The Most Underrated Player on Every NBA Team
Almost every team in the NBA has at least one All-Star caliber player who represents the face of the franchise. However, sometimes only one player is recognized on the team, while teammates playing at a similarly high level don't receive the recognition that they deserve.
This slideshow will evaluate who I believe is the most underrated player on each team in the league. These players are typically overshadowed by one of their teammates, but their contributions to the team are just as valuable.
Pachulia is a prime example of a player who gets by through hard-work and sheer effort. At 6'11", 275, he wasn't gifted with superb athletic ability or a strong frame, but he makes do with what he has.
He's probably one of the most productive backup big men in the game, and sometimes his contributions don't show up on the stat sheet. He is a tough, physical defensive presence and will wreak havoc for anybody trying to score in the post.
Pachulia doesn't care one bit about how others view him, which is part of the reason why he always gets into the heads of opposing players.
Can the starting center for the Eastern Conference All-Star team still be considered underrated?
Well I'd say yes, considering that many people thought Garnett didn't deserve to make the team.
However, he does so many things for the Boston Celtics that largely go unnoticed. He sets great screens, positions himself for defensive rebounds every time, makes smart decisions with the basketball, knows where to move without the ball and plays suffocating defense against every opposing player.
Garnett is also the type of player who raises the intensity level and toughness of all his teammates around him. His 15.1 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game averages this season are solid, but his play on the court transcends anything recorded on the stat sheet.
The first players that come to mind with the Brooklyn Nets are Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and the "Core Four."
Blatche has thrived this season as the primary offensive weapon off the bench. In terms of PER, he's 15th in the entire league and second on his team behind Brook Lopez, registering an astounding 22.07, per Hollinger's Player Statistics.
On top of that, he's only making approximately $1 million this year with the Nets. Blatche hasn't had the most levelheaded career, but there's no denying his talent and production for the team this year.
Kemba Walker is experiencing a breakout season even though the Charlotte Bobcats aren't doing so well, but Sessions has been terrific this year as well.
Sessions hasn't started a single game this season, but he's usually on the court during the final minutes of every close game.
After a short, unconvincing stint with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, Sessions could be out to prove something. He's putting up 14.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG and 3.9 APG in just 27 minutes of burn per contest, and has the second highest PER on the team with 18.2 (per Basketball Reference).
Deng has always been the glue that held the Chicago Bulls team together, but he is rarely credited as a major key to the team's success.
For the past two years, it was Derrick Rose who contributed to the team's winning mentality. This year, he's getting overshadowed by Joakim Noah and, to a lesser extent, Jimmy Butler.
Deng averages more minutes per game than any other Bull. Night in and night out, he defends the opponent's best small forward or wing player, while leading the team in scoring with 16.5 points per game. He has been an All-Star the past two seasons, but he will never get the respect he deserves due the talent that surrounds him.
Miles definitely isn't the first, second or even third name that comes to mind when one mentions the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, he's been an extremely valuable contributor to a Cavaliers team that sorely lacks consistent outside shooters.
Nobody else on the team can spread the floor and open up driving lanes for Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters as well as Miles. Obviously he's not the main reason why Irving has had such a successful individual season, but he's a big factor in helping all of his teammates expand their games because of his shooting ability.
The Matrix isn't his same old self after he left the Phoenix Suns. Much of his athleticism has been lost due to age, but he is still a prominent contributor on a struggling Dallas Mavericks team.
Like Deng, Marion is usually assigned to guard the opponent's best player. At 35, he may not be able to keep up with elite offensive players like he used to, but he is still an elite, versatile defender.
Marion anchors the Mavericks' defense. Without him, the team's record may be worse than it is right now. At just 6'7", he leads the team in rebounding with 8.1 per game and has many of the intangibles teams look for in a veteran. Whether it's defense, hustle plays and offensive rebounding, Marion does it all.
Have we seen anybody in the history of the NBA who has maintained the same exact game for 14 consecutive seasons? Miller is 36 years old, but he played like a 36-year-old when he was 22.
Although the Denver Nuggets are filled with a bunch of good players who can be considered underrated, Miller is arguably their most consistent player who nobody talks about.
In actuality, Miller has been underrated throughout his entire career. He played for five different teams, but it's hard to remember his contributions because his play is so unspectacular albeit fundamentally sound.
Bynum is probably one of the best backup point guards in the league today. His per-36 minute averages come out to 18.2 points and 7.3 assists, which are even solid for a starting point guard.
He also provides an instant spark off of the Detroit Pistons' bench, something that the team has been lacking for the past couple of seasons. Bynum's admirable play has also offset Rodney Stuckey's dismal season thus far.
Bynum has also demonstrated an ability to explode, sometimes seemingly scoring at will. He has four games this season where in which scored 20 or more points, including a 31-point performance in a loss against the Atlanta Hawks in December.
Golden State Warriors
Jack could be a starting point guard in this league if he wanted to, but he and the Golden State Warriors seem completely fine with a bench role.
He's putting up 13.8 points per game, 3.2 rebounds per game and 6.0 assists per game in just under 30 minutes a night.
At the end of games, Jack is usually always on the floor because of his leadership and big time shot making ability. He loves those closing moments of the game and could takeover a game as well as any superstar in the league.
He's overshadowed by Stephen Curry and All-Star David Lee, but his contributions to the team have been equally important.
The second-year forward out of Florida is quickly becoming one of the best all-around players in the league.
Parsons can defend, rebound, pass, dribble and shoot. He is the model of the prototypical small forward in the league, with versatility and exceptional all-around skills.
Coming into this season, he was outshined by James Harden, Jeremy Lin and even Omer Asik. But now, Parsons is arguably the second-best player on the Houston Rockets, since he has the opportunity to demonstrate what he's capable of.
Every team needs a player like Parsons if they hope to make a run at a championship. He fits into the mold of a Luol Deng or Andre Iguodala type player and he will only get better.
While Paul George is the Indiana Pacers best player now, West is the heart and soul of the team.
Quietly, he has put up an All-Star worthy season, recording averages of 17.2 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game and 3.0 assists per game, with a PER of 20.2. However, he wasn't even considered as an All-Star reserve this season.
Throughout his whole career, West has been steady and consistent, but never garners the recognition he deserves because of his teammates.
In New Orleans, West has been eclipsed by Chris Paul over and over again. When he brought his talents to Indianapolis, he took a backseat to Danny Granger and now to George.
West has been the player who kept the Pacers afloat during Roy Hibbert's sluggish start, Granger's injury and George's slow development. Now, with George playing at an All-Star level, West's name is hardly ever mentioned.
Los Angeles Clippers
With the Los Angeles Clippers' extraordinary depth at every position, it's hard to pick out which player has contributed most.
Of everyone on the team, Barnes has probably been the most consistent, but least appreciated player on the team. He does all of the dirty things for the team, and plays are never called for him, but he still goes out there and does whatever he can to help his team win.
Unlike Jamal Crawford, who has seen his share of ups and downs this season, Barnes contributes at a high level in every minute he's on the floor. He's also their best wing defender and the Clippers need someone like Barnes to guard the likes of Kevin Durant, Manu Ginobili or James Harden during the playoffs.
Los Angeles Lakers
Metta World Peace
Seriously, can anybody on the Los Angeles Lakers be considered underrated?
Probably not, but the man formerly known as Ron Artest is playing his best season as a Laker. He has played more minutes than anybody else on the team this side of Kobe Bryant, while taking on the challenge of defending the opposing team's best players.
Even though World Peace has clearly lost a step defensively, he has adapted to the Mike D'Antoni system rather well. If anything, at least his teammates know that they're playing with someone who will always have their back.
Conley has been the starting point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies for the past five seasons, but he still isn't appreciated for his work on the floor.
He may not be anywhere near the best point guard in the league, but he is the best point guard for this team.
Conley's play is very methodical and consistent, as he hardly ever forces bad shots or passes. He knows his role on a post-heavy team like the Grizzlies, where the offense is primarily run through Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Furthermore, he's an excellent on-ball defender at his position. He may not be on the same level as Tony Allen defensively, but he is still one of the best perimeter defenders in the league.
Since the formation of the "Big Three," it was clear that one third of the triumvirate didn't belong with the other two: Chris Bosh.
However, now the tables seemed to have turned. James is still as great as ever, but Wade has been relatively inconsistent throughout the year. His play has caught up recently, but his role on the Miami Heat is much different now.
Bosh, on the other hand, has seen his production steadily increase throughout every season he's been with the team. I also believe that he's the second-best player on the Heat right now, partly due to Wade's diminished role.
Ilyasova basically went from being underrated to overrated, and now he's underrated again. He had a breakout season last year, which is why he was re-signed to a hefty 5-year $40-million contract last summer.
However, he started off this season terribly and was relegated to the bench for nearly 20 games. It started to look like Ilyasova was going to become one of those contract-year busts, with the likes of Austin Croshere and Andris Biedrins.
With the coaching change, Ilyasova was reinserted into the starting lineup and has been playing out of his mind recently. In his last 15 games, he averaged 17.5 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the field.
He's one of the more offensively versatile big men in the league because of his ability to score from anywhere on the floor, but he still can't steal the spotlight from the ball dominant Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
Throughout this entire season, the majority of Minnesota Timberwolves talks have centered around injury reports and updates. Without question, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are the team's future, but they've barely seen any time on the court this year, playing a combined 46 games.
The plethora of injuries of their star players have drowned out Pekovic's improvement this year. He's making a name for himself as one of the most intimidating interior presences in the league.
Pekovic is putting up 16.0 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game and is rapidly becoming one of the best centers. He's probably already a top 5 center in the league, but playing for the Timberwolves doesn't exactly help bring his name to the public.
New Orleans Hornets
Vasquez is one of the front-runners for Most Improved Player, but he's also quickly becoming one of the best distributors in the game.
He's nearly averaging a double-double with 13.6 points per game and 9.5 assists per game. Since Rajon Rondo's gone for the season, Vasquez is currently leading all active players in assists per game.
It's a travesty that he never gets credited for his exceptional court vision and passing abilities. Even on his own team, he doesn't get as much attention as the oft-injured Eric Gordon or the over-hyped Austin Rivers.
New York Knicks
On a New York Knicks team filled with three-point shooters and "has-beens," Felton is putting together a solid season, rebounding from a disappointing stint with the Portland Trail Blazers last year.
Playing with the ball-dominant Carmelo Anthony is a hard task for any point guard, but Felton has been handling the duties quite well so far. He controls the tempo of the game and frequently runs the pick and roll, without taking too many possessions away from the superstar.
Felton's steady play at the position is one of the reasons why the Knicks are holding on to the third best record in the Eastern Conference.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Collison is the only other player besides Kevin Durant who has remained with the team since their days as the Seattle Supersonics and there's clearly a reason why.
Collison is a professional and knows his role on a star-powered team like the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has been coming off the bench for the past five seasons and does everything he's asked to do when he's on the floor.
He sets hard screens, plays the glass, provides tough interior defense and possesses a smooth outside shot to spread the floor for his teammates.
There weren't a lot of players to choose from on the Orlando Magic, but Moore is probably the most under-appreciated player on the team.
As the 55th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, Moore has improved into a solid role player off the bench for a rebuilding Magic team.
He has been a pleasant surprise, to say the least, considering that the organization wasn't expecting him to blossom into anything. So far this season, he's proven to be a decent scorer and capable defender and he plays with great energy in the 22 minutes per game he's given.
Young has been nursing a hamstring injury since the beginning of the month and has only recently been inserted back into the lineup.
Jrue Holiday's breakout season and the endless talks of Andrew Bynum's future as a Philadelphia 76er has clouded Young's excellent season. He's averaging 14.9 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game and 1.6 steals per game, while improving in all facets of his game.
Young has become a much better defender as well and has virtually mastered the role of a 'tweener.
It's hard to pick out the most underrated player on one of the least talented teams in the league, but Dudley has been vastly underrated since joining the Phoenix Suns.
He's a two-way swing-man who can score in a variety of ways and is a very proficient shooter.
Dudley is a great wing defender, and his 6'7", 225 frame creates mismatches on both ends of the floor. He spent most of his younger days playing under the shadow of Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire and now he doesn't get any recognition at all because the Suns are at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have one of the best starting lineups in the league, but Matthews is the most unheralded in a group of quality players.
The undrafted shooting guard out of Marquette has stapled himself a spot in the starting lineup through high work-ethic and determination. He's one of the best two-way guards in the league.
He can do everything offensively, but his three-point shooting is one of his strongest attributes, as evidenced by his career 39 percent success rate from beyond the arc.
Defensively, he's a pest to opposing players. In one game during early January, Matthews played suffocating defense on LeBron James, leading the comeback win over the Miami Heat.
It's quite sad how underrated Matthews is on his own team. He gets eclipsed by every other member in the lineup, even though he's one of the best at his position.
It's still a mystery why Thomas was benched in the beginning of the season in favor of Aaron Brooks. It was even stranger that the Sacramento Kings would look to acquire another point guard after Thomas' successful rookie season.
Thomas has been on a tear lately. In the last seven games, he averaged 19.5 points and 4.5 assists on 48 percent shooting from the field.
Even at 5'9", Thomas is unquestionably a great scorer. Unfortunately, the Kings have way too many ball-dominant scorers at their disposal, so Thomas is often seen as just another player specializing in that category.
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs have a handful of players who would normally be overlooked by every other team in the league.
Out of those players, Splitter has probably made the biggest impact this season. He has played in all 58 games so far and he's fundamentally sound on both ends of the floor.
Splitter is putting up 10.5 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game on an incredible 59.5 percent from the field. Defensively, he's a great post defender and positions his body well for rebounds.
Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani and recently acquired Rudy Gay are the only recognizable names on the Toronto Raptors.
However, Johnson has been a major factor why the Raptors are not completely out of the playoff race.
His consistency on both ends of floor and toughness down low bring a whole new dimension to this otherwise soft-spoken Raptors team. Johnson saw his role increase this season and his mean, edgy play is a breath of fresh air from the soft Bargnani.
For those who don't know too much about Burks, he's a young, second-year shooting guard, who will be one of the building blocks for the Utah Jazz going forward.
He's an incredible athlete and a great slasher and defender at just 21 years of age. His shooting still needs some work, but that will improve with time.
Unfortunately, he still gets overshadowed by the handful of other youngsters on the Jazz roster. Between Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, Burks is probably the least recognized.
Nene has never been one of the best big men in the league at any given time in his career, but he's a difference maker for this mediocre Washington Wizards squad.
Even though he has never been a great rebounder or post-defender, his offensive game is more polished than the typical center.
In his 11 seasons in the league, he's always been a steady contributor. When he's on the floor, it gives the Wizards a reliable offensive option in the post. His career-high 2.9 assists per game this season is evidence that he's making his teammates better.