The NBA is, was and always will be a star-driven league. But that doesn't mean the stars are the only guys who matter.
More so than sports like football or soccer, one star player is capable of dominating the game in basketball. Hero ball exists because players are literally able to will their teams to victory.
But if teams like the Spurs have taught us anything, teamwork and role playing are just as important.
Here's the current NBA Power Rankings, with a closer look at every team's biggest unsung hero.
1. Miami Heat (34-14): PG Mario Chalmers
If LeBron is Batman, Wade is Robin and Bosh is Catwoman, that definitely makes Chalmers Alfred the butler. He's taken for granted by peers and fans alike, but without his firm dependability, things might break down in Miami.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (39-12): PF Nick Collison
This doesn't really seem fair. Collison is so famous for being unsung that at this point, he's basically...well...sung. Still, he's never discussed in the same breath as his teammates, which stinks since he's so important to what OKC does.
3. San Antonio Spurs (41-12): C Tiago Splitter
Tim Duncan has won titles with the likes of Fabricio Oberto by his side. Because of that success, Splitter doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves; his emergence is a big reason Duncan has aged so well.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (37-17): SF Matt Barnes
The journeyman forward has re-found a home at Staples Center this season. His 10.4 points per game has helped spearhead the league's best second unit.
5. Indiana Pacers (31-21): PF Tyler Hansbrough
Though he only plays 15.7 minutes per night, Hansbrough has played in all 52 of Indiana's games this season. His 14.4 PER is fifth highest on the team, as his energy helps ensure the Pacers all bring it every night.
6. Memphis Grizzlies (32-18): PF Darrell Arthur
Put as frankly as possible, the Grizzlies are just a better team when he's getting consistent minutes. Plain and simple. His presence made Marreese Speights expendable, and the team is better because of it.
7. New York Knicks (32-17): PG Jason Kidd
Nothing is pretty about Kidd's game anymore. His feet move slower than his metabolism, and next to his teammates, he looks like a pudgy toddler. But even though his game is ugly, Kidd's leadership skills have done wonders for a team full of misfits.
8. Denver Nuggets (33-19): SF Corey Brewer
Not enough is said or written about Brewer, who appears to have finally found a home in Denver. He's played in all 52 games this season and provided an occasionally stale offense with some pop off the bench.
9. Golden State Warriors (30-21): PF Carl Landry
I was tempted to say Jarrett Jack, but he's received his fair share of plaudits. Landry goes relatively unnoticed, though, which is a disservice to just how good he's been coming off the bench. His PER of 17.8 is third best on the team.
10. Chicago Bulls (30-12): SF Jimmy Butler
The NBA's very own Michael Oher, just like his football counterpart, has evolved into a pretty good professional player. It's clear that Luol Deng has made a serious impression on him, and with good health, Butler could have a similar career.
11. Houston Rockets (28-25): PF Greg Smith
The little-known commodity from Fresno State has made an impact for Houston this year, posting a PER of 17.7 in 14 minutes per night. He's next in the line of scrappy, athletic, perpetually undervalued big men.
12. Boston Celtics (27-24): PF Chris Wilcox
This spot should belong to Jared Sullinger, but a season-ending injury took some steam out of his solid rookie year. Wilcox has given the C's some solid minutes in the middle, a spot they've desperately needed help in this season.
13. Brooklyn Nets (30-22): PF Andray Blatche
What a career revival for Blatche, who was kicked to the curb and deemed a malcontent in Washington. He's still got plenty of room to grow, but he's been among the league's most improved this season.
14. Utah Jazz (28-24): SG Gordon Hayward
All the credit in Utah goes to the frontcourt, and rightfully so. But don't sleep on baby-faced Gordon Hayward, who has steadily improved each year since leaving Butler.
15. Atlanta Hawks (28-22): SF Kyle Korver
Living proof that all you need to succeed in the NBA is one elite skill. Korver's league-best 46.5 percent shooting from deep has kept the Hawks in many a game and probably will continue to do so for the rest of 2013.
16. Portland Trailblazers (25-26): C Meyers Leonard
Yeah, he's looked a little stiff at times. And so what if Andre Drummond has stolen all the headlines for rookie centers who were deemed projects. Leonard has given Portland tough, serviceable minutes in the middle.
17. Los Angeles Lakers (24-28): PF Earl Clark
How do you find someone unsung on a team that's been bantered about ad nauseam? The real answer is Jordan Hill, but for the sake of the piece, we'll give it to EarlSanity.
18. Milwaukee Bucks (25-25): C Larry Sanders
The long-armed lank-monster from VCU is following the Serge Ibaka career arc. Now averaging 3.1 swats per night—in just 25 MPG, no less—it's not a stretch to call him the best shot-blocker in basketball.
19. Dallas Mavericks (22-29): C Brandan Wright
Once deemed a massive bust, and still working to shed that label, Brandan Wright has quietly had a great season for Dallas. His 20.6 PER is higher than much-more-talked-about center Dwight Howard.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (19-30): PG Luke Ridnour
Sharing a backcourt with Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved—three of the most aesthetically pleasing guards in basketball—colors some people's perception of Ridnour. But the steady veteran continues to plod along and continues to put up good numbers in Minnesota.
21. Toronto Raptors (19-32): PF Amir Johnson
He's not as ballyhooed as the recent lottery picks in Toronto's frontcourt, but Johnson has been a ballast for the Raptors. In a season that's waxed and waned so many times, it's hard to overstate how valuable that's been.
22. Detroit Pistons (20-33): C Andre Drummond
For basketball diehards, it may seem absurd to term Drummond unsung. He has, after all, been one of the season's true breakout stars. But that so many people still haven't been treated to his greatness is a disappointment—and one I'd much like to help remedy.
23. Philadelphia 76ers (22-28): SF Dorrell Wright
His skill set has been redundant in Philly as a member of the 76ers, a team that seemingly has a number of his clones, including a more-talented version of him in Thaddeus Young. But Wright has still provided strong minutes this season. He's probably best suited somewhere else, but Sixers fans can't be too upset with his play.
24. New Orleans Hornets (18-34): C Robin Lopez
Ryan Anderson gets headlines for his threes, Greivis Vasquez gets headlines for his improvement and Anthony Davis gets headlines for being Anthony Davis. But Robin Lopez has probably been the Hornets' best player this season; his 20.7 PER certainly seems to indicate that's the case.
25. Sacramento Kings (19-33): SG Jimmer Fredette
Is Jimmer following the Redick model to a tee? He's had his fair share of (massive) lumps along the way, but the former NCAA legend is working hard and improving every day.
26. Washington Wizards (15-35): SF Martell Webster
Webster has been steady, as usual, on a team that's been anything but. As the Wizards slowly start to improve, he'll need to play a progressively bigger role.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (16-36): PG Shaun Livingston
Somehow, someway, Shaun Livingston continues to defy the odds and play high-quality basketball. This isn't a pity selection by any means, but if you haven't read Jonathan Abrams' piece about Livingston on Grantland.com, you're not using the Internet right.
28. Orlando Magic (15-36): PF Andrew Nicholson
The rookie from St. Bonaventure needed an Andre Drummond injury to make the Rising Stars Challenge, but don't let that fool you. He's been one of the most promising rookies in basketball by a long shot.
29. Phoenix Suns (17-35): C Jermaine O'Neal
Believe it or not, the corpse of Jermaine O'Neal is still playing NBA basketball. You probably haven't gotten to see it (honestly, who would watch a Suns game?), but he's actually doing respectable work.
30. Charlotte Bobcats (12-39): PG Ramon Sessions
Sessions was a publicized hero with the Lakers last season before eventually becoming an even-more-publicized goat. He wasn't ready for playoff pressure, sure, but in Charlotte, without the hot lights of Hollywood shining down on him, he's actually enjoying a fine, fine season.
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