7 Role Players in the 2023 NBA Finals

Bruce Brown (11) and Gabe Vincent (2) proved to be the difference makers in the playoffs.

Prime time players, franchise players, superstars are the reason their respective teams have traveled this far to reach this stage of the NBA season. It wouldn’t happen without them.

And then there are the role players. That designation should not come with any negative connotations because they too have a role in leading their ranks to the threshold of the Promised Land.

Now in the NBA Finals, supporting players for the Nuggets and Heat can make the difference between victory and defeat. History tells us that. Some of those players have done better than the stars. And some fared better than all: former Finals MVP winners Andre Iguodala and Cedric Maxwell.

The stage is set for one of these players to make a name, and perhaps a legend, in the 2023 finals. The ball will find them, or they’ll get a tough defensive job and they’ll be asked to produce, and the glare of the bright lights, they won’t be able to hide. It is not a very comfortable position for players who have fourth or fifth options, but if they are ready and eager, they will meet all the challenges. Denver and Miami have already seen positive results en route to the Finals.

Here is a roll call of role players who can tilt the score and the championship in favor of their respective teams:

Kentavius ​​Caldwell-Pope

Energy, desire, basketball guts in tough spots, all with KCP, a proven championship player (2020, Lakers) who knows what it takes to thrive this time of year. KCP is kept open whenever the defense pays respect to Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, and his 3-pointer is dangerous. He’s not afraid of the bright lights, evident by his big shots in the final three years ago, and can be seen playing a massive role in his former team’s sweep. KCP had a pair of 21-point games in the Western Conference Finals and can spark runs if he gets hot. He is also Denver’s best defensive guard. Acquiring him from the Wizards last summer for almost nothing was one of the Nuggets’ best trades in years.

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Bruce Brown

Game Time offers picks for the best presence in the conference finals.

He became a valuable addition to the rotation the moment he arrived from the Brooklyn Nets last summer. Basically, Brown fits into the locker room, culture and rotation as a flexible swingman. That’s why the Nuckets will use him deep in the fourth quarters of close games. Brown is a mid-range specialist who is efficient, plays well off Nikola Jokic and is usually the third option whenever Murray or Michael Porter Jr. sit. He is also a solid defender with quick hands. He gave the Lakers fits in the Western Conference Finals and scored 25 points in 27 minutes in a Game 2 win over the Suns in the Western Semifinals. There are few sixth men who have delivered more than the Brown Nuggets this postseason.

Jeff Green

He’s a steady and determined 36-year-old who gives coach Michael Malone very little to worry about because of his ability to play within himself. It doesn’t hurt to have basketball leadership and wisdom; That’s why he’s fondly called „Uncle Jeff” by teammates past and present. A 6-foot-8 combo forward, Green is willing to do tough-man work by guarding bigger and stronger players while attacking the rim to dunk in traffic. He has the ability to step into the corners to hit 3-pointers. Never underestimate the resilience and courage of a soldier who survived heart surgery and wore a six-inch scar; That’s why nothing moves Green that he doesn’t see on the basketball court.

Duncan Robinson

Well, it’s more of a comeback story: An undrafted player gets a big contract, gets benched for nearly two seasons, resurrects himself this season by returning to his 3-point shooting roots. Robinson was on the floor when the Eastern Conference Finals all counted, and who saw that coming? When he went into a deep shooting slump, Robinson couldn’t play because he didn’t do anything else well, and he was vulnerable defensively, not in Erik Spoelstra’s system. He was positive, waited for the opportunity and made the most of it by splashing shots. His increased role was made possible by Tyler Hero’s injury in the first game of the playoffs; Miami didn’t have anyone else, and Robinson made it easy for the Heat to breathe.

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Caleb Martin

Caleb Martin goes for 26 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 68% from the field to help lead the Heat over the Celtics in Game 7.

Some highlights: Caleb wasn’t drafted, but his twin brother, Cody, was by the Hornets in 2019, and Cody was soon joined by Caleb in Charlotte. Also: J. Cole, the rapper, hails from North Carolina like the Martin brothers and became friendly; After Martin’s exclusion in 2021, J. Cole had a nice word with Heat scout Caron Butler. Butler then encouraged Miami to work out the 6-foot-5 swingman, and the rest is history. Martin scored 28 points against the Bucs upon his arrival and became a fixture in the rotation. He’s fearless and flexible, exactly the type of player the Heat want, and has seen his stock rise in these playoffs after Tyler Hero suffered a hand injury in the first game of the playoffs. He was the best player on the floor with 26 points and 10 rebounds in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and had 25 points in Game 2. And he averaged 11 points in the Heat’s upset of the top-seeded Bucks.

Cape Vincent

A rare NBA player who stays in college for four years, Vincent didn’t make it around the G League for three years before joining the Heat roster permanently in 2021. Defensive intensity and coupled with that he earned more minutes quickly. Kyle Lowry’s attrition started himself from point guard in the playoffs. Then his scoring became a pleasant surprise: 22 points in a closeout win over the Bucks in the first round, 20 and 21 against the Knicks, and 29 in Miami’s 3-0 win over the Celtics. It’s hard to find another player on any team with more growth than Vincent this season.

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Max Stress

He arrived three years ago without much notice, but quickly gained traction and a spot in the rotation thanks to his 3-point shooting and willingness to take that shot in tough situations. That made him coach Erik Spoelstra, and when Duncan Robinson sank into the slump, Strauss assumed a starting role with more minutes this season. He’s in line for a new contract this summer, his first chance at big money, so there’s a lot at stake for him and the Heat. After averaging 15 points in the conference semifinals against the Knicks, Strus was inconsistent against the Celtics, but the Nuggets would be well-advised not to leave him unguarded for any significant length. He has paid teams in the past.

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