Each NBA Team's Most Underappreciated Player

Andy BaileyFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2013

Each NBA Team's Most Underappreciated Player

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    In an NBA driven by superstar power, there are a handful of underappreciated players flying under the radar for various reasons.

    Some are surrounded by bigger names who garner most of the headlines. Some saw their franchises bring in free agents at their position this summer, in spite of their success last season. Some simply do the things teams need to win, but not the things SportsCenter needs for ratings.

    Each NBA team has those kinds of players. They may not receive the credit they deserve from the fans, media, team management or coaching staff. This is an endeavor to give them that.  

     

    All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

     

     

Atlanta Hawks: Kyle Korver

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    What is underappreciated? Place in history.

     

    Kyle Korver has quietly put together a career that should place him among the greatest three-point specialists in NBA history. 

    He's been in the league for 10 years and is already at No. 29 on the list of threes made over a career. If he plays five more seasons at the pace of his previous 10, he'll eclipse 2,000. The only two players currently in that club are Reggie Miller and Ray Allen.

    His career three-point percentage of .419 places him 12th all time, and the .536 percent he shot for the 2009-10 campaign is the best mark in NBA history for a single season.

    You may feel Korver gets plenty of love based on the four-year, $24 million contract he just signed with Atlanta. But I say the fact that we never really hear about his accomplishments from an historical perspective makes him underappreciated.

Boston Celtics: Marshon Brooks

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    What is underappreciated? Potential.

     

    Halfway through his rookie year, Marshon Brooks looked like he was going to be one of the biggest steals of the 2011 NBA draft.

    He entered the 2012 All-Star break averaging 14.6 points and 4.3 rebounds in just over 30 minutes a contest.

    The scoring instincts, smooth handle and length (he's 6'5" with a ridiculous 7'1" wingspan) that helped him averaged 24.6 points during his senior year at Providence seemed to be translating to the NBA just fine.

    He slowed down a little after the break, as the rigors of a schedule packed as tight as possible due to the lockout seemed to slow down his rookie body. It happens to plenty of first-year pros and shouldn't necessarily be seen as a sign of regression.

    In fact, it could be seen as just a natural part of the growth and learning process for a rookie. What wasn't natural for his development was the deal Brooklyn struck in the summer of 2012 to bring in Joe Johnson to play shooting guard—the position at which Brooks started 47 of the team's 66 games the previous year.

    He would averaged just 12.5 minutes a game behind Johnson (compared to 29.4 as a rookie).

    Because of a move made by the front office in Brooklyn, Brooks fell off of most people's radars. He was no longer appreciated for the potential he showed as a rookie.

    That potential to be a great pure scorer could surface once again in Boston this year, as the Celtics are in full rebuild mode and the 24-year-old shooting guard should have plenty of chances to prove himself.

Brooklyn Nets: Reggie Evans

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    What is underappreciated? Impact of rebounding.

     

    Just about everyone knows that Reggie Evans is a great rebounder—one of the best in the league, in fact. But I'm not sure many fans fully appreciate just how much his work on the boards impacts the Brooklyn Nets.

    Brooklyn's total rebounding percentage was 10.7 percent higher when Evans was on the floor than when he wasn't. If you ranked the Nets by that number, he'd obviously be first. What's interesting is how far behind the second-place guy is. Brook Lopez's number is plus-3.6.

    That dominance on the boards meant more shot opportunities for the Nets, and fewer for their opponents. Those extra opportunities translated to more points. Per 100 possessions, Brooklyn scored an estimated three more points and gave up 2.6 less when Evans was on the floor.

    Another way he impacts the game is just his maddening style of play. There is room on almost any roster for a guy who knows how to get away with cheap shots, holds and just general dirty play for the betterment of his team. And just think about how much that guy annoys you when you play pickup ball. Evans can get inside guy's heads.

    There has been a lot made of the Nets bringing in Kevin Garnett to replace Evans as the starting power forward. While Garnett is clearly an upgrade offensively, the team has to appreciate what Evans did for it as a rebounder and continue to play him significant minutes.

Charlotte Bobcats: Kemba Walker

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    What is underappreciated? Progression.

     

    As difficult as it was to identify a player on a 21-win team who was actually underappreciated, I think you can make an argument for Kemba Walker. 

    Let's start with the lack of appreciation for his progression as a pro from year one to year two. In the voting for 2013 Most Improved Player, Walker received two second-place votes and three third-place votes for a total of nine points—just a few short of winner Paul George's total of 311.

    George won the award in a landslide, but did he really improve much more than 11th-place Walker? Check out the improvements each made from the 2011-12 to the 2012-13 seasons.

    Difference between 2011-12 and 2012-13PPGAPGRPGFG%3P%PER
    Kemba Walker+5.6+1.30+6%+2%+3.9
    Paul George+5.3+1.7+2-2%-2%+0.3

    Based on that, you could easily argue that Walker improved more than George last year. Of course, my table doesn't factor in two of the biggest reasons the Indiana Pacers' wing won the award—defense and team success.

    But it's still illustrative of the lack of appreciation for Walker's development.

Chicago Bulls: Taj Gibson

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    What is underappreciated? Results.

     

    It may seem crazy for a Bleacher Report columnist whose basketball career was made up of four years on the lower rungs of college basketball to challenge Tom Thibodeau, but I have to do it.

    Why on Earth is Carlos Boozer still starting over Taj Gibson?

    Or maybe I should challenge Bulls management. Can you not find anyone to take Boozer in a trade?

    The proof is in the pudding when it comes to Chicago's situation at power forward. Boozer is a more productive individual offensive player, but the team is still better when he's on the bench.

    When Gibson is on the floor, the Bulls produce about eight points per 100 possessions more than their opponents. Boozer's number on that same stat? Minus-8.5.

    The reason for the difference is primarily defense. And this is one of those numbers that passes the eye test as well. The difference between Boozer and Gibson in terms of the level of energy and commitment on the defensive end is blatantly obvious.

    That's why it's all the more puzzling that defensive-minded Thibodeau doesn't give Gibson more minutes. Perhaps this year with Rose back to create offense, the coach won't feel like he needs to rely on Boozer for as much offense.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson

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    What is underappreciated? Progression.

     

    The Cleveland Cavaliers used the No. 1 pick in the draft in a way that left me pretty puzzled this summer. Even though he's a little short by NBA standards to play power forward, he's best suited to continue at that position.

    Look what happened to two previous tweeners—Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams—who tried to mold into small forwards after college. It didn't work. And I'm not sure Anthony Bennett has the quickness or range to make it work either.

    Maybe this is more of a case of overappreciating Bennett than it is of underappreciating Tristan Thompson, but I can't help but feel like the incumbent power forward has been slighted.

    This isn't my first time second-guessing a Cleveland lottery pick. I did so with Thompson as well. But last year, he looked like he was on his way to proving me wrong.

    In his second year, and first as a full-time starter, Thompson nearly averaged a double-double in just over 30 minutes a game. He made significant improvements in his averages for points, rebounds and assists, and also boosted his field-goal and free-throw percentages.

Dallas Mavericks: Vince Carter

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    What is underappreciated? Defense and longevity.

     

    Vince Carter has been at it for 15 years, operating as one of the most dynamic and exciting scorers in the NBA for 11 of them. And as age seems to finally be slowing him down on offense, he's just now finding his stride as a defender.

    Maybe it's the influence of Rick Carlisle or just the realization that he had to add defense to stay relevant, but he now seems anxiously engaged on that end for the first time in his career. 

    Carter isn't as quick laterally or explosive vertically as he used to be, but his commitment to Carlisle's team defense philosophy and his basketball IQ are on display when he always seems to make the right rotation.

    When Carter was on the bench last year, Dallas's opponents saw their effective field-goal percentage go up about three points and their offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) go up four.

Denver Nuggets: Wilson Chandler

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    What is underappreciated? Just about everything.

     

    George Karl did a lot of great things in Denver, but playing Wilson Chandler well under 30 minutes a game was real puzzling.

    With the possible exception of Andre Iguodala, Chandler was probably Denver's most versatile player. Yes, I said "possible."

    Offensively, Iguodala had the edge as a playmaker, but Chandler was clearly the better scorer. In fact, he may have been the best pure scorer on the Nuggets last season.

    At 18.7, he was second on the team in points per 36 minutes behind Jordan Hamilton—who appeared in just 40 games and chucked up many of his shots in garbage time at the end of already-decided games.

    He produced a lot of those points from the beyond the arc, where he led the team with a percentage of 41. He could also score at the rim, where he bullied his defenders while playing a wing and finished drives when he blew by the opposition at power forward. 

    Which brings up the next point. Chandler capably handled duties at three positions. His ability to produce and defend at shooting guard, small forward and power forward allowed George Karl to employ a wide variety of lineups including Chandler.

    His versatility was also evident in his rebounding and defense. Though he wasn't the defender Iguodala was, he's no sap either. In fact, he was probably Denver's second-best wing defender. 

    As for the rebounding, Chandler averaged nearly two more rebounds per 36 minutes.

Detroit Pistons: Will Bynum

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    What is underappreciated? Scoring.

     

    Much like Chandler, Will Bynum's scoring ability is underrated. He led the Pistons in points per 36 minutes at 18.8.

    The 6'0" Bynum scored the vast majority of his points at the rim—impressive for an undersized guard having to finish over players who are often a full foot taller.

    He was also a solid distributor, averaging 6.8 assists per 36 minutes. 

    I understand that Bynum was facing a lot more second-unit point guards, but his playmaking and scoring numbers per 36 minutes last year were better than incoming starter Brandon Jennings'.

    Per 36 MinutesPTSASTPERFG%
    Will Bynum18.86.816.647%
    Brandon Jennings17.46.516.140%

Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes

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    What is underappreciated? Potential.

     

    Coming out of high school, Harrison Barnes was touted as a potential franchise player. Three years later, a lot of people seem to have forgotten his potential for greatness.

    Barnes' NBA draft stock took a hit after two really good, but not quite spectacular, seasons at North Carolina. People expected utter domination. When they got systemized excellence instead (because almost every college player is bound by the system in which he plays), the hype went elsewhere.

    The Warriors still made him a top-10 pick in 2012, but in his first regular season in the NBA, he once again fell just short of lofty expectations. This time, he was good, not great, averaging 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in about 25 minutes a game.

    Then came the playoffs, when Barnes broke out to the tune of 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds a game, while hitting 37 percent of his three-point attempts. Against the eventual Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs, he had back-to-back games of 26 and 25 points.

    The Warriors, of course, lost to the Spurs, but no one could deny the brightness of their future Barnes' potential ascension to star status.

    Then the organization acquired Iguodala. 

    I can't blame them for going after and eventually snagging one of the most versatile players in the league. Iguodala is possibly the best perimeter defender in the league, and his playmaking ability will create even more shots for Stephen Curry.

    What I don't understand is everyone automatically relegating Barnes to a sixth-man role immediately following the big move.

    To me, the most enticing combination of wings for Golden State is not Klay Thompson at shooting guard and Iguodala at small forward. It is a slightly bigger, and significantly more versatile, combination of Iguodala at shooting guard and Barnes at small forward.

Houston Rockets: Aaron Brooks

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    What is underappreciated? Past success.

     

    How did Aaron Brooks fall out of NBA favor so fast? Just three years ago, then-25-year-old Brooks had just won the league's Most Improved Player award after starting all 82 games for the Houston Rockets and averaging 19.6 points and 5.3 assists while hitting 40 percent of his three-point attempts.

    The next year, the more pass-happy Kyle Lowry beat out Brooks for the starting job as the 2010 MIP winner's three-point stroke betrayed him. 

    He was traded to the Suns halfway through that season, where his playing time was cut even more. By the 2011-12 campaign, Brooks had washed out of the league entirely.

    The Sacramento Kings gave him a shot in 2012-13. His three-point shooting looked like it was getting back on track, as he hit for 38 percent.

    The Rockets apparently saw enough from him to warrant the free-agent deal they gave him in July. Now I wonder if he'll get a shot at some real minutes again.

    It's difficult for me to believe that Brooks got that much worse at basketball that fast. And I'm not convinced the Rockets have a long-term solution at point guard.

    Brooks has never had a turnover percentage as high as the one Jeremy Lin posted last year. And even with his down year shooting the ball, his career three-point percentage is three better than Lin's.

    I'm not calling for Brooks to start right away in Houston. I just think the organization should weigh its options.

Indiana Pacers: Chris Copeland

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    What is underappreciated? Shooting.

     

    Playing on a team with Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire and even Steve Novak helped Chris Copeland fly under the radar in New York.

    Others got all of the headlines as the big scoring threats, but Copeland actually averaged more points per 36 minutes than Smith and shot much better percentages from the field and three-point range:

    Per 36 MinutesPTSFG%3P%
    Chris Copeland20.348%42%
    J.R. Smith19.442%36%

    And speaking of percentages, he wasn't far behind Novak—who is widely considered one of the league's best three-point shooters—as an outside marksman.

    Per 36 Minutes3PFG%3P%
    Chris Copeland2.548%42.1%
    Steve Novak 3.341%42.5%

    I'm not sure many people realize how good a pickup Copeland may have been for the Pacers. He can score from downtown and at the rim (where his percentage is better than both Anthony and Smith's). He'll add an offensive punch to a bench that didn't produce much last year.

Los Angeles Clippers: Darren Collison

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    What is underappreciated? Consistency.

     

    Through four NBA seasons, Darren Collison has averaged 12.1 points and 5.2 assists in just under 30 minutes a game.

    From year to year, the range for points average is less than three and for assists, less than one. Translation? You know what you're going to get from Collison.

    That's exactly what you want out of a backup point guard. The Los Angeles Clippers have a solid player who's proved to be effective in both limited (he's been Chris Paul's backup before) and bigger roles.

Los Angeles Lakers: Jordan Farmar

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    What is underappreciated? Experience.

     

    Jordan Farmar was a key piece of the Los Angeles Lakers squad that went to three straight finals from 2007 to 2010. He was Derek Fisher's primary backup, but he was actually better than the starting point guard offensively.

    Over those three seasons, Farmar averaged more points, assists and rebounds per 36 minutes than Fisher. He also shot a better percentage from the field. Some of those numbers may be a bit skewed, as Fisher spent more time on the floor with option No. 1 Kobe Bryant.

    The point is, Farmar was an important part of two title-winning teams, has familiarity playing with Bryant and Pau Gasol, and will almost certainly be an upgrade over current backup Steve Blake.

Memphis Grizzlies: Ed Davis

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    What is underappreciated? Defense and age.

     

    Ed Davis is eight years younger than starting power forward Zach Randolph and may have the defensive chops to start earning more minutes next year.

    As a sophomore at UNC, Davis averaged nearly three blocks a game. And in 36 games with the Memphis Grizzlies last season, 3.1 per 36 minutes.

    Combining that kind of rim protection with Marc Gasol would make the Grizzlies' front line even tougher to score on, and it could allow Memphis to explore trade scenarios involving Randolph.

Miami Heat: Chris Bosh

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    What is underappreciated? Acceptance and efficiency.

     

    From 2005 to 2010, Chris Bosh was the undisputed top dog (or raptor) in Toronto, averaging 22.8 points and 9.9 rebounds. 

    He had to have known that joining forces with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade would inevitably mean less scoring opportunities, but he didn't seem to accept that until this past season.

    For the 2012-13 campaign, Bosh averaged a career-low 33.2 minutes a game but shot a career-high 54 percent from the field. Nearly 76 percent of his field goals were assisted, by far the highest mark in his career.

    Bosh has fully accepted third-wheel status and has become a more effective weapon for Miami because of it. When Wade or LeBron drives and draws the defense, Bosh makes himself available for kick-out opportunities. Last year, he shot 49 percent from 16 feet out to the three-point line.

Milwaukee Bucks: Ersan Ilyasova

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    What is underappreciated? Versatility.

     

    A lot of people wrote off Ersan Ilyasova after a terrible start to the 2012-13 season. In November, he averaged just 6.7 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 35 percent from the field and 21 percent from three-point range.

    His turnaround from that point on was pretty impressive. For the next two months, he shot over 50 percent from downtown, and after the All-Star break, he posted 17.2 points and 9.0 rebounds a game.

    The previous year was even more indicative of Ilyasova's versatility. In 2011-12, he averaged 11.5 rebounds per 36 minutes while hitting 46 percent of his three-point attempts.

    The combination of great rebounding and outside shooting is generally thought to be a Kevin Love exclusive, but Ilyasova possesses it too—just on a smaller scale.

    I'm not saying he's the rebounder Love is. Obviously, he's not. But then again, Love isn't the shooter Ilyasova is.

    With an expanded role, the Turkish big man could get a lot more credit for being a Kevin Love-lite. 

Minnesota Timberwolves: Chase Budinger

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    What is underappreciated? Consistency.

     

    For four years, Chase Budinger has had essentially the same numbers in the same role. There was a brief exception when he started in Houston before Chandler Parsons took his spot.

    His career low for minutes per game is 20.1. His career high is 22.4. For points? The high is 9.6, and the low is 8.9.

    With the departure of Andrei Kirilenko, Budinger should finally get his shot if he stays healthy. If he starts alongside Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic, his numbers could creep up to around his per-36-minute average of 15.7.

    He'll be another floor-spacer along with Martin and Love and has the ability to finish above the rim in transition.

New Orleans Pelicans: Jason Smith

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    What is underappreciated? Shooting.

     

    After Robin Lopez signed with Portland, Jason Smith may have to start at center for New Orleans out of necessity. Many see that as an automatic downgrade, but Smith might actually be a better complement to Anthony Davis.

    Why? He's one of the best mid-range-shooting big men in the league.

    The two who have probably the best reputations in that department are LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh. Smith shot a better percentage from 16 feet to the three-point line than both of them last year.

    FG%10-16 Feet16-Feet Three-Point Line
    Jason Smith.424.497
    LaMarcus Aldridge.438.418
    Chris Bosh.397.494

    How does that pair with Davis and help the rest of the New Orleans Pelicans? Centers defending Smith will have to respect him all the way out to the three-point line.

    His range pulls those rim protectors away from the bucket and gives Davis more space to operate in the post and opens driving lanes for Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans.

New York Knicks: Amar'e Stoudemire

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    What is underappreciated? Talent.

     

    On a team filled with players I might deem overappreciated, there's a bit of irony with my selection for the New York Knicks. How so? Plenty of people consider post-injury Amar'e Stoudemire overrated.

    The organization has written him off to the point that it traded for the fantastically inefficient Andrea Bargnani to eat up minutes at Stoudemire's position.

    Your guess is as good as mine on why. Take a look at how much better Stoudemire was last season.

     GamesMinutesPTSREBFG%PER
    Amar'e Stoudemire2923.514.25.058%22.1
    Andrea Bargnani3528.712.73.740%11.2

    The plus with Bargnani is that he's a 7-footer who can space the floor with his outside shooting. Or at least he's known as such. The facts betray that reputation. Over the past two years, he's hit just 30 percent of his three-point attempts.

    As for the guy he was seemingly brought in to replace, he's still effective. Stoudemire's PER was second on the Knicks behind Carmelo Anthony.

    Even if his knees still allow him to play just 24 minutes a game, they'll be more meaningful minutes than what they'd get from Bargnani.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Nick Collison

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    What is underappreciated? Attitude.

     

    This one is kind of obvious. In fact, Nick Collison is so often called underrated or underappreciated that he's almost become the opposite. But almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, right?

    Collison is the human embodiment of a number of basketball cliches. He always gives 110 percent. He does all the little things—the stuff that doesn't show up in the box score. He's a glue guy. You get the point.

    As for numbers, they suggest Collison should be playing more. Especially if that meant less minutes for Kendrick Perkins.

    Check out how the two compare with a few advanced stats. 

     PERORtgDRtg
    Nick Collison 13.6123104
    Kendrick Perkins8.294102

    Offensive rating (ORtg) is an estimate of how many points a player produces per 100 possessions, while defensive rating (DRtg) is an estimate of how many points a player allows.

    So, Collison's net advantage is 27 points per 100 possessions. There's really no reason he should be playing less than Perkins—and yet he is.

Orlando Magic: Nikola Vucevic

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    What is underappreciated? Offense, rebounding and potential.

     

    It seems like everything I've read about the Orlando Magic this summer has revolved around Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris or Maurice Harkless. And while they look like they may have a bright NBA future, none may be more so than Nikola Vucevic's.

    The 22-year-old center had a huge sophomore campaign, averaging 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds in just over 33 minutes a game. That number on the boards was good for second in the league last year behind Dwight Howard.

    And he's not just a bruiser. Vucevic has solid range on his mid-range jumper, out to about 20 feet. He shot almost 43 percent in the range between 10 feet and the three-point line and 52 percent overall.

    Everyone is talking about building around Oladipo, Harris or Harkless, but the best potential centerpiece might be the actual center.

Philadelphia 76ers: Thaddeus Young

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    What is underappreciated? Just about everything.

     

    I've been a huge fan of Thaddeus Young's for a few years now. And for all the publicity Jrue Holiday got last year, Young may have been the Philadelphia 76ers' best player.

    Young is an efficient scorer because he plays to his strengths. He's hit over 50 percent from the field in four of his six seasons, including each of the past three. Last year, he was second on the 76ers in scoring at 14.8 points a game.

    Part of the reason for his recent shooting success was his realization that he didn't need to shoot threes to be dangerous. In the 2009-10 season, he attempted 138 shots from beyond the arc. Over the past three years, he put up a total of 32 shots from that range.

    He shot 53 percent from the field last year, 10 points higher than Holiday.

    He also had a player efficiency rating about 1.5 points better than Philly's only All-Star in 2013. And that's what really makes Young special—all the other things he does well are taken into account by PER.

    He led the team in rebounding at 7.5 a game and in steals with an average of 1.8. He was second in field-goal percentage behind Arnett Moultrie, who played less than 12 minutes a game.

    With little else on the roster for next season (and I do mean little), Young could have a breakout year.

Phoenix Suns: Gerald Green

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    What is underappreciated? Scoring.

     

    Gerald Green looked like he finally broke out during the second half of the 2011-12 season with the New Jersey Nets.

    After signing a 10-day contract at the end of February, he began lighting up opposing defenses and left the Nets little choice but to sign him for the remainder of the year.

    Green averaged 12.9 points in 25 minutes over 31 games and hit 39 percent of his three-point attempts. And he progressed in those few months he was with the team. In April, his scoring average was 15.1 and he had a 32-point game against the Cavaliers.

    Green's offense that year earned him a contract with the Pacers in the summer of 2012, but not a solid spot in Indiana's rotation.

    That puts him off the radar once again as he prepares for his first season in Phoenix.

    He should get an opportunity to shine early, as the Suns are rebuilding and just traded fellow small forward Caron Butler to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Portland Trail Blazers: Wesley Matthews

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    What is underappreciated? Offense and consistency.

     

    C.J. McCollum hasn't logged a single minute in the NBA, and we're already hearing rumblings about the 6'3" combo guard starting over incumbent Wesley Matthews.

    It's hard to understand why some are so eager to send Matthews to the pine. In three seasons as the starting shooting guard in Portland, he's averaged 14.9 points while hitting 40 percent of his threes.

    Some point to the fact that he's not an elite defender, but it's hard to imagine the undersized McCollum faring any better against NBA 2s.

    I guess if the plan was to make Matthews a super-sub, I'm a little more on board. But I don't think the Blazers should be too hasty in removing him from a role in which he's been so effective.

Sacramento Kings: Jimmer Fredette

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    What is underappreciated? Offense and patience.

     

    The big knock on Jimmer Fredette and the reason everyone cites for him not being able to cut it in the NBA is poor defense. It carries no weight in relation to his spot in Sacramento's rotation last year.

    Fredette's defensive rating (an estimate of how many points a player allows per 100 possessions) was tied with starting point guard Isaiah Thomas', four points (or two buckets) worse than Tyreke Evans' and one point worse than Marcus Thornton's.

    Those were the three players logging most of the minutes in the backcourt while Fredette spent the majority of last season on the bench.

    Offensively, he wasn't far behind any member of that trio and was the best three-point shooter of the bunch. 

    Per 36 MinutesPTSASTFG%3P%
    Jimmer Fredette18.43.442%42%
    Isaiah Thomas18.75.444%36%
    Tyreke Evans17.64.148%34%
    Marcus Thornton19.11.943%37%

    On a team clearly headed for the lottery last year, it made no sense for Keith Smart to deny Fredette a chance to play.

    He's a shooter, and shooters need rhythm. Under Smart, Fredette could never find that. He never knew if he'd play on any given night, and his minutes were sporadic when he did go in.

    Fredette could still be a very important part of a team if he played for a coach who understood his value.

San Antonio Spurs: Patty Mills

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    What is underappreciated? Scoring.

     

    Patty Mills has spent the vast majority of his NBA career on the San Antonio Spurs' bench. During his four-year career, he's averaged 37 games a season and just 11.7 minutes a game.

    But when he's out there, the Australian guard lights it up. In two of his four seasons, he averaged over 22 points per 36 minutes, and for his career, he's shooting 39 percent from three-point range.

    Now that Gary Neal is no longer with the team, perhaps the 25-year-old Mills will be able to have a more consistent role.

Toronto Raptors: Tyler Hansbrough

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    What is underappreciated? Attitude and defense.

     

    Sure, Tyler Hansbrough isn't the dominant offensive force he was in college, but he's found another way to become effective in the NBA—unrivaled intensity on defense.

    He's not the most athletically gifted player in the league, but watching Hansbrough play basketball is like watching a man possessed. It's as if he's on a personal mission to never let his man have any breathing room.

    That determination helps him stay in front of the more athletic players the experts think should run circles around him.

    Last season, Hansbrough's defensive rating was just one point worse than Dwight Howard's, the presumed best defensive big man in the NBA.

    And his offense isn't terrible either. He's not extremely efficient, as he has a hard time scoring over longer, more athletic opponents. But Hansbrough still averages 16.3 points per 36 minutes over his career.

Utah Jazz: Brandon Rush

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    What is underappreciated? Defense and shooting.

     

    The Utah Jazz made it clear they were gearing toward the 2014 NBA draft class when they acquired Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush from the Golden State Warriors.

    While the unproductive Jefferson and Biedrins will almost certainly be gone after their contracts expire next summer, Rush may still have some value.

    One of the new fads in the NBA is "three and D" players—which is exactly what it sounds like.

    Rush is a solid perimeter defender who uses great length (6'6" with a 6'11" wingspan) to harass opposing wings.

    The other part of the equation is outside shooting, which is where Rush can be really special. In 2011-12 (his last full season thanks to missing all but two games with injury last year), he hit 45 percent of his three-point attempts. His career percentage from that range is 41.

    Rush has the potential to be much more than just a throw-in piece in the cap-friendly deal the Jazz made with the Warriors.

Washington Wizards: Martell Webster

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    What is underappreciated? Shooting.

     

    The Washington Wizards used their No. 3 overall pick in the NBA draft this summer to select small forward Otto Porter. Put me down on the list of people leaning toward bust with Porter.

    I love when professional athletes prove their doubters (myself included) wrong, but I just don't like the Porter pick. In part, because I think the Wizards already have a solid 3 in Martell Webster.

    The learning curve has always been a little steeper for most prep-to-pro players, and last year it looked like Webster was starting to turn the corner.

    He started 62 of the 76 games he played last year and averaged 11.4 points in 28.9 minutes while hitting 42 percent of his three-point attempts.

    I'd rather have two proven marksman in Webster and Bradley Beal flanking John Wall than one marksman and one question mark.

     

    AndrewDBailey