The term "underrated" is often used in the NBA to give credit to a player who contributes to a greater degree than his stats might suggest. After all, with so many talented players in the NBA yet only so many roles available, hidden talent is bound to occasionally stay buried on the bench or superseded by the talent of others.
This is particularly relevant on a team like the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets have one of the deepest rosters in the league, and as a result not every player can get the minutes or touches that he might on a less competitive roster.
So which Nuggets are better than what their stats alone might imply? Let’s find out.
All stats accurate as of November 25, 2012.
Kenneth Faried has built quite a reputation for himself as an energy player in the NBA. The sophomore forward has started his second season in Denver off well, averaging a double-double while showcasing his trademark athleticism and tenacity.
Though Faried has gained league-wide recognition for his spectacular dunks and seemingly limitless motor, he remains underrated in terms of his offensive game.
Faried lacks any semblance of a post game and scores almost exclusively within the paint. However, he has great value as an offensive player, simply because he excels at getting easy buckets.
Almost all of Faried’s baskets are either layups or dunks, but this is more of a sign of his efficiency on offense than of his limitations. Faried is an outstanding offensive rebounder, and his knack for being in the right place at the right time is what allows him to benefit from so many “easy” buckets. So while he isn’t much use outside of the paint, Faried is such a skilled and opportunistic finisher that he can sometimes carry a team offensively just by virtue of his energy near the rim.
Jordan Hamilton hasn’t gotten much NBA action in his first two seasons with the Nuggets, largely due to Denver’s depth and George Karl’s preference to play veterans over young players.
However, Hamilton has plenty of talent, and within a couple of seasons he is bound to have the opportunity to show it.
The 6’7” Hamilton combines two crucial traits for wing-players into the foundation of his game: Lethal outside shooting and elite rebounding ability. And while he has yet to have the opportunity to show these traits on a consistent basis in the NBA, Hamilton’s production in his final college season (38.5 three-point percentage, 7.7 rebounds per game) is a clear indicator of just what he can bring to an NBA team.
This one may come as a bit of a surprise. After all, Andre Iguodala is a highly-regarded player around the league, as shown by his inclusion in the 2012 All-Star Game and the recent Olympic games. But though he's not underrated as an overall player, Iguodala is often underestimated in terms of his scoring ability.
Throughout his career, the former Sixer has been best known for his top-notch perimeter defense, athleticism and versatility. This is perfectly logical, as Iguodala’s 12.4 point scoring average from last season would hardly be enough to get him selected to the All-Star team on its own.
However, Iguodala is a better scorer than what his good but not great averages might suggest. He is also a much better outside shooter than his 33 percent career average shows.
Iguodala is a highly unselfish player, sometimes even to a fault, and he often focuses more on defending and sharing the ball than on scoring himself. Nonetheless, when he does decide to concentrate on scoring, this guy can heat up—and quickly.
Though he rarely chooses to do so, Iguodala is capable of taking over games offensively through the combination of his incredible finishing ability and much improved outside shooting. So while Iguodala may not lead the Nuggets in scoring this season, he is certainly capable of assuming the role of go-to scorer when needed.
Based on his statistical production alone, Kosta Koufos looks like a fairly average center. However, stats alone do not adequately represent Koufos’ impact for Denver.
The 23-year-old seven footer is a strong defender and rebounder whose overall impact is greatly undervalued. Though he excels in the NBA mainly by doing the dirty work, Koufos is also capable of putting up solid scoring numbers on the rare occasions when he is asked to do so. Only twice this season has Koufos taken more than seven shot attempts in a game, but on both occasions he has put up double-digit scoring numbers and done so efficiently.
Koufos may never average a double-double or make an All-Star team, but he is a starting caliber big man who plays within himself and holds a key role with the Nuggets.
Though he plays a reduced role in Denver, Andre Miller remains a starting caliber point guard in the NBA. Miller’s quiet demeanor, lack of scoring ability and age may make him look past his prime, but this could very well be just another tactic of the wily veteran to force opponents to underestimate him.
Miller has never relied on athleticism to succeed in the NBA, and as a result is almost as effective at age 36 as he was five seasons ago. Plenty of teams could use a starting point guard with Miller’s high basketball I.Q. and phenomenal passing ability, and the Nuggets are lucky to have such a capable player leading their bench.