Finding an underrated player on the worst team in the Western Conference is no easy task, but even the Utah Jazz have a few guys who may not have gotten their due this season.
The likes of Jeremy Evans, Rudy Gobert and Diante Garrett have understandably taken a backseat to the bigger names.
The most recognizable players on the team are also the most talented. They're the five young lottery picks from the 2010, 2011 and 2013 drafts: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Trey Burke.
Each of the five has done plenty of good this season, and they're all under the age of 25. But underrated? Probably not.
In some cases, there might be a little overrating going on.
Burke's managed to avoid much criticism despite shooting 37.8 percent from the field. Hayward could be on the verge of No. 1 option money, while his own shooting percentages of 41.4 and 31.3 suggest he may be worth less:
Derrick Favors is known as the team's defensive anchor, despite opponents shooting better from the field when he's on the floor than when he's off.
That's not nitpicking, it's just a few observations to show those guys probably aren't underrated.
So who on the team is? Who might not be getting the credit he's due?
Let's start with the backup point guard, Garrett. No, he's not a fantastic player. His averages of 3.7 points and 1.8 assists a game illustrate that. But one way in which he is underrated is as a legitimate floor-spacer.
On the season, he's shooting 38.2 percent from three-point range, and he's actually showed slight improvement as he's acclimated to his role. Since Jan. 1, he's at 40.3 percent.
But one possibly underrated skill doesn't make Garrett Utah's most underrated player.
Another candidate would be the rookie, 7'2" center Gobert. Again, he has his obvious faults—almost no hands or offensive skills—but what he does do is highly underrated.
As a rebounder and rim protector, Gobert is NBA-ready.
Among Jazz players, only Andris Biedrins—who's played a total of 45 minutes this season—has a higher rebounding percentage than Gobert's 19.5. And his block percentage is by far the best on the team. Favors is second, and his is just over half Gobert's:
Granted, a lot of Gobert's minutes are in garbage time, so he's collecting most of his rebounds and blocks against fellow third-string players. But there's no doubt he has the physical tools to dominate those two areas.
Still, he's a third-string player who can't stay on the floor because he's constantly fouling people and looks bewildered on offense at times.
So the only name left from the aforementioned players who've taken a backseat is Evans. And he's done so after being a part of the rotation for the majority of the season.
From opening night until March 18, Evans played 18.7 minutes a game and led the Jazz in field-goal percentage at 53.8.
He was the cliched energy player who always fought for offensive boards and sprinted the floor on breaks and when getting back on defense.
Then inexplicably, he just stopped playing:
Evans has appeared in five of Utah's last six games and is averaging just 6.4 minutes in those appearances.
And his downgraded role didn't coincide with an uptick in time and development for other young players. Instead, two veterans on expiring contracts—Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson—have benefited most from Tyrone Corbin's "playoff rotation."
Whatever the reason for the demotion, it certainly couldn't have been Evans' play on the floor. He's been steady as a rebounder, defender, finisher and mid-range shooter throughout the season on his way to a player efficiency rating of 16.6. Favors' 18.5 is the only PER on the Jazz that's better.
Perhaps the next coach of the Jazz will place more value on Evans' contributions. Or if Corbin is still around, maybe he'll realize his team was more effective when he played the athletic forward. After all, Utah's net offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) was three better when Evans was on the floor this season:
|On − Off||UTA||+4.5||+4.5||+6.1||+1.1||+0.9||+3.0|
Despite being removed from Utah's rotation as this season winds down, Evans has proven that he can definitely make an impact at this level.
Hopefully, he'll get more of a chance to do so in 2014-15.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.
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