The 8 Most Underrated NBA Teams Heading into the 2012-13 Season
Underrated teams never get the appreciation they deserve in the NBA, and there are eight teams this season that fit that same description.
There are several factors that come into play when analysts and fans fail to give teams the appreciation they deserve.
Sometimes teams that lack big-name star power get overlooked. That being said, just because a team doesn't have a superstar does not mean it is not talented.
Teams that don't possess strong veteran leadership are also often brushed aside. Analysts and fans don't always have faith in young players, no matter how talented they may be.
Some teams just simply fly under the radar. For whatever reason, the things that that team is doing don't attract the attention of the media or the rest of the league.
Underrated teams are often the ones that surprise us as the season goes on, and there are eight teams that I fully expect to bear that title this season.
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Many people are selling the Chicago Bulls short, and it's mostly because of the absence of Derrick Rose. There's no doubt that his injury will be a big blow to the team, but the Bulls can survive without him.
Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague will be able to fill the void left by the young superstar, and the rest of the team will continue to play together as a strong defensive unit.
Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer comprise one of the most complete frontcourts in the league, and Luol Deng registered a much improved season in 2011-12.
Throw in the veteran know-how of Richard Hamilton, and the team has the pieces in place to succeed.
The biggest factor in remaining under the radar will be the team's bench play. With the starters not exactly lighting it up, the team will be underrated. Bench production, though, is what will keep this team in contention.
Taj Gibson, Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed will play important roles this season. Without Rose, though, everyone will have to contribute.
There's no reason to believe that they won't.
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The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the 2011-12 season at 26-40. While that's not exactly impressive, we have to remember that Ricky Rubio was sidelined for a majority of the season.
When he's on the court, he's one of the most exciting point guards in the league. The Timberwolves were clearly lacking in the "court general" department when he got hurt, and all signs point to him being ready to go for 2012-13.
His presence alone will lead to a vast improvement. Kevin Love won't have to shoulder the offensive load by himself—although he's capable of doing so—and he'll even have someone to dish him the ball.
Minnesota didn't make many big moves this offseason, as the only big-name players brought in were Chase Budinger and Andrei Kirilenko. Still, there are several pieces in place that have the team confident moving forward.
Because the Timberwolves play in a relatively small market, they will likely be underrated and undervalued all season long.
Should they make the playoffs, however, that will all change.
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The Milwaukee Bucks have one of the most explosive backcourt pairings in the NBA with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, and they alone will carry the load on offense for the Bucks.
Drew Gooden and Samuel Dalembert are in the twilight of their respective careers, but they can still perform at a level high enough to compete.
Throw in Mike Dunleavy at small forward, and you've got yourself a pretty well-rounded Bucks team.
The only real questions with this team lie with depth. Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Joel Przybilla, John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova will have to provide quality minutes coming off the bench.
There's no reason that the Bucks cannot go .500 this season. Doing so would give them an outside shot at the playoffs and, as an underrated team, they'd have a shot to catch a potential first round matchup off guard.
The Bucks will be exciting to watch.
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The Houston Rockets may have traded away a ton of talent this offseason—Kyle Lowry, Chase Budinger, Courtney Lee, Samuel Dalembert, Marcus Camby and Luis Scola are all suiting up for different teams—but the guys they have in place may surprise some people.
Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lin will likely be the cornerstone players on offense, with the newly-acquired Omer Asik providing all the offense in the paint.
Both forward positions are where the biggest question marks arise. Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson may not be enough to keep the Rockets in contention. Luckily, Royce White, Marcus Morris and Terrence Jones will be available to step up if need be.
Young teams like this often go unnoticed, even if they start out on a good note. That makes the Rockets scary.
This team is young, exciting and full of energy. If the Rockets get on a good winning streak early on, they could easily put themselves in the playoff picture.
Because of their lack of star power, though, they will be underrated.
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The Utah Jazz went 36-30 last season, en route to a sweep in the Western Conference Quarterfinals at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs.
Because of that loss in the postseason, they'll be seen as underdogs heading into the 2012-13 season.
The Jazz are a very solid team, though they have some small question marks on the bench. This will lead to being underrated throughout the season.
Despite the lack of depth, they do have Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Together, they are arguably the most offensively dominant frontcourt tandem in the league.
Mo Williams and Gordon Hayward will be the keys for Utah, however.
Hayward scored 11.8 points per game last season, and there's plenty of reason to believe that he'll improve upon that already respectable number with a veteran like Williams orchestrating the offense.
With Williams bringing the ball up the court, the whole offense will benefit.
Look for the Jazz to surprise some people.
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The Denver Nuggets were 38-28 last season and even pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to a Game 7 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Even still, they're underrated.
When the team had Carmelo Anthony, they had the star power that actually made them overrated. Now that he's gone, the players remaining have contributed to a successful, but underrated, team.
Ty Lawson runs the show in Denver. He's one of the most exciting, fast-paced players to watch in the game today.
Breakout seasons from JaVale McGee and Danilo Gallinari last season were huge difference-makers.
The key to this season, though, is seeing how well the newly-acquried Andre Iguodala fits into the mix. His high-flying abilities and solid defense will help to turn this team into even more of a contender.
Without that bona fide superstar, however, they'll be underrated yet again.
New Orleans Hornets
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Despite the laugher that was last season, the New Orleans Hornets have a very bright future ahead. By taking two of the most talented players in the draft—Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers—the Hornets have set themselves up for this season.
Back in the introduction slide, I noted that many young teams get underrated because they don't have the veteran experience.
The Hornets are that kind of team.
Davis will likely be the starting center come tip-off on opening night, while Rivers will see a lot of minutes either coming off the bench or starting at point guard.
Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson are the lone "veterans" on the team, and their scoring/shooting abilities will be put to good use.
Depth may be a question mark this season, but the team's young starting five will impress.
They're underrated now, but they may not be by the end of the season.
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The addition of Kyle Lowry at point guard will be a huge difference-maker for the Toronto Raptors this season.
After finishing a putrid 23-43 last season, the Raptors will come out of the gate this season playing strong and fast.
Andre Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas will provide much of the size for the Raptors, but Lowry and rookie Terrence Ross will be providing most of the excitement.
Ross is a very athletic guard that is capable of making this happen both with and without the ball. With Lowry running the point, Ross will be given many opportunities to succeed.
While this team has slightly more of a veteran presence than the Hornets, they're essentially in the same category.
With very few established NBAers on this team, the Raptors will be overlooked from day one.