The NBA’s Top 50 Most Underrated Players
Picture from TheScore.com
Before getting into it, the picture above is of Pacers PG George Hill, former Wizard Adam Morrison, and Timberwolves rookie PG Alexey Shved. If you’ve never seen him play check out this video.
I’ve spent the last week scouring box scores, consulting friends, reading biased commentary, and assembling a list of the most underrated players in the NBA.
At the end of the day, the biggest problem I encounter is determining an objective system for evaluating players. Since a player’s rating is a mixture of statistical averages, efficiency, public opinion, media coverage, contract size, the ability to make enough flashy plays to fill a 2 minutes YouTube, the marketability of player’s team, off-court antics, endorsements, a clutch factor, big wins, Black Swan scoring sprees, and an emotional “gut” feeling, some player become overrated, others become fairly rated, and a bunch of unfortunate over performers become underrated.
With all of this to consider, it still doesn’t account for another odd phenomenon: overrated underrated players. These under-appreciated studs play well for a period of time, while not getting the recognition they deserve, only to have a number of commentators select them as underrated and then another set of commentators designate them as overrated.
The point of a most underrated column is to direct your attention to a number of over performers who are playing well. If one of these players has been selected by another columnist, direct your animosity towards me and not at the player. It’s not his fault everyone thinks he is playing better than expected or has been flying under the radar for far too long.
Since there is considerable vagueness in designating a player as underrated, I have devised a tiered approach modeled after Bill Simmons’ famous Annual Ranking of the NBA’s top 50 players:
Group I: “I Would Never Have Heard Him If I had Not Written This Column”
Group H: “I Didn’t Know he Still Played”
Group H: “You’ve Probably Never Heard of Him, but You Would Want Him On Your Team”
Group G: “I know Who He Is, but I Didn’t Know He Was Good”
Group F: “He Would Be Fairly Rated If He Was Paid More”
Group E: “He’s Had Some Great Games, but But Still Has More to Prove”
Group D “Solid Starter Flying Under the Radar”
As an undersized power forward, Booker’s strengths are usually considered to be his work ethic: hustle, aggression, effort. The qualities that keep plays alive with offensive boards and put-back slams. While I agree with this general assessment, I would argue that his work ethic is not a substitute for talent. The 25-year-old is more than capable of hitting deep twos and fade-aways, make smart passes, and take over games when given the chance. Although an injury has prevented Booker from being 100% all season, his potential was evident in numerous games last season. In the Wizards’ only game against the Lakers last season, Booker filled the box score with 18 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Wizards to a victory after trailing by 21 in the third quarter.
How does a player with the 10th highest PER get less than 20 minutes per game? By startingbehind the player with the league’s 5th highest PER, that’s how. Backing up the Chris Paul, the NBA’s best point guard, limits the role of this would-be starter. Despite averaging only 18.4 minutes per game, Bledsoe collects nearly 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and one and a half steals while shooting 50% from the field. Sure, it doesn’t hurt to play alongside supersub (and likely this year’s 6th Man award winner) Jamal Crawford, but Bledsoe’s play is consistently impressive regardless of the lineup. Look for the 23-year-old to be starting on a new team by next season.
Group C: No Love For Defense
Group B: “Seriously Under Appreciated”
Although McGee may have fit well on such a list while playing for the Wizards, the 6’11’’ center has been a strong performer for the Nuggets thus far. McGee averages 11 points on 60% shooting, 5 boards, and 2 blocks in less than 20 minutes per game off the bench. In fact, McGee’s PER of 24.23 is 7th in the league, suggesting the “goofball” is starting to play with, dare I say, maturity and focus.
Group A: “How is He Not A Perennial All-Star?”