NBA: The Five Most Underrated Players Of 2016-17

Nov 25, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) dribbles the ball during the first half against the Atlanta Hawks at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the five most underrated NBA players thus far in 2016-17

In today’s NBA, we’re constantly finding ourselves talking mostly about the superstar players like a LeBron James, Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant, but it’s not fair how players who deserve more attention don’t get it because of the popularity contest that exists amongst the NBA’s casual fan.

Now don’t get me wrong, those guys are the best players in the world so it’s pretty obvious why they get all of the attention on a nightly basis. However, it’s rare that we talk about players that don’t have that superstar status, who also produce efficiently for their team’s night in and night out.

So, the question remains, who are the most underrated players in the NBA right now? Here are five of them.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

Kemba Walker has taken that next step as an NBA player, and that means he’s entered into the “elite” group of point guards. When Kemba came into the league in 2011, he dealt with a lot of criticism.

Many questioned his vision, size, and mainly his ability to become a quality floor-general. Now currently in his 6th NBA season, you could make a case that Walker is one of the best all-around point guards in the Eastern Conference. Last season, Walker had his breakout season, posting career highs in points, rebounds, free throws attempts, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, true shooting percentage, offensive rating and player efficiency rating.

This season, Walker is having himself another career year for the Charlotte Hornets. Right now, he’s averaging 24.2 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting from the field and 43.4 percent from long distance. Kemba is 13th in the league in scoring, ahead of guys like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and John Wall.

Kemba’s versatility and gifted two-way abilities is what makes him so lethal on the basketball court. Besides his jump shot, especially in the mid-range, Walker can get by almost any defender because of his unique speed and quickness.

One of the things that stands out now about Kemba’s game is the maturity he shows. He plays with a sense of calmness and doesn’t look to be in a huge rush to make a play. He plays the game at his pace and it allows everything to come much easier to him. Kemba Walker has arrived and it’s time we give him our respect. He’s an elite point guard in this game today and none of us should question that any longer.

Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics

Avery Bradley came into the league known as just a defensive stopper. He made his name on heart, determination and energy on the defensive end of the floor.

Now, in his 7th NBA season, Bradley has transformed into one of the more premier two-way players in the league. His game has started to really evolve especially on the offensive end of the floor. Since Bradley was drafted, his scoring has increased each season.

In fact, you could even make a case that he’s the second offensive option for the Boston Celtics, because he’s been the team’s second-leading scorer consistently (17.7) all year right after Isaiah Thomas (26.1).

His jump shot from three has improved significantly as well. Last season, he shot the three at 36.1 percent, and this year he’s shooting it at 41.7 percent, which ranks him 25th best in the NBA right now. Not only that, but Bradley is arguably the Celtics’ best rebounder. For a guard, that’s insane. Bradley is averaging nearly eight boards per game. The only guard that has more rebounds than him is all-star Russell Westbrook (10.5).

Avery Bradley is definitely one of the most underrated player in the NBA, and he’s clearly on his way to becoming a top 5 shooting guard in the league.

D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers

It wasn’t quite fair to judge D’Angelo Russell based off last year because it was Kobe Bryant’s going away tour so the ball was going to be in his hands most of the time while he took majority of the shots.

Then you had head coach Byron Scott who didn’t have a single clue how to maximize Russell’s talent. At one point, he even had him come off the bench which made absolutely no sense at all.

D’Angelo Russell is one of the most talented young players in the NBA today. He’s a big guard with pretty good vision, along with great shooting upside. Versatility is all the rage in the league these days, and he can play both guard spots which makes him unique.

If you actually watched the NBA’s summer league, then you actually saw what type of player he could potentially become. Yeah, you could say Russell was playing against rookies and fringe NBA guys but the confidence and charisma Russell exhibited was amazing to watch.

The Lakers are fun to watch again this season and D’Angelo Russell is a big reason for that. He’s averaging 16.1 points per game and 4.8 assists, on 41.3 percent shooting. Luke Walton has given him the ultimate green light, which is something he never had last year under Bryon Scott.

Assuming D’Angelo Russell continues to evolve his game, the Lakers could be a looking at a franchise caliber player a couple years down the road.

George Hill, Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz’s trade for point guard George Hill over the summer might not have received the same level of national attention as the Golden State Warriors’ signing of forward Kevin Durant, but  there’s no question that the addition of Hill was the most underrated move of the offseason.

George Hill is one of the most underrated point guards in the NBA today. He can actually guard both backcourt positions and is a better offensive player than he gets credit for.

Though, you can actually make the case that Hill is the best defensive point guard in the NBA. Hill held Stephen Curry, who was the MVP of the league, to only 46 percent shooting from the field and just 20 percent from long distance in their matchups in 2015-16.

Another example of his excellent defense is when he faced off against Russell Westbrook last season. When defended by Hill, Westbrook was held to 41 percent shooting from the field, which was also below his average of 45 percent. The fact that Hill did that to Curry and Westbrook, who are both top 5 players in the league, shows just what type of defender he is.

We all know Hill isn’t a top 10 point guard or anywhere near a superstar type of player. However, at the end of the day, he gets the job done at a very high level.

Victor Oladipo, Oklahoma City Thunder

You could argue that Victor Oladipo’s first three seasons in the NBA were viewed as a disappointment. However, a bit part of that was because of how high Oladipo was drafted by the Magic.

If nothing else, he was still able to establish himself as a solid defender.

One of the biggest criticism of Oladipo’s game, though, was his low shooting percentages. Now, while playing with less pressure in Oklahoma City, his shooting percentages have significant increased.

This season, Oladipo has been the Thunder’s second option to Westbrook, while averaging 17.3 points per game and shooting on 46 percent from the field. He’s also shooting a career-high from three, at 41.4 percent right now.

Oladipo’s motor, energy and just straight up competitive spirit is what jumps at you the most. He’s an explosive dynamic two-way guard that is capable of changing a game on both ends of the floor.

Don’t get me wrong, when you watch the Thunder play this season it’s the “Russell Westbrook Show” for sure but Westbrook’s spectacular performances make people forget how much Oladipo is helping them as well.

Victor Oladipo is only 24 years old and his game is still developing. Oladipo won’t become a superstar many thought he’d become, but he is very underrated and if head coach Bill Donovan can help evolve his game he could turn into an all-star caliber player.

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