The NBA All-Underrated Team
As the 2012-13 season nears, it's a good time to take stock of players in the league who are undervalued.
Some are overlooked because they play for small market teams and some have skills that don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet. This slideshow includes the starting five of underrated NBA stars.
PG: Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson is scheduled to be one of the breakout players of the 2012-13 season.
On a Nuggets team that has incredible depth, but no superstars, Lawson emerged as a leader last season. He averaged 16.4 PPG, 6.6 APG and 3.7 RPG during the regular season, but really stepped it up in the playoffs.
He took more shots, made more of those shots, cut down his turnovers and led the explosive Nuggets offense that pushed the Lakers to seven games.
Lawson came into the league as the seventh point guard selected in the 2009 Draft and the third drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves behind Ricky Rubio and Johnny Flynn.
Even though we was rather unheralded coming into the league, Lawson looks to be the most valuable of the three heading into next season, particularly with Rubio tearing his ACL.
SG: Kevin Martin
It's strange to think that a former top ten scorer could be underrated, but Kevin Martin's case is different than many on this list.
Last season, Martin played for the Houston Rockets, but he fell out of favor with coach Kevin McHale and racked up more Did Not Play-Coach's Decisions than points. Courtney Lee, Martin's replacement, was traded to the Celtics, but the Rockets drafted Jeremy Lamb to fill in for Lee.
In Sacramento, and back when Rick Adelman was the coach in Houston, Martin was a premiere scorer. Now, Martin is a benchwarmer, waiting for a chance to prove himself again.
SF: Luol Deng
Some players are undervalued because their greatness doesn't necessarily show up on a stat sheet. Deng's calling card is his defense.
Over the past few seasons, Deng has been a top-5 defensive forward in addition to putting up 15-20 points and six-seven rebounds per game.
Is he worth the $27 million left on his contract with the Chicago Bulls? Yes, and here's why.
Last year, Derrick Rose played about half the season due to injuries. Until that point, the Bulls ran their offense through Rose. During Rose's time on the bench, Deng kept the Bulls afloat, anchoring the defense, scoring when necessary and leading the Bulls to the first seed in the East.
Deng did most of this without last year's league's MVP.
While some might say the Bulls' success is due to Tom Thibodeau's excellent coaching, Deng's fantastic play in the Olympics demonstrates his caliber as an underrated player.
If you can't think of any other NBA players on Great Britain's roster, you would be correct: Deng was the only NBA player on their roster and they still scrapped out a win in the Olympics and moved to Division A in EuroBasket.
Deng will be back this season, anchoring the Bulls as Rose recovers from his torn ACL.
The Bulls will remain competitive and tenacious on defense as long as Deng graces a Bulls uniform.
PF: Kenneth Faried
This photo is a great representation of Faried's grinding, hustle style of play.
The Denver Nuggets stole Faried out of Morehead State with the 22nd pick of the 2011 draft and Faried rewarded them with 58.6% shooting, 10 points per game and 7.7 rebounds during the regular season. Those stats look solid for a rookie selected in Faried's position, but they become more impressive when looking at the amount of playing time Faried received.
Faried garnered his stats in 22 minutes of playing time, about two-thirds the time a starter normally plays.
In addition, John Hollinger's advanced statistics demonstrate that Faried was even better than his regular numbers indicate. Faried's player efficiency rating, a measure of how well a player plays on a minute-to-minute basis, was 21.94 last year.
That rating is higher than that of Josh Smith, Pau Gasol, and Serge Ibaka—three of the league's premier power forwards.
In addition, Faried had the seventh highest rebound rate and the highest offensive rebound rate of any player in the league last year. Faried hustles for every single minute he plays and he showed off even more of his potential in the playoffs last year.
In the series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Faried averaged a double-double (points & rebounds) and covered Pau Gasol well.
This phenomenal performance as a rookie shows that Faried is undervalued and that he can be a big star in the NBA.
C: Al Jefferson
After the 2006-07 season, the Boston Celtics swung a seven-for-one player deal with the Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett. The Celtics young big man, Al Jefferson, constituted the centerpiece of the deal.
Jefferson toiled away for a few years in Minnesota with a makeshift roster and a revolving carousel of coaches. After several disappointing seasons, the Timberwolves dumped Jefferson for two first round draft picks and Kosta Koufos.
Jefferson's low-post game has proved invaluable to the Jazz, as he propelled the dark horse Jazz to the eighth-seed in the competitive Western Conference. Jefferson averaged 19.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in the process.
The tail-end of the season and the series against San Antonio demonstrated Jefferson's value to the Jazz.
After fighting for the eighth-seed under Jefferson's leadership, the Jazz faced the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs. The flaming-hot Spurs swept the Jazz, but the outcome of the series does not do Jefferson justice.
In the playoffs, he shot the ball better and created more opportunities for his teammates, even though the Spurs had him double-teamed. Jefferson's stats also increased as the series progressed, culminating in a stellar 26-10 performance in the final game on 68.4% shooting.
The Jazz lost the series, but Jefferson is an integral, underrated piece for them moving forward.
While the starting five of any team is the best it has to offer, these players are also undervalued, earning spots on the bench of the All-Underrated Team.
Kyle Lowry, PG, Toronto Raptors
Lowry may be short, but he led the league in assists for a large portion of last season. Houston traded Lowry to Toronto for a first-round pick and Gary Forbes this offseason, and Lowry will lead a sneaky-good Toronto offense. Don't be surprised if he finishes next season in the top-5 for assists.
Aaron Afflalo, SG, Orlando Magic
The tangible centerpiece of the Dwight Howard deal may not lead the Magic to glory this season, but his tenacious defense and scoring ability will be welcome in Orlando for many years to come.
Jared Dudley, SF, Phoenix Suns
Dudley has improved every year in the NBA without much media attention. His high-energy, run-and-gun style fits perfectly in Phoenix and he may take a leadership role on with the departure of Steve Nash.
DeJuan Blair, PF, San Antonio Spurs
Blair is similar to Faried in that he grinds out every play for which he is on the court. The Spurs got a steal in the 2009 draft, selecting Blair with the 37th pick of the draft.
JaVale McGee, C, Denver Nuggets
Remember this? Or this? McGee's antics dissolved last season after his trade from the Wizards and he played phenomenally in the playoffs. McGee posted two double-doubles against the Lakers two seven-footers and played excellent defense. He is a big reason the Nuggets drew out the Lakers series to seven games.