Power Ranking the NBA's Intangibles Contributors
Scorers, rebounders and defensive stoppers may steal the headlines in the NBA, but you can't overlook the importance of the intangibles contributors.
These 10 players are the best of the best when it comes to filling the "glue guy" role, playing with constant energy, infusing teammates with desire and providing cerebral play on the court. They're the players who hold value, have locker-room presence and essentially serve as coaches on the court.
What they do might not show up in the box scores after the games, but their impact is certainly felt in the win column.
As you'll see, the best intangibles guys usually happen to be on title contenders. Their services are far more valuable in the championship hunt than in the race amongst bottom feeders.
The Black Mamba loves nothing more than winning, and he constantly pushes his teammates to give 100 percent each and every night. But his feud with Shaquille O'Neal is still coming back to bite him here.
The Big Fundamental's dedication to the game is staggering. He's a terrific leader and inspires quiet confidence with both his play on the court and his behavior off of it. However, he isn't vocal enough to make the top 10.
Although he hasn't played a single game at the NBA level yet, MKG is a highly touted rookie because of his intangibles. He's always willing to do the little things, and plays with a motor that can only be compared to the Energizer Bunny—he just keeps going and going and going.
9. Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers
One constant that you'll notice in these rankings is that players who are beloved by their team's fans and hated by the other 29 NBA fanbases typically do pretty well. This is more true than ever as you near the top of the rankings.
There's a reason that players like Anderson Varejao have earned that type of reputation. You will never see the floppy-haired center leave anything out on the court. Well, except for the occasional scraggly hair that falls off his Sideshow Bob-like mop.
Varejao has't been a player who needs to put up glamorous stats to feel successful, and the attitude can be infectious. He's perfectly content to hustle throughout the game and establish himself as one of the NBA's best rebounders.
One of the more underrated players in The Association, Varejao is the epitome of heart, and there's no bigger intangible.
8. Jason Terry, Boston Celtics
Jason Terry has two things in abundance: irrational confidence and swagger.
Remember, this is the shooting guard who tattooed the Larry O'Brien trophy onto his right bicep as motivation and then made good on the self-made promise by winning a championship with the Dallas Mavericks.
No shot is too big for Jet. Not a single one ever has been, and no attempt will ever carry too much pressure in the future.
Every team needs a guy like Terry to inspire confidence. The Boston Celtics may have lost a historically great player when Ray Allen departed for the allure of South Beach, but Terry will fill the void with his undying swag.
7. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers
Think back to all the times you've seen Steve Nash play with busted lips, black eyes and blood dripping down from various parts of his face.
Although he's somehow managed to avoid letting his "tough guy" reputation slip into the mainstream, Nash is a hard-nosed point guard who is constantly willing to put his body on the line.
The Canadian floor general might not be the most vocal leader, but there are other ways to inspire confidence from your teammates. Nash, for example, leads by example.
He may not have won over his new Los Angeles Lakers teammates quite yet, but he will as soon as he takes a hard foul, gets right back up and sinks two free throws without even batting an eye.
6. Nate Robinson, Chicago Bulls
There's something inspiring about seeing a little guy run up and down the court with the big boys and then dunk over everyone. Throughout his career, Nate Robinson—and his 5'9" frame—has pushed players around him to previously unreached levels.
When Robinson enters the game off the bench, the change in energy level is palpable. You know that you're about to see pure energy sprinting from baseline to baseline until he sits back on the pine.
Robinson is a spark plug, plain and simple. He's an efficient player off the bench, even if he sometimes starts to develop too much confidence in his shot, and he can effectively swing the momentum of any game in just a few minutes.
Now Robinson is going to be tasked with helping the Chicago Bull's bench mob retain their status as one of the league's best second units. Even though his height is still down, something tells me he'll be up for the challenge.
5. Chauncey Billups, Los Angeles Clippers
There's a wonderful quote from ESPN's Arash Markazi about the terrific locker-room presence that is Chauncey Billups:
Billups’ leadership skills were on full display with the Clippers last season as he was a coach on the floor before being forced to be a coach on the sideline after rupturing his Achilles tendon. He was such an instrumental figure in the Clippers’ locker room that the team continued to hang his uniform up before every game, home and away, in his absence and each player on the team called him regularly for advice.
Billups has always been hailed as a great leader, both on and off the basketball court.
Plus, he has ice water flowing through his veins, mixing in with the blood that allows him to stay alive and play in the NBA at the age of 36. His "Mr. Big Shot" moniker was earned for good reason.
Billups, both through his play and his presence, is definitely deserving of his lofty ranking.
4. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Joakim Noah is another one of those players who's not thought of so favorably outside of his team's fanbase. But rest assured that fans in the Windy City recognize his value to the Chicago Bulls.
With his side-spinning shot and tenacity on the glass, Noah's contributions don't always show up on SportsCenter, and he doesn't typically get mentioned among the elite players in the NBA. His occasional bouts of immaturity don't help either.
Noah has established himself as one of the league's premier energy guys, though. He and his hair bounce around throughout the game, defending teammates and attempting to intimidate opponents. He plays with undeniable passion, and you can typically see the veins on his neck sticking out as he screams after any big play.
The big man has also become the de facto spokesperson for the team, often voicing the opinion that no one else is willing to say.
3. Shane Battier, Miami Heat
Even though Father Time is slowly chipping away at his effectiveness, Shane Battier remains a prototypical glue guy in the NBA. He knows that he's a role player, and he's more than willing to labor away outside of the spotlight.
Ever since he was tutored by Mike Krzyzewski as a member of the Duke Blue Devils, this has been a constant for Battier.
His on-court contributions are now limited to corner-threes and occasionally suffocating perimeter defense, but he's still a vital member of the Miami Heat squad hoping to successfully defend its title.
Battier is a leader in the locker room and a cerebral presence wherever he happens to be, whether that's on the hardcourt, sitting on the bench, hanging out with the team or discussing strategy in the locker room.
2. Grant Hill, Los Angeles Clippers
If you were looking for NBA players who could turn into coaches down the road, Grant HIll would be at the top of your list. He has to be, considering his lengthy experience in The Association, his professionalism and his intelligence on the court.
Hill might now be on the wrong side of 40, but he still has a place on a roster with the Los Angeles Clippers. You'd be fooling yourself if you thought that this was purely for basketball reasons. (Note: It was not until reading through this before publication that I noticed the irony of that sentence.)
The former Duke Blue Devil—noticing a trend here?—has always been a leader, both with his words and with his actions.
Hill might not fight through injury like Steve Nash, although he does eventually recover from them. He doesn't bring the dynamic athletic presence of a Nate Robinson. He doesn't have the swagger of Jason Terry.
However, his mind alone earns him the No. 2 spot.
1. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
Kevin Garnett is all about intensity.
That's why the city of Boston has had a love affair with him for the last few years, just as the Minnesota area did prior to his arrival in Beantown. It's also why KG is almost despised by the teams that have to face him a few times per year.
You've seen him bang his head against the padding below the basket.
You've heard the now infamous "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE" scream that I'm convinced still echoes around the rafters of the Boston Garden.
You've seen him spend extra energy throughout his career by swatting away shots that come after the whistle for the sole purpose of denying the opposition the satisfaction of seeing a ball swish through the net.
Garnett is a valuable commodity on the court, and he's just as valuable to the team's psyche. Everyone playing with Garnett knows that he has their back.