New Orleans Pelicans

The All-Breakout Team from the 2018 NBA playoffs first round

jrue-holiday-043018-ftr-getty.jpg
Jrue Holiday) (Getty Images)

With the NBA being a star-driven league, it's often the franchise players that get all of the glory. For the James Hardens and Giannis Antetokounmpos of the world to be at their best, however, they need players around them who can magnify their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

It was certainly the case in the opening round of these playoffs. Whether it was in the five games it took the Rockets to defeat the Timberwolves or the seven games it took the Celtics to beat the Bucks, a number of role players stepped up and provided more of a spark than they did during the regular season, ranging from veterans such as Ricky Rubio to players still on their rookie contracts such as Terry Rozier and Delon Wright.

In the case of these seven players, they shattered expectations and broke out in a big way.

(Note: Rookies Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell haven't been included in this list. Both were fantastic during the regular season and came into the playoffs with elevated expectations.)

PG: Jrue Holiday, Pelicans

Anthony Davis is the best player on Pelicans, but Jrue Holiday was as good as (if not better) than him in their first-round series.

Not only did Holiday average 27.8 points, 6.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game against the Trail Blazers - all while shooting 56.8 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from the 3-point line - he helped the Pelicans keep Damian Lillard in check. According to NBA.com, Lillard missed 23 of his 31 shot attempts over four games when Holiday was guarding him. Against everyone else on the Pelicans, the three-time All-Star shot 17-for-40.

Keep up to date with all of the latest :tag: news!
Sure Not Now

As a result of his two-way dominance, the Pelicans went from outscoring the Blazers by 16.8 points per 100 possessions with Holiday on the court to being outscored by 12.2 with him on the bench. The former gave Holiday the fifth-highest net rating of the opening round.

While it's not the first time Holiday has put his two-way potential on full display, he's never done it on this bright of a stage. Few expected the DeMarcus Cousins-less Pelicans to beat the Blazers, let alone sweep them in the first round. And for that, a one-time All-Star who has been in the NBA for nearly a decade finds himself on the All-Breakout team.

SG: Jaylen Brown, Celtics

Now in his second season with the Celtics, Jaylen Brown is making a name for himself as one of the brightest young stars in the NBA.

The Celtics had no business getting out of the first round without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, but Brown made the difference by taking on more responsibility in the scoring department. After averaging 14.5 points per game in the regular season, Brown put up 20.5 points per game in Games 1-6 of the series. (He scored just two points Game 7 because of an injury that limited him to 16 minutes.)

Brown got it done at every level in those six games, knocking down 40.0 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, 55.6 percent of his midrange pull-ups and 67.5 percent of his shots within 10 feet of the basket. He put it all on display in Games 2 and 4 in particular, when he scored a total of 64 points on 25-for-46 shooting from the field. If he can carry that momentum into next season, it's scary to think about how good the Celtics could be.

SF: Khris Middleton, Bucks

Khris Middleton is a proven player, but one who has a history of struggling in the playoffs.

In 2015, when he make his first trip to the postseason with the Bucks, Middleton averaged 15.8 points on 15.3 shot attempts per game. He wasn't much better when they returned to the playoffs two years later, either, with an average of 14.5 points on 13.0 shot attempts per game.

Fortunately for Middleton, these playoffs were a completely different story. With 24.7 points per game, Middleton trailed only 11 players - nine of whom have been named an All-Star at some point in their careers - in scoring in the first round. Middleton got those points with incredible efficiency by making 59.8 percent of his shots from the field and 61.0 percent from 3-point range. His success from the perimeter was even more impressive considering he made more 3-pointers than anyone else in the opening round.

Unfortunately for Middleton, his efforts didn't get the Bucks out of the first round for the first time since the 2000-01 season.

PF: Nikola Mirotic, Pelicans

The Pelicans traded a first-round pick for Nikola Mirotic with the hopes that he could replace some of Cousins' production by opening up the floor for Davis as a stretch four. Mirotic struggled out of the gate with the Pelicans - he made 29.9 percent of his 3-point attempts before becoming a full-time starter with five games remaining in the regular season - and was then everything they could've dreamed of against the Trail Blazers.

The value Mirotic's 3-point shooting brings is obvious. Having someone who takes over six 3-point attempts per game and makes half of them from the power forward position gives Holiday and Davis all the room they need to generate efficient shots for themselves in the pick-and-roll.

If teams try to defend it with only two players, Holiday will pull up from midrange or find Davis skying to the basket for an alley-oop. If they bring a third defender into the picture to take both of those options away, they risk Mirotic leaving open for an uncontested 3-pointer.

It wasn't Mirotic's offense that was the greatest surprise, though. It was his defense. While he wasn't tasked with defending Lillard on an island, his willingness to meet the Blazers star at the 3-point line in pick-and-rolls and stick with him until he gave up the ball took some of the pressure off Holiday.

The combination gave Mirotic a net rating of 20.1 points per 100 possessions against the Blazers, the highest of the opening round.

C: Clint Capela, Rockets

Clint Capela was so good during the regular season that he broke Basketball-Reference's MVP Award Tracker and got some buzz as a potential All-Star in the Western Conference. He didn't end up making the team, but it was a testament to how well he fits in alongside James Harden and Chris Paul.

What Capela did in the first round against the Timberwolves was further proof of that. On one end of the court, he kept Karl-Anthony Towns, who was named an All-Star for the first time in his career this season, to a total of 13 points in the opening two games of the series. On the other, he did what he always does - set hard screens for Harden and Paul, make himself available for lobs and dump-off passes, finish close to 70 percent of his shot attempts and attack the offensive glass at one of the highest rates in the league.

Sixth Man: Bojan Bogdanovic/Domantas Sabonis, Pacers

Bojan Bogdanovic's breakout performance came in Game 3, when he scored 30 points on 7-for-9 shooting from 3-point range and limited LeBron James to seven points and five assists in the 44 possessions they were matched up together. James got the better of him in the other games, and yet Bogdanovic defended him as well as can be expected from a non-All-NBA defender while giving the Pacers stellar outside shooting.

Bogdanovic splits Sixth Man honors with his teammate Domantas Sabonis, because the Lithuanian was a difference maker off the bench for the Pacers in Games 4-6. Sabonis averaged 20.0 points per contest in those games, doing so on a combined 26-for-35 from the field. One of the league leaders in pick-and-roll scoring during the regular season, Sabonis' comfort from midrange and the paint took pressure off Victor Oladipo when the Cavaliers trapped him on the perimeter.

Without both of them, there's no way the Pacers would have pushed the Cavaliers to seven games.

Honorable mention: Ricky Rubio (Jazz), Jerami Grant (Thunder), Delon Wright (Raptors), Dario Saric (76ers), Justise Winslow (Heat), Josh Richardson (Heat), Terry Rozier (Celtics), Thon Maker (Bucks), Mike Scott (Wizards)

More from NBA.com

#Popovich
Popovich moves to fourth on NBA's all-time wins list
Benyam Kidane
#Lowry #Forbes #Harden
Around the NBA: Tuesday's top storylines, performers and highlights
Benyam Kidane
kyle-lowry-smile-clippers-121118-ftr-nba-getty
4 takeaways from Toronto's dominant win in LA
Gilbert McGregor
serge-ibaka-gortat-121218-ftr-nba-getty
Raptors earn big win over Clippers
Gilbert McGregor
kawhi-121118-ftr-getty.jpg
Kawhi Leonard out vs. Clippers
Scott Rafferty
nba-mexico-games-mural-screengrab-121118-ftr
Muralist commemorates NBA Mexico City Games
NBA.com Staff
More News