While everyone always crows about the Association’s prime time players like Kobe, Lebron, and Kevin Durant, the league is filled with players who didn’t go to a legendary Division I university or come highly touted from high school before entering the professional ranks. Some may have come from Europe, went undrafted, or skipped college altogether before making their mark in the NBA.
To me an underrated player is not currently a household name, has never made an All Star team, and remains anonymous despite outstanding production at their position. These players, while not yet well known are crucial to their team’s success while continuing to fly under the radar. Here are my 2010 NBA All Underrated Teams:
PG – Russell Westbrook
23.8 ppg, 8.3 ast, 5.2 reb, 1.4 stl
While Russell’s reputation is growing, he still remains anonymous to the average NBA fan. I’ll bet that some people watching the FIBA World Championships this Summer didn’t know who the guy was rocking the mohawk and playing lockdown “D” on opposing guards. Known mainly as a defensive minded point guard in college, Russell has matured nicely into one of the most well rounded two-way players in the entire league while playing in the shadow of NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant. He has a motor that doesn’t quit and is poised to become a superstar in his own right, as he surely will be in consideration for a Western Conference All Star spot come March.
SG – Monta Ellis
24.9 ppg, 5.1 ast, 3.8 reb, 2.6 stl, .353 3PT%
For those of you that didn’t know, Monta is the only player to have 2 or more 40+ point scoring games this season. In fact, he has scored 20 or more points in a league high 14 contests and is currently among the Top 5 scorers in the league. Ellis, know as the “Mississippi Bullet” is probably the NBA’s most accomplished player to not have made an All Star team despite averaging nearly 20 ppg for his 5+ year career. Maybe it’s because he’s been mired in all of the losing in Golden State or that he plays alongside high profile 2nd year player Steph Curry but with Golden State ahead of schedule in rebuilding efforts this season, maybe Ellis will finally get his due as one of the league’s most exciting players.
SF – Luol Deng
19.3 ppg, 6.9 reb, 2.4 ast
I’m not exactly sure why, but the British born Deng hasn’t gotten much respect around the league even though he has averaged double figures in scoring every season of his now 7 year career. He was a very good player at the high profile Duke University and was chosen as the 7th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, yet still isn’t mentioned when it comes to some of the better role players in the league. This season, Deng is playing 2nd fiddle to Derrick Rose on the Bulls while free agent Carlos Boozer was out rehabbing from a broken wrist. He has been amazing in 2010, averaging nearly 20 per game, even notching a 40 point outburst against Portland.
PF – Luis Scola
21.5 ppg, 9.5 reb, 2.1 ast, .518 FG%
The 30 year old Argentinian has always played in the shadows of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming in Houston. With both either gone from the roster or once again nursing injuries, Scola has emerged as the Rockets best player as a walking double-double machine. Many aren’t fully aware that Scola has been an international superstar before coming to the NBA 3 seasons ago. He is a multiple time MVP in the Euroleague, Spanish League, and FIBA World Championship play but has yet to make his first NBA All Star appearance. Opposing big men know they are in for a bruising night when playing against Scola as he is one of the more physically imposing bigs in the league.
C – Andrew Bogut
11.6 ppg, 10.9 reb, 2.7 blk
Even though it’s hard to imagine a former #1 overall draft pick as being underrated, that is exactly the case with the Australian born big man. Andrew has been overshadowed a bit by fellow ‘05 draftees Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and even Danny Granger but has been amazingly consistent as a double-double player throughout his career. Bogut’s problem has always been injuries as he has missed parts of 4 out of his 6+ seasons in the Association. Surely most people remember Andrew for his horrific elbow injury at the end of last season. This year he is working his way back once again averaging a double-double and ranking in the Top 5 in the league in blocked shots.
PG – DJ Augustin
13.3 ppg, 7.3 ast, 3.8 reb, .881 FT%
When given the playing time, the former University of Texas stand-out has delivered. While most fans remember him as the diminutive point guard to Kevin Durant with the Longhorns, he impressed as an NBA rookie averaging 11.8 ppg and 3.5 assists in garnering All Rookie 2nd Team honors. Then Bobcats coach Larry Brown played him behind Ray Felton and his numbers dropped before avaraging career highs across the board this season as the starter. Augustin actually leads the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio with an average of nearly 7 to 1 by turning the ball over only 1.4 times per contest. DJ is apparently buying into Larry Brown’s philosophy of “Playing the Right Way.”
SG – Eric Gordon
24.5 ppg, 4.7 ast, 3.2 reb, 1 stl
The former high school elite level prospect is finally emerging as an NBA superstar in his 3rd season. Maybe it was earning a Gold Medal as a member of USA Basketball at FIBA Worlds or just a matter of coming of age but Gordon has clearly arrived as he ranks among the league leaders in scoring and highlight reel dunks. His de-committing from Illinois to play for the rival Indiana Hoosiers and being a key participant in the Ralph Sampson recruiting scandal will always be a stigma but Eric has put that behind him by steadily improving each season as a professional. This season he is setting career highs in scoring, rebounds, and assists as he has become the leader on a young Clippers squad. Some may be questioning Gordon only making the 2nd team but I felt he is slightly more known than Ellis.
SF – Wilson Chandler
17.8 ppg, 7 reb, 1.8 blk, .482 3 PT %
In his 4 year career, Chandler is the definition of underrated as he has averaged 14+ ppg for the last 3 seasons, all of which in New York. Wilson wasn’t exactly a star at DePaul University but was chosen as the #23 pick in the ‘07 Draft and was forced to sit the bench under Isiah Thomas. It wasn’t until coach D’Antoni’s arrival in ‘09 that he exploded, establishing career highs in points, rebounds, and blocked shots in each of the past 3 seasons. This year, Chandler ranks 3rd on the Knicks in scoring and rebounds, while ranking a close 2nd to Ama’re Stoudemire in blocks. Chandler is so valuable that he is the key piece wanted by Denver in any deal that the Knicks and Nuggets may draw up for acquiring Carmelo Anthony.
PF – Paul Millsap
19.2 ppg, 8.9 reb, 1.2 stl, 1 blk, .563 FG%
Paul is undoubtedly one of the most improved players this year but that’s probably because he is finally being given playing time with the departure of Carlos Boozer and the injury to Mehmet Okur in Utah. As the only player in NCAA history to lead the nation in rebounding 3 straight seasons, Millsap came to the league as a blue collar-like role player but has emerged as a more than capable starter in his 5th season out of Louisiana Tech. Many questioned why the Jazz would match the Portland Trailblazers offer sheet for Millsap following the ‘08-’09 season, but the deal is paying major dividends now as Paul has helped the Jazz to a Northwest Division leading 12-5 record as he established a career high in points scored with 46 big ones against the Heat.
C – Javale McGee
9.7 ppg, 8.6 reb, 2.7 blk, .570 FG%
As a former 1st round draft pick in the ‘08 Draft, success has come slow for McGee. First seen as a project, possessing amazing athleticism for a player standing more than 7 feet tall, Javale is coming into his own as an imposing shot-blocker and outstanding all around defender from the center position. Only 22 years of age, the 3rd year player has worked hard on his game and with Brendan Haywood now playing in Dallas, McGee has become the starting center in Washington with impressive results. Javale has become rookie phenom John Wall’s favorite target on alley-oops at the rim in addition to leading the league in blocks per game. The sky is the limit for McGee as he looks to set career highs in virtually every statistic this season.
10.8 ppg, 6.9 reb, .563 FG%
While almost everyone seems focused on higher draft picks like John Wall, Blake Griffin, and Evan Turner, Fields has quietly been very good in his first season out of Stanford. The California native has started every game this season for New York and although at times has been inconsistent, Landry has scored in double figures in 8 games and grabbed 10 or more boards in 5 contests, even collecting 17 rebounds against Denver on November 16th. Fields ranks 3rd in ppg, 2nd in rebounding and double-doubles, and leads in FG% among all rookies. I’ll call it right now. As the 9th pick in the 2nd round, Landry Fields is the steal of the 2010 NBA Draft.
PG – Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers(13.9 ppg, 7.4 ast, 3.9 reb, 1.7 stl )
SG – Kevin Martin, Houston Rockets(23 ppg, 3.1 reb, 2.5 ast, .398 3 PT%, .902 FT%)
SF – Sonny Weems, Toronto Raptors(12.8 ppg, 2.5 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl, .475 FG%)
PF – Reggie Evans, Toronto Raptors(4 ppg, 12.1 reb, 1.3 stl)
C – Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers(15.5 ppg, 8.6 reb, 1,9 blk)
Allen Moll has been a lifelong NBA and NCAA College Basketball fan who watches and studies games religiously, and coaches youth basketball in his native Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Allen also provides content to Bleacherreport.com, Upperdeckblog.com, in addition to being a tenured NBA and NCAA columnist for TheHoopDoctors.com.