Underrated. It's one of the most tossed about words in the NBA.
Players run through a cycle. First, they're underrated, then they get so much chatter about being underrated that they're overrated. Then, they get so much "they’re actually overrated" talk that they become underrated again.
So, I'm not going to talk about being "underrated" here. I'm going to talk about respect. We're talking about the Aretha Franklin respect, R-E-S-P-E-C-T respect.
Here are Tim Duncan and 10 other players who simply don't get the respect they should.
Do they have flaws? Sure, but everyone does.
Every player is flawed, but for some reason, these guys are defined more for their flaws than what they do well, or else they're just ignored. They are fantastic players in their own right, though, and deserve a lot more respect than they get.
Mike Conley, for whatever reason, is the forgotten man in Memphis.
Part of the reason he doesn't get the respect he deserves is that he's not an elite point guard in an age where the position is as deep as it has ever been.
When you think of the Memphis Grizzlies, you think of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, but Conley is the forgotten man. When Conley is on, so are the Grizzlies; last year, in games where he scored at least 12 points and had six dimes, the Grizzlies were 22-5.
I'm not saying he's an All-Star or that he's up there with Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose. I'm just saying, throw him a bit of love—he helps the Grizzlies growl.
Normally I hate the words "All-Star slight." When people say it, I usually want to ask, well then who shouldn't be on the list?
Last year, though, Smith was an All-Star slight. I used the Play Index at Basketball-Reference.com to see who had put up similar numbers, missed the All-Star game and had been in the league for more than three seasons.
The only player to ever put up better numbers and miss the All-Star Game was Kareem in 1978. He broke his hand the first game of the season and missed the next 20 games.
So, this is the actual case. No player with at least three years' experience has every had better numbers and missed the All-Star Game. I think that qualifies as a slight.
How many people are even aware that Ty Lawson is an NBA player?
You wouldn't believe the company he's keeping statistically. There are only seven NBA players who averaged 16 points and six assists per game last year. They are LeBron James, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams and John Wall.
Oh yeah, and Ty Lawson.
Is he as good as those guys? No. But he's probably good enough to at least have enough people know his name to give him an All-Star vote. Lawson didn't even finish in the top 10 in All-Star voting among Western Conference guards.
Greg Monroe is a perfect example of a player who gets no recognition because he plays on a bad team.
Monroe is about as obscure as they come until he's actually playing an NBA game. He is one of only three players last season who shot half their shots from the field, 70 percent from the stripe, scored 1,000 points and grabbed 600 boards; the other two were Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah.
If Monroe was playing in New York or Los Angles he would be considered one of the great, up-and-coming players, but playing in the obscurity of Detroit, he isn't even considered.
There were people—and by people, I include myself—who said Philadelphia was a nice team and all, but didn't have a closer. I repeated on several occasions that Andre Iguodala in particular couldn't carry the Sixers down the stretch of a tough playoff series.
Then he did. Not only did he do it, he did it to my Bulls. It was almost as if he read my articles online, and as he sank the free throws that sent the Bulls home for the season said, "This one is for you, Kelly Scaletta."
Iggy is a player who is so often knocked for what he isn't that he's often not appreciated for what he actually is, which is one of the best all-around players in the game today. He can drive, he can shoot, he plays defense as well as anyone not named LeBron James—appreciate him.
Al Jefferson has been dogged all of his career in spite of putting up some pretty impressive numbers. Name the best guard he ever played with, though.
In fact, name a guard he ever played with who wasn't a complete and total schlub.
Did you know that over the last five seasons he's averaged 19.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game?
You know who else has done that and been in the league that long? Zach Randolph and Dwight Howard, that's who. If you want to throw Blake Griffin a bone, you can.
In terms of totals, you know who has more rebounds and points than Jefferson? Howard.
Yet, how many times has Jefferson been in the All-Star Game? None.
Last year, Marcin Gortat averaged 15.4 points on .555 shooting and grabbed 10.0 rebounds per game. Only two other players had 15 points, 10 boards and shot .550, and they were the starting centers in the All-Star Game, Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard. Blake Griffin technically just missed, shooting .549, but he started in the All-Star Game.
Gortat got to watch the game from home. He was fifth in Western Conference voting when he should have been second.
Paul Millsap is usually on these kinds of lists at the beginning of the season, and then people forget about him by the end of the year.
The reason I have him so high up is that he's not even respected by his own team. I don't mean the fans don't respect him, I mean the actual team doesn't respect him.
It seems that Utah is always trying to replace him, no matter how well he performs. Last season, Millsap averaged 18 points and nine rebounds per 36 minutes, yet it seems the Jazz are always listening to trade rumors for him.
My question is, why aren't the Jazz happy with such a consistent player who does nothing but everything right and plays hard?
Millsap is never going to be Blake Griffin, but he's never going to leave anything but his sweat on the court. He deserves more respect than he gets, especially from his own team.
Here's a figure for you: Guess where Joakim Noah ranked in win shares last year.
He was eighth.
That's one place behind Blake Griffin and two places in front of Pau Gasol, the player with whom the Bulls would presumably be happy to replace Noah.
Noah is one of the few centers in the league with a free-throw percentage that's not a punchline. He hit .748 from the charity stripe. Yeah, he has about the ugliest shot in the NBA, but it does go in. He shot .508 from the field as well.
Energy? He brings that like nobody’s business; he's constantly working.
Defense? That's his specialty.
You say, "Who cares about the numbers?" He doesn't care about the numbers. He cares about winning, and he knows that defense is how that gets done.
Passing? Noah's a brilliant passer for a big man and became the first center in the league to get a conventional triple-double with 10 assists since Marcus Camby in 2008.
Ball-handling? He's arguably the best ball-handler on the team after Derrick Rose, and that's not my opinion—it's Tom Thibodeau's.
Am I saying that Noah is one of the 10 best players in the league? No, but I will argue that he's top 30, and a lot of people wouldn't even put him in the top 50 because the one thing that he doesn't do well is all they see.
Noah is not a scorer. Now, he's working on his offense with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If the tornado sky is coming, watch out league!
It's funny that the only way that Chris Bosh can earn the respect he should get is to get injured.
It's ironic, too, since one of the things that he gets criticized for is being soft. So, the allegedly soft guy gets injured, and then finally gets some of the respect he should be getting. Figure that one out.
That was a short-lived respect, though, fueled by ESPN's need for a basketball story. Chris Bosh does what he's supposed to do: He steps out and hits shots. He hit a remarkable .496 from 10-15 feet this season.
That's a really good percentage, in case you aren't aware.
In fact, no player who attempted at least 100 shots from that range had a higher percentage than Bosh this season.
We get that he's not a conventional "power" forward who does the power thing and muscles his way in and finishes at the rim. We get that he's not Karl Malone.
If the Heat didn't have any players who could get to the rim, that might be an issue.
But they have two guys who get to the rim at will in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. What the Heat have in Bosh is a guy who can step out, force his man to come with him and open up the lane for Wade and James to work their magic.
Bosh is another case of a player who is so dissed for what he isn't respected for than what he is, which is one of the best shooting big men in the league.
Easily the top player on this list is Tim Duncan. Duncan has never missed the postseason in his 16-year career, and in the course of that time, he's played with one Hall of Famer, David Robinson.
Other than that, unless Tony Parker and/or Manu Ginobili get in—which is a long shot, but not impossible—he'll have only one truly great teammate.
Tell me how many other players have won multiple championships without a second Hall of Fame player. Hakeem Olajuwon won one without any and one with Clyde Drexler, and that's about the best you can do.
Duncan has won four rings, and he has three Finals MVPS.
He's got two MVPs. He's 18th all time in total rebounds, ninth in blocks, 26th in points and ninth in player efficiency rating. He is sixth in career defensive win shares.
Duncan is both arguably the greatest defensive power forward ever and the greatest power forward ever, period.
Yet, what do people say when they talk about him? "He's boring." (Best Stephen A. Smith voice.)
Show some respect, son!
Boring!?!?! Are CHAMPIONSHIPS boring to you? What, do you want him to wear glitter while he’s dominating defensively or something?
I'm sorry if the most important element of the game is something you find "boring," but perhaps you should broaden your horizons and find out how to appreciate a good defensive effort if you find Duncan boring.