10 Most Underrated NBA Players in the League Right Now

Brendan Bowers@@BowersCLEContributor IIDecember 24, 2012

10 Most Underrated NBA Players in the League Right Now

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    The term "underrated" means that most people do not recognize how good a particular player actually is.

    Each of the 10 most underrated NBA players in the league right now fits this description.

    In an attempt to quantify the subjective nature of "what most people recognize," however, I included a couple of requirements in compiling this list.

    The first is that none of these underrated players have ever been recognized as an All-Star or named to an All-NBA team.

    This eliminates David Lee, for example, who might be better than most people think but has been an All-Star before. It also eliminates a player like Tyson Chandler, who was named All-NBA last season.

    The second requirement, though, is more subjective.

    I did not include players like James Harden on this list either. Despite never being an All-Star or an All-NBA selection, Harden is currently recognized as an elite player.

    Stephen Curry is another example of players who fell into this category.  

    The 10 most underrated players were selected based on how each is perceived relative to his performance this year.

    It includes players who could make their first All-Star team this season. It also includes those who could be starters on another team, as well as players who are simply better this year than most people realize.

Eric Bledsoe

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    Chris Paul is the NBA's best point guard.

    He also plays in front of Eric Bledsoe in the Los Angeles Clippers backcourt.

    On a number of other teams, Bledsoe would be an NBA starter. Instead, he's providing huge value for the Clippers in a reserve role this season.  

    Playing under 20 minutes per night, Bledsoe is averaging 9.3 points, 2.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds.

    He's reached double figures in 14 of the 26 games he's played this season as of Sunday.

    He ranks 25th in terms of player efficiency thus far too, while shooting 48 percent from the field.

Serge Ibaka

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    How would the Oklahoma City Thunder respond after losing one of their three stars this season?

    This was the question NBA fans posed after James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets. 

    The very suggestion, however, dismisses the idea that Serge Ibaka is a star himself.

    So far this season Ibaka is proving to be specifically that for anyone who underrated his value previously.

    Stepping right into the role as his team's third-best player, Ibaka is a major reason why the Thunder have not missed a beat, sans Harden.

    He was tied for the NBA lead in blocks as of Sunday, averaging just over three per game.

    Ibaka has also improved his scoring and rebounding to career-high averages of 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds.

Kemba Walker

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    Kemba Walker was lost in all that was wrong with the Charlotte Bobcats last season.

    There was even some reason to believe that his 37 percent shooting from the field as a rookie could prove bust-worthy for a player selected ninth overall.

    In his second season, however, Walker has solidified himself as a core player for the Bobcats.

    He's averaging 18.3 points, six assists and 3.1 rebounds in 27 games as a starter through Sunday. 

    Walker's scoring average is good for 16th in the league overall too, ahead of Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan and Joe Johnson, amongst others.

Anderson Varejao

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    During the first eight seasons of Anderson Varejao's career, he was dismissed as being a "hustle player" exclusively. 

    His ceiling was thought to include scoring off wide-open passes from LeBron James and providing energy on the defensive end that sometimes bordered on flopping.  

    This season, however, Varejao is leading the NBA in rebounding at 14.4 per game.

    He also ranks 19th in player efficiency through Sunday, while scoring 14.1 points.

    Varejao's 3.4 assists is twice the number of his previous career high as well in that category.

    He did not make the Cavaliers' most recent trip to Milwaukee due to injury but could earn his way onto his first All-Star team this season upon his return.

J.J. Hickson

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    J.J. Hickson was unceremoniously discharged by the Sacramento Kings last season.

    It appeared any promise he demonstrated as a young player with the Cleveland Cavaliers was lost.

    Playing a role for the Portland Trail Blazers alongside LaMarcus Aldridge this year, however, Hickson has breathed new life into his NBA career.

    He's started 24 games for Portland through Sunday and is currently the NBA's sixth-leading rebounder at 11 per night.

    Hickson is also averaging 12.6 points on 56 percent shooting to go along with his efforts on the glass.

    His overall numbers, in terms of PER, have Hickson ranked just outside the 25 most efficient players in the league.

Jrue Holiday

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    When names of the "top point guards" are rattled off by NBA fans, that list often goes 10 deep without mentioning Jrue Holiday.

    This season Holiday is working to change that. 

    He is averaging 8.8 assists as of Sunday, which is tied with Russell Westbrook for third in the NBA.

    His 18.3 points per game are also more than what Brandon Jennings, Deron Williams and Chris Paul are currently averaging.

    When Andrew Bynum eventually makes his way onto the court in Philly, those numbers will only become easier for Holiday to maintain moving forward.

Brook Lopez

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    Brook Lopez does not collect as many rebounds as you'd prefer to see from a player standing seven feet tall. 

    Focusing solely on this aspect of Lopez's game, however, takes away from recognizing all that he is accomplishing on the basketball court this season.

    Lopez is the ninth-most efficient player in the NBA as of Sunday.

    He's scoring 17.5 points per night while averaging 2.4 blocks defensively to go along with 6.9 rebounds. 

    Lopez had scored over 20 points eight times before being injured in late November. The Nets were 10-4 during that 14-game stretch.

    Since returning, he's registered two double-doubles in his last four games.

O.J. Mayo

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    During the first four seasons of O.J Mayo's career, he was considered a talented young player who took way too many ill-advised shots.

    This season for the Dallas Mavericks, however, he's improved his field-goal efficiencies dramatically.

    Mayo is shooting a career-best 47.2 percent from the field as of Sunday. He's also on the scorching pace of 48.6 percent from three-point territory.

    That three-point number is on 5.1 attempts per night, which is also a career high. 

    Mayo had never shot 39 percent or better from long range in any of his previous seasons.

    He's averaging 3.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists to go along with 19.3 points. His scoring average is good for 13th in the NBA through his first 27 games.

Omer Asik

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    Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey took a calculated risk in acquiring the underrated Omer Asik this offseason.

    He believed that Asik's averages of 3.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 14.7 minutes with the Chicago Bulls last season would project favorably as an NBA starter.

    While some looked skeptically at the signing, Morey has been proven correct so far by Asik's performance.  

    His 11.4 rebounds per game are good for fourth in the NBA as of Sunday.

    He's also averaging 10.6 points and 1.1 blocks.

    Through his first 26 games, Asik has turned in more double-doubles this season than Russell Westbrook and Tyson Chandler.

Josh Smith

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    Josh Smith is proving to be an All-Star-caliber player who can lead his team to victories on a nightly basis.

    The latter part of that statement was not necessarily agreed upon by the majority of NBA observers heading into the 2012-13 season.

    The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the biggest surprises this year collectively, with Smith being the biggest reason why.

    Despite the departure of Joe Johnson, the Hawks have earned the third-best record in the Eastern Conference as of Sunday. 

    Smith is leading Atlanta in scoring at 16.4 points per night while collecting the second-most rebounds on his team.

    In addition to those 8.3 boards, he's dishing out 3.5 assists.