The Nuggets reached the conference finals in the Orlando bubble but have failed to get back the past two years. Now that they have the No. 1 seed in the West, there is an expectation that they should at least make it to the conference finals or this feels like a wasted opportunity. Jokic needs to have stellar performances while leading his team on a deep run, or people will begin to question those MVP awards a little more.

Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns

Career playoff stats (155 games): 29.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 4.1 apg
NBA championships: 2

Durant jumped shipped from the Brooklyn experience once the team traded guard Kyrie Irving. Now he is in the West again with the Suns, who are two years removed from the NBA Finals. Durant has been critiqued by many NBA greats for not being the driver of the bus on a championship run. Well, this is his chance because the Suns gave up a lot for Durant and if it doesn’t work, it will be a huge disappointment. The Suns didn’t lose with Durant in the lineup during the regular season, so they have been able to gel nicely so far but this is a completely different test.

Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

Career playoff stats (135 games): 21.2 ppg, 7.9 RPG, 2.8 apg
NBA championships: 2

Leonard led the Raptors to a championship in 2019 in his one year with the team. In his time with the Clippers, they blew a series to the Nuggets in the bubble and lost in the conference finals the following year. Leonard is commonly looked at as one of the best players in the league, and he’s healthy now after missing the majority of last year with a knee injury. He will have a huge matchup against Durant in the first round. If he can win and advance, it will do a lot for Leonard and his perception.

James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers

Career playoff stats (149 games): 22.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.5 apg
NBA championships: 0

Harden has played well this season, averaging 21 points and 10 assists per game this year. He had a bounce-back year after a disappointing performance last season. Last year in the playoffs, he averaged 18 points and 8.6 assists per game. He will need a big postseason to help out Joel Embiid, who will also have to show he can stay healthy in the postseason and make a difference. Harden is a great regular season player but has often come up short when it has mattered most. This is big for him ahead of a potential free agency tour in the summer.