Players vital to postseason success

The Miami Heat need Shane Battier to step his game up defensively in the playoffs. AP Photo/David Santiago

From Bob Gross to Steve Kerr to Robert Horry to Trevor Ariza to J.J. Barea, role players emerge almost every season to have a major impact in the playoffs. Last season, it was Barea's ability to waterbug around the Heat defense that helped the Mavericks to their first NBA crown. For this edition of Projection versus Production, we're going to look at three players who could turn up as key factors in determining which team is going to take the next title. As always, we'll focus on one overachiever, one underachiever and one guy who is doing what he's supposed to do. These players could all play important roles for their respective clubs in the playoffs.

Our projection system SCHOENE forecasts a full suite of our favorite metrics, but the bottom-line number to watch for is WARP, which measures how many more wins a player adds to his team's total than a freely available guy plucked off the scrap heap. While no single number can capture everything that happens in an interdynamic team sport like hoops, WARP points you in the right direction. When you see a WARP number that surprises you -- and remember, we know when to be surprised because we've predicted all these WARP scores -- the next step is to ask why. All the WARP numbers you see in this article have been prorated to 82 games, just to give the results an air of normalcy in this abbreviated NBA season.

Better than we thought

Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected WARP: -1.2; current WARP: -1.1