10 NBA Players Who Deserve More Respect

Eric EdelmanCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2013

10 NBA Players Who Deserve More Respect

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    NBA basketball relies on stars to sell the sport. Guys like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James get shoe deals, big-time advertisements and worldwide acclaim, but how about the other guys?

    While we’re certainly not suggesting that NBA players who aren’t exactly “superstars” are playing pro bono, they could at least use a little more respect.

    Who are the guys playing for smaller markets you might not be aware of? Who goes largely unrecognized despite solid output? Who are the grinders and hustlers whose effort gets overshadowed by an era that obsesses over numbers?

    Well, it’s time you stop sleeping on them and recognize some of the league’s most underrated contributors.

Tyler Hansbrough

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    Tyler Hansbrough, barring an incredible season, will never make an All-Star team. Tyler Hansbrough will not score that much every night, Tyler Hansbrough is not by any sense of the word a gravity-defying athlete, but Tyler Hansbrough is a grinder.

    He averages six points and about four boards in 15 minutes per game this season, but he epitomizes the grit and fight of the Indiana Pacers squad he plays for.

    He is a fearless competitor going back to his days as a University of North Carolina Tar Heel, and while he may not be the greatest basketball player in the league, he is a scrapper who fights for rebounds like his life depends on it.

    His game isn’t always pretty, and he may never make an ESPN highlight reel, but Tyler’s game is one anyone who plays basketball can respect.

Nikola Pekovic

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    While the biggest name on the Minnesota Timberwolves is certainly Kevin Love, his frontcourt counterpart Nikola Pekovic deserves more love as well. Just from watching a 'Wolves game, you can't help but notice his hulking 6'11", 290-pound frame—he looks more like a James Bond villain than a basketball player.

    Despite the menacing exterior, the softspoken native of Montenegro chooses to let his game do the talking. He is huge physical presence for the 'Wolves' frontline, and he snatches 8 boards a game while pouring in around 16 points per game.

    Unfortunately, the national media tends to give more attention to the aforementioned Love and point man Ricky Rubio, but Pekovic definitely deserves a lot more respect.

    Next time you watch a Timberwolves' game, keep an eye out for him—not that you could miss him anyway. 

Tony Allen

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    It's the age-old sports mantra, "Defense wins championships."

    Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies would concur wholeheartedly. The gritty swingman has played for most of his career as a Boston Celtic, and will be forever remembered for his effort and defense during Boston's title runs in past years.

    Although they came up short in the latter of their efforts, Allen's defense is still just as potent now as it was then. 

    Today, Allen is still giving perimeter opponents headaches—the 6'4" Allen is lengthy and swift enough to pester the smallest of guards and swiftest of forwards alike.

    His stats don't jump off the page, but he's certainly a player you have to watch to appreciate. The way he digs in his heels, the relentless pursuit of 50-50 balls and constantly being disruptive on or off the ball. 

    He's just a flat-out incredible defender, and he makes up for his shaky offense by hustling and shutting down the opposing team's best players. 

Goran Dragic

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    After the departure of Steve Nash, it was officially the end of an era in Phoenix. Although they've lost one great point guard, it seems as if they've found another in Goran Dragic.

    While you might not see much of him and the rest of the Phoenix Suns on national TV this season, you should still make an effort to admire how Dragic plays the game.

    He's a cunning and deceptively strong guard who can break down defenses but switch his role to scorer if need be. In a way, his tutelage under Nash as a back-up point has rubbed of on him—a lot of the dimes he occasionally dishes are eerily similar to Nash, but his game is a little more score-first than Nash. 

    He's averaging a commendable 14 points and 6 assists per game, and for a franchise in search of a new star to build around, Dragic is exactly what they needed. 

Jrue Holiday

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    It's been undeniable this season—production-wise, nobody aside from Rajon Rondo has done as much as Jrue Holiday has in the Eastern Conference at the point guard position.

    He's averaging 19 points and about 9 assists per game, and aside from his shaky turnover numbers, (four per game) the young point man out of UCLA is doing whatever he can to carry the ailing Philadelphia 76ers.

    Sure, it could be argued he's putting up inflated numbers on a mediocre team, but regardless, the man deserves way more respect considering the progress he's made this season.

    Since they are still without Andrew Bynum due to his pervasive injury problems, final judgment on this team cannot be passed until they are at full strength.

    He's still just 22 years old, and the ceiling for him and the rest of the Sixers is still rather high, but for the time being, fans should certainly give it up for his impressive season. 

Joakim Noah

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    In an NBA climate where great centers are lacking, Joakim Noah and others like him are breath of fresh air. He is a scrappy, rangy defender who is part of why the Chicago Bulls are still in the fight out east.

    He averages a solid 12 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks per game and despite the numbers, it still doesn't do enough to describe how vicious of a defender and hustler he is on the court.

    His presence in the middle energizes the Bulls night in and night out, and as long as he's on the floor, the battle on the boards is usually in Chicago's favor. Although he's certainly deserving of an All-Star starter role, he likely won't get it in favor of the more popular "forwards" in the Eastern Conference.

    Either way, make sure you watch a Bulls game, because you don't want to miss his awe-inspiring hustle and determination on both sides of the ball. 

Paul George

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    On an underrated team full of underrated players, Paul George is starting to make a name for himself. Having the best statistical season of his career, George is filling it up big time in the absence of swingman Danny Granger.

    Oddly enough, there are a lot of parallels between George and Granger—lengthy wings, stolid strokes from range and deceptive speed and athleticism for their size, but George is without a doubt the better defender.

    He does average a steal per game, but that doesn't say enough about how great of a defender he is. His quickness and effort on one-on-one defense is impressive, and his presence was so crippling it in many ways led to Dwyane Wade's struggles in last year's Pacers-Heat series in the second round

    George is definitely a favorite to make this year's All-Star team, so hopefully he'll get a bit more recognition, but due to the small market, it certainly seems like there isn't as much coverage on George and the Pacers as a whole as there should be. 

Tyson Chandler

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    For all his effort, for all his hustle, and even some solid numbers the past few years, Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks has never been an All-Star in his 11 years as an NBA player.

    Last year's Defensive Player of the Year, he was one of the big reasons the Knicks have recently shed their moniker has being soft or defensively lax.

    Tyson has certainly gotten a lot more recognition than he has in the past, but he could certainly use at least one All-Star nomination, even if it is more of a glorified popularity contest.

    Tyson's intimidating presence, convincing blocks and thunderous dunks are a part of the exciting array of tools he brings to the table.

    Similar to Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls, he is a excellent defensive anchor, and if the Knicks are to have any chance of a title run, he'll be an instrumental part of it. 

Jarrett Jack

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    The Golden State Warriors are having a resurgence this season, and while there are many names to be credited for their success, one of their most underrated pieces is undoubtedly Jarrett Jack.

    In Jack's seven-year NBA career, he's always had a reputation as a relatively undersized combo-guard who tends to play more like 2 than he does a 1. 

    After playing for a struggling New Orleans Hornets squad last year, fans are finally witnessing his impressive scoring ability on a solid team like the Warriors. He comes off the bench as a sixth man scoring threat, but he definitely needs a lot more recognition.

    He is one of the league's most underrated scorers without a doubt—12 points and 5 assists off the bench is nothing to scoff at, and especially considering how lethal he can be off the dribble.

    Jack's game is just fun to see in action, and in a high-scoring, fast-paced offense like the Warriors, Jack fits right in. 

Al Jefferson

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    One of today's best post players goes largely unnoticed and unrecognized. His name is Al Jefferson and he plays for the Utah Jazz. The Jazz play nationally syndicated games sparingly, but if you do get a chance to see Big Al on the block, it's definitely a treat.

    His up-and-under moves, his high arcing mid-range shot, and soft touch around the rim make him a double-team worthy threat, and he also gets you at least a block per game on the other end of the ball. Despite averaging about 17 points and 10 rebounds, you rarely hear his name spoken these days. 

    If you do manage to catch one of the rare games where the Jazz happen to be televised nationally, be sure to keep an eye on No. 25, because he's at times he's virtually unstoppable one-on-one down in the paint.