NBA Playoffs: Ranking the Pressure on James Harden, Chris Paul, Nikola Jokic and Trae Young

The NBA playoffs are in full swing, and some of the biggest stars in the league are facing different levels of pressure to perform and lead their teams to victory. In this blog post, we will rank four of them based on how much heat they are feeling right now: James Harden, Chris Paul, Nikola Jokic and Trae Young.

James Harden: High pressure

The Brooklyn Nets were supposed to be the overwhelming favorites to win the title this year, with their trio of superstars Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

However, injuries have derailed their plans, as Irving is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle and Harden has missed most of the series against the Milwaukee Bucks with a hamstring strain.

Harden made a surprising return in Game 5, but he was clearly limited and struggled to score. The Nets managed to win that game thanks to a heroic performance by Durant, but they lost Game 6 on the road and now face a do-or-die Game 7 at home.

Harden’s pressure meter is high because he has a lot to prove in this postseason. He has never won a championship in his career, and he has faced criticism for his lack of clutchness and leadership in the past.

He also forced his way out of Houston earlier this season to join the Nets, creating high expectations for himself and his team. If he can’t deliver in Game 7 and help the Nets advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, he will face a lot of backlash and questions about his legacy.

NBA Playoffs: Ranking the Pressure on James Harden, Chris Paul, Nikola Jokic and Trae Young

Source: nba.nbcsports

Chris Paul: Medium pressure

The Phoenix Suns have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season, as they finished with the second-best record in the league and swept the Denver Nuggets in the second round. A lot of their success can be attributed to Chris Paul, who joined the team in the offseason and transformed them into a legitimate contender.

Paul has been playing at an MVP level, averaging 25.5 points and 10.3 assists per game in the playoffs. He has also been a mentor and leader for the young Suns core, especially Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

Paul’s pressure meter is medium because he has already exceeded expectations with his team, but he also has a chance to achieve something he has never done before: reach the NBA Finals. Paul is widely regarded as one of the best point guards of all time, but he has also been plagued by injuries and bad luck in his previous playoff runs.

He has never made it past the conference finals in his 16-year career, and he missed two games in the first round this year due to COVID-19 protocols.

He is expected to return for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers or the Utah Jazz, but he will need to stay healthy and productive to help the Suns make history.

Nikola Jokic: Low pressure

The Denver Nuggets had a disappointing end to their season, as they were swept by the Suns in the second round. However, it is hard to blame Nikola Jokic for their exit, as he was the main reason they made it that far in the first place.

Jokic had an incredible regular season, winning his first MVP award after averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game.

He also carried the Nuggets in the playoffs, especially after Jamal Murray went down with a torn ACL in April. Jokic averaged 29.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5 assists per game in the postseason, but he did not have enough help from his teammates against the Suns.

Jokic’s pressure meter is low because he has already established himself as one of the best players in the league and one of the most unique talents in NBA history. He has nothing to be ashamed of for his performance this year, and he can look forward to next season when Murray returns and the Nuggets can contend again.

Trae Young: Very low pressure

The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the biggest surprises of the playoffs, as they upset the New York Knicks in the first round and are now tied 3-3 with the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the second round. Trae Young has been sensational for the Hawks, averaging 29.6 points and 10.5 assists per game in the playoffs.

He has also shown a flair for the dramatic, hitting clutch shots and silencing hostile crowds with his swagger and confidence. Young’s pressure meter is very low because he has already exceeded all expectations for himself and his team.

He has proven that he is a star in this league and that he can lead a young and inexperienced squad to compete with anyone. He has also earned respect from fans and peers for his fearless and entertaining style of play.

Final Thoughts: NBA Playoffs Pressure Rankings

The NBA playoffs always bring excitement and high stakes as the best players in the league compete for the ultimate prize. This year is no exception, as several stars are facing different levels of pressure to perform and lead their teams to victory.

At the top of the pressure rankings is James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets. Harden has a lot to prove in this postseason, as he has never won a championship and has faced criticism for his lack of clutchness and leadership in the past.

He also forced his way out of Houston earlier this season to join the Nets, creating high expectations for himself and his team. If he can’t deliver in Game 7 and help the Nets advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, he will face a lot of backlash and questions about his legacy.

Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns is next on the list, with medium pressure. Paul has already exceeded expectations with his team, but he also has a chance to achieve something he has never done before: reach the NBA Finals.

Paul is widely regarded as one of the best point guards of all time, but he has also been plagued by injuries and bad luck in his previous playoff runs. He will need to stay healthy and productive to help the Suns make history.

Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets has low pressure, despite the team’s disappointing exit in the second round. Jokic has already established himself as one of the best players in the league and one of the most unique talents in NBA history.

He has nothing to be ashamed of for his performance this year, and he can look forward to next season when the Nuggets can contend again.

Finally, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks has very low pressure. Young has already exceeded all expectations for himself and his team, proving that he is a star in this league and that he can lead a young and inexperienced squad to compete with anyone.

He has also earned respect from fans and peers for his fearless and entertaining style of play. Whether he wins or loses Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers, he has already made a name for himself in these playoffs.

In conclusion, these pressure rankings show the different levels of expectations and scrutiny that NBA stars face during the playoffs. Some have more to lose than others, but all of them will need to bring their A-game if they want to win the ultimate prize.