Who Are the Early Season Picks for Most Underrated Player on each NBA roster?
Every team in every sport seems to have at least one player who does all the dirty work, but rarely gets much notoriety. Fittingly or not, the acronym for the Most Underrated Player is MUP. Even sounds like a designated tag with little respect.
Underrated players are part of every professional basketball team. We want to show a little love to those players who seem to play under-the-radar, never getting much press time. Here is our take on the most underrated player on every NBA roster.
Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks are young, so there isn’t a long game history for much of their roster. One player who has a very long history is Vince Carter. The savvy veteran has stepped in to start eight games thus far, and undoubtedly adds a voice of experience to the Atlanta locker room.
Boston Celtics – There are three players who fit the mold as underrated for Boston. Aron Baynes and Terry Rozier don’t get the same limelight as the Celtic superstars. But, when there’s a scramble for a loose ball, you may well find #36 at the bottom. Marcus Smart is actually second on the team in dimes as well, and probably Boston’s toughest defender.
Brooklyn Nets – Invariably the most underrated player on any given NBA team comes off the pine. In Brooklyn that holds true as well. Spenser Dinwiddie hasn’t started a game in the new season, but posts starter minutes on a nightly basis. He’s also third on the team in scoring and second in assists.
Charlotte Hornets – In Charlotte, we’re going with another veteran presence for a new team. We all assumed Tony Parker would take his last NBA breathe in San Antonio Spurs uniform. Well he made his way to North Carolina and seems to have generated some new life in his old legs. He’s fourth on the team in point production, coming off the bench with ultra efficiency.
Chicago Bulls – Chicago has a couple players just getting started in the new season. But, one steady reserve big man has carried over his tendency to make ultra-efficient use of his limited court minutes. Cristiano Felicio has a high proficiency rating for the few minutes he gets on the court each night. In roughly half the minutes, Felicio snatches almost as many rebounds as some starters.
Cleveland Cavaliers – The player who may be the most underrated player now in Cleveland, was actually a Bull last year. David Nwaba posts an excellent proficiency rating during his dozen or so minutes of court time. That number, and his value to the Cavs, will improve when he reduces his frequency of turnovers.
Dallas Mavericks – Dallas seems to have a penchant for European big men. We all know about Dirk Nowitzki, and now there is rookie Luka Doncic from Slovenia. But, it’s another German-born player who may be their most underrated big man. Maximilian Kleber may not make Maverick fans forget about Dirk when he’s gone, but he does provide a quiet efficiency for Dallas.
Denver Nuggets – Denver’s team stats make this one fairly easy. Mason Plumlee isn’t even the first big man off the Denver bench, but he produces nearly seven points and a half a dozen boards every night.
Detroit Pistons – Ish Smith is sort of the glue that helps keep an erratic Pistons team focused. He’s not the number one point guard, and has yet to earn a start in 2018. However, he gets a lot of crunch-time minutes when the game is on the line.
Golden State Warriors – When you’re the defending world champions, underrated seems a bit of an odd term for any player. However, when your team in rebounds, assists and steals, but you’re not mentioned as one of the “big three”, you earn at least a tag for underrated. That includes players like Draymond Green who certainly will never go unnoticed.
Houston Rockets – The Rockets push their frontline players more than most teams. All the starters average over 30 minutes per game. Oddly enough, PJ Tucker is tied for the team lead in that category. Plus, Tucker is a tenacious defender who doesn’t always show big in the glitter stat columns. He works in the trenches for a flashy Houston team.
Indiana Pacers – The son of a former NBA big man makes our list as the most underrated player in Indiana. Domantas Sabonis has yet to start for the Pacers, but is second in scoring and leads Indiana in rebounding. He has turned his 24-minutes of court time into the team lead in player efficiency as well.
Los Angeles Clippers – The face of the Clippers has changed dramatically over the last couple of seasons. Long gone are the days of Blake and CP3. Another non-starter is a high production player for the Clippers. Montrezl Harrell fights for rebounds, and frequently hits important shots for LA.
Los Angeles Lakers – There is a new King in Tinseltown. No one would ever consider LeBron James underrated. Kyle Kuzma wasn’t even one of LA’s top three rated young players a year ago. But, he is now a starter and the second best scorer on a team with the best player in the world.
Memphis Grizzlies – Memphis seems to be another pretty easy choice for the most underrated player. Shelvin Mack, most casual fans don’t even know who he is, spells point guard Mike Conley. In addition, Mack will shift over to the shooting guard spot. He doesn’t start, but he’s fifth on the Grizzlies in minutes and fifth in points per game.
Miami Heat – Bam Adebayo is the handcuff to Hassan Whiteside. When Whiteside is injured, the Heat depend on Adebayo’s presence in the middle. When he’s back to being a role player, he still has the second highest rebound per game average on the team. Bam is a formidable defensive presence in the middle as well.
Milwaukee Bucks – Ersan Ilyasova has earned the underrated tag for various teams recently. Seems everywhere he lands, he relishes in his bench role. However, he takes advantage of his court time by being an efficient rebounder, strong defender, and timely point producer.
Minnesota Timberwolves – Currently the most unheralded player on the Timberwolves’ squad was once a player in the limelight. Derrick Rose tried to kick start his career in Cleveland, but failed. He seems to have found new life and new legs in Minnesota. He’s earning starter-type minutes off the bench and producing his best numbers in years. Rose may become even more vital to Minnesota’s season now that Jimmie Buckets has exited stage left.
New Orleans Pelicans – New Orleans has a couple prominent name players, but it’s a 22-year old from Mali who spells there prime superstar who warrants mention for most underrated. Cheick Diallo usually comes in for the most imposing big man currently in the game, Anthony Davis. Diallo manages to post a handful of points while grabbing an equal handful of rebounds on very limited minutes behind a superstar.
New York Knicks – The plight of the Knickerbockers over the last decade is well-documented. They just cannot seem to find that winning formula. Most of their lineup might fall into the underrated category. But, Mario Hezonja is one name that gets less press than the rest. Hezonja comes off the pine to give the New York nearly 10 points and a handful of rebounds every night, and without much Broadway fanfare.
Oklahoma Thunder – Another once highly-prized player now operates in a reserve role. All eyes were on Nerlens Noel coming out of college. But, a series of untimely injuries temporarily derailed a promising career. He seems to have found new life in an unheralded bench role for Oklahoma. In less than 15-minutes a game, he is spelling Oklahoma’s starting big men, posting the second highest proficiency rating behind Russell Westbrook.
Orlando Magic – Seems a number of players who earned a spot on our underrated list are big men who come off the bench. Mo Bamba is that same type player for the Magic. Orlando is trying to build around a handful of young stars, but Bamba makes good use of his 18 minutes per game to add a few points, grab some boards, and block a couple shots.
Philadelphia 76ers – The process seems to be finally working in Philadelphia. The 76ers youth movement is producing results. One player that has been a part of the growing pains is TJ McConnell. McConnell has played when needed, often very well. His role this season has been slightly diminished. But, when he’s called upon, he gives the Sixers an enthusiastic boost.
Phoenix Suns – The Suns are another team built around young talent. TJ Warren was a starter for most or all of the Suns’ games during the last two seasons, but is now coming off the bench most nights. His game has actually improved slightly. He is second on the team in point production and has a solid proficiency rating.
Portland Trail Blazers – Evan Turner seems to navigate to the underrated category wherever he ends up playing. The former Buckeye doesn’t start, but plays nearly 25 minutes a game. His points, rebounds and assists are consistent on a nightly basis. Turner is another underrated, veteran asset to a budding team.
Sacramento Kings – A second former Ohio State player makes our list for the Kings. Kosta Koufos starts when he’s needed, sits when he’s not, but seems already ready to contribute when called upon in Sacramento. Koufos will get his share of baskets, and always post a nice rebound stat line.
San Antonio Spurs – A longtime Spur gets the honor of being the most underrated player on the San Antonio roster. In fact, Patty Mills has never received a lot of acclaim, even when he was spelling some of the Spurs’ high-profile superstars. He has yet to draw a call to the starting lineup this season, but is giving San Antonio that same dedicated production.
Toronto Raptors – The player getting our vote for most underrated Raptor, may not be keeping that title for long. Pascal Siakam produced off the bench in his rookie campaign, but his level of play has earned him a role as a starter. With names like Leonard, Lowry and Valanciunas on the lineup card, Siakam is still not a household name. That is, unless you’re a Raptor fan.
Utah Jazz – He’s doesn’t look like your prototypical NBA star, other than being 6’8″. However, Australian-born Joe Ingles has become a nice complement to Utah’s more noteworthy stars. Ingles produces a balanced stat line on a nightly basis, helping keep the floor balanced for the Jazz.
Washington Wizards – Kelly Oubre Jr. is our last nominee for the most underrated player. The Wizard swingman only starts on rare occasions, but he gets ample court time. Oubre Jr. makes good use of those minutes, producing the fourth highest points per game average on the Washington roster.
These are some of the unheralded, underrated players from each team in the NBA. When postgame interviews are held, these guys are rarely in front of the microphone. However, when the game stats are reviewed, they often are at or near the top of their team’s list of productive performances.