1. Chris Paul (+1)
John Napier: Chris “Clutch” Paul amazed yet again, with a rousing fourth-quarter performance that fueled the Thunder to another close win. Although performances by Dennis Schröder, Danilo Gallinari, Luguentz Dort, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have played a critical role in each win, the outcomes have largely been dependent upon Paul. CP3 is a -71 in plus-minus in the Thunder’s three losses, but a +38 in wins. So, in the most clutch-dependent game in the playoffs, whether the Thunder stay in this or pack their bags will depend upon the Point God.
2. Dennis Schröder (+1)
Cray Allred: For the first round, Schröder’s impact has been modest (18.2 points on .424/.282/.800 splits) relative to the regular season. But his importance to the team has never been more clear. He’s the only member of the United Nations lineup that wrecked the league to have a positive +/- against Houston, and the team has been hopeless when he sits (or gets ejected). Paul has attacked the gassed Rockets to close out games; Schröder needs to be the aggressor for the first three quarters to set the clutch table.
3. Danilo Gallinari (+1)
Napier: After starting 0-4 from three, Gallinari came alive, converting on 80% of his three-pointers the rest of Game 6 and scoring 25 points, including the two free-throws that iced the win. Gallo is OKC’s most reliable deep threat, and in a Game 7, the Thunder likely cannot survive another stinker like Danilo had in Game 5.
4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (-3)
Allred: We jinxed him four games into the series by labeling him the most consistent Thunder performer. He’s ended up being OKC’s most up-and-down player, with three games of 10 or less points and three with 18 or more. He might play all 48 minutes tonight, so now is the time for that upswing after two rough outings.
5. Luguentz Dort (+0)
Napier: After Game 4, Dort’s stock was trading at an all time high. But a horrid offensive performance in Game 5, coupled with an explosive game from James Harden, led to a major dip in the market. Game 6 looked like more of the same, with foul trouble and misfiring from three, kept the defensive specialist from making the impact he did in Games 2-4. However, Dort kept giving his all. In the third, Dort hit two critical threes, and he’s also likely the reason Harden was utterly gassed at the end of Game 6.
6. Darius Bazley (+0)
Allred: More spry than Steven Adams and more disciplined than Nerlens Noel, Bazley has been the only reliable frontcourt presence to navigate the perimeter/help responsibilities that comes inside the Rockets pressure cooker. Dort and Bazley aren’t just feel-good rookie stories in the postseason–they are rookies being depended on in the playoffs for a team hoping to knock out one of the league’s best players. Unlike Dort, he’s combined his defensive prowess with actual spacing, shooting a blazing 47.4% on 6.2 attempts per-36 minutes. He’s played 22+ minutes the last two contests, and has earned even more for the elimination game.