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Head to Head: NBA’s Most Underrated Player

Who are the most underrated players in the NBA? Nate Duncan, Moke Hamilton and Alex Kennedy debate.

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Updated 12 months ago on
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Who are the most underrated players in the NBA? Basketball Insiders’ experts Nate Duncan, Moke Hamilton and Alex Kennedy shared their thoughts.

DeMarre Carroll

DeMarre Carroll is so underrated that many fans probably have not heard of him.

He left the Utah Jazz in the summer of 2013 for a bargain two-year, $5 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks. But he is absolutely essential to what the now 31-8 Hawks are doing.  He’s the wing stopper in the starting lineup for what has been the number one defense by points per possession since December 1.

What’s more, he apparently inhaled whatever is in the air between Utah and Atlanta that transforms a player into an ace three-point shooter. (Paul Millsap underwent a similar transformation.) Once deemed a non-shooter, Carroll suddenly started draining from downtown last year and is now up to 39 percent on 4.2 threes per contest.

The Hawks’ ability to shoot at all five positions is what makes them so difficult to guard despite only average one-on-one ability.  He also gets to the line at a solid clip for a secondary offensive player; Carroll’s ability to do that and defend the opposition’s top threat is what makes him so good.

With the Hawks’ outstanding start, the league is finally starting to take notice.  The 28-year-old Carroll will be in line for a big raise in free agency this offseason.

– Nate Duncan

Mike Conley

Being underrated is something that most NBA prospects go through at some point in their career, and that is the most important thing to realize about being underrated. Someone who is underrated is someone whose contributions to the game and their team are overlooked, either by their front office, their teammates or their fans.

There are tons of guys for whom the case can be made. Chris Bosh, at least leading into this season, had become supremely underrated. Luol Deng, for the duration of his career, has also been underrated. The case can be made for a few contributors on the Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns.

But if there was one player I would single out for being underrated, its Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Bosh and Dengthe argument could be madehave spent the duration of their careers playing in the Eastern Conference where the compeitition hasn’t been as stiff as out West. And unlike the Hawks and Magic, behind Conley, the Grizzlies have found sustained success.

Since his rookie year in 2008, the Grizzlies have steadily become a force in the NBA, and his contributions are a major reason why. Over the past five years, Conley has averaged a very respectable 15 points, 6.3 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. He has shot about 45 percent from the field and 38 percent from the three-point line.

His numbers certainly are not eye-popping,by any standard, but his on-court contributions far surpass his per-game averages.

On the floor, Conley does not have an immediately discernible weakness. He takes great care of the ball and consistently finds teammates when they are in a position to be successful with the basketball. He has the ability to play the game at a breakneck pace or be slow and meticulous operating out of a half-court set. Defensively, though he does give up size and strength to some of the leagues bigger guards, he is a plus on the perimeter.

Best of all, behind him, the Grizzlies have won three playoff series over the past five years and are currently winning at the highest rate in team history. Despite injuries to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph over the years, and despite the coming and going of some talented players that included both Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo, it seems like since we began talking about the Grizzlies five years ago, we havent stopped and Conley is a major reason why.

This season, he is earning a shade less than $9 million, which is less than Jrue Holiday is currently being paid and less than what Kemba Walker will be paid when his extension kicks in.

 Lost among the sea of uber-talented point guards in the NBA today is Conley, certainly evidenced both by the fact that he has never made an All-Star team and probably never will.

There are tons of ways in which one could define underrated,but few outside of Memphis understand and appreciate the contributions of Conley. To me, that suffices for choosing him.

– Moke Hamilton

Nikola Vucevic

It’s tough to choose just one player when discussing the league’s underrated talents. I certainly agree with Moke that Conley is extremely under-appreciated and I also think Nate makes a strong case for Carroll. To be honest, the Hawks are probably the most underrated team in the league, when you consider that every member of their starting lineup (Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Carroll, Paul Millsap and Al Horford) deserves more credit and respect than they receive.

However, the player who I chose as most underrated is Nik Vucevic of the Orlando Magic.

He has emerged as one of the NBA’s better centers, but he is never talked about outside of Orlando. At 24 years old, he’s averaging 18.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and nearly one block while shooting 53.5 percent from the field. He’s having a career-year and could make his first All-Star appearance this season.

He leads the NBA in double-doubles this season with 24 – recording even more than New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis. His 21.7 PER is fourth among starting centers, behind only Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, Memphis’ Marc Gasol and Miami’s Chris Bosh.

He is also on a bargain contract since he just agreed to a four-year extension with the Magic worth between $48 million and $53 million depending on incentives.

While many fans have no idea who Vucevic is, coaches around the NBA respect the hell out of him because he has destroyed their respective teams on many occasions.

In a recent Basketball Insiders article, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens described Vucevic as someone who “may very well be an All-Star center in the East at some point soon.” Miami HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra said he’s “a heck of a player” and that “there’s not a whole lot that he can’t do from the center position.”

But the highest praise came from L.A. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers.

“Vucevic is an All-Star and a terrific player,” Rivers said. “He’s probably the best player in the league that nobody knows. I don’t think you hear anybody talking about him, but when you look at his raw numbers they are superstar and All-Star worthy, but nobody knows it.’’

That sounds like the description of the NBA’s most underrated player.

– Alex Kennedy

Which player do you feel is the most underrated? Leave your thoughts in a comment below.

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