Thursday, November 13, 2008

Underrated And Under-The-Radar NBA Stars

Everybody from the most casual fan to the hardcore statmonger know the mega-stars -- players such as Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, and LeBron James who frequently fill the highlight reels with a superb pass, devastating block or humiliating facial. These players are watched constantly, known throughout the league as being exceedingly dangerous players. They are double-covered often, relentlessly trying to be stopped by the other team, but usually to no avail. These types of players are voted MVP, Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year -- and they always seem to belong to a great team.

There are also many players in the league who are frequently overshadowed by these types of players, the guys who quietly dominate on their team and in their city. Whether the reason be that their team isn't up to snuff or if they play on the same club as a superstar, these players frequently fly under the NBA radar or are not given the credit that they deserve. These types of players are known as quality, but underrated is a quality that can be attributed to most every one of them. These aren't exactly sleeper picks, but they are underrated players that demand our (and the league's) attention, and they are slowly being realized as almost at the level of the megastars.

Danny Granger - SG,SF - Indiana Pacers
Granger has/is emerg(ing)e(d) as an elite player in the Eastern Conference. He is clearly the best player on the subpar Indiana Pacers, their first scoring and playmaking option. Playing small forward, and occasionally two guard and power forward, the 6'9" do-it-all Granger is a great defender as well, possessing superior shot-blocking ability for his position (1 per game in 2007-08) to complement his knack of stealing the ball from his opponent (1.2 per game). He is 25 years old and in his fourth NBA season, being one of the few NBA players who went to college until they graduated, attending Bradley University for two years and the University of New Mexico for the last two. A top fantasy pick because of his great all-around numbers, Granger is on the rise and most likely won't be underrated for long.

Gerald Wallace - SF - Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats go unnoticed in the NBA; the only headlines they grab are about Michael Jordan's hopes of buying the team and Sean May's latest weight issue, nothing about their play on the court. And their play on the court is close to terrible, so why should they? But that is the reason why Gerald Wallace, an ultra-athletic 6'7" swingman, goes unnoticed. The 26 year old is now in his seventh season, and his potential is near-reached. In 2007-08 he averaged 19.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game, excellent all-around numbers. Wallace is dangerous on both ends, a complete player. But, sadly, he would have to play on a relevant team in order to be recognized as a true star.

David West - PF - New Orleans Hornets
You may argue that West is not under the radar, but his teammate Chris Paul is the one who gets a great portion of the attention in N'awlins. He did get an all-star selection last year, and he deserved it. West averaged 20.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 blocks per game in 2007-08, posting career highs in each of these categories, and in free throw percentage (.850) and steals (.8) as well. David West is a rarity among NBA players, because, like Granger, he attended college until graduating from Xavier, which is the reason that he has played just 5 NBA seasons while being 28 years old. The 6'9" West is above average in the post, with excellent scoring ability to complement it. Of course, superb dishes to him in the post from CP are expected, so that plays a role in his point total. But West is still a top-notch classic power forward, even if he doesn't take the headlines from Chris Paul.

Chris Bosh - PF - Toronto Raptors
Chris Bosh is not under the radar, but he is most certainly underrated. Being part of the 2003 mega-draft, Bosh is overlooked because of the exceedingly outstanding play of his peers, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade. CB4 is slowly being discovered as an elite and deadly player in the post, dominating the helpless opponent despite possible size or strength differences. The 6'11" one-time Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket has been an elite scorer and improving defender for all six years that he's been in the league, and he also cleans the glass well and at an alarming rate. Last year, Bosh led the team in these categories, averaging 22.3 points per game, and 8.7 rebounds per game. He had a great olympics in Beijing this summer, emerging as the most reliable post player on the team, and there were few. CB4 has quietly made three all star appearances, yet he still hasn't come out on many lists of top players. But this year, Bosh is primed to have a career year (as he will every year until he's past his prime), and he will be underrated no more.

Kevin Martin - SG - Sacramento Kings
The biggest reason that this prolific scorer is underrated and under-the-radar is that Martin plays on a cellar-dweller in the hellacious Western Conference who most recently traded their marquee player to a more popular team. A great shooter, even if his style is slightly unorthodox, from all parts of the floor, the 6'7" two guard is the leader on the fallable Sacramento Kings. He is solid from three point land, with a .402 percentage in the 2007-08 season, while he averaged 23.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and a steal to go along with a career high .869 free throw percentage. He is an adequate defender with above average strength and quickness, and if he keeps up his habit of improving his numbers every year, Kevin Martin will at some point be recognized as among the NBA elite.

Andris Biedrins - C - Golden State Warriors
Biedrins has flown under the radar constantly for a few reasons. The first one, point guard Baron Davis. Now playing for the (terrible) Los Angeles Clippers, Davis was the marquee player on the Warriors, without much attention towards the other players on the team, Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson included along with Biedrins. After he was traded, the Warriors' headlines were filled with Ellis's moped incident, and with the level of play that Golden State is at, little attention is paid to any player on the team, including the grease-haired Latvian center. Standing at 6'11", 245 pounds, Biedrins is a great defender, without being a player who picks up a load of blocks. He is great at denying the open look, and he is also a great post defender. With a good amount of strength, Biedrins is an adequate scorer (10.5 points per game in 07-08) and an excellent and improving rebounder (9.8 per game). He is a disaster at the line (.626), but that doesn't stop Biedrins from being named co-captain of the Warriors, along with Stephen Jackson.

Rajon Rondo - PG - Boston Celtics
I had to put my man Rondo in here, seeing as I know that he is truly underrated. Overshadowed by Boston's all star trio of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, there are many things that the Celtics did with Rondo that they couldn't have done without him, namely winning the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Rajon's jumper is a suspect, but he doesn't really take the three ball, and rightfully so, with an average of .293 from beyond the arc. His free throws are equally as disastrous, shooting .611 in 2007-08. But his jumper and free throws are improving, him being only 22 years old and in his second season, even with his eccentric shooting form, sort of catapulting it off of his ear. A fan favorite for his hustle and defense, Rondo makes up for his poor shooting by taking the rock to the hole better than most, a player who was blessed with extraordinary quickness. He averaged 10.6 points per game last year, a great many of these coming off of layups from incredible drives to the rim. He possesses great leaping ability, but every time he tries to throw down he is thrown down as well, to the ground, by his opponent. Rondo is found on the ground often from his driving to the rack, and he is a bit fragile, at 6'1", 171 pounds.

But where Rondo really shines is on defense, leading the league in steals per 48 minutes last year with 3.36. He is an excellent perimeter defender, locking down his opponent for the duration of the game. He is also arguably the best rebounding point guard in the league, taking down 4.2 per contest last year. He picks up an average amount of assists (5.1 per game) and they are all guaranteed to be entertaining, usually finishing with a devastating slam by Garnett or Perkins. With a great handle and excellent speed, Rondo is quietly turning into a top-tier point guard. YOU GOT RONDO'D.

Joe Johnson - SG - Atlanta Hawks
Johnson is as under-the-radar as a man with 21.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and a steal per game can be (2007-08 stats). At the moment his team, the Atlanta Hawks, have been the center of attention in the NBA with a 6-2 record, starting off perfect for the first six, and recognizably being among the league's elite teams along with the Celtics and Lakers. The leader on the young Hawks, Johnson is a playmaker with a knack for scoring and making his teammates better. With a great all-around game, Johnson likes to shoot the three ball and is pretty good from out there, (.381 in 07-08) and is outstanding taking the ball to the hole. Defense isn't his forte, but he is still adequate on that side of the court. The Hawks are looking to go far in this 2008-09 season, and Johnson will have to strut his stuff in order to make that happen.

Josh Smith - SF/PF - Atlanta Hawks
Smith has more pure athleticism than any other player in the league, he just needs to learn how to harness it. And once that is done, he just might find himself in the All-Star Game, or better yet, deep in the playoffs. The 6'9" ATLien has the potential to be among the league's elite forwards, if he isn't already there. Posting averages of 17.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.5 steals per game and a Mutombo-like 2.8 blocks per game. The dunkmeister has a great inside game on offense and defense, and is very good at cleaning the glass despite a usual size difference. An incredible defender blessed with quickness and strength, Smith is improving annually, especially with his points and assists. Injured at the moment, once J-Smoove comes back to the already surging Atlanta Hawks, they will most certainly be one of the deadliest teams in the league, as they are already.

LaMarcus Aldridge - PF/C - Portland Traiblazers
Last year, LaMarcus Aldridge averaged 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists per game and 1.2 blocks per game. Who knew? In Portland, the attention was turned to guard Brandon Roy and sidelined center Greg Oden, while Aldridge played better than most in the then-current Blazers frontcourt. A solid presence in the post defensively, Aldridge is just 23 years old and improving, and with Oden and Aldridge down low for Portland, they look to have the best young frontcourt in the league, and should have that for a lot of the future, if they can stay healthy (cough ODEN cough). The wiry 6'11" 245 pound Aldridge is improving every year, and is now given good minutes for Portland, so look for LaMarcus to get more attention.

While the megastars get the bulk of the attention, these players are always there, producing and producing year after year, while they aren't discovered nearly as in-depth as players such as LeBron or Kobe or CP. But they are only underrated and/or under the radar for the moment. Look for these (mostly) young (future) stars to emerge on the "NBA watch list". I am not saying that these players aren't recognized as good, they just aren't covered nearly as much as they should be. The reasons that they are overlooked are either that nobody really cares about their team because they aren't very good, or they have a few teammates who are better than them. But these players won't be under the radar for long . . .



Anonymous said...

Aha. Good stuff.

People compare David West to K-Mart in the fact that they owe quite a bit of success to playing with great point men, which really doesn't do justice to their very good ability to catch and convert those passes into easy bucket after another. But I think Kenyon got more "rep" than West is getting now because of the dunks. David West's 20 points from his nifty fakes and post jukes and midrange J's will never be on a highlight reel.

And good call on Biedrins. He's one of the most mobile, aggressive and skillful big men around, Euro or not.

Moose said...

Thanks, Joel. And y'all, no hate for the extra stuff on Rondo. Dude is the man.

Roy said...

I'm Rondo'd.... hahahaha... :D

the Internet nigger said...

underrated, that label can be a gift or a curse on any player or team. a team that achieves slightly above mediocrity or worse with a player that scores a bunch of points is not underrated, a player next to the superstar that plays superstar defense and makes great plays in situations gamely and none of it goes mentioned is underrated.

which is why the Atlanta Hawks are the greatest example of anything underrated or under the rader

joe johnson is 5th in the league in scoring at 26.6 with 5.8 rbs 4.0 asts, he is leading the Hawks to not just relevancy, but championship level play and with the talent around him, everyone plays off each other beautifully, especially the 2nd best player, defensive leader of the young Hawks, 22 year old Atlanta-native Josh Smith. In those three games Josh played before his enjury he was averaging 14.8 ppg 10.7 rbs 2.1 asts 3.5 blks 2.5 stls, he startin at PF with Horford gives other teams a matchup they often cant handle

it truely amazes me the stark symbolism about the "under the radar stars" article featuring good, great players like Danny Granger, Gerald Wallce - guys who play good defense and score, granger is a slightly better scorer than wallace, and wallace advantage defensively, but both of those teams are mediocre or less, and even this year when the Hawks are the 3rd best team in the Eastern Conference, Hawks under the radar of under the radar articles..

chris bosh is a superstar, he is alot of people's favorite player, the best power forward in the NBA thus far this season

Moose said...

Thanks for the feedback, DJ. Thanks for dropping by.

Moose said...

And sorry about leaving your guys Johnson and Smith out of there. I realize you're right bout them . . . an amendment has been made to get them in there. And when I say "under-the-radar" or "underrated", I mean that they aren't getting due attention. Sorry I didn't put them in there in the first place, I did consider it. But they're in there now . . .

the Internet nigger said...

ah yeah, thats whats up, i didnt even expect u to do that, let alone so soon, lol thats whats up, good quick summary too, i think both joe and josh will have new reputations by the end of this season, joe as 1 of the best players in the league, and josh as the best defenders, and horford, will be the new big three, hopefully, lol

great coverage tho

Moose said...

yeah, I'm always open to criticism, and I act upon it lol. you should expect me to do that, i like to write the stuff. I'm a Hawks fan (which I'm not, i'm a celtics fan, but you seem to be a hawks fan) I'm also hoping that they'd see some vintage Bibby as well. I think that J-Smoove has a good chance to be recognized as one of the best defenders, and Horford has a chance to get a good rep as well. i think that johnson will get the rep you're hoping for if he leads the Hawks to a successful playoff season, but if the hawks don't keep this up, I gotta say that Johnson won't get the due credit. he's the leader this year for ATL, definitely.

Moose said...

i meant to say "if i'm a hawks fan . . ." jeez, i gotta start reading over and editing my comments now? man . . .

the Internet nigger said...

lol lol thats whats up, im actually on my way to the Hawks VS Nets game, i got some pretty good seats, ill write about it l8tr so check me out

Moose said...

you got me, man. I follow yours if you follow ours lol.

Hursty said...

Josh Smith isnt a fantastic on ball defender (good though)or man to man post up defender (above average). He is very good at playing the lanes and playing 'one step' help as well as weak side defense.
His lateral quickness is very good, but (like Artest) he seems to want to guard his player, rather than just stop the team from scoring... which can work against the Hawks if he gets beat, because Horford and Williams aren't big enough,like say Yao, to stop dribble penetration often.

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