Every year NBA fans go crazy over highlight plays and what superstars are doing around the league. What about the underrated guys? It feels like only the big name guys get all the love and appreciation. While all the big name stars are getting their love, there are a lot of players who do all the dirty work and will produce for your team on a nightly basis. Players that you absolutely must have to win games.
These players are often overlooked and are considered to some, underrated. There are also stars in the NBA that are underrated. We aren’t going to be touching on those stars, such as Jrue Holiday, DeMar Derozan, Kyle Lowry, Devin Booker, etc. I will focus more on the other category of underrated in today’s list.
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Marcus Smart is one of the key players for the Boston Celtics. Although the Celtics have struggled so far this season, only being the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, Marcus Smart has been out a lot due to injuries. When he was absent, you could definitely tell the difference in the team. They were struggling pretty heavy. When Smart is on the floor, the team just looks completely different.
Smart is one of the few guards in the league that can guard almost every position. Besides Russell Westbrook, no other guard has his combination of strength, physicality, and craftiness. His play though isn’t as reckless as Westbrook’s though. It is more quick and subtle rather than brash.
Marcus Smart also entered the league with the perception that he couldn’t shoot. Which was pretty accurate for the most part. But over time, Smart has turned himself into a real threat from beyond the arc. There have been playoff games where he will go on a tear and catch fire from three. He has been drilling about 36% of his threes since 2017 and is still developing his game.
Cam Johnson, Phoenix Suns
Cam Johnson entered the NBA in 2019, getting selected with pick number 11 by the Suns. Back then, the pick surprised everyone. Most people thought that 11 was a reach for Johnson. Looking back on that now, those people were wrong.
Cam Johnson is a steady rotation player for the second best team in the NBA, according to the newest NBA power rankings. Johnson is one of the most impactful players in his draft class. He does everything you would want from a modern-day 3&D guy. He is shooting 38% from three-point range and has expanded his game to become a three level scorer. Johnson has found himself getting comfortable in drive and kick situations and even has the pull-up jumper when necessary.
He now has a positive net rating on offense and defense and continues to torch other benches around the league. Cam Johnson is considered a draft day steal for the Suns.
Larry Nance Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers
Larry Nance Jr. is the player that the Cavaliers use to do everything for them. He doesn’t get talked about enough and is not mentioned enough when it comes to underrated talks. This is probably because he plays for the Cavs.
Nance is very versatile. He can play on the wing, play in the post, shoot threes, shoot hook shots, make the extra pass, and defend anyone in front of him. There are times where the Cavaliers will stick Larry Nance on Ben Simmons, then turn around the next game and put him on Myles Turner. He can also switch onto anyone. I have seen him keep up with Jrue Holiday and Malcolm Brogdon.
Nance has a very particular skill set that doesn’t really get noticed. He hasn’t played a ton due to injuries this season, but when he has he has put up some decent numbers. He shoots about 38% from three point range and snags about eight rebounds a game. Again Nance has only been able to play in half of the games this season for the Cavs.
I’m sure the duo of “SexLand” will love to have him back out on the court.
Kyle Anderson, Memphis Grizzlies
When trying to defend the underrated argument for Kyle Anderson, you have to dive deep into the details and advanced stats and study the details of his game to see the perspective. The normal stats you look at aren’t going to impress greatly.
Anderson isn’t the best athlete. He isn’t explosive, not looking to create his own jumper, and wasn’t one to shoot a bunch of threes until this season.
Anderson is 6’9 with a 7’3 wingspan. He uses his length to cause havoc on defense and can quickly use that to run the fast break. The forward has great vision and floor positioning that allows him to get open in the fast break that allows him to set up teammates. He knows how to take weird and different angles to get to the basket and seems like everything he does seems calculated. Even when he picks up the dribble and nobody seems to know why. It is his ability to be deliberate about everything he does that makes his play an art form.
Anderson will always be looked at for his limitations on offense. He is shooting about 42% from three-point range in the corners but shoots a bit too much from mid range.
Everything that Anderson does is the exact thing that no one wants to see anymore in their wings, but that is what makes it fun to watch. He finds a way to get the job done for a young Grizzlies team that sometimes needs a spark.
Richaun Holmes, Sacramento Kings
I am a very big fan of Richaun Holmes and it seems like he never gets any appreciation around the NBA. Not even by his own team. His minutes have even seemed to drop because of how many players they had in the frontcourt.
When Sacramento plays its best, Holmes is vital to that success. The Kings don’t like to use him for shooting threes, even though he is capable of doing so on occasion. Unlike many of other big men, Holmes has a nice floater game that he can use in the pick and roll with his guards. He works very well with the guards the Kings have. And on the offensive glass? Few players work harder. On offense, Holmes is great. He is shooting 77% on jumpers this season and about 71% on two pointers.
Defense has never been the strong suit of Holmes, but he is capable of defending. He is a pretty solid rim protector. He does enough to where he can make up for it on the offensive end.