The 5 Most Underrated NBA Players: Midseason Report

Kendall BakerContributor IIIFebruary 12, 2014

The 5 Most Underrated NBA Players: Midseason Report

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    The NBA is full of superstars who are talked about ad nauseam. It is also full of underrated players who get way too little attention.

    The following is a list of the most underrated guys in the league. Whether they are being undervalued (like Paul Millsap) or simply forgotten in the shuffle (like Spencer Hawes), they are players who deserve more love than they are currently getting.

     

Honorable Mentions

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    Associated Press

    Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets

    A do-it-all forward for one of the better teams in the NBA, Parsons gets way too little credit for his contributions. He's a force on the offensive end of the floor, and his ability to play both forward spots causes mismatches on most nights.

     

    Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers

    Though he has been getting much more love lately due to the Blazers' success, Wes is still viewed by many as little more than a good shooter. Well, he's a solid defender too, oftentimes matching up with much bigger small forwards.

     

    Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets

    Lawson serves as an example of fans—and even basketball pundits—judging a book by its cover. Most people look at his blazing speed and short stature as proof that he's just another Nate Robinson-type player who can score in bunches and get to the basket at will. What they tend to overlook is the fact that Lawson currently ranks third in the NBA in assists per game at 8.8.

5. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

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    Cousins is well on his way to becoming a perennial All-Star.
    Cousins is well on his way to becoming a perennial All-Star.Associated Press

    You might be saying to yourself, "How is DeMarcus Cousins underrated? Everyone knows he's one of the best players in the game." 

    Do they really, though?

    Despite holding the sixth-best PER in the entire league (behind only Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Chris Paul and Anthony Davis), Cousins wasn't voted into the All-Star Game.

    Now, the guys who were chosen as reserves over him—LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Howard—are all deserving.

    Cousins' maturity issues probably didn't help, either.

    However, it is becoming dramatically clear that he has become an underrated player in this league.

    People around the NBA are quick to point to Cousins as a candidate to be the league's next best big man, but who's to say he isn't already there.

    Looking at four significant statistics when it comes to measuring a big man's impact on the game, here is how Cousins ranks against some of the premier bigs in his conference (and the NBA): 

     

    PlayerPoints/GameRebounds/GamePER REBR*
    Cousins22.711.726.3120.4
    Howard18.812.421.6620.1
    Aldridge24.111.522.9216.8
    Griffin23.99.824.2115.1

    *Rebound Rate calculates the percentage of missed shots that a player rebounds RBR= (100 x (Rebounds x Team Minutes)) divided by [Player Minutes x (Team Rebounds + Opponent Rebounds)]

    Everyone knows that DeMarcus Cousins is a stud, but it'd be very interesting to see how many know he has a higher PER than Blake Griffin and a higher REBR than Howard.

    Cousins is an example of a top-10 player who is being valued as a top-25 player. That's underrated in my book.

4. Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets

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    In just his second year, Jones has become a reliable starter for a Houston team with championship aspirations.
    In just his second year, Jones has become a reliable starter for a Houston team with championship aspirations.Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    For the first few months of the season, it seemed like there was a new rumor every week coming out of Houston involving Omer Asik being dealt for a power forward to pair with Dwight Howard.

    With the addition of D12, Houston needed a PF who could stretch the floor and give Howard the space he needs in the paint to punish defenses. 

    These days, those rumors are all but gone. That surely has something to do with Asik being injured, but it has a lot more to do with the emergence of Terrence Jones.

    Take a look at the top 50 NBA players in terms of PER, according to ESPN.com. Out of all the names listed, Jones is definitely the most surprising. 

    He was underrated coming out of Kentucky along with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and he's underrated now.  

     

3. Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Spencer Hawes is shooting over 42 percent from beyond the arc this season.
    Spencer Hawes is shooting over 42 percent from beyond the arc this season.Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Spencer Hawes is the 25th-ranked player in fantasy this season, according to NBA.com's Fantasy Rankings Ladder. That puts him ahead of guys like Andre Drummond and his teammate, Michael Carter-Williams. 

    How many people would have guessed that?

    Probably the same number that would have guessed that Hawes is putting up fairly similar numbers to those that Dirk Nowitzki put up at the same age.

    Via Dustin Darby of The 49th Minute:

    Spencer Hawes is often referred to by pundits as a poor man’s Dirk Nowitzki. Given the historical significance the sharp shooting German has had not only on the records book but on the style of play of NBA big men this is an extremely lofty comparison. However, when you compare each player at the same points of their individual careers this comparison becomes far more compelling.

    Dirk Nowitzki (Age: 25 6th NBA Season)

    20.7 pts, 8.3 reb, 2.6 ast, 1.3 blk, .463 fg%, .341 3P%

    Spencer Hawes (Age: 25 7th NBA Season)

    15.9 pts, 9.8 reb, 3.4 ast, 1.6 blk, .481 fg%, .426 3P%

    Hawes has been mentioned in trade rumors for much of the season, but Philadelphia would be wise to hold onto him.

2. Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns

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    Dragic has the 14th highest PER in the entire league.
    Dragic has the 14th highest PER in the entire league.Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    Compare these two point guards:

    Player A: 21.6 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.2 RPG, 42.8% FG, 36.2% 3-point FG, 20.43 PER

    Player B: 20.4 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.6 RPG, 51.1% FG, 41% 3-point FG, 22.86 PER

    One of these players is an All-Star starter. The other didn't even make the team. 

    One is in the three-point contest. The other is not. 

    One is a household name. The other probably wouldn't even be recognized in public outside of Arizona.

    Oh, shoot, did I give it away? Player B is the Suns' exciting point guard, Goran Dragic. The 27-year-old is quietly having his best season as a professional, and he has been incredibly efficient—especially when you compare him to Player AKyrie Irving.


    When Eric Bledsoe went down roughly a month ago, the Suns' inspiring run was supposed to come to a screeching halt. However, Dragic has kept Phoenix very much alive in the Western Conference playoff picture.

    In fact, Michael Dunlap of Yahoo Sports went as far as to question whether Dragic's impressive play could make Bledsoe expendable.

    When you have a higher PER than guys like Paul George and Dwight Howard, but the majority of NBA fans have no idea what country you're from (Dragic is from Slovenia)...I think it's fair to say that you're underrated. 

     

1. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks

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    In the absence of Al Horford, Millsap has become the go-to guy in Atlanta.
    In the absence of Al Horford, Millsap has become the go-to guy in Atlanta.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    When Al Horford went down earlier this season, the Hawks looked doomed. They had a new coach in Mike Budenholzer and, without Horford, a very underwhelming frontline.

    So, how is Atlanta currently 25-25 with a solid shot at making the playoffs? There's only one answer: All-Star Paul Millsap.

    This season, Millsap is averaging career highs in points per game, assists per game, steals per game and blocks per game (via Basketball Reference). He's also shooting 36.8 percent from three-point range, a noticeable improvement from his 32.5 percent career average. 

    More important than his statistics, however, is the leadership role that Millsap has taken on in Horford's absence. As Budenholzer explained per Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    Paul, his effort, his leadership, I wish they could put a leadership column on our stat sheet because tonight when we got down it was Paul who pulled them together and kept our group together. All the other (stats) are great and we appreciate the rebounds and the blocks but it’s his leadership. Our group needs that going forward.

    So far, Millsap is looking like one of the better free-agent pickups from last offseason.

     

    Please feel free to comment and point out any guys that you feel I've forgotten. Trust me, there are plenty of underrated players in the NBA and I can't list them all. Show your guys some love in the comment section.

    Follow me on Twitter @kbaker0506 and make sure to keep up with my B/R articles here: http://bleacherreport.com/users/3217718-kendall-baker.