It is always difficult gauging whether a player is underrated, overrated, or properly rated. For example, Jeremy Lin went from being one of the most underrated players in NBA history to being a very overrated player in half a season. Just three years ago, Lin barely made it to the NBA after playing in the Summer League for the Dallas Mavericks before finally being picked up by the New York Knicks as their 13th man in the regular season. Of course, eventually Lin got the opportunity to showcase what he could do and soon enough Linsanity was born. Linsanity was no fluke, as Jeremy Lin put on a show game after game. Still, there were plenty of naysayers saying that he was nothing more than a back-up point guard in the NBA.
The Houston Rockets, however, didn’t think so and they inked Lin to a 3-year deal worth $25 million. And just like that Lin went from being one of the most underrated players in NBA history to one of the more overrated players in the NBA. Within just one-year of his three-year contract, Lin lost his starting job to Patrick Beverly who happened to be making less than $1 million a year, which made Lin look even worse.
So, as you can see, it is really difficult to gauge whether a player is underrated, overrated, or properly rated because they can slide up and down this scale in a matter of one-year or even less. And it is not solely about their level of talent, but their contract is also supposed to be commensurate with their ability, which of course can make a player underpaid, overpaid, or just right.
Below is a list of the top-20 players that are the most underrated in the NBA right now. Rookies from last year were excluded because it is impossible to tell whether they are underrated, overrated, or just right based upon a sample size of a single season. These are the players that are overlooked, perhaps underpaid, but most definitely underrated.
20 Patty Mills – San Antonio Spurs
Just two years ago, Patty Mills main role with the San Antonio Spurs was warming up the bench and waving a towel as their team mascot and cheerleading captain. Last year, however, was a breakout year for Patty Mills. Mills overtook Corey Joseph as the primary backup to Tony Parker and became a key cog to the Spurs winning their fifth NBA Championship. Due to shoulder surgery in the offseason, many teams were scared to sign the 3-point specialist to a contract, so the Spurs were extremely fortunate to re-sign him to a 3-year deal worth only $12 million.
19 Markieff Morris – Phoenix Suns
Markieff Morris saw a major spike to his game last yea,r as the third year player improved upon his sophomore season by nearly 5 points per game. During his second season, Markieff only averaged 8.2 points per game, but by his third year, he averaged 13.8 points per game. At nearly 6’10” Morris can play the small forward and power forward position as either a post-up threat or a stretch four. He is one of the most versatile players in the league bar none.
18 Ty Lawson – Denver Nuggets
For a point guard to be tied for the top 2 in assists in a point guard saturated league and still get no love whatsoever for an All Star game, goes to show you how overlooked Ty Lawson often is. Last year, Lawson averaged 17.6 points per game and 8.8 assists per game. He shot a respectable 35% from long distance and stole the ball 1.6 times per game. Lawson does not have many flaws to his game and is one of the best and fastest point guards in the game. The only reason why he is not lower on this list is because he is being paid handsomely by the Denver Nuggets who seem to be the only team that recognized his worth.
17 Miles Plumlee – Phoenix Suns
The sophomore year center went from playing 14 games his rookie year to 80 games his second year as the starting center for the run and gun Phoenix Suns. Therefore he saw his numbers spike from 0.9 points per game to 8.1 points per game. Furthermore, Plumlee has established himself as a legitimate shot blocker despite being slightly undersized at 6’10.” There is no doubt that Plumlee is a good piece for this young and upcoming team.
16 Danny Green – San Antonio Spurs
Danny Green is one of the Cinderella stories in the league. He went from being cut by the San Antonio Spurs to becoming their starting two guard for their Championship team. Everyone knows about Green’s 3-point shooting ability, which was on full display during the NBA Finals, but what most people do not realize is that Green is a solid two-way player. Green averaged nearly 1 block per game last year as a two-guard, which makes him one of the best deals in the league.
15 Anderson Varejao – Cleveland Cavaliers
Anderson Varejao has been a bit forgotten over the past four years due to LeBron’s departure and a string of injuries that forced him to sit a lot of games, however, when healthy Andy is an automatic double-double every game. Varejao is not a great shot blocker, but he is one of the best garbage men in the league; the type of player that you never have to call a play for.
14 Trevor Ariza – Houston Rockets
Ariza had a bit of a breakout year last year, which was expected since he was a free agent, but it still did not land him the type of contract he might be worthy of. Last year, Ariza averaged 14.4 points per game, 1.6 steals per game, and shot over 40% from long distance. He was the perfect compliment to John Wall and Bradley Beal, but it still only landed him a 4-year deal worth $32 million with the Houston Rockets.
13 Tobias Harris – Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic had an abysmal season last year as they continually try to reconstruct their team with their new youth movement. The fifth year player started off the season a bit slow due to a nagging ankle injury, but he was still able to play 61 games during the season. During those 61 games, Harris averaged 14.6 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game, and he is poised to have an even better year this year if can play with the team during training camp.
12 Harrison Barnes – Golden State Warriors
Harrison Barnes went from a starter his rookie year to a bench player his sophomore year due to the acquisition of Andre Iguodala, but despite being demoted to the bench, Barnes still maintained the same averages from his rookie season. At 6’8” Barnes possesses great size and a tremendous amount of athleticism. His natural position might be as a power forward, so if new coach Steve Kerr knows how to utilize this weapon properly, Barnes will flourish.
11 Jose Calderon – New York Knicks
The nine-year veteran point guard continues to get overlooked each and every season. After a great playoff performance for the Dallas Mavericks last season, the Mavs decided to trade him to the New York Knicks. Calderon’s numbers won’t jump out at you, but he is one of the best passers and shooters in the league. Calderon averaged a blistering 45% from 3-point land last year and that was without a post-up threat commanding a double team inside.
10 Robin Lopez – Portland Trailblazers
Do you want to know why LaMarcus Aldridge had such a breakout year last year and why the Portland Trailblazers beat the Houston Rockets in the playoffs? His name is Robin Lopez. Lopez has been overshadowed by his older brother Brook for most of his career, but Robin is more than a serviceable center. Last year, Lopez averaged 4.0 offensive rebounds per game, which allowed Aldridge to float on the perimeter and the guards to bomb three pointers without having to feel guilty about it.
9 Spencer Hawes – Cleveland Cavaliers
Spencer Hawes was traded in the middle of the season by the Philadelphia Sixers last year to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Most people do not think of centers as 3-point shooting specialists, but Hawes averaged 3.9 three-point attempts per game while hitting a very respectable 44% from downtown. He is a unique talent and one that spaces the floor up very well by drawing the opponent’s big man to the perimeter.
8 Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls
Jimmy Butler remains one of the most durable players in the league. Last season, Butler averaged 43.6 minutes per game during the playoffs, and even played over 50 minutes in an overtime game once. He averaged 1.9 steals per game last year and is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Butler is still on his rookie contract, so it will be interesting to see what kind of contract he will garner.
7 Gerald Green – Phoenix Suns
Gerald Green’s career exploded after being traded from the Indiana Pacers to the Phoenix Suns. The Suns offensive scheme was much more oriented to Green’s type of game, so it is no coincidence that he averaged 15.8 points per game last year, while attempting 6.2 three-point attempts per game. Green is one of the most athletic players in the game and has proven to all of his critics that he is a bona fide and legitimate NBA player.
6 Terrence Jones – Houston Rockets
The sophomore power forward earned himself a starting gig last year and went from playing 19 games his rookie year to 76 games last year. Terrence Jones is one of those unique players in the game that can actually blocks shots (1.3 blocks per game) and shoot threes (1.3 three-point attempts per game). Believe it or not, these types of players are quite rare and it really goes to show you the kind of two-way player that Terrence Jones is.
5 Arron Afflalo – Orlando Magic
Afflalo earned somewhat of a lucrative contract 3-years ago, but he is still overlooked year after year. Last season, Afflalo averaged 18.2 points per game and attempted nearly 4.1 three-point attempts per game. He is an above average offensive player and defensive player, yet he is rarely considered in the top 10 for best shooting guards in the league.
4 Wes Matthews – Portland Trailblazers
Wes Matthews had a career season last year with an average of 16.4 points per game and was one of the key reasons the Portland Trailblazers made it to the playoffs after their little drought. Matthews is an offensive and defensive weapon. Last year, he averaged 6.2 three-point attempts per game and shot them at a 39% clip. Additionally, at 220 pounds he is one of the stronger shooting guards in the league.
3 Isaiah Thomas – Phoenix Suns
The little fella has been overlooked his entire career. At 5’9” Isaiah Thomas developed a Napoleon Complex and was always able to prove his critics wrong. Last season, IT averaged 20.3 points per game and 6.3 assists per game, but was still traded by the Sacramento Kings because they did not believe he was a starting point guard. Now, that he is on the Phoenix Suns, Thomas is going to put on his talents on full display, especially now that he does not have to dump the ball down low to DeMarcus Cousins every play.
2 Boris Diaw – San Antonio Spurs
For the past few years, the only thing Boris Diaw was known for was the fat jokes being made about him. But after a forgetful stint with the Charlotte Hornets, Diaw was able to resurrect his career with the San Antonio Spurs. The pass first point forward is one of the most versatile players in the league. Whether it is guarding LeBron James or Zach Randolph, he can do just about everything, which is why the Spurs made it their top priority to sign him back this off season.
1 Nikola Vucevic – Orlando Magic
You can count on one hand the number of players in the league that average a double-double with points and rebounds per game. Vucevic averaged 14.2 points per game and 11.0 rebounds per game last year. He is one of the most consistent players in the league and was a steal with the 16th pick in the 2011 draft. The real way of testing how underrated and undervalued Vucevic will be when his rookie contract expires this year and what he will eventually be re-signed to.