Last season I put together a piece highlighting the “9 Most Underrated Players in the NBA”, so I figured to go more in-depth this season and pick the most underrated on every single NBA franchise.
Underrated, underappreciated, overlooked… you name it. These are guys I either feel don’t get enough credit for what they bring to the table or believe they could do more elsewhere in a larger role depending on the situation/team. Some will be role players, some may be barely cracking the rotation, others may be STARS.
Do not take these players for granted!
Let’s dive in. We’ll be going in alphabetical order all the way down, covering all 30 teams.
Cam Reddish- F, 6’8
There have been rumors of Atlanta looking to move the 22-year-old wing in a trade, but I personally don’t think it’s something they should look to do unless it’s in a larger trade that really moves the needle for them. Reddish’s defensive impact is tough to replace, especially at his position and when projecting his offensive upside as well. There’s a lot to like here both now and when projecting forward as he grows into his game.
Grant Williams- F, 6’6″
Williams doesn’t score a ton or put up ridiculous counting stats, but the one thing he does is find a way to impact games. Intangibles, intangibles, intangibles. It’s the little things. Grant does all the little things on both ends of the court, so put some respect on his name. He’s an “undercover” glue guy at this point, it seems.
Patty Mills- G, 6’2″
This offseason move wasn’t given enough credit at the time. Mills is a legitimate sixth man of the year candidate and his role became that much more vital with the murky Kyrie Irving situation. The microwave scorer will be getting plenty of good looks on a dangerous Brooklyn offense. His volume is slightly down this season, so the 6MOY run seems unlikely barring a sudden change to the hierarchy of their offensive workload, but he’ll have nights where he looks like one.
Miles Bridges- F, 6’6″
Miles has proven to be more than just an electric leaper, as he’s shown the ability to score and create his own shot. The hot start has heads turning (rightfully so) but now the larger question will be how sustainable this is from a contract perspective. I’m sure plenty of teams will be lining up to pay him if Charlotte won’t. He’s a legitimate contender (at this point) for winning the “Most Improved Player” award.
Alex Caruso- G, 6’4″
are going to miss Alex Caruso. He is an absolute pest defensively, an excellent decision-maker on offense, and can also space the floor. As a third guard in your rotation (especially Chicago’s) I love his ability to effectively play alongside either Lonzo Ball or Zach LaVine + DDR.
Jarrett Allen- C, 6’10”
Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are terrorizing the NBA, forming one of the best multi-big duos in recent memory, in large part due to their ability to “survive” modern basketball on both ends. Allen’s 7’6″ wingspan allows him to finish over the top of the defense with ease, shooting 69% on the season thus far.
He’s averaging 14-11-1 on ridiculous efficiency while playing solid defense for one of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA so far, it’s time to give him his flowers.
Tim Hardaway Jr.- W, 6’5″
Porzingis Hardaway trade often gets Dallas in trouble (for cap reasons), but THJ coming back in that package was an underrated “throw-in” move by the Mavs. He’s in a situation where he needs to be something he’s not (a number two option) but in an ideal role as a third or even fourth scoring option he’d be looked at a lot more fondly in my opinion.
Will Barton- W, 6’6″
“Will The Thrill” is one of the best role players in the NBA, and it’s impressive to see him battle back from a myriad of injuries throughout his career and still remain productive. It’s odd to say that a 30-year-old is playing at the peak of his career, but you could make that case for Barton right now. When looking at Denver’s roster, with MPJ and Murray out, he’s been the glue that’s held them together outside of MVP Nikola Jokic of course.
Kelly Olynyk- F/C, 6’11”
Olynyk is on a very bad Pistons team, but his steady veteran presence should help them be… less bad. Especially with Cade out, they’ve struggled early on, but if they can find a competitive identity upon Cunningham’s return, the guy that should benefit the most is Kelly O. Unfortunately he’s injured right now, and Detroit will miss him for the time being.
Golden State Warriors
Juan Toscano-Anderson- W, 6’6″
This team was a tough one because there weren’t any obvious choices at the top so I decided to go with a key role player here. JTA does all the little things right and impacts winning in an admiring way, especially considering his journey to get to the NBA. He’s sort of fallen out of the deep Warriors rotation of late, but I feel like his time will come again. Gary Payton II also deserves a shoutout for his stellar, disruptive play so far this season.
Jae’Sean Tate- G/W, 6’4″
Tate is an exceptional defender that contributes across the board offensively just enough. If he was on a better team than Houston his value would be a hell of a lot higher due to all of the little things he does on both ends. I’ve watched Houston a few times this season (for whatever reason) and he’s “popped” just about every time.
Malcolm Brogdon- G, 6’5″
The only thing holding him back is health, as when he’s on the court, Brogdon is one of the elite guards in the NBA. Size, scoring, efficiency, distribution, plus rebounder, solid defender… he just truly does it all. The only thing holding him back at this point is health, which has been a tough battle for the former Virginia star.
Los Angeles Clippers
Paul George- W, 6’8″
Yes, Paul George. I said it. He’s underrated. If the playoffs last year without Kawhi didn’t prove that then the early start to this season has. He does it all on both ends and doesn’t get enough credit for what he does. He has been a top 10 player this season. He is a top 10 player. I’ll just let it be known for anyone still having doubts.
Los Angeles Lakers
They’re all overrated in Laker Land 🙂
Okay fine….. I’ll give a shout to Carmelo Anthony for reinventing himself. He’s been awesome.
De’Anthony Melton- G, 6’4″ & Desmond Bane- G, 6’5″ (TIE)
Melton and Bane are both terrific in their own ways and probably do not get enough credit for how good they are. The pair of Draft Twitter darlings have emerged as a couple of the best role players in the association for a very fun (and young) Memphis squad.
Tyler Herro- SG, 6’5″
Herro went from overrated to underrated all in less than a year, it’s truly incredible. Miami’s bubble run certainly led to some irresponsible (and unfair) takes about Herro which ultimately led to him becoming the poster boy for being overrated due to a playoff run. This season he’s proven to be a reliable scorer and has made a few critical shots in key moments for a very good Miami team.
Donte DiVincenzo- SG, 6’4″
His injury was sort of flying under the radar during the Bucks’ championship run. I don’t think people remember how important of a rotation piece he was for them due to him missing extended time last year with that absence leaking into the start of this season.
Jarred Vanderbilt- F, 6’9″
I was surprised that Vanderbilt didn’t receive more interest on the open market this offseason. He eventually agreed to a three-year, $13.8 million contract to return to Minnesota. His versatility, energy, defense, and all-around disruptive nature make him one of the best bargains in the league on that contract. While there are obvious flaws in his game, if you take him for what he is, he can truly impact the game and provide a major spark off the bench.
New Orleans Pelicans
Jonas Valanciunas- C, 6’11”
I thought Jonas getting traded was fairly surprising given how productive he was in Memphis a year ago. Now, he’s in a tough situation in New Orleans with Ingram and Zion both missing plenty of time and he’s been the number one option more often than not. He’s responded just about as well as you can in that situation, putting up 19-13-1 on an absurd 57% clip from deep. While he won’t continue to shoot that well, he’s going to feast in NOLA for the rest of the season and remains one of the most underrated players.
New York Knicks
Mitchell Robinson- C, 6’11”
Okay, maybe Knicks fans don’t underrate him, but on a national scale, I think he’s a bit underlooked. The same could be said for his counterpart, Nerlens Noel. Robinson is an elite rim protector and play finisher that has shot over 70% from the floor his entire career, which is insane. While he may not have a ton of creation ability offensively, he excels in his role. Staying out of foul trouble and playing smarter defense will be the key for him because he has all of the tools in the world to become a major difference-maker on that end.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Kenrich Williams- F, 6’6″
Williams simply makes winning plays and does the little things extremely well. If I’m a contender looking for a productive, versatile bench piece to shore up the depth, I’m making an offer to OKC for Kenrich Williams.
Terrence Ross- W, 6’6″
Okay, yes. The timing of this isn’t the best given his struggles to start the season from the field. I believe he’ll find his footing and get back towards the player he’s been the past couple of seasons sooner than later. He has been underrated for some time now, so I figured he deserved a shout. Hopefully, he gets back on track and makes me look smart for his inclusion despite the slow start.
Seth Curry- G, 6’2″
The “other” Curry brother has been balling for shorthanded 76ers this season. He’s quietly had a couple very solid seasons before this year’s “breakout” on a shorthanded Philly squad. He and Tyrese Maxey have been incredible all things considered.
Mikal Bridges- W, 6’6″
The logic for this one is that Mikal did NOT make an all-defense team last season, which to me is unacceptable. Suns fans do not take what he does for granted, but it’s clear the national media/rest of the league does and it needs to change. He is an elite shooter, cutter, defender, and finisher that chases the top offensive assignment around screens for 30+ minutes a night. RESPECT HIM DAMMIT!
Portland Trail Blazers
Larry Nance Jr.- F/C, 6’9″
Nance remains underrated in my eyes, as Cleveland shipped him out to Portland and the move was barely talked about. I’m not saying he’s the Blazers’ savior by any means, but he should help solidify their rather weak bench, especially defensively.
Harrison Barnes- F, 6’8″
Barnes has been incredible to start the season, and last year I thought he had a very under-the-radar flat-out GOOD season. He’s really found a nice role for himself after struggling to find himself post-GSW era in Dallas and early on in Sacramento. If I’m a contender that needs a scoring punch or big wing, and Barnes becomes available, I’m doing all I can to acquire him.
San Antonio Spurs
Jakob Poeltl- C, 7’1″
Not too many people realize how good Poeltl is because he isn’t flashy nor on an exciting team, but the 7’1″ big man has quietly become one of the best interior defenders in the league. Before entering H&S protocols this season, he was averaging a career-best 13.9 PPG, 9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1 block on 64% shooting from the floor. The Spurs have themselves a legit long-term starting-caliber center.
Fred VanVleet- PG, 6’1″
Look, everyone knows FVV is good by now. I believe he’s still somehow criminally underrated and should be held in higher regard on the national scale. He’s proven to be clutch on the big stage, and as a tough shot maker that does all the little things at a high level, he’s the ultimate ceiling raiser.
Bojan Bogdanovic- F, 6’7″
The Jazz are a machine (in the regular season) and one major reason their offense is so difficult to gameplan for outside of Donovan Mitchell is the addition of Bogdanovic, who is one of the most solid complementary pieces out there. The past four seasons, he’s averaged 17.0 points per game or better on above-average efficiency, though this season it’s dipped a bit to start, but the law of averages suggests he’ll get that back on track sooner than later.
Kentavious Caldwell Pope- SG, 6’5″
KCP may not be the most consistent player in the world, but when he’s on his production on both ends can really swing a game. His three-point shooting may be hit or miss at times, but the defense and intangibles he brings to the table are invaluable.
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