Despite the mediocrity that has been a recurring theme in the Los Angeles Lakers' performance this season, one player has managed to make the most out of his inconsistent minutes. Antawn Jamison is a wily veteran who has done his best to try and keep the Lakers competitive.
On the surface, Jamison isn't averaging spectacular stats. With 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, there isn't a lot on the surface that speaks to him being underrated.
However, consider his numbers when he plays upwards of 30 minutes per game.
Dating back to the preseason, when Jamison gets enough run, the power forward is averaging close to 16 points and nine rebounds per game.
Consider the fact that Chris Bosh, an Eastern Conference All-Star, is only averaging 17.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while playing close to 34 minutes per game. It is clear that Jamison is still capable of producing at close to an All-Star level when given the opportunity.
Although factors such as dwindling foot speed and quickness hinder Jamison the same way as any aging veteran, there is no doubt that when playing at optimum capacity, Jamison is still able to put up points and rebounds in D'Antoni's system while also stretching the floor to allow Dwight Howard to work in the paint.
In his last 10 games, Jamison has played 25.3 minutes per game while putting up 12.5 points and 5.3 rebounds. Though not spectacular numbers, the almost four-minute increase in that 10-game stretch compared to his season average has also correlated to six wins in the Lakers' last 10 games.
Though the onus of the blame for the Lakers' struggles cannot be placed on the inconsistent minutes Jamison has been receiving, it is clear that Jamison's contributions are still more valuable than just as a mentoring veteran riding the pine.
Jamison is still capable of All-Star numbers, and he can continue to put them up if placed on a consistent schedule.
In his final All-Star season in 2009, Shaquille O'Neal put up 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in 30 minutes a night by either resting during the second game of a back-to-back or playing limited minutes.
If Jamison were to be put onto a similar type of schedule, it isn't outlandish to expect the 16 points and nine rebounds Jamison has been putting up in the games where he has played 30 minutes or more.
Furthermore, with Howard and Gasol going through nagging injuries and Jordan Hill out for the season, there's no excuse for D'Antoni to not give Jamison enough minutes to produce.
Jamison is the Lakers' most underrated player because of the inconsistent minutes and the overall chemistry issues the Lakers are facing. However, there is no player on this roster other than Steve Nash who fits in better with D'Antoni's offensive style than Jamison.
His underrated status stems from the fact that his exposure is limited due to a coach and a roster that can't seem to put the puzzle pieces together.