With 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend approaching in mid-March, some of the game’s brightest stars will be on display.
While these players have been chosen by fans and coaches alike, there is a large group of underrated role players that have helped All-Stars earn the opportunity to play in Orlando or have been able to keep their teams afloat during turbulent seasons.
While some of these players were placed on the NBA All-Star ballot and simply did not receive enough support to be included in the game, most have been underrated—either due to other players on their teams absorbing the limelight, their teams' poor records this season or their unremarkable (but very important) contributions to their teams.
This list represents some of the top underrated forwards—both small and power—currently in the NBA.
While Dwight Howard’s performances and future dominate the headlines coming out of Orlando, Ryan Anderson has quietly been making a name for himself as an effective power forward.
Anderson ranks third among all power forwards in efficiency (PER of 23.25), which puts his overall productivity just behind his heralded teammate, Howard (PER of 23.82).
Obviously, Anderson has been able to thrive off of all the attention Howard gets from opponents, but if he can continue to produce 16.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, it may help ease the sting if Howard does indeed leave the Magic this year.
With all eyes on Josh Smith and Joe Johnson in Atlanta, it is easy for fans to overlook what Marvin Williams is able do for the team.
His numbers have been in decline since his banner 2007-08 season with the Hawks, when he averaged 14.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game (he currently averages 9.6 points and 5.4 rebounds), but that is largely due to a decrease in minutes (from 34.6 to 24.1 per game).
Williams’ long-range shooting has increased dramatically from previous years (up to 44.1 percent from a career average of 32.6 percent). If that ability is sustained, he will become a hot commodity come the 2013 offseason, when he has the option to opt out of his contract.
Though his dunking ability will be on display in Orlando, Fla., Chase Budinger’s name did not appear on the All-Star ballot this year.
His numbers are not eye-popping, but he is a very effective player—with a PER of 16.69—and is helping a Houston Rockets team that is heavily dependent on its guard play to stay in playoff contention in the Western Conference.
While Budinger is only averaging 8.9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, his ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc (41.4 percent three-point shooting this season) helps spread the floor for Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry to maneuver through and around defenses.
Thaddeus Young is another player on this list that was placed on the All-Star ballot, but did not receive enough support from the fans or coaches to make it to Orlando.
Young’s contributions to the Philadelphia 76ers helped them get off to a hot start, and there is hope that his continued production will help them make a deep run in this year’s playoffs.
Young is averaging 12.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and is coming off his highest-scoring effort of the season (20 points against the Charlotte Bobcats), which will only further increase his profile among NBA fans.
He has been a consistent contributor for the 76ers since he was drafted in 2007 out of Georgia Tech, averaging more than 12.7 points in each of his four seasons after his rookie campaign.
With so many All-Stars and future Hall of Famers surrounding him, Brandon Bass doesn't get nearly the hype that he should.
All eyes are on Rajon Rondo and the “Big Three,” but almost as important to the future of the Celtics franchise is the health and productivity of Bass.
Bass is currently averaging 11.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game—both career highs—and his future development may help shape the direction of Boston’s franchise.
Not to be confused with being a “franchise player,” he is someone that can contribute regularly in the shadows of other more prominent players come the eventual end of the Ray Allen-Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett era.
Though not a flashy addition to any team, Mike Dunleavy is a consistent scorer who can regularly contribute to teams through his scoring and veteran leadership.
His current average of 10.9 points per game is a bit short of his career average (12.0 per game), but he has been able to post double-digit point averages for nearly a decade.
That type of reliability is extremely valuable on teams that are looking for consistent scoring from role players, and that is exactly what the Milwaukee Bucks are getting from Dunleavy this year, despite their struggles through the first part of the season.
The Washington Wizards are struggling this season, sitting at 7-23 (second only to the Bobcats for the worst record in the Eastern Conference), but there should not be any blame directed at Andray Blatche for the way the season is turning out.
Blatche did receive some recognition from the NBA through his placement on the All-Star ballot this year, but like everyone else on this list, he did not receive enough votes to make it to Orlando.
Prior to injuring his calf, Blatche was averaging 10.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game for the Wizards. At only 25 years old, he is going to be a major building block for Washington’s franchise, with his contract extending through the 2014-15 season.
Though Danilo Gallinari was placed on the All-Star ballot this season, he will not be representing the Denver Nuggets in Orlando, Fla.
Despite being known in many NBA circles, Gallinari's overall popularity is not nearly as great as the player he was traded for (Carmelo Anthony) in a deal between the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets.
Gallinari's abilities are unquestioned. He ranks fourth among small forwards in overall productivity (Hollinger PER of 19.97) and is currently averaging 17.0 points per game. Further, he is shooting 31.3 percent from behind the arc and averages five assists and nearly three rebounds per game.
His ability to coexist with Ty Lawson, Al Harrington and Nene Hilario is critical to the Nuggets' ability to go deep into the playoffs this season.
Steve Novak is a special addition to the list, due to his recent surge in productivity with the introduction of Jeremy Lin to the New York Knicks' starting lineup against the Utah Jazz on Feb. 2.
Novak averaged 10.8 points per game over the first six games of Lin's current run, including two 19-point performances.
He has been able to produce due to a significant increase in minutes per game, and if the Knicks keep winning, his stock is likely to rise right alongside Lin’s (though, by no means as dramatically).
Though Paul Millsap was placed on the All-Star ballot, he once again was overlooked in favor of a less productive NBA champion (Dirk Nowitzki).
Millsap is having yet another tremendous season for the Utah Jazz, averaging 15.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals, all while splitting time with up-and-coming Derrick Favors.
Millsap’s PER of 23.21 puts him at 14th overall in the NBA and fourth among power forwards. If he was more outspoken on and off the court, and/or if he was playing for a team in a larger market, there is little doubt that he would be the topic of more conversation around the NBA.
For now, he will continue to grind it out and keep improving his game in Salt Lake City.