With the starting lineups for the 2012 NBA All Star game set, I figured that now is as good of a time as any to focus on the most underrated players in the NBA today.
PG: Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
Jennings has the potential to be one of the best point guards in the NBA, however, playing for the Bucks will only hurt his chances to become an elite point guard like Derrick Rose, Deron Williams or Chris Paul.
SG: Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers
Yes, Iguodala is a big name guy, but he has never really received the credit he deserves. He doesn’t put up the best stats mainly because he is more concerned about getting his team involved, but with a career average of 15 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists per game in 7+ years, he has definitely proven that he is a very good player.
Deng hasn’t had a great reputation in the NBA for the majority of his career, mainly due to the numerous injuries he has suffered throughout his 7 year career. Deng also suffered because of coaches who didn’t utilize his strengths in the offense, but once Tom Thibodeau came in, he made it clear that Luol needed to be a focal point on the offensive end. He has always been able to rely on his defense, and is finally being recognized as one of the best defenders in the NBA.
PF: Ryan Anderson, Orlando Magic
Anderson seems like a prototypical front court journeyman, but surprisingly this is only his fourth year in the NBA. After being drafted near the end of the first round in 2008, Anderson was a role player for the Nets and then was traded to the Magic in the deal that brought Vince Carter to Orlando. Ever since then, Anderson has improved tremendously each season and is averaging almost 17 points per game and 7 rebounds per game while shooting just over 43% from beyond the arc.
C: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Horford is like Iguodala in that many people don’t view him as underrated because of his success at Florida, winning back to back national championships in the ’05-’06 and ’06-’07 seasons. However, most centers in the NBA today are either offensive or defensive minded, but rarely both. There are a select few that are highly talented on both ends of the court and Horford is often overlooked. With his ability to hit a long jumper as well as being a rugged rebounder, Horford is a tough matchup for any team.
Lou Williams, PG – Philadelphia 76ers; Nick Young, SG – Washington Wizards; Danny Granger, SF – Indiana Pacers; Anderson Varejao, PF – Cleveland Cavaliers; Greg Monroe, C – Detroit Pistons
PG: Kyle Lowry, Houston Rockets
Lowry has been a pleasant surprise for the Rockets because prior to joining the team he was utilized as a backup for Mike Conley in Memphis and Aaron Brooks/Rafer Alston in Houston. Since being placed in the starting line-up at the beginning of this season, Lowry has not looked back and is proving to be one of the best distributors in the NBA. So far this year Lowry is averaging 15 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds (he’s listed at 6’0, so 6 RPG is ridiculous) per game, leading a Rockets team that is playing much better than they were expected.
SG: Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers
Matthews never really received much attention in Portland, mainly because he played behind the recently retired young superstar, Brandon Roy. However, in Matthews’ young career he is averaging 13 points while playing 29 minutes per game and is shooting 40% from the three point line. Matthews also has the ability to shutdown, or at least slow down most guards in the NBA with his tenacious effort on the defensive end. Now that Roy is out of the picture, Matthews has been given his opportunity to prove that he will be a force in the NBA for many years to come.
SF: Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets
Expectations were high in New York after the Knicks drafted Gallinari with the 6th overall pick ahead of Eric Gordon, D.J. Augustin and Brook Lopez in 2008. Unfortunately for the Knicks, Gallinari only played 28 games for them in his rookie season, but bounced back in his sophomore campaign by improving his scoring from 6 PPG to 15 PPG. From 2009 on, Gallinari has improved every major statistical category each year. So far this season he is averaging 17.4 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game for the Nuggets. He has proven to be a sufficient replacement for Carmelo Anthony, with the help of the rest of players in that deal from the Knicks.
PF: David Lee, Golden State Warriors
As Chicago Bulls color commentator Stacey King would say, David Lee is a “hard hat, lunch pale guy” meaning he works extremely hard without complaining and is a significant producer for his team. Since Lee’s second year in the NBA, he has averaged at least 10 points per game and 9 rebounds per game each season for the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors. Lee is currently averaging just under 19 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Warriors, who have shown signs of life at times this season with a young, athletic nucleus. He is the perfect compliment for the ridiculously athletic Monta Ellis because Lee brings an old school style of play to the team, which is something they have lacked the last few years.
C: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Marc made a name for himself last year when the eighth seeded Grizzlies made a phenomenal run in the NBA Playoffs, upsetting the one seed in the San Antonio Spurs. They even went on to give the Oklahoma City Thunder a run for their money in the Western Conference Semi’s, losing the series 3-4. Gasol was a big reason for this unexpected success because of his rebounding and finesse around the hoop. Even though Marc’s talent is no longer a secret, seemingly making him not a viable candidate for an underrated player, he will be casted under the large shadow of his older brother Pau, who has had a much more prolific career. However, Marc still has a lot of room for improvement and is four years younger than Pau.
Ty Lawson, PG – Denver Nuggets; Brandon Rush, SG – Golden State Warriors (for those who disagree: avg 10 ppg, 4 rpg in 25 mpg, he is also shooting 60% from 3: 32-54); Gerald Wallace, SF – Portland Trail Blazers; Paul Millsap, PF – Utah Jazz; Marcin Gortat, C – Phoenix Suns