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Ranking the top 15 players in Celtics-Mavs NBA Finals

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Payton Pritchard

Ranking of the 15 best players in the Celtics-Mavs NBA Finals originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

With superstars on both sides, the 2024 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks could depend on which team has the best supporting cast.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are expected to shine for Boston as are Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving for Dallas. Each will have their moments, but they are not the X factors in this upcoming series.

The Celtics will need Derrick White and Jrue Holiday to step up on offense as they continue to showcase their all-defensive talents against one of the best duos in the NBA. They also hope to get Kristaps Porzingis back at full strength to add a rim protector and another dimension to the offense.

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Dallas will need Dereck Lively II and Daniel Gafford to dominate Boston in the paint. Meanwhile, PJ Washington will be counted on to provide consistent scoring, and Derrick Jones Jr.’s defense on Tatum and Brown will be crucial.

There’s no shortage of impactful players in this series, so how do they all compare? Here are 15 of the best players who will take the court in the Finals, ranked:

Hauser made significant strides on both ends of the floor during the regular season, but froze in the playoffs. The 26-year-old snapped an 0-for-10 three-point streak in Game 4 against Indiana and finished the series a woeful 1-for-14 from deep. Now would be a good time for him to get back to his 42 percent three-point shooting form.

Green, 23, has been a solid bench 3-and-D wing for Dallas over the past two seasons. The 18th overall pick in the 2020 draft has steadily improved over his first four years in the league, especially as a playmaker.

Don’t let this ranking fool you. Pritchard can tilt games in Boston’s favor with his shot-making ability and his uncanny rebounding ability despite his size. The Oregon product provides an instant spark with his energy off the bench and can be a difference-maker in this series.

Payton Pritchard has provided a great spark off the bench for Boston.

12. Daniel Gafford, Mavericks

When you hear experts say that the Celtics need a healthy Kristaps Porzingis to win this series, Gafford is one of the reasons. The 25-year-old big man can dominate the paint on both sides with his fierce dunks and excellent rim protection. Boston was left exposed in the paint at points during the Indiana series, and Dallas poses the same potential problem in the Finals if Porzingis isn’t at his best.

11. Derrick Jones Jr., Mavericks

Jones signed a one-year minimum contract with Dallas during the offseason. He has turned out to be one of the best bargains in free agency.

The 27-year-old forward has been an unsung hero for the Mavs in these playoffs. In 17 postseason games he has averaged 9.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 blocks in 31.2 minutes. As a star defender, he will play a crucial role for Dallas against Celtics superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

10. PJ Washington, Mavericks

PJ Washington

PJ Washington has come a long way defensively since joining the Mavs.

Aside from Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, Washington is the only Mavs player averaging double figures this postseason. The former Kentucky standout has also improved noticeably defensively since he arrived from Charlotte. This series could very well come down to the supporting casts, making Washington a key player for Dallas as it looks to pull off an upset.

9. Dereck Lively II, Mavericks

Lively has flown under the radar this season as sixth in NBA Rookie of the Year voting, but her presence has been impossible to ignore in these playoffs. The 20-year-old has given Dallas an additional threat in the paint with his rim protection and his ability to finish on the offensive end. He and Gafford could give the Celtics some internal problems during this series.

Horford, who turns 38 on Monday, will likely return to his sixth-man role if Porzingis returns. He stepped up in Porzingis’ absence during the conference finals, averaging 12.8 points and shooting 46.2 percent from the field (39.3 percent from 3). When he shoots from deep, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with this elite Celtics offense.

7. Jrue Holiday, Celtics

Derrick White and Jrue Holiday

Jrue Holiday and Derrick White form the best defensive zone in the NBA.

Holiday is a six-time defensive guard (a second-team selection this year) and won an NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021. Boston’s prized offseason addition took a step back offensively with so many other scorers on the roster , but He has continued to be a relentless force on the defensive end. The soon-to-be 34-year-old made multiple key defensive plays against Indiana and averaged 18.5 points per game in the series. He will face his toughest test yet by keeping Doncic and Irving in check.

6. Derrick White, Celts

A second-team All-Defense selection in consecutive seasons, White has become one of Boston’s best all-around players since arriving in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs in 2022. The 29-year-old is the team’s best blocker. shooting. He is a guard in the league in addition to being a sensational three-point shooter. All eyes will be on Tatum, Brown, Doncic and Irving, but White is an X-factor in this series.

5. Kristaps Porzingis, Celts

Speaking of X-factors, Porzingis’ impending return from a calf injury is one of the biggest storylines of the series. While Boston hasn’t missed a beat in his absence, there’s no doubt they’re a different team when he’s in the starting lineup. The 7-foot-3 Latvian’s rim protection will be much needed, and if he picks up where he left off on the offensive end, the Mavs will have their work cut out for them.

4. Kyrie Irving, Mavericks

Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving continues to play at an All-Star level as he embraces his role as Luka Doncic’s teammate.

Celtics fans are very familiar with Irving, who spent two tumultuous seasons in Boston between 2017 and 2019. It didn’t work out with the C’s or the Brooklyn Nets, but the eight-time All-Star seems reinvigorated by his opportunity to play as a teammate. by Luka Doncic in Dallas.

Irving has averaged 22.8 points per game and shot 48.5 percent from the floor (42.1 percent from 3) in the playoffs. His acceptance on the defensive end of the floor is a big reason the Mavs have gotten to this point. He’ll be booed loudly when he returns to TD Garden on Thursday, but C’s fans might want to tread carefully and avoid touching the bear.

3. Jaylen Brown, Celts

Brown earned Eastern Conference MVP honors after averaging 29.8 points on 51.7 percent shooting. His magnificent performance was the perfect response to his All-NBA snub, and you can bet he’ll carry that extra motivation with him into the Finals. Brown is also playing the best defense of his career, making him one of the best two-way players in this series. His final defensive test against Doncic will be his toughest yet.

2. Jayson Tatum, Celts

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown

With Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics have arguably the best star duo in the NBA.

The Boston superstar has averaged 26.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game this postseason. Tatum, a four-time All-NBA selection and five-time All-Star, will look to rebound from his lackluster performance in the 2022 Finals against Golden State, when he shot just 36.7 percent from the floor. He’s at his best when aggressively attacking the rim, so if he does so while shooting at a better rate from beyond the arc (29 percent in these playoffs), he’ll be the heavy favorite for the NBA MVP award. Finals.

1. Luka Doncic, Mavericks

Luka Doncic.

Luka Doncic’s elite scoring ability makes him the best player in the 2024 NBA Finals.

Doncic has been the undisputed best player of the playoffs and it can be argued that he deserved the 2023-24 NBA MVP award. The Slovenian star averaged 33.9 points per game during the regular season and has averaged 28.8 points per game in the postseason.

Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves had no answer for Doncic. Boston has two of the league’s best defensive guards in Holiday and White, and Brown prides himself on protecting the opponent’s best player all season long, but even that may not be enough to limit the league’s most lethal scorer.

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