NBA Power Rankings: Rudy Fernandez and The Top 10 Underrated Players
Underrated players are ones that usually play well on small-market teams while not making any headlines with their antics (on-court or off-court). Some players love being labeled as “underrated”, because that means the pressure is off for them and they are being recognized by the few people that value them so highly.
Some suggest that great defensive players do not get their due. Maybe Shane Battier or the great Bruce Bowen come to mind first. Perhaps it is great shooters who do not get proper credit. Many have considered players like Mike Miller vastly overlooked. Now, with the 2010-2011 NBA Regular Season upon us, it is time to look at ten of the more under-valued players in the league.
10. Rudy Fernandez (Portland Trail Blazers)
Fernandez has proved to be a competent sixth man off the bench when called upon for the Portland Trail Blazers the last couple of years. He is fearless, makes ridiculous passes sometimes, and is more athletic than you would originally think. He also shoots very well from outside (48%), is speedy on the open floor, and can also slam a monster dunk from time to time. The best news is he is only 25 years old and is already one of the best shooters in the league.
If he gets a starting spot (which is not possible in Portland, he would be too big for the point guard spot, and it is safe to say Brandon Roy will remain starting at the 2 spot), Fernandez could potentially take off. Until then, he will probably be over-looked as nothing more than a fiery bench player, but nothing more. And that is a shame, because with the way he shoots and passes, he deserves better.
9. Wilson Chandler (New York Knicks)
While not an ideal target beyond the arc and suffering from off the court issues this past off-season (caught with marijuana in his car), Chandler showed plenty of promise this past year. You would think in a big-market city like New York he would receive a lot of attention, but you do not really hear his name that much. The fact of the matter is that Chandler is an explosive athlete, rebounds pretty well at his position, and is only 23 years old.
With the addition of Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks will look to slam the ball home a lot now; this should be very welcome news to a penetrator like Chandler. If he can work a little on his outside touch and limit his turnovers, he could become the small forward for the future for this team. As of right now, you have probably heard his name mentioned, but until the Knicks become, well, good again, he is probably someone people will forget about when great small forwards are mentioned.
8. Troy Murphy (Indiana Pacers)
Murphy has never been considered one of the best big men in the league. A large part of that has to be to the fact that he’s never been on good teams, spending his 9-year career with the Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers, and now being shipped to the New Jersey Nets this past off-season.
He has never possessed the defensive ability most coaches desire from their big men, such as being a rabid shot blocker or feisty post defender, but he is one of the better rebounders in the league, he can shoot the ball from outside (38%) which spaces the floor out more, and he can play both the power forward and center spots. At the age of 30 his upside is limited, but if he ever gets traded to a playoff-bound team in his life, he could prove be a pivotal player.
7. John Salmons (Milwaukee Bucks)
Salmons might have been the biggest reason why the city of Milwaukee got so into their Bucks during the latter part of the season. Yes, they lost Andrew Bogut at the beginning of April to a horrific arm injury, but the enthusiasm was still present in the Phillips Arena during their first round series against the Hawks.
Salmons was simply remarkable for the Bucks, averaging 19.9 ppg while shooting a respectable 38.6% from 3-point range while giving the team a perfect fill-in for the often injured Michael Redd. While Salmons might not collect a lot of rebounds or make incredible passes, he is one of the better go-to scorers in the league that a lot of people forget about.
6. Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)
So everyone is still in agreement that the Pau Gasol to the Lakers deal was one of the worst trades ever, right? While that particular transaction gave the Lakers two more titles and arguably the best power forward in the league, the Grizzlies at least got their center for the future in that trade. Marc, while not as offensively savvy or vocal (listen to Pau during Lakers games, you can hear his voice constantly when he goes up for shots in the post. It usually sounds like a lion who has just been wounded badly) as his big brother, is as solid a center as there is in the league.
Last year he shot 58% from the field, grabbed 9.3 rebounds a game, and swatted away 1.6 shots. The thing is, Marc will probably always be underrated because his brother is such a rare talent, even if he becomes an All-Star soon, Pau will most likely always have him beat in every category.
5. Aaron Brooks (Houston Rockets)
The Rockets can not seem to buy a break lately. They have recently dealt with injuries to star players at the wrong time, or players quitting on them (Hey T-Mac), or losing their big guns to free agency. Thank goodness they have a gem of a point guard to help lead them in Aaron Brooks for the future. Yes, he is a little undersized and turns the ball over perhaps a little bit more than he should (2.8 per game last year), but he is an absolutely fearless shooter, makes good decisions, and is a respectable defender.
Hopefully with a healthy Yao Ming back in the fold, and an athletic sidekick in Courtney Lee who was added to team this past off-season, Brooks will be primed for a breakout year by upping his assists, improving his shooting even more, and becoming one of the most respected point guards in the league. He is well on his way already after averaging 19.6 ppg and 5.3 apg last year.
4. David Lee (Golden State Warriors)
Lee never got proper respect in New York City. Here’s hoping he has more luck in Golden State, where he will start next to a shot-blocking machine in Andris Biedrins, and he will be able to play his natural position at the power forward spot. He does not possess outstanding quickness on defense and he tends to turn it over a bit too much (2.3 a game last year), but he is as solid a big man that you can find in this league. He’s a routine 20/10 guy who shot well from the field (54.5%) and is also an above-average passer.
Time will tell if he will translate his game smoothly into Golden State’s fast-paced offense (which should not be a problem seeing Mike D’Antoni’s is as high-octane as anyone else’s), but if he does, Golden State could be a sleeper out West. Lee has always been a very capable big man who puts up big numbers, we will see if he gets more attention now that he’s in the Bay Area.
3. Andrea Bargnani (Toronto Raptors)
So the Raptors probably will not be finishing in the top ten of the 2010-2011 NBA Power Rankings this year. After Chris Bosh decided to join his boys LeBron and Dwyane in Miami, the Raptors look pretty decimated. The biggest question this organization has to ask itself is does Andrea Bargnani have what it takes to be what he was labeled when he was picked #1 in the 2006 draft, that being is he the “Next Dirk Nowitzki”? After his best season yet last year and the departure of Bosh, you can bet Bargnani will crack the 20 ppg mark this year and become an elite player.
He’s already a very, very good shooter, he has the ability to stretch the floor out with his range (good luck blocking his shot with his length), he rebounds pretty well for his size, and his defense continues to get better (1.4 blocks per game last year). It is a mystery as to why we have not heard a lot about this guy since he was drafted. He is a huge mismatch for any team and like Dirk, he can burn you either outside or inside – pick your poison. Will he become an All-Star this year? My gut says do not be surprised if he does.
2. Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Who would have thought that the toughest team the Lakers would face in the playoffs aside from their Finals opponent would be the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round? One of the main reasons why the Thunder-Lakers series lasted longer than it probably should have was due to the emergence of Russell Westbrook. With Kevin Durant having to deal with the big body of Ron Artest on him and Jeff Green unable to locate his 3-point shot, Westbrook went to town on the veteran Derek Fisher, averaging 20.5 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists for the series.
Yet when we think of the Thunder, we immediately think of Kevin Durant as their star player. You can argue that he is not the only star anymore after Westbrook proved his fortitude in the playoffs last year. If he can expand his range a little bit more (only shot 22 percent from the arc during the regular season), the sky is the limit for this guy. Many hope we will hear his name much more this season as the Thunder continue to become one of the league’s best and most exciting teams.
1. Gerald Wallace (Charlotte Bobcats)
It is pretty easy to say that this guy is the most underrated player in the league. He is on an average Eastern Conference team in the Bobcats and he does not make headlines with off-court antics. He is potentially the most fearless player in the league, sacrificing his body so much that he has garnered the nickname “Crash”. He blocks shots, shoots well from anywhere on the court, completes mind-boggling dunks, rebounds above-average for his position, and is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. When are we going to give this guy his due?
He is not only the best player on the Bobcats, he is one of the best players in the league without question, but he continues to fly under the radar. Now in the prime years of his career, Wallace might only continue to improve in every statistical category. Until the Bobcats win a first-round series though, it is probably safe to say Wallace will continue to be modestly respected but not properly recognized as one of the best all-around players in the game.