A lot of very good players in the NBA don’t get the shine they should. The All-Slept-On First Team looks to highlight the most underrated players at each position through the first quarter of the season.
Nov 27, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Trevor Booker (35) shoots the ball over Sacramento Kings center Kosta Koufos (41) during the second half at Barclays Center. The Kings won 122-105. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports
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The NBA is a league driven by stars, perhaps more than any other. Superstars are great for the game–Michael Jordan was the biggest star the Association ever saw, and he pushed the league to new heights through his unbelievable feats.
There are players in the NBA besides stars, though. Lots of them, actually. Some of them happen to be tearing up the competition right now, although because of their lack of stardom they don’t get the credit they deserve for doing so.
This piece is meant as a way to give those players a brief moment in the spotlight. They all are under appreciated talents–many casual fans might not recognize some or all of the names.
This is not a place for Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Even if younger stars get a little slept on, people are very aware of how good they are. Players with contingencies of haters likely have legions of fans too.
If a player has think pieces dedicated to them, they aren’t really slept on. Nobody on the All-Slept On team can be one of the two most popular players on their team either. If you carry a team, it’s hard to be slept on.
These five players are certainly under appreciated by the NBA community. Hopefully they aren’t for too much longer.
Nov 30, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) dribbles during the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Point Guard – Patty Mills
Patrick Mills is a backup point guard and he’s on the San Antonio Spurs. Those are two things that can very often lead to a player being slept on. Mills has been incredible this season though, and not enough has been made of his play.
Mills is in the midst of a legit 50-40-90 season, shooting 49 percent from the field, 43.9 percent from three-point range and 94.1 percent from the free throw line. Mills leads the Spurs in offensive rating, thanks to his incredible accuracy from all over the court.
His per game numbers aren’t anything insane, thanks to Mills playing just 23.4 minutes per contest. Mills is averaging 17.8 points, 5.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per 36 minutes though, which are all great numbers considering how efficiently he’s been scoring.
There’s no doubt that Patty Mills is slept on. He continues to come off of the bench in San Antonio, and with all of the talk about Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge there isn’t much press time left for Mills. Too bad. The Australian has been fantastic for the Spurs this season.
Dec 9, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives for the basket against Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha (25) in the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Shooting Guard – Thabo Sefolosha
It’s fitting that the first two players on the first-ever All-Slept On team are from the Spurs and Atlanta Hawks. Both franchises tend to be slept on themselves, so their players end up getting the same treatment.
Thabo Sefolosha is fourth in the NBA in steals per game, despite being a bench player for all but six of his first 21 games. He’s one of the best defenders on a team loaded with talent on that end in teammates Dwight Howard and Paul Millsap.
Even with those two around, Thabo has a case for being the best overall defender on the team.
He’s one of the best wing defenders in the entire NBA, which will be crucial for the Hawks should they end up in the Eastern Conference players this season. Sefolosha is more than just a defender, by the way.
Thabo is averaging just 7.4 points per game, but he’s making 47.8 percent of his field goals. Sefolosha’s three-point shot has been off early, but he’s making a healthy 56.0 percent of his shots inside the arc to make up for it.
Make no mistake, Thabo Sefolosha is vital to the Hawks hopes of being a playoff team. He and fellow wing Kent Bazemore will need to continue their lockdown defense to make the Hawks the force in the East they were just two years ago.
Nov 20, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Terrence Ross (31) shoots the basketball seemingly tying the basketball game against Sacramento Kings forward Matt Barnes (22), but the shot is ruled after time had expired during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Kings won 102-99. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Small Forward – Terrence Ross
Another bench player who is balling out, Terrence Ross is looking like he belongs in the Toronto Raptors starting five so far. In 22 games with the Raps, Ross is scoring 10.2 points per game on some truly incredible shooting splits.
Ross is making 49.1 percent of his field goals, 43.5 percent of his three-pointers and 95.7 percent of his free throws. Thanks to the wealth of scorers in Toronto there are only 7.7 shots per game available to Ross, but he’s definitely making the most of them.
Along with his scoring, Ross has also added 1.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists and 0.9 steals per game. Most of his production is pure scoring, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when a player is shooting nearly 50/40/90.
Ross likely won’t get a chance to get in that starting lineup, mostly because the Raptors are so damn good. Coaches are usually loathe to tinker with lineups when a team is hot, and Toronto has the second-best offensive rating in the NBA.
The Raptors have been so good with Ross on the bench, so that’s where he’ll stay. He’ll also likely stay slept on, although Terrence Ross is shooting like a star in limited minutes this season.
Dec 10, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Brooklyn Nets power forward Trevor Booker (35) shoots the ball as San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol (16) defends during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Power Forward – Trevor Booker
Trevor Booker might be the most slept-on player on the All-Slept-On First Team. He’s on the Brooklyn Nets, which basically guarantees that he won’t be the subject of much debate by anybody outside of Brooklyn.
Booker has been great for the Nets though. He isn’t a stretch four, but he’s very effective at being a mobile big man. Booker is averaging 10.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.0 steals per game in Brooklyn this season.
He’s making nearly 55 percent of his shots, and that number is brought down by Booker’s low three-point percentage. Booker is making 59.5 percent of his two-point shots, a really strong number for a big man–or any player.
Booker is the best Net in a lot of statistical categories. He’s got the best defensive rating among rotation players on the team, he’s first in rebounds per game, first in field goal percentage and first in steals per game.
Trevor Booker is doing his best Paul Millsap impression in Brooklyn. He’s clearly not that good, but he’s a hell of a lot better than most people know.
Dec 2, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) shoots the ball past San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12, behind) during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Marcin Gortat was the inspiration for this list being created. Gortat is so slept on his own team signed a replacement for him in Ian Mahinmi, who–fortunately for the Washington Wizards–has yet to get healthy. That’s fortunate because it could result in Gortat losing minutes.
The Polish Hammer has been excellent in Washington. He’s averaging 11.0 points and a career-best 11.9 rebounds per game this season, plus 1.5 assists and 1.2 blocks. Gortat is shooting 55.6 percent from the field, meaning his scoring has been efficient.
A team with John Wall and Bradley Beal doesn’t need their center to take a ton of touches, so Gortat is last among rotation Wizards in usage percentage.
He’s using fewer touches per game than he ever has in Washington before, but still scoring efficiently and dominating the glass on a nightly basis.
Gortat is second on the Wizards in both offensive and defensive rating, which speaks to how important he is to the team on both ends. Marcin Gortat doesn’t get much love, but he’s been one of the better centers in the NBA through the first quarter of the season.