The NBA’s Six Most Underrated Guards
What makes a player underrated?
Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers was not an All-Star but certainly received acknowledgement as Rookie of the Year. The Blazers just picked up veteran point guard Mo Williams, an All-Star in 2009 who had to wait until August to find a home.
If John Wall was underrated, he certainly isn’t now with a five-year maximum extension from the Washington Wizards.
Have Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack and Nate Robinson received their due? None make the list but not because of their ranking as players, but raised expectations after strong playoff performances.
The league has a long, long list of talented guards. The following list focuses on the few worthy of even more attention.
The Top Six Underrated Guards:
#6 – Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns
Bledsoe almost didn’t make the list because the league has taken some notice of Chris Paul’s former backup. The Suns picked him up in trade over the offseason and the 6’1″ guard could end up starting at two-guard next to 6’3″ Goran Dragic at the point. Bledsoe is a tremendous athlete and aggressive, physical defender. The Suns may not win a lot of games this season but they’re going to compete and entertain.
#5 – Greivis Vasquez, Sacramento Kings
Vasquez was third in the league last season with his 9.0 assists per game. He played for a young, injured and somewhat lousy New Orleans team. Now he’ll shift to the Kings, who finished just one game (28-54) ahead of his former team in the standings. With new ownership and management, the Kings are hoping to emerge from years in the lottery. A true point guard can be a boon for a team trying to grow and Vasquez should have another strong, under-the-radar season.
#4 – Gerald Henderson, Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats haven’t won many games through Henderson’s first four seasons but he’s quietly grown into a very solid shooting guard. Henderson shot 44.7 percent from the field last year, on par with his career average. He plays hard, defends with effort and after signing a three-year contract this summer, should be a part of Charlotte’s turnaround.
#3 – Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats
Walker is still growing into his NBA game, making strides in his second season. After shooting just 36.6 percent from the field as a rookie, Walker improved to respectable 42.3 percent. His scoring and assist numbers rose and his steals more than doubled. The Bobcats brought in big man Al Jefferson and with the backcourt of Walker and Henderson, hope to make a bid on a playoff berth in the East.
#2 – Jose Calderon, Dallas Mavericks
Calderon has been well paid over his NBA career. In that regard, he hasn’t been underrated – but he’s often omitted from the top point guard lists. Calderon is a terrific playmaker but also one of the best shooters in the game at his position. Through 28 games with the Pistons, after a midseason trade, he shot 52.7 percent from the field, 52.0 percent from behind the arc and 89.3 percent from the line. The Mavericks didn’t land the big-name players with their cap room but with additions like Calderon, they will be competitive this season.
#1 – Mike Conley, Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Conley is just starting to crack the lists of top NBA point guards but he’s been overlooked and underrated since he came into the league. It was a head-scratcher for some when the Grizzlies drafted him fourth overall in 2007. He was considered by some to be overpaid when he was giving a $45 million, five-year extension. In the meantime, Conley has produced, helping Memphis advance to the Western Conference Finals in May.
Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
2012-13 Stats: 8.6 ppg, 1.4 apg, 4.0 rpg, 15.3 PER
Butler isn’t ranked simply because he may be more of a small forward for the Bulls than shooting guard. The 6’7″ Butler was huge for Chicago in the playoffs, averaging 15.6 points a game against the Miami HEAT while playing 44.2 minutes a game. In addition to shooting 40.5 percent from three-point range, Butler is a versatile defender. Guard, forward, whichever, Butler deserves mention on both underrated lists.
Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets
2012-13 Stats: 5.6 ppg, 2.9 apg, 2.7 rpg, 15.4 PER
Beverley didn’t do a lot over the regular season for Houston but through six playoff games (five starts), the 6’1″ guard averaged 11.8 points a game. Now the Rockets go from rebuilding to contender with the arrival of Dwight Howard. While starter Jeremy Lin is certainly the bigger name, Beverley will be an important part of Houston’s attack this coming season.
Ramon Sessions, Charlotte Bobcats
2012-13 Stats: 14.4 ppg, 3.8 apg, 2.8 rpg, 17.8 PER
Sessions is one of the league’s top reserve guards. He rounds out a capable backcourt in Charlotte. If the Bobcats can stay healthy and play some defense under Coach Steve Clifford, they may actually climb to a low playoff seed.
Other underrated guards: Reggie Jackson (Oklahoma City Thunder), Pablo Prigioni (New York Knicks), Isaiah Thomas (Sacramento Kings), Lance Stephenson (Indiana Pacers), Brandon Rush (Utah Jazz) and John Lucas III (Utah Jazz).