Coach: Five Undervalued NBA Players
Sometimes when watching NBA games it is hard to take our eyes off the stars. Players like LeBron James, Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant draw everyone’s attention – and in many ways those stars are worth even more than their large salaries. However, a number of players around the league help teams win games and are still undervalued and under-rated. After a quick stroll through the league’s rosters, here is a player at every position that is often overlooked, but could be a difference-maker for a championship team.
PG: Kyle Lowry (age: 24, 13.5ppg, 6.7apg, 4.1rpg, PER: 16.5 – 19th)
Lowry really turned it on at the end of February as his output shot up in nearly every statistical category. Possessing a ton of quickness from the point guard slot, Lowry is able to get shots for himself and is a good creator out of ball screen situations. He turns corners and recognizes driving lanes very well, but also adjusts to second line defenders, which is a tough task to master for smaller point guards.
An inconsistent shooter, Lowry’s flaws in that department are all correctable issues, which makes him an even more attractive piece (there is room for significant improvement). He is also an above average defender, using his quickness to break up plays and bother opposing ball-handlers. Similar to his backcourt partner with the Houston Rockets (Kevin Martin), Lowry’s outstanding season last year went mostly unnoticed, making him a great target for a team looking to upgrade their point guard slot cheaply and long term.
SG: Arron Afflalo (age: 25, 12.6ppg, 2.4apg, 3.6rpg, PER: 13.6 – 30th)
Would you ever consider Arron Afflalo a better shooter than Dirk Nowitzki? According to both his true shooting percentage (62% to 61.2%) and effective field-goal percentage (58.1% to 54.5%), he is (albeit on less attempts and with considerably less defensive attention). Afflalo possesses a compact and repeatable shooting motion which resembles retired shooter Allan Houston, giving him a good base of production to work from.
Also effective in transition, one of Afflalo’s most valuable traits is the ability to play spot minutes at the lead guard slot, giving his team flexibility (I have long been a proponent of Afflalo being a great fit with the Chicago Bulls next to Derrick Rose). Solid defensively, he is capable of guarding both guard slots and some at the wing. With the Denver Nuggets he tends to get overlooked, which makes him an excellent option for a team who needs a 3rd or 4th scoring option from the shooting guard slot. Afflalo will also be a restricted free agent when the lockout eventually ends.
SF: Corey Brewer (age: 25, 8.0ppg, 2.4apg, 3.4rpg, PER: 11.0)
Full disclosure: I have spent the last two years working with Corey Brewer. While his 2010-11 campaign was not what he hoped it would be, looking back to 2009-10 can give an observer a better idea of what kind of player they would get. In 2009-10, Brewer averaged 13 points and shot a respectable 34.6% from three. Always a plus defender, Brewer is typically assigned to the opponent’s best player (from Kevin Durant to Kobe Bryant), and his length and quickness give even the best problems.
With an offseason to prepare and a more defined role with the Dallas Mavericks, expect Brewer to rebound strongly if there is a 2011-12 season. If he can continue to refine his spot up jump shot, particularly from the corners, and improve his ball-handling enough not to be a liability, he could be a great asset for a team that needs a lockdown multi-positional defender with super-high energy.
PF: Ryan Anderson (age: 23, 10.6ppg, 0.8apg, 5.5rpg, PER: 19.0 – 14th)
With a player efficiency rating that would place him in the top half of starting power forwards around the league, Ryan Anderson has consistently improved in each of his first three seasons. A stretch four, Anderson is a great complementary piece for a team needing to create space around the lane for a tough inside scorer (like Dwight Howard in Orlando). His opportunities with the Magic are likely to increase, and therefore his production may as well.
Anderson will likely flirt with 40% shooting from three for the rest of his career, which makes him a player teams must account for in game planning. He also has a good sense of space on the floor, making smart and effective cuts into open areas (which prevents defenses from keying on only his perimeter shooting). With most other teams, he would need to be a more effective rebounder and it would become a point of focus as a starter for any squad—but that is a very easily improved category.
C: Marcin Gortat (age: 27, 13.0ppg, 1.0apg, 9.3rpg, PER: 18.8 – 9th)
Marcin Gortat has always shown flashes of being a capable starting center in the NBA, but being stuck in the considerable shadow of Dwight Howard in Orlando prevented teams from seeing the kind of player he could be. The statistics he put up in over half a season with the Phoenix Suns (listed above) are impressive and would put him solidly into the league’s top ten centers (his PER with Phoenix would place him on the same tier as Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler).
Smooth with a variety of spins and fakes around the basket, Gortat is an excellent ball screen option in both pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll scenarios. He runs the floor well, carves out space in the lane, and converts free throw chances at a high percentage. In the right situation with a team that makes him a focus (most likely a second option) of their attack, he has the potential to be a top five center in the league.
Have questions for Coach Macri? Be sure and drop by HOOPSWORLD on Mondays at 3PM Eastern for the Coach’s weekly basketball chat! You can also follow Coach Macri on Twitter @CoachMacri.
Each week, HOOPSWORLD NBA analyst and coach Anthony Macri will open his notebook and offer an assortment of observations on games, players, and teams from throughout the league. Coach Macri serves as a player development consultant for the Pro Training Center and Coach David Thorpe, working with a variety of NBA players on their skills and game understanding. The Coach’s Notebook appears on HOOPSWORLD every Thursday.