Players Who Aren't Getting Enough Love
With the ever growing volume of content that gets written about the NBA on a daily basis, you would think every single player having an outstanding year would get highlighted.
But along with the NBA, the volume of great players in the league is growing as well. No matter how vigilant you are in your quest to follow every facet of the league, some guys always slip through the cracks.
Let me help you out with that by highlighting some players who aren’t getting enough love this season.
Key Stat: .422 three point percentage
Remember before the season when everyone was so convinced the New Orleans Pelicans didn’t have enough shooting? That concern was quickly chucked out of the window, and the Pelicans offense still sits at eighth in the league, despite the loss of starting center DeMarcus Cousins.
Moore — perpetually one of the most underappreciated players in the league — is a big reason that offense is working. He gives New Orleans a super reliable 32 minutes a game from either the shooting guard or small forward position. He drills threes — 46 percent on wide open shots from three this year — plays quality defense, and can even create for himself and others when asked to.
The narrative that Cousins and Anthony Davis have no help in New Orleans often overrides the very good work of their supporting cast, and Moore has been the worst victim this year.
Key Stat: Milwaukee Bucks net rating with John Henson: +5.5
Milwaukee Bucks net rating without John Henson: -3.4
Bucks center John Henson went from interesting young player on the rise to afterthought pretty quickly. But he has quietly held things together for Milwaukee this year in some pretty meaningful ways.
Henson isn’t the sexiest option — but Milwaukee's exciting option at center, Thon Maker, has been nearly unplayable this year. After showing flashes of strong play in his rookie season, he has looked pretty lost on both ends.
Maker is still the future of the center position for the Bucks, but Giannis Antetokounmpo and co. are trying to thrive in the present — and that’s where Henson comes in. They don’t ask much of him, but he makes the defense click, and puts the ball in the basket 58 percent of the time.
At times, the young Bucks seem like all ceiling and no floor — Henson helps lay that floor while the team builds towards that ceiling.
Key Stat: Chicago Bulls offensive rating with Portis: 108.5
Chicago Bulls offensive rating without Portis: 97.3
When Nikola Mirotic returned from injury earlier this season, the Bulls had an incredible run where the team went 16-8, after starting the season 3-20.
Mirotic understandably got the lion’s share of the spotlight during this stretch. He was shooting the lights out, and he was the crunch time hero time and time again. But at its core, any and all Bulls success this season has started with center Bobby Portis.
His numbers have been solid overall — 13 points, 1.6 assists, and 6.5 rebounds on 47 percent shooting — but if you take a look at Chicago’s lineup data, it becomes clear that Portis is the team’s engine.
Of the Bulls’ two-man pairs who have played at least 100 minutes together, Portis is a part of four of the best five.
The young center’s future was blurry during his first two years, but he has put it together in a nice way this year, and has earned a spot in the Bulls’ promising future.
Key Stat: .615 True Shooting percentage
Minnesota’s offseason signing of veteran power forward Taj Gibson was met with mixed reviews. Everyone knows Gibson is a good player, but he plays maybe the most outdated role in all of basketball: the conventional power forward.
Despite an attempt to add a corner three to his arsenal — he’s 7/24 from there — Gibson is not a shooter. He’s not a ball handler, or a shot creator — he’s a low-post hound, a rebounder, and a physical defender. All useful skills, of course. But he’s the type of player who has so often been played off of the floor in recent years.
Regardless, Gibson has been crucial for the young Wolves. He’s managed to be hugely impactful on both ends, with excellent efficiency on the offensive end and great veteran prowess on the defensive end.
Overall, the Wolves are ten points better per 100 possessions with Gibson on the floor versus off, a better mark than any Timberwolf not named Butler or Towns. Gibson has given Minnesota starter minutes, and he’s impacted the game like a star.
Key Stat: 2016-17 three point percentage on catch and shoot attempts: 32.6
2017-18 three point percentage on catch and shoot attempts: 39.4
Philadelphia 76ers forward Dario Saric is not exactly a comprehensive fit next to Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Saric wants the ball in his hands. He wants to do his funky, ugly thing — creating his own shots, making creative plays for others, and turning the ball over. When he had the chance to during his rookie season, he averaged 2.2 assists per game, and matched it with 2.3 turnovers.
That makes his reinvention this year all the more impressive. After a slow start, he’s transformed his game to work within the system that has led the Sixers to a 32-27 record.
The Croatian big has made himself into a major spot-up threat, he keeps the ball moving, and he’s a functional link on defense. Saric’s future is likely best spent on a team where he can take on a bigger role, but his adaptability may prove to be one of his best traits throughout a long career.