Written by: Dennis Vilimek- Staff Writing Intern (@)
Anyone who watches the NBA knows that LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are the most important players on their respected teams. While guys like that may get all the attention, there are plenty of studs around the league that aren’t quite household names yet. These players may not be appreciated as much as they should be, but they are consistently proving that they are crucial to their team’s success. In no particular order, I picked five of the most underrated players in the league right now.
Otto Porter Jr. – SF Washington Wizards
Otto Porter has been one of the most surprising stories of the season so far, as his career year has helped lead the Wizards to a 28-20 record and nine wins in their last ten games. Even though he may be considered for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, I think he often goes under the radar with players like John Wall and Bradley Beal on his team. So why is Otto Porter so important to the Wizards? He is leading the league in three-point shooting percentage at 46% and has been one of the most efficient offensive players this season.
Whether it is spot up shooting, cutting to the basket, or scoring in transition he is just about as reliable as they come in the league. On top of his offensive game, he is one of the Wizards best defenders and plays a good bulk of the minutes at forward. His versatility and athleticism also allows him to guard multiple positions with his 6’8” frame. Porter may never be a guy who averages 20 points per game, but teams now have to respect his offensive ability, which just makes guys like Wall and Beal more dangerous. Below is Porter’s stats this year in comparison with the rest of his career.
Jrue Holiday – PG New Orleans Pelicans
I’m guessing that most people don’t remember that Holiday was an All-Star in 2013 while on the 76ers, as he has not played up to that level while battling injuries for the past few years. Last year he played in the most games since that All-Star season with 65, and he put up some very solid numbers with nearly 17 points and 6 assists in only 28 minutes per game while mostly coming off the bench. This season, he once again missed a big chunk of games in the beginning of this season in order to care for his family.
While it has been hard for him to find some consistency while missing so much time, he finally seems to be healthy and has been playing at a very high level as of late. In his last five games, he has averaged 25 points and nearly 9 assists. He is also a very good three-point shooter and is near the top of the league at 41% from beyond the arc. He has all the tools that a team could want in a point guard as he is a very skilled passer and can score in many different ways. He is often overshadowed by the fact that he plays with a guy named Anthony Davis, but Jrue is only 26 years old and has shown that he can play at a high level, it’s just a matter of staying healthy and finding a rhythm.
Jabari Parker – PF Milwaukee Bucks
Growing up in the Chicago area, I have been hearing about Jabari Parker for years now. I don’t think other NBA fans around the country know how good he really is, but he is quietly having an excellent season. Parker was having a promising rookie year until he tore his ACL after just 25 games, and his second year wasn’t anything too special as his offseason was likely focused on rehabbing instead of improving his game.
This year really seems to be his breakout year, as he is averaging 20 points per game and 6 rebounds. He drastically improved his three-point game by over ten percent, and he has shown that he is a premier scorer at the power forward position. He is also one of the most athletic players at this spot as well, as he has shown the ability to posterize opposing players. At the young age of 21 years old, Jabari Parker has the potential to be a superstar as long as he stays healthy. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in an All-Star game within the next few years.
Jae Crowder – SF Boston Celtics
Another player who has been on a tear lately is Jae Crowder. He has been putting up averages of 19 points and 7 rebounds over his last ten games and has been one of the Celtics most consistent players since last year. He had a breakout season last year when he got the opportunity to play over 30 minutes per game, and continues to be a very reliable starter for a good Celtics team. He is another one of those players like Otto Porter that can often be overlooked due to his non-flashy style of play, but he does a little of everything to fill up the stat sheet.
He has drastically improved his three-point game, being in the league’s top five shooting 43%. The regular stats don’t say it all for him, as he is among the league’s best at his position in real plus-minus (RPM) at 4.03, only behind a few superstars like KD and Jimmy Butler. RPM is a good indicator of how a team performs when a player is on the floor, and Crowder clearly has a huge impact on his team’s performance.
Goran Dragic – PG Miami Heat
Due to the abundance of great point guards around the league right now, Dragic is another player who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. With so many great guards, I’m sure many people would be surprised to hear that he is ranked in the top ten at his position for average points and assists per game. He is the most important part of the Heat’s current nine game winning streak, and he continues to improve his play.
Like all of the other players on this list so far, Dragic is very good from behind the arc shooting 41% this season. In a league that is now more reliant on the three-point shot, this stat is very important. Dragic has always been a solid point guard, but if he continues his hot play he may put up career numbers this year. It’s likely he will average over 20 points per game by the end of the year.