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NBA's most underappreciated players
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Yeah, we've noticed that while recent history as Yao Ming's runnin' buddy and long-time affiliation with Adidas have conspired to keep Tracy relevant in the NBA's All-Star voting, several other deserving players'-union pals are being ignored. They don't have signature sneakers or other campaigns to goose their Basketball Q ratings. Some don't have teammates capable of generating enough victories to help shine an appropriate spotlight on their performances.
So we're here to correct some of the notoriety injustice, because none of the players on our 10-man list seem interested in wearing shoes of unmatched colors or appearing on a national talk show wearing boxer shorts and cuckoo expressions.
Anyway, to help measure the relative obscurity of a player against his performance value, we're enlisting such vehicles as the recent All-Star voting numbers and the league's formula for on-court efficiency. When that fails, the ol' eyeball test will be activated.
Gerald Wallace, SF, Bobcats
A peek at the voting totals for the Eastern Conference's three-man spot reveals the former Alabama Crimson Tide leaper has not scratched into the top 12 at his position. Despite his team's weak won-loss efforts and terminal lack of exposure, the omission of Wallace in the top dozen is pathetic.
OK, the 18.1 points-per-game average is swell, but did you realize he's taking down 11.6 rebounds per game? Chew on that ... 11 rebounds from the three spot.
For the record, Gerald checks in at 19th in the NBA-computed efficiency ratings.
Another more in-depth evaluation system places Wallace at second in its individual defensive rating. Right, Wallace has the blocks, steals and defensive rebounds to be ranked high ... but the eyeball test reveals that this guy (who leads the league in minutes per game) will come out and guard you like his hair's on fire.
David Lee, C, Knicks
Perhaps playing out of position makes it difficult for voters to locate Lee's name on the All-Star ballot. But he's not anywhere near the top of the list at any position. One of the league's top rebounders, the former Florida Gator is a ridiculous eighth in the league's efficiency ratings.
And he's a leader, something that hasn't been quantified by the numbers on any website.
Brook Lopez, C, Nets
The second-year post player from Stanford works for a lousy team and has cracked the top five in voting for Eastern Conference centers. But considering how few legitimately effective centers are employed by NBA teams, coming in at fifth for half the league is an insult to the sport's 18th-most-efficient player.
Carl Landry, PF, Rockets
How's this for a lack of appreciation ... the former Purdue Boilermaker doesn't even start for the Rockets. OK, so coach Rick Adelman prefers using Carl off the bench and almost always has him on the floor at the end of games.
It also should be noted that even if voters recognize Landry among the Western Conference's elite four-men (they haven't), Carl would deserve even more credit because he stands (maybe) an altitude-challenged 6-7 when he wears double socks. In only 26 minutes per game, Landry is giving Adelman 16 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Brandon Roy, SG, Trail Blazers
The latest voting results have Roy (he averages 23.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists) at 10th among candidates for the Western Conference's backcourt spots. C'mon ... really?
Joe Johnson, SG, Hawks
In addition to being the go-to guy and top perimeter defender on a team that now threatens to make a deep playoff run, JJ is a mere seventh in the voting for Eastern Conference guards. But the suspension of Gilbert Arenas probably means Joe (21 points, 5 rebounds and 5 dimes per game) is closer to making the team.
Zach Randolph, PF, Grizzlies
In terms of full disclosure, this guy's historically appalling lack of defensive effort generally inspires a lack of appreciation from me. And most everyone else. But the guy has been a numbers monster lately, giving the Grizzlies 27 points and 16 rebounds during their recent run of decency. Yet the league's 12th-most-efficient player (right, hard to put numbers on standing still when the other team has the ball) isn't even on the All-Star ballot.
But I'll give him credit for rebounding and doing offensive work on the block.
Chris Kaman, C, Clippers
Like Randolph, you can't even find Kaman's name on the All-Star ballot. Instead, the Clippers nominated Marcus Camby, who rebounds at a slightly higher clip than Kaman but doesn't have nearly the offensive skill set. Hey, give Kaman -- who averages 20 points and 9 rebounds -- credit for refusing to go back to the hairstyle of his early career and having to defend two players at once while he was a teammate of Randolph's.
Rajon Rondo, PG, Celtics
While keeping the Celtics among the league's elite during a time of physical tribulation, Rondo has been rewarded with the rank of eighth in the Eastern Conference voting for guards. Beyond his ability to push the pace and create offense for his teammates is the defense Rajon plays at the point of Boston's pack-line attack. Very few teams are able to minimize dribble penetration by opposing point guards. Rondo's ability to do this outweighs his crooked jump shot by a mile.
Tony Parker, PG, Spurs
Admittedly, this is a career-achievement award. Parker is having (for him) a down season and probably shouldn't be ranked as high as he is (11th) in the guard voting for the Western Conference. But despite working with Tim Duncan (perhaps the most underrated superstar in league history), Parker managed to put NBA Finals MVP hardware in his trophy case. But when chatter regarding the league's top point guards occurs, Tony's name almost never is mentioned. We suppose drive-and-kick makes purists think more of a (ahem) true point guard than drive-and-kick-your-butt does.
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