Boston Celtics

10 players who could be huge X-factors in Celtics-Mavs NBA Finals

These players could swing the outcome of the series.

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The 2024 NBA Finals doesn't lack star power.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic are both first team All-NBA players. Mavs guard Kyrie Irving and C's wing Jaylen Brown are two of the best No. 2 options in the league. Together, they represent four of the top 20 players in the sport.

Despite the big names on both rosters, this series could very well be decided by the supporting casts.

Which third, fourth or fifth starter will make a huge impact? Which role player is going to change the outcome of a game with a hot shooting night from 3-point range or a couple clutch defensive plays?

These teams both have impressive depth. Each rotation goes eight or nine guys deep. There will be opportunities for non-superstar players to glow in the spotlight of the Finals stage.

Let's take a look at five players on each team who could play a pivotal role in the outcome as X-factors.

Kristaps Porzingis, C, Celtics

Normally a player of Porzingis' caliber would be too talented to put on an X-factor list, but his injury status makes him worthy of inclusion this time.

The Celtics have not said whether Porzingis will play in Game 1, but he's looked pretty good in practice. If he does play and is able to contribute anywhere near a high level, it would be a massive boost for the Celtics at both ends of the floor.

They'd be essentially adding a player capable of scoring 20-plus points per game who can stretch the floor and finish inside, particularly off offensive rebounds. He's also a fantastic interior defender who blocks and alters opponents' shots around the rim.

A lot has been made of how the Celtics' path to the Finals was easy to some injuries their opponents had to deal with. But it's important not to forget that the Celtics have been without their starting center -- and an All-Star caliber one -- for the last 10 games.

If Porzingis returns and plays well against the Mavericks, it's hard to see the Celtics losing the series. And he should be plenty motivated to perform at a high level against his former team.

Derrick White, PG, Celtics

White's defense is super valuable to the Celtics. Like Holiday, White probably will get plenty of minutes defending Doncic and Irving. White ranked second in the regular season in blocks among guards. His length, size and quickness help make him one of the league's top perimeter defenders. He was recently voted to the All-Defensive second team for the second consecutive campaign.

White could make a huge impact offensively, too. He's scoring a career-high 17.8 points per game in the playoffs, while shooting 40.7 percent from 3-point range.

He has scored 20-plus points five times through 14 games. His 3-pointer at the end of Game 4 against the Pacers sealed the Celtics' berth in the Finals.

White is capable of getting hot from 3-point range. He has made four or more 3-pointers in six games this playoff run. A couple good games from White -- at either end of the floor -- could be enough to swing the series in Boston's favor.

Sam Hauser, SF, Celtics

Hauser is one of the league's top 3-point shooters, but he's been ice cold in the playoffs. After shooting 42.4 percent on 3-point shots in the regular season, Hauser is hitting just 33.3 percent of his attempts in the postseason.

Hauser made 12 3-pointers in the five-game first-round series versus the Miami Heat, including a 5-of-8 performance in the Game 5 clincher. Since then, he has hit just four 3-pointers in his last nine games combined. He shot 1-of-14 from beyond the arc in the conference finals.

The Celtics don't need Hauser to catch fire from 3-point range to win the Finals, but even a slight improvement from him in this area could play a pivotal role in the outcome.

Jrue Holiday, PG, Celtics

The addition of Holiday has been critical for the Celtics. He's a trustworthy scorer, playmaker and defender. He's also the only player on Boston's roster with a championship ring, which he won with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021.

Holiday is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from 3-point range in the playoffs. He's been even better in the fourth quarter of playoff games with a 55.6 field goal percentage and a 50 percent rate on 3-pointers during those minutes.

The veteran guard's defense will be key to the Celtics' chances of winning the series. Holiday is likely to spend most of his defensive possessions guarding Doncic or Irving. If he's successful in these matchups defensively, the Celtics' chances of winning go up dramatically.

In addition to his two-way excellence, Holiday is so valuable because he almost always makes the right decisions. He's a smart player who won't be bothered by high-pressure situations late in games.

Payton Pritchard, PG, Celtics

After averaging just 5.7 minutes per game in the 2023 playoffs, Pritchard is playing 20.9 minutes per game in the 2024 postseason. He's also averaging a playoff career high 7.5 points per game and shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point range. In fact, Pritchard's 3-point percentage is the second-best among all players in the playoffs (minimum 25 attempts).

Pritchard's ability to provide instant offense off the bench and rebound pretty well for a 6-foot-1 guard could prove valuable in this series. He doesn't lack confidence and is capable of getting hot from 3-point range. A five- or six-point spurt from Pritchard at the end of a quarter could be huge for the Celtics.

P.J. Washington, SF/PF, Mavericks

The Mavs don't have great depth. Outside of Doncic and Irving, the only other player averaging 10-plus points per game in the playoffs is P.J. Washington (13.8).

His effectiveness is largely dependent on his success from 3-point range, especially because he takes at least six of them per game. He's been pretty inconsistent on these shots throughout the postseason.

Washington shot terribly in the first round. He rebounded dramatically in the conference semifinals, and then regressed quite a bit in the conference finals.

Which Washington will the Mavericks get in the Finals? The result will be crucial to their chances of pulling off an upset.

Derrick Jones Jr., SF, Mavericks

Jones has been a valuable contributor for the Mavs. After scoring 8.6 points per game and shooting 34.3 percent from 3-point range in the regular season, he is averaging 9.8 points per game and shooting 39.6 percent on 3-pointers in the playoffs.

Jones provides scoring, outside shooting and rebounding for the Mavericks. He doesn't do anything at an elite level, but he's pretty consistent. He's also capable of having some big games, which we saw in the conference semifinals against the Thunder when he scored 58 points over the final three matchups combined.

Defense is where Jones could make the largest impact, though. He'll likely spend plenty of his minutes guarding Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown.

He certainly doesn't lack confidence:

Maxi Kleber, SF/PF, Mavericks

If you're looking for a player on the Mavericks who could surprise, Kleber is an interesting choice. He has the ability to get hot from 3-point range.

Just ask the Clippers. Kleber scored 12 points on four 3-pointers in the second quarter of Game 5 in the first round. This burst helped the Mavs lead by 10 at halftime as they cruised to a 30-point victory.

Kleber returned to the lineup in Game 4 of the conference finals after missing the previous nine games due to injury. It remains to be seen how much of a role he'll have in the Finals, but he's not a guy the Celtics can totally ignore on the perimeter.

Dereck Lively II, C, Mavericks

Lively is having a tremendous rookie season. He's capable of scoring around 10 points on a given night with a soft touch at the rim and the ability to finish dunks in traffic. But his biggest impact comes defensively.

Lively ranks second on the Mavericks in rebounds (7.6) and blocks (1.2) per game in the playoffs. Opponents are shooting just 49.3 percent at the rim against Lively -- the third-best mark in the postseason, per

His defense and athleticism will be needed for Dallas.

Daniel Gafford, PF/C, Mavericks

Gafford was one of the two important trade deadline acquisitions (along with Washington) that Dallas made in February. The veteran big man has made a strong impact at both ends of the floor, providing much-needed scoring depth and a strong defensive presence in the paint.

According to, "opponents have shot just 38-for-84 (45.2 percent) at the rim when Gafford has been there to protect it. That’s the best rim protection mark among 17 players who’ve defended at least 50 shots at the rim."

Gafford plays with great energy and runs the floor really well. He's dangerous on the pick-and-roll because of his ability to finish alley-oops, even in traffic. The Mavs need him to make a similar impact in the Finals, especially if Porzingis returns.

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