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UNSUNG HEROES OF THE NBA

Holiday and Middleton among most underrated players

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UNSUNG HEROES OF THE NBA

Marcus Smart, who’s energy and defensive ability make a huge impact on his team.

Marcus Smart, who’s energy and defensive ability make a huge impact on his team.

screenandrhymes.com

Marcus Smart, who’s energy and defensive ability make a huge impact on his team.

screenandrhymes.com

screenandrhymes.com

Marcus Smart, who’s energy and defensive ability make a huge impact on his team.

Austin Travis, Sports Editor

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While superstar players in the NBA are quite incredible to watch, there are five guys out on the floor at a time for each team. One man is not going to be enough to win consistently without a team around him that can produce. There are many players–even some stars–who are not given the credit to their team’s success that they deserve. Here are some of those players.

 

Jaylen Brown, SG/SF, Boston Celtics: As the third overall pick of the 2016 draft, Jaylen Brown has not reached the superstar status many think he will in his career. While the hype is still real, Brown is not given enough credit for what he is doing right here, right now. While his stats are not incredibly convincing, Brown takes high-quality shots and is able to spread the floor on offense. He can play the shooting guard and small forward positions effectively, which can be valuable for any team, and is a solid ball defender. Every team loves to have players with that kind of skillset, and the rarity of good defenders in today’s NBA will make him a highly sought free agent in 2020.

 

Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana Pacers: While it might seem crazy to say an all-star is underrated, that is the case here. The Pacers were able to secure the 5th seed in last season’s playoffs despite losing Paul George to the Thunder. Oladipo had his huge breakout season, averaging 23.1 points, 4.3 assists, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.4 steals. He nearly led his team to a win in the series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who eventually made it to the NBA Finals before being swept by the Golden State Warriors. The Pacers forced the series to seven games and took game seven down to the wire. While some of Oladipo’s stats have gone down a little bit this season, he has still been incredibly productive for the Pacers.

 

Trevor Ariza, SF, Phoenix Suns: Trevor Ariza’s skillset is one that teams love to have in today’s NBA. He is viewed as a three-and-d style player, meaning that he is an effective three-point shooter as well as a good defender. He has the ability to go off from three at any given time, and his defense always makes it tougher for even the most elite offensive players, such as LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ariza is a hot commodity on the trade market, as the Suns are trying to get some young talent in exchange for the 33 year old veteran. Expect a trade to be completed soon, as teams would love to add him to their lineup.

 

Joe Ingles, SF, Utah Jazz: Joe Ingles is the kind of player that can do well in today’s NBA that relies so heavily on the three-point shot. Ingles is one of the premier three-point shooters in the NBA, and that is a great asset that any team would love to have. Ingles shoots 38.5% from 3 and averages 12.2 points per game. He can also get it done on defense, averaging 1.7 steals per game. He was instrumental in helping the Jazz beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in a six-game series in last season’s playoffs, averaging 14.2 points per game. Ingles is a very solid player in today’s NBA, and may very well be the most underrated.

 

Luka Doncic, SG/SF, Dallas Mavericks: Despite Doncic only being a 19-year-old rookie, he has essentially become the leader of the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks went 24-58 last season, but are currently 14-11 with the addition of Doncic as well as DeAndre Jordan. While many people will say Jordan is the reason for their success, in truth, it is actually Doncic. He is averaging 17.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, which is absolutely incredible for a rookie. He is an incredible all-around talent and should be one of the top players in the NBA in just a few years time. The future looks bright for the Mavericks.

 

Jamal Murray, PG, Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray has been instrumental in the Nuggets success so far this season, as they are 18-9 and seeded third in the western conference. Murray is having a career year across the board, averaging 17.4 points, 4.9 assists, 4.2 rebounds, and 1 steal. While Nikola Jokic is certainly the best player on this team, the value of Murray cannot be underestimated. Without him, who knows what the status of the Nuggets would be at this point; it would be very safe to assume that the Nuggets would not be as dangerous as they have been so far.

 

Marcus Smart, PG/SG, Boston Celtics: Much of what makes Marcus Smart great are qualities that cannot be taught. He is a hustle rebounder and gives 100% effort, willing to put his body on the line for the sake of his team. He dives after loose balls and plays incredibly tough defense that nobody can get through. He is also great off the ball offensively, as he sets great picks for his teammates. The energy and passion of the game can help set the tempo for his team, and it can spread to his teammates. If he could improve his jump shot, Smart would be a dangerous player in the NBA.

 

Khris Middleton, SG/SF, Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton continues to improve more and more every season, and has now elevated himself to a potential all-star with his play this season. While he put up good numbers last season, his team was mediocre, and was left out of the all-star game as a result. This season, his stats have dipped minorly, but the numbers are translating to success on the court, as his team is 18-8 and seeded 2nd in the eastern conference. If he can help his team continue their winning ways, he will most likely be an all-star this season.

 

Devin Booker, SG, Phoenix Suns: This guy is one of the most obvious of them all. To average 24.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.7 assists and still miss the all-star game is absurd. He was an efficient shooter last season, shooting 43% from the field, as well as 38% from 3. Also, Booker has missed 8 games this season, and the Suns have lost all 8 of those. Last season’s 3 point contest champion is an extraordinary talent who is essentially ignored because he plays on a lackluster team.

 

Jrue Holiday, PG/SG, New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis is certainly the main guy for this team, but the success of Jrue Holiday with this group of guys cannot be overlooked. He is a fantastic passer, averaging 8.8 assists, and is also an efficient shooter, as he shoots 48% from the field. Holiday has gotten better as a scorer, averaging 20.5 points per game this season, the first time he’s averaged 20 or more points. If he can develop a better deep shot, as he only shoots 30% from beyond the arc in a league that relies heavily on the 3 point shot, then he could potentially be one of the top combo guards in the NBA.

 

Montrezl Harrell, PF, Los Angeles Clippers: Montrezl Harrell has been one of the pleasant surprises in the NBA this season, as he has been incredible coming off the bench for the Clippers. The fourth-year power forward is averaging 15.3 points, 1.6 assists, 6.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and 0.9 steals. What may be his most impressive stat, though, is his field goal percentage, which is at 64%. He has established himself as the early season favorite to win the Sixth Man award and has been critically important for the Clippers success so far this season. He has shown the ability to rebound and finish at the rim, but developing a deep shot would add a whole other element to his game.

 

Shaun Livingston, PG, Golden State Warriors: Most NBA fans that watched in the 2000s remember Shaun Livingston best for the gut-wrenching knee injury he suffered in 2007 that nearly ended his career. It’s been a difficult journey back to the NBA, but he has found his home with the Warriors, as he has been an instrumental part of the championships they have won in recent years as a role player. His stats won’t jump out at you, but his efficiency and his ability to create high percentage shots for himself or a teammate is what makes him a valuable asset to any team.

 

Steven Adams, C, Oklahoma City Thunder: While the stat-stuffing Russell Westbrook and 3-and-D specialist Paul George are looked at as the heart and soul of the Thunder, Steven Adams has to be associated with them. While he isn’t as elite of a player as either George or Westbrook, he provides efficient shooting and the ability to grab rebounds. He averages a double-double, as he averages 15.4 points and 10 rebounds. Adams is the prototypical NBA center in a league that has less and less of them every year, and a guy that most teams would be thrilled to add to their roster.

 

Pascal Siakam, PF, Toronto Raptors: A great asset coming off the bench for the Raptors, Pascal Siakam has an extraordinary ability to stretch the floor despite playing the power forward position. Despite standing at 6’9”, Siakam still shoots 35% from three-point range, and shoots 61.5% from the field. Siakam averages 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists, as well as 0.7 blocks and 1 steal. Having a player who can produce at this high of a level coming off the bench is an asset that teams love to have. Siakam is a crucial part of the Raptors having the best record in the NBA so far, at 22-7.

 

Damian Lillard, PG, Portland Trail Blazers: While he is a highly regarded point guard in the NBA, Damian Lillard is not given enough credit for the success of the Trail Blazers. Many people say that shooting guard CJ McCollum contributes largely to their success, but he doesn’t as much as people think. Lillard is an elite playmaker, getting something out of nothing, but still shoots an efficient 44.6% from the field and 37% from 3 point range. When Lillard isn’t scoring, he’s creating shots for his teammates, averaging 6.2 assists per game. With the lack of depth on this roster, removing Lillard from the lineup would be absolutely devastating.

 

Sources:

“Jaylen Brown.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/3917376/jaylen-brown.

 

Spotrac.com. “Jaylen Brown.” Spotrac.com, 2018, www.spotrac.com/nba/boston-celtics/jaylen-brown-20208/.

 

“Victor Oladipo.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/2527963/victor-oladipo.

 

“Joe Ingles.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/2968436/seasontype/3/joe-ingles.

 

“Luka Doncic.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/3945274/luka-doncic.

 

“2018-19 NBA Standings.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/standings.

 

“Jamal Murray.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/3936299/jamal-murray.

 

“Marcus Smart.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/2990992/marcus-smart.

 

“Khris Middleton.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/6609/khris-middleton.

 

“Devin Booker.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/gamelog/_/id/3136193/devin-booker.

 

“Jrue Holiday.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, insider.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/3995/jrue-holiday.

 

“Montrezl Harrell.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/2991055/montrezl-harrell.

 

“Shaun Livingston.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/2393/shaun-livingston.

 

“Steven Adams.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/2991235/steven-adams.

 

“Pascal Siakam.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/3149673/pascal-siakam.

 

“Damian Lillard.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 2018, www.espn.com/nba/player/stats/_/id/6606/damian-lillard.

 

Written on December 12th, 2018

 

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About the Writer
Austin Travis, Sports Section Editor

Hey guys! I am Austin Travis, I'm a Sophomore here at iUniversity Prep, and I am super excited for my fourth year on the iHoot staff. I will serve as...

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