As the top professional basketball league in the world, the NBA is full of talented cagers. However, since teams are only five allowed players at a time, underrated players may have fewer minutes than their talents warrant.
The only way for such basketball players to get more minutes is to showcase what they’ve got in moments that count.
We’ve already seen players bet on themselves over the past couple of seasons and get rewarded with more playing time and better contracts. Fred VanVleet, Jose Alvarado, and Yuta Watanabe are some of the most recent examples of this phenomenon.
The current NBA season also has an impressive pool of underrated players who fly under the radar for one reason or another. However, it cannot be denied that they are instrumental to their team’s successes and playoff hopes.
This OKBET piece will look into some top performers who aren’t seen by the media or fans outside the team as important pieces for their teams. However, we hope this listicle will help you better appreciate how these players impact their respective teams with their performances.
Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers C
If the season ends today, the Cleveland Cavaliers will play the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs’ first round. They will have a tough time against Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. However, they have Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland to neutralize the Nets’ scoring damage.
However, the key man on the Cavaliers might be their man in the middle.
Jarrett Allen is a quiet but consistent contributor to the Cavs. He will be relied upon to perform against his former team. He broke into mainstream consciousness after his viral block on LeBron James, but he brings a lot to the table for the King’s hometown team.
The one-time All-Star is having a terrific season for the Cavs, averaging 14.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks on 63.4% shooting. He’s ready to disturb any shot attempts the Nets, or any of their future playoff opponents, will try down low.
It’s understandable why Allen isn’t getting as much praise as he deserves. He’s not the primary scoring option for the Cavaliers, and Evan Mobley is the Cleveland big man getting all the love.
It’s not a stretch to say that he’s the motor of Cleveland’s defense. Without his stifling presence and consistent rebounding, the Cavs would be in a worse position than they are right now.
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks F
The New York Knicks are still far from securing their playoff spots. Still, they’re giving a frustrated Knicks fanbase a reason to be hopeful after their strong first half of the season.
Fans will point to Julius Randle playing at an All-Star Level. Others will credit Jalen Brunson’s arrival as the key element to their success. However, credit should also be given to RJ Barrett for being a solid scoring option.
Despite being the top-ranked recruit of the 2018 high school class, Zion Williamson overshadowed him with his generational athleticism and scoring skills. However, as ridiculous as it sounds, Duke fans will quickly point out how he was an underrated player for Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils.
His game successfully translated to the NBA, and he’s demanding tight defense from the Knicks’ opponents every game. He’s getting 20.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists a night on 43.1% shooting.
Barrett still has plenty of issues with his game, such as his three-point shooting and defense. However, he showed everyone that he’s a legitimate baller who can become the superstar the Knicks invested their third overall pick on.
Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies G
If you’re looking for an exciting NBA team to watch on League Pass, it has to be the Memphis Grizzlies. Ja Morant is flying through TV screens with his highlight reels. Jaren Jackson Jr. developed into a solid big who contributes on both ends. And if you’re looking for a baller with a colorful character, Dillon Brooks is your guy.
While it sounds ridiculous to consider Desmond Banes one of the biggest underrated players in the 2022/23 season, the buzz the three prior players get overshadows his accomplishments this season.
The third-year player out of TCU took a considerable leap from his second-year boom into becoming one of the Grizzlies’ top scorers this season. He’s averaging 21.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists on 55% effective field goal shooting and 42% from the three-point line.
He’s taking over games whenever Ja Morant is injured or double-teamed. His offensive flair against players like Stephen Curry makes him a beloved figure in Memphis.
The fact that he was drafted 30th in 2020 after an impressive four years with the Horned Frogs easily makes him one of the most valuable among underrated players of the last five years.
Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors F/C
We’ll end this listicle with a key cog from the Grizzlies’ biggest rivals over the past three seasons.
The Golden State Warriors revolutionized basketball after winning the 2015 NBA Finals over the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson wouldn’t be able to play freely if it weren’t for excellent bigs in Draymond Green and Kevon Looney.
Green is a lock for the Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame with his transformative style of play. However, Looney must also be given credit for becoming the big man the Warriors needed to succeed.
He developed from being a project player in the 2015 Draft into a key cog of the Warriors’ game plan. His value in the team is evident in how the team prioritized his services over Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr. during the offseason.
Looney’s stats will never wow fans who are always after the highlight reels. His career averages of 4.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 0.6 blocks won’t book him a spot at Springfield. However, his energy on defense, hustle, and intangibles make him one of the most underrated players in the Warriors roster and the entire league.
Watch Out for More Underrated Players
These players aren’t the only cagers playing out of their skin right now. Jrue Holiday is a defensive stalwart for the Milwaukee Bucks. Malcolm Brogdon is lighting up scoreboards as the Boston Celtics’ third primary scorer. Norman Powell and Kyle Kuzma are also balling for their respective teams.
These players may not get the plaudits they deserve from the media, but their fans see and appreciate what they’re doing for their teams. Players like these who do great work in silence make the NBA an exciting league to watch.