Evaluating and Ranking the 10 Most Underrated Players in the NBA
The NBA has its share of overrated and underrated players. While the overrated ballers continue to be looked at under scrutiny, the underrated players continue to be left out of the equation.
There are plenty of players in the league who don't obtain the recognition that they may deserve, but some more than others.
While some of these are names that basketball fans have heard about for some time, they are still underrated in every sense of the word.
No. 10: Serge Ibaka, PF (Oklahoma Thunder)
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Serge Ibaka is the best shot-blocker in the NBA. While some may say that's a bold statement, it's actually true on a statistical level.
Ibaka was the league leader in blocked shots last season with 198. His 2.41 blocks per game stat was ranked third, and he put up these ridiculous numbers while only playing 27 minutes per game.
Not to mention his 3.1 blocks per game during the playoffs. Ibaka was an absolute rejection machine for the entire 2010-11 NBA season.
He also averaged 9.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest. Those are decent numbers when Kevin Durant was scoring 27.7 per game and Russell Westbrook was scoring 21.9 per game.
Ibaka's playing time is sure to increase next season due to the way he played last season. With the added minutes, he should be able to have an even better season. He's only 21 years old, so this shot-blocker will be at the top of the leader board in that category for the next decade and more.
No. 9: Arron Afflalo, SG (Denver Nuggets)
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Arron Afflalo is the type of player every team in the NBA would love to have.
He plays tremendous defense, moves well without the ball and is also a sharpshooter from three-point land.
Afflalo was acquired from the Detroit Pistons for Walter Sharpe and a second-round pick. While Sharpe is currently playing for the New Mexico Thunderbirds of the NBA D-League, Afflalo is on the rise to be one of the better shooting guards in the NBA.
He shot 42 percent from the arc last season and averaged 12.6 points per game while knowing that J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler were available to replace him.
Afflalo's play has the Denver Nuggets believing that he's their shooting guard for the now and future, and it would be a huge surprise if he wasn't suiting up for the Nuggets next season.
Afflalo may be underrated due to the team that he plays on and because he doesn't make the flashy plays that land on highlight reels, but he makes the correct play almost all of the time and goes about basketball the right way.
No. 8: Brook Lopez, C (New Jersey Nets)
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Brook Lopez has been the name tossed around in possible blockbuster moves for the New Jersey Nets to acquire a Monta Ellis or Dwight Howard. Other than that, his name doesn't get mentioned too often.
Lopez was drafted No. 10 out of Stanford to the Nets in the 2008 NBA Draft, and from then on he has been one of the better scoring centers in the league.
Last season, the seven-footer averaged 20.4 points per game and was Deron Williams' favorite option in the offense. Lopez can score in different ways, whether it's an alley-oop, post moves, face-up jumper or the simple put-back dunk.
He's also a proficient shot-blocker, as he's averaged at least 1.5 blocks per game in each of his three seasons in the NBA.
What knocks Lopez is his lack of rebounding ability. Fellow teammate and Nets power forward Kris Humphries managed to out-rebound him last year.
He's underrated because of the lack of recognition he gets as a center. Most will leave him out of the discussion as a top-five player at his position, but once Lopez gets better as a rebounder, he will have NBA fans' attention.
No. 7: Rudy Gay, SF (Memphis Grizzlies)
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Rudy Gay is one of the better small forwards flying under the radar. Playing for a team like the Memphis Grizzlies has a role in that, but so does the fact that basketball fans don't pay enough attention to him.
Last season, the Grizzlies went on the best playoff run in franchise history, but unfortunately Gay could not be a part of it due to an injury.
Had Gay been a key player during that playoff run, he'd be better known after it like fellow teammates Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Not to mention, the Grizzlies might have made it to the NBA Finals instead of the Dallas Mavericks.
Gay has been an above-average NBA player for four seasons now as he's been averaging close to 20 points per game in each one of them.
Last season, he averaged 19.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He had only played 54 games, though, and that number could have certainly been higher.
His name has appeared in trade rumors, but Memphis will ultimately hold on to this 24-year-old and continue with their own Big Grizzly Three, of Gay, Randolph and Gasol.
No. 6: Al Jefferson, PF/C (Utah Jazz)
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Al Jefferson is most known for being the trade chip that the Boston Celtics used to obtain Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he should be recognized for being one of the best scoring power forwards in the game.
Jefferson's back-to-the-basket skills are near the top of the charts as far as effectiveness goes. His jump shot is mediocre, but he knows how to use the glass well and has a nice shooting touch near the rim.
Jefferson averaged 18.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game last season while playing on the Utah Jazz. Throughout different stretches last season, Jefferson was the go-to guy for the Jazz and had to carry the team on his back.
His defense as a whole isn't all that good, however, and that's what holds him out of the top five on this list.
No. 5: Luol Deng, SF (Chicago Bulls)
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The most underrated player on an NBA Finals contender is somewhat of an oxymoron, but yet it's still true. Luol Deng doesn't receive the credit that he should as the starting small forward on the Chicago Bulls.
As a seven-year veteran of the league, Deng has been producing at a high level ever since the 2006-07 NBA season.
He's averaged 17-plus points per game for four seasons and is also a great defender. It could even be said that Deng is the best small forward to suit up for the Bulls since the great Scottie Pippen.
Bulls fans should appreciate him to the fullest because without his play, Chicago wouldn't have been the same team last season, especially with Carlos Boozer's multiple stints of struggles.
No. 4: Andre Iguodala, SF/SG (Philadelphia 76ers)
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Andre Iguodala is one of the most well-rounded players in the game of basketball.
His ability to score the basketball, set up teammates for shots, rebound and play exceptional defense normally get overlooked.
Iguodala's average points per game dropped from 17.1 in 2009 to 14.1 in 2010, due to several nagging injuries, but he still managed to have the second-most assists from a small forward with 6.3 per game. Iggy was second in that category only to LeBron James' seven assists per game.
Iggy also rebounds the ball well. He's a 6'6", 207-pound wing player who still manages to grab 5.8 boards per game. That's an impressive number for a player who's playing on the perimeter for the most part.
Iguodala's defense is really the only aspect to his game that does get recognized, as he was named to the 2011 NBA All-Defensive Second Team.
Skeptics of the NBA may say that Iggy doesn't deserve the massive contract that he possesses, but even with that contract he's still a very underrated player in the NBA.
No. 3: Kevin Martin, SG (Houston Rockets)
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Kevin Martin has spent seven seasons in the NBA and he has eclipsed 20-plus points per game in his last five of them. He's one of the most lethal scorers in the NBA, but he almost never gets promoted as so.
Martin is also good for at least one steal per contest and very sure from the charity stripe as he's an 86.3 percent free-throw shooter.
Whether he was playing as a Sacramento King or as a Houston Rocket, Martin hasn't been applauded for what he's done so far in his career.
He's one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, but many wouldn't include him in their top five.
No. 2: Monta Ellis, G (Golden State Warriors)
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Monta Ellis has been underrated even before he played his first NBA game as he was drafted in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft.
The quick, talented combo guard has the ability to light up the stat sheet with points and steals. He's averaged 20-plus points per game in three different seasons and even averaged 25.5 points per game during the 2009-10 NBA season, which was good enough for sixth in the league.
Ellis is also at the top of the list in terms of steals. He's averaged two-plus steals per game for the last two seasons and is known as a thief on the basketball court. While his defense all-around may not be above average, his speedy hands certainly are.
This young scoring threat has yet to make an All-Star appearance, and there is no excuse as to why he hasn't.
Ellis has been one of the most discussed names in the trade rumors this offseason. While that has helped fans of basketball understand who Ellis is, many still don't understand how good of a player he is.
If he does get moved this summer to a contending team, maybe he will be fully recognized for what he is, an All-Star-caliber player.
No. 1: LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C (Portland Trail Blazers)
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LaMarcus Aldridge lands No. 1 on this list not just because of his play last season, but his play for the last four seasons.
Many seem to believe that Aldridge burst onto the scene out of nowhere during the 2010-11 season, but in fact he's been an above-average power forward with the Blazers for almost half a decade.
Aldridge was one of the more notable All-Star snubs last season, as many believed that he deserved a spot on the roster over veterans Tim Duncan and Pau Gasol.
Whether that's true or not can be debated, but what is a sure thing is that Aldridge doesn't receive the respect he deserves throughout the league.
He averaged 21.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game last season while switching between power forward and center. No matter what position he holds down on the court, he's a phenomenal talent who will likely take his career to the next level and earn an All-Star bid.