While there’s still no word on when, or if, the 2019-20 NBA season may resume, we’re doing our best here at Basketball Insiders to provide you with fresh content to help keep you occupied as you navigate from your bedroom to your living room and back again.
This week, we’ve delved into the world of the underrated. With a division by division breakdown, we’ve identified a few players around the league who may not have received the praise they deserve. It could be for a variety of reasons: maybe their team is in a small market or their team isn’t doing so well, record-wise.
Whatever the reason may be, these players deserve their proper due. Here’s a look at some of those underrated players in the Pacific Division.
Richaun Holmes, Sacramento Kings
Holmes is a player that’s flown under the radar for the majority of his five-year NBA career. During his time with the Philadelphia 76ers, Holmes emerged as one of the best backup centers in the league. A low maintenance player who doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective. He brings energy, he brings defense, he brings rebounding and he can finish at the rim.
The Kings signed Dewayne Dedmon to a big contract to be their starting center, but he was quickly supplanted in the rotation by Holmes. This season, Holmes had started in more games (33) than his first four years combined (24). He’s put up career numbers in scoring (12.8), rebounding (8.3) and shooting percentage (65.4 percent). The Kings just might have found their starting center for the next couple of years.
Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have a ton of offensive and defensive weapons on their team, a big part of why they were considered a title favorite. But the one player who sometimes gets lost in the media shuffle is Zubac. While his more popular teammates are often inundated with post-game media scrums, it’s not uncommon to see Zubac doing one-on-one interviews with reporters.
While Montrezl Harrell usually finishes games at center, he and Zubac give the Clippers a strong tandem. Zubac is better equipped at handling bigger centers defensively. He’s a strong presence on the glass. And for a guy who is a little way down the pecking order in terms of offensive touches, he makes the most of his opportunities and is efficient. He moves well without the ball and is often the recipient of a Kawhi Leonard or Paul George lob pass.
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
By what little attention Ayton gets in media circles compared to others in his draft class, you’d think he was some kind of a bust. He was only the No.1 pick in the 2018 draft and he’s had a fantastic start to his NBA career. He averaged a double-double as a rookie (16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds), making a case in his own right for 2018-19 Rookie of the Year.
He was unfortunately suspended to start this season but, once he made his return to the court, Ayton picked up right where he left off. He’s upped his numbers to 19.0 points per game and 12.0 rebounds. He’s also shown himself to be a much improved defensive player in year two and has displayed solid court awareness in terms of recognizing when to pass and making the right play. Ayton also has good on-court chemistry with Devin Booker, and the two should make for a formidable inside out duo in PHoenix for the considerable future.
Marquese Chriss, Golden State Warriors
In a year that has been marred with injuries and mounting losses for the Warriors, Chriss has been one of the lone bright spots. It’s been a testament to his work ethic as well as being able to find a role that suits him. A former lottery pick, Chriss was written off before the season began and was on the verge of washing out of the league entirely.
But, Chriss has revived his career in Golden State. He’s transformed from a power forward to more of a center, and he’s shown to be active around the rim and is adept at finishing lobs. He’s shown much better awareness and feel offensively when he’s in the paint. He’s set himself up nicely to be one of the players who maybe sticks around for the long haul on the Warriors roster.
Chriss may not turn into the rim-running lottery pick the Suns once pegged him for, but he should prove a solid addition going forward for the Warriors.
Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors
With the mounting injuries, this season has proven more so about development for Golden State than it has winning games, about playing the young guys and seeing who is capable of making an impact. While Poole didn’t get off to the best start, his rookie season certainly picked up as it went along.
After a brief stint in the G League, Poole returned to the Warriors as a different player. He displayed a much better shooting touch and better decision making both on and off-ball. He was projected to be an NBA shooting guard, but he looks much better as a backup point guard. Before the season was put on hiatus, he had one of his best games of the year with 17 points on 60 percent shooting against the Clippers.
Jevon Carter, Phoenix Suns
Carter is a bulldog of a player. A tough, defensive-minded guy who fit right in with the old “Grit ‘N Grind,” culture that was around in Memphis when he was first drafted by the Grizzlies. He didn’t play much as a rookie last season, hampered at times by injury.
But when he did get minutes, Carter looked like a solid NBA player.
Now with Phoenix, Carter has proved the beneficiary of an increased role. His numbers may not jump off the stat sheet, but he’s a steadying presence with the second unit and a defensive pest. The Suns already have their go-to guys in Ayton Devin Booker, and others. Now in Carter, with his no-nonsense approach, they may have their perfect fit defensive counterpart.
And that should wrap up a handful of the most overlooked players from the Pacific. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out our write up on the Atlantic, Central, Northwest and Southeast, and stay tuned for the rest of Basketball Insiders’ Underrated series.
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