Chris Paul and the NBA's 5 Most Underrated Players
The concept of "the underrated" is an extremely delicate one. Some players, like Brandon Roy, are labeled underrated time and time again, to the point that they are almost overrated. Others, like Antawn Jamison, have seen their production fall to levels that make the attention they receive appear appropriate. Simply put, to be labeled underrated is often an extremely fluid position to be in.
Underrated players are players that don't receive the recognition they deserve for their performances. They could be stuck on a bad team that gets little media coverage, play unexciting basketball or do things that do not show up in the typical box score.
Some players feed off of the lack of love they get for their play, using it as a motivator and playing with a chip on their shoulder. Not surprisingly, those players seem to be the ones that carve a place for themselves in the league when all is said and done.
Without further ado, here are five NBA players who are not getting their due.
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When debating the topic of who is the league's best point guard, the conversation often boils down to five names—Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. After looking at traditional statistics, most favor Rose for the title. However, upon further observation, Chris Paul is not only the league's best point guard, but possibly the league's Most Valuable Player.
Paul's extreme value comes not from flashy dunks or outrageous athleticism; rather it comes from minimizing negatives in his game. Pairing smart shot selection with tremendous shooting ability, Paul is among the league's most efficient guards scoring the ball (third among PGs in TS%).
Additionally, he limits turnovers incredibly well, allowing his team to utilize every possession to get a good shot. With the lowest turnover ratio among point guards ranked in the top 20 of assists, Paul is incredible at protecting the ball.
Defensively, Paul is extremely effective, disrupting with his incredible quickness and picking up tons of steals. When the game is close, there are few point guards that GMs would rather have defending the other team's point guard than Chris Paul.
For these reasons, Chris Paul finds himself ranked first in John Hollinger's PER statistic. PER is by no means a perfect statistic, but the fact that he is No. 1 in the ranking is fairly high praise for someone putting up merely solid statistics.
Are 17 and 10 typically considered MVP type statistics? No, but perhaps voters should look beyond the usual metrics and see that Paul could be the league's best and most valuable players.
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Care to guess who the Clippers' leading scorer is? Blake Griffin, right? Baron Davis? Chris Kaman?
Surprisingly, after two average seasons to start his career, Eric Gordon has transformed into a tremendous scorer for the Clippers, pouring in 23.6 points per game and improving vastly as a penetrator.
Perhaps nobody saw such dramatic results from playing on the national team as Gordon did, as he developed into more than just a zone buster for the dominant American squad in the World Championships this summer.
While he often lacked the burst of speed to burn defenders and get to the rim in his first couple of years in the league, Gordon has developed numerous dribble moves and has worked on his quickness and now plays far better inside, improving his efficiency and allowing him to score in higher volume than he ever had.
In fact, his shooting has slumped a bit this year, but with his improvements inside and in his ability to draw fouls, he is having a tremendous year and should be in the conversation for the league's Most Improved Player award.
While he is getting some pub in that discussion, his bid for an All-Star game has been hampered by the Clippers' disappointing record and the fact that he is overshadowed by superstar-in-the-making in Blake Griffin.
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While Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton have no doubt been huge contributors to the Knicks as they have improved into one of the East's top teams, perhaps the biggest key in the Knicks' development has been the growth of Wilson Chandler into a very solid two-way threat.
With a much-improved three-point jump shot, Chandler has been able to capitalize on his opponents' need to double team Stoudemire in the post and is scoring at an efficiency and frequency he has never before achieved. He always could score going to the basket, but this added wrinkle to his game has helped him in all aspects of his offensive game.
While the offensive improvements have been crucial as the Knicks attempt to become an elite offensive team, his defensive development has been even more important for the Knicks.
Always possessing the athletic gifts to be a lock-down defender, Chandler was often given the label as a top-notch defender when he truly wasn't. However, this year, Chandler has focused on the defensive end and has helped the Knicks become competent defensively for the first time in years.
Additionally, his ability to slide over and guard opposing power forwards has allowed the Knicks to utilize an unconventional lineup with Stoudemire playing center, which has been extremely effective.
For years, Chandler was a tease—flashing moments of brilliance but never putting it together for a full year. Now, he has become the player he always could be, and the Knicks have to be ecstatic.
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Often players who are the meat and potatoes of the NBA are the ones who are least appreciated. Al Horford is just another example of this. With a decent post game, good passing skills and a strong defensive mentality, Al Horford truly struggles with nothing, but there is little that sticks off the page to attract fans to him.
Just like Chris Paul, Horford is extremely efficient, limits his turnovers and plays smart, keeping himself from making mistakes that might hurt his team. He may not be the most exciting player in the league to watch, but he certainly is extremely valuable.
Additionally, his rebounding skills are among the best in the league. He may not be the most athletic man on the court, but he gets to rebounds and even has the ball skills to start the fast break.
Still, when voting for All-Stars, Horford ranks fifth behind Dwight Howard, Shaquille O'Neal, Joakim Noah and Andrew Bogut. While All-Star voting is horribly inconsistent, for the man who ranks second in the NBA among centers in PER to be fifth in the Eastern Conference balloting is a disgrace.
After yet another impressive season, let's hope he gets his due in the All-Star Game once again.
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Currently sitting at 15-21 and coming dangerously close to falling outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, the Bobcats have to be looking at every option at this point. There has been talk of blowing up the entire team and trading Stephen Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw, mention of a Baron Davis trade and even reports of attempts to bring Carmelo Anthony to town.
However, if the Bobcats want to be serious about improving, they can make one simple move—give Tyrus Thomas more playing time.
Perhaps it is because he has never been a winner in the NBA, because he is only playing 22 minutes per game or because the Bobcats are not a great team, but Tyrus Thomas is getting little to no publicity for an absolutely tremendous season.
Per 40 minutes, Thomas is averaging 21.2 points and 10.9 rebounds a game, while blocking an impressive 3.2 shots. While his occasional defensive lapses are frustrating, they should not be precluding the Bobcats and Coach Paul Silas from playing him more.
Is he as good as his per-40 minutes suggest? Perhaps not, but there is no doubt that he is a very impressive power forward, something he is not getting credit for.