The 2017 NBA playoffs is upon us, and as expected, the usual suspects—LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard—showed what they are made of in Game 1 of their respective series.
This part of the basketball year is normally reserved for the game's biggest stars, who have become postseason regulars thanks to the championship pedigree of their teams. Although slipping through the cracks of the highly competitive environment are a handful of playoff virgins, eager to strut their stuff in the sport's defining run.
The following postseason first-timers didn't crumble under the NBA spotlight, but instead were much brighter under it.
Taurean Prince (Atlanta Hawks)
14 PTS 6 REB (10 4TH)
What makes this particular playoff debut impressive is the fact that the team just recalled Prince from the D-League (Long Island Nets) early February. The sophomore is proving that he has more than filled the void left by defensive wing Demarre Carroll, only more dependable on offense. He also became the first Hawks' rookie to score at least 10 points in his postseason baptism of fire since Al Horford.
Malcolm Brogdon (Milwaukee Bucks)
16 PTS 6 REB
Milwaukee's youth is turning out to be an edge than a detriment in its opening round series against the Toronto Raptors. Aside from the franchise cornerstone (more on him later), first-year players Thon Maker (defense) and Brogdon are giving people enough reason to "Fear the Deer." The latter, however, is making the most of this extended opportunity to bolster his case for Rookie of the Year.
Markieff Morris (Washington Wizards)
21 PTS 7 REB 4 BLK
From being one of the league's biggest head cases, Markieff seems to be thriving in his first taste of the postseason. The Washington forward wasn't one to back down despite being matched up against an All-Star in Paul Millsap, whom he had a few—physical and verbal—exchanges with during the game. His versatility and toughness clearly overwhelmed the Hawks frontcourt, not even factoring in his fellow 'Phoenix Outlaw,' Marcin Gortat.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
28 PTS 8 REB 3 AST 2 STL
This type of showing confirms that the Greek Freak, who became the first player in NBA history to finish in the Top 20 in total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, and also the fifth to lead his team in all of those statistical categories, is ready for prime time. A Bucks squad that is peaking at just the right moment—even without one of its best players, Jabari Parker—might just pull off a couple of shockers in the playoffs, with Antetokounmpo leading the way.