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The NBA’s Six Most Underrated Forwards
Posted By Tommy Beer On August 9, 2013 @ 12:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Last week, HOOPSWORLD embarked on the difficult task of ranking the top sjix players at each position.
This week, we dig a bit deeper and attempt to highlight a handful of underrated and underappreciated guards, forward and centers. Today we’ll discuss small forward and power forwards who typically aren’t presented with the praise they deserve:
6. Andray Blatche, New Jersey Nets:
2012-13 Statistics: 10.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 51% FG
Immaturity issues have tripped up Blatche in the past, and prevented him from reaching his full potential. However, when he’s on the floor and focused, he’s shown flashes of brilliance. After wearing out his welcome with the Washington Wizards, Blatche found a home with the Nets in Brooklyn last year. Andray’s Per-36 minute averages last season where phenomenal: 19.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 1.3 blocks. Despite playing just 19 minutes a night, he was still able to average 10.3 points and 5.1 boards. In fact, Blatche became just second player in NBA history to average over 10 points & 5 rebounds despite playing fewer than 20 minutes per game. Re-signing Blatche, at a discounted price, was a particularly shrewd move by GM Billy King and the Nets. Having terrific depth on the front line will allow Brooklyn to rest Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce during the regular season, hopefully keeping them fresh for the playoffs.
5. Jeff Green, Boston Celtics:
2012-13 Statistics: 12.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 46% FG, 38% 3PT
There were plenty of doubters during his first full season returning from heart surgery, but Green proved he could still more than hold his own last year. He was especially effective and efficient once Rajon Rondo went down and he was asked to shoulder more of the offensive load. Over the Celtic’s final 38 games last season (Rondo tore his ACL on January 28), Green averaged 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 three-pointers, and 1.2 blocks. Over that three-month stretch, Green was one of only four NBA players to average at least one block and one three-pointer per contest – the other three players were Nicolas Batum, Josh Smith, and Kevin Durant.
4. Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks:
2012-13 Statistics: 9.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.8 bpg, 50% FG
After a relatively quiet first two seasons in the league, Sanders exploded onto the scene in 2013 – particularly once he started receiving consistent playing time over the second half of the year. Over his final 28 games of the year, Sanders averaged 12.2 points, 11 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. He flew under the radar playing in Milwaukee, but if he can keep up that incredible pace next season, he’ll draw plenty of attention.
3. Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic:
2012-13 Statistics: 11 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.3 apg
Harris was wallowing on the end of the Milwaukee Bucks’ bench for the better part of his first two NBA seasons in Milwaukee. Then, after a mid-season trade sent him to Orlando last February, Tobias got an opportunity to play extended minutes and certainly made the most of it. Harris ended up starting 20 games for the Magic over the second half of the 2012-13 season, and in those 20 starts, he averaged a whopping 17.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.6 blocks. From bench-warmer to double-double machine; Harris’ profile is on the rise.
2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs:
2012-13 Statistics: 11.9 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.6 apg, 49% FG, 37% FG
Leonard finally got some much deserved recognition during the Finals last June, when he was arguably the Spurs most consistent and best all-around player during the NBA Finals. Nonetheless, Leonard remains one of the most underrated players in the NBA today. On the offensive end, Kawhi contributes across the board, and his greatest asset may be his remarkable efficiency. Consider this: Leonard finished the 2012-13 season as one of just three NBA players to shoot above 49 percent from the floor, 37 percent from three-point land and 82 percent from the free-throw stripe. The other two members of this elite club were Kevin Durant and Steve Nash. Not bad company to keep when it relates to shooting the basketball. However, Leonard’s superlative ability on the defensive end is what truly separates him from the pack. He’s quickly earning a reputation as one of the most feared wing defenders in the league.
1. Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets:
2012-13 Statistics: 15.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 48% FG, 38% 3PT
Not only is Parsons criminally underpaid (set to earn under $1 million in each of the next two seasons, Houston possesses one of best bang-for-the-buck contracts in the NBA), he is also underrated. Harden’s breakout season garnered the lion’s share of the national attention in Houston. Even Jeremy Lin’s popularity eclipsed Parsons. However, Chandler was a ‘glue guy’ and an invaluable contributor on the Rockets squad. His all-around contributions were critical to the Rockets’ unexpected success. Last season, Parsons was the only player in the NBA to average over 15 points, pull down more than five rebounds, and dish out better than 3.5 assists per game, yet commit fewer than two turnovers per contest. In fact, Parsons became just the 10th player in NBA history to average at least 15.5 points, 5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, yet fewer than 2 turnovers over the course of a complete NBA season.
* Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks: It was certainly surprising to see Millsap get only $19 million in guaranteed money as a free agent this summer. Considering his offensive effectiveness and efficiency on the low-post, most assumed he’d land a much larger contact.
* Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors: Just one of three players (joining Dwight Howard and Serge Ibaka) to average in double figures, while shooting over 55 percent from the floor, and block more than one shot per game last season.
* Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavs: Part of the reason so many folks were surprised that the Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick in last June’s draft was because Thompson had improved dramatically in 2012-13. At just 22 years of age, Tristan finished the season averaging 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds.
* Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks: Ilyasova struggled out of the gates last season, slumping badly in November and falling out of favor with former coach Scott Skiles. However, Ersan bounced back in the second half, averaging 17.2 ppg, 9 rpg, and 1.7 three-pointers. Even more impressive was his accuracy; over the Bucks final 25 games, he shot 48.7 percent from the floor, 44.9 percent from the three-point stripe, and 86.5 percent from the free-throw line.
* Matt Barnes, Los Angeles Clippers: Barnes’ statistics aren’t overly impressive, but numbers in no way quantify what he brings to the table. A gritty and aggressive defender, Barnes is a terrific complimentary player on the Clippers loaded roster.
* Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls: An athletic and aggressive defender, Gibson averaged 2.1 blocks and 9.4 rebounds per-36 minutes off the Bulls bench last season. On a team with less depth, he’d have a much larger role.
* Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder: Collision is the rare NBA player that manages to make a positive impact on the game, despite his team never running an offensive play for him. Collision is simply content to set picks, protect the rim on defense, and chase down rebounds and loose balls.
* Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers: Young has been consistently underrated since being drafted out of Georgia Tech. With the 76ers roster now essentially gutted, he may find himself as the default focal point of the Sixers offense.
* LeBron James, Miami HEAT: In all seriousness, it could easily be argued that James is one of the more underappreciated superstars in all of professional sports. Yes, he gets an unfathomable amount of national coverage, but some of the attention is derisive and disapproving in nature. Are we, as basketball fans, fully cognizant of the consistent greatness than James brings to the table? If we all live another 100 years, we’ll likely never see a player with his inconceivable combination of size, skill, and basketball IQ.
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