Winning an NBA championship is a difficult endeavor; many things may go wrong in the seven-game NBA Finals series. Star players are bound to have off nights, and devastating injuries are only a play away, completely changing the narrative of the situation.
This is especially true during the 2021-22 season, when several teams were hampered by important player injuries. Just ask the Milwaukee Bucks, who were planning on facing the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals in 2021 sans their All-Star big Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Key role players to watch in the NBA Finals in 2021
While companies rely largely on superstars in their pursuit of an NBA title, role players can also make a difference. Any team’s success requires a group effort, and having adaptable role players goes a long way toward making a credible title push.
On that topic, let’s take a look at the five role players to keep an eye on in the NBA Finals of 2021.
Mikal Bridges, No. 1 (Phoenix Suns)
Mikal Bridges has played a key role in the Phoenix Suns’ return to the NBA Finals after a 28-year absence. Bridges was the only Suns player to appear in all 72 regular-season games. He was their fourth-leading scorer during that time, averaging 13.5 points per game on 54.3 percent shooting from the field and 42.5 percent from three-point range.
Bridges’ length and quickness allow him to play many positions for the Phoenix Suns. Because of his ability to guard the perimeter, head coach Monty Williams may use big or small lines.
Mikal Bridges was instrumental for the Phoenix Suns on both ends of the court in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. He also had the tough defensive assignment of guarding Khris Middleton. Look for Bridges to continue making an impact in transition, scoring off the ball and being a reliable three-point option.
#2 Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)
After playing nine seasons with the Brooklyn Nets and becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, Brook Lopez joined the LA Lakers in 2017. The move didn’t pan out, but Lopez was able to find a new home in Milwaukee the very next year.
The 13-year veteran is more than capable of posting big numbers, as was proved by his playoff career-high 33-point performance against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
BROOK LOPEZ was unstoppable in GM5— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 2, 2021
33 PTS (Playoff Career-High)
* He attempted a total of 20 FG over his last 3 games. pic.twitter.com/fDS8Mb5ru0
At 7’0″, Lopez is a modern-day stretch five who can knock down three-pointers with consistency, creating space for Giannis Antetokounmpo and spreading the floor for crafty ball-handlers such as Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.
Lopez was very efficient on the offensive end in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, shooting 50% from the field (7-of-14) and 60% from three-point range (3-of-5). But the Milwaukee Bucks will expect more from him on defense.
The Phoenix Suns took advantage of Lopez in pick-and-roll situations in Game 1, with Chris Paul and Devin Booker torching the Bucks from mid-range. Head coach Mike Budenholzer cannot afford to sit Lopez because of his scoring ability and will need to make adjustments to maximize his output on both ends of the floor.