Iman Shumpert is underrated.
The 2013 NBA playoffs are usually highlighted by the play of big stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. However, it’s the production of the underrated players that usually determine the winner of games and series.
These are the guys that drive their teams’ success by playing clutch in key situations.
Even if they don’t get the recognition they deserve, each of these underrated players is vital to their organization’s postseason dreams.
Cole has been great for Miami.
Norris Cole is not a part of the Miami “Big Three,” but he’s just as important.
Since the playoffs began, Cole has been playing more significant minutes and playing very efficiently. During the regular season, he only shot slightly better than 42 percent, but in the playoffs, he’s elevated that to more than 64 percent.
In the last two games against Chicago, Cole has scored 18 points per game while hitting all seven of his three-point attempts.
If Cole continues this production, the Heat will be unstoppable.
The Bulls need Belinelli more than ever.
With all of the injuries the Chicago Bulls have endured, they’ve needed people to step up this postseason. Along with Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli has taken a much larger leadership role.
In his last five games, Belinelli has averaged 17 points, four rebounds and four assists per game.
He’s also been doing this while playing a more significant number of minutes. In the last five games, he’s averaged 43 minutes of court time, compared to just 26 during the regular season.
In order for the Bulls to succeed, they need Belinelli to keep playing well in his extended role.
Shumpert plays great defense.
Believe it or not, Iman Shumpert is one of the most important New York Knicks. The second-year guard is their defensive leader that usually defends the opponents’ best scorer.
Throughout the postseason, he’s played great defense against the likes of Jeff Green and Paul George, while averaging more than a steal per game.
Shumpert has also increased his offensive production. In his last five games, he’s averaged more than 12 points and six boards, nearly double his regular season output.
With the Knicks having scoring issues thus far in the playoffs, they’re even more reliant on Shumpert to continue his strong play.
Hill has been big for Indiana.
George Hill has been one of the best Indiana Pacers all year. On a team with no true superstar, players like Paul George and Roy Hibbert get most of the hype surrounding the team.
So far this postseason, Hill has been an offensive catalyst for Indiana. Through his first nine games, Hill’s averaged 15 points, four rebounds and four assists.
With a lot of attention being paid to the Pacers’ presence in the paint, Hill has done a nice job contributing to the stat line. His range from the three-point line also keeps defenses honest and stops teams from doubling so often.
The Thunder need Jackson to fill in for Westbrook.
With the injury to Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson’s role with the Oklahoma City Thunder grew exponentially. In the playoffs, he’s averaged 30 minutes per game, more than double his regular season average.
With his added playing time, Jackson has impressed. In a losing effort in Game 3 against Memphis, Jackson had a double-double on 47 percent shooting.
Oklahoma City needs Jackson to help push the tempo in the way Westbrook used to. Jackson has the speed and quickness to run the fast-break offense and set up superstar Kevin Durant with easy looks.
Mike Conley has been terrific for Memphis.
Mike Conley is one of the most impressive players of the 2013 playoffs. Since the team traded Rudy Gay to Toronto, Conley has exploded in the role of starting point guard.
Conley is playing with extreme confidence, hitting big shots at necessary times. He’s averaging 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds thus far in the playoffs.
It’s been discussed how the Grizzlies frontcourt of Gasol and Randolph have overpowered teams, but the play of Conley has surprised many.
He’s shooting better than 42 percent in the last five games and is a major reason the Grizzlies are winning series.
Golden State needs Thompson to succeed.
The name everyone knows when talking about the Golden State Warriors’ success is Steph Curry. It’s true Curry has been outstanding this year, but the Warriors wouldn’t be winning without his counterpart Klay Thompson.
Together, Thompson and Curry have combined to be the deadliest guard combination in the playoffs. Both youngsters are efficient shooters with unlimited range.
This postseason, Thompson is shooting better than 45 percent, including 42 percent from behind the arc.
He’s also shown he has the ability to go off in a game. In their Game 2 victory in San Antonio, Thompson dropped 34 points and 14 rebounds while hitting exactly half his shots.
If he can keep it up, the Warriors can advance past the Spurs and even reach the Finals.
Leonard is San Antonio's young talent.
The San Antonio Spurs are known for their great coaching and crafty veteran play. One exception to that is 21-year-old forward Kawhi Leonard.
In these playoffs, Leonard has been as consistent as anyone. He’s averaging 13 points and more than eight rebounds per game while shooting an incredible 54 percent.
Leonard acts as the perfect role player in the Spurs offense that revolves around Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.
Along with his quality shooting, Leonard adds to San Antonio’s stifling defense. The second-year Leonard is averaging more than one steal this postseason as well.