Scouting five playoff first-timers

What to look for in postseason from Lillard, Walker, Wall, DeRozan, Valanciunas

Updated: April 18, 2014, 6:31 PM ET
By Amin Elhassan | ESPN Insider

LillardGary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesDamian Lillard will battle the Rockets in his first taste of NBA playoff action.

Last year, we took a look at four playoff first-timers after their first taste of postseason action.

Players such as Stephen Curry and Patrick Beverley really elevated their level of play and stepped up to the challenge, and then carried those performances over to the following regular season.

Let's examine some of this year's crop of playoff newcomers -- including DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Damian Lillard, John Wall and Kemba Walker -- and outline what to look for in their first go-round at NBA postseason basketball.


Valanciunas
DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas -- Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are back in the postseason for the first time since 2008, and DeRozan and Valanciunas have been big parts of the team's success. DeRozan has seen his game grow since the trade of Rudy Gay, and while his efficiency hasn't been exemplary, he has done a better job with those extra possessions than Gay did. He has struggled from 3-point range, connecting on barely a quarter of his long-distance attempts since the All-Star break. But he augments his scoring with an uncanny knack for drawing fouls, to the tune of 6.6 fouls drawn per game, leading to more than nine free throw attempts per game (it helps that he's a terrific free throw shooter). Having someone who draws that many fouls a game can be extremely helpful by getting opponents in the penalty sooner, leading to more free throws for the entire team, or less vigilant defense from the opposition. It'll be interesting to see if this trait carries over to the postseason, where whistles can be harder to come by.