The Most Underappreciated Player on Every NBA Team

John DornCorrespondent IIIAugust 28, 2014

The Most Underappreciated Player on Every NBA Team

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    In a league as star-driven as the NBA, there tend to be a handful of players that fall through the mainstream media's cracks. They could be the guys that are overshadowed by flashier teammates or players that simply don't draw that much attention to themselves.

    For whatever reason, each team in the league can probably point to a handful of players that deserve more shine.

    Ahead, we'll pick one man from each of the league's 30 units that has been quietly getting the job done. This is both a positive and negative list to land on, but hopefully for these guys' sakes, it's only the start of a much bigger conversation.

Atlanta Hawks

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    DeMarre Carroll

    They’re his fifth team in as many NBA seasons, but DeMarre Carroll has found a home with the Atlanta Hawks.

    He averaged 11 points and 5.5 rebounds over 32 minutes last season and posted the team’s third-highest true shooting percentage and win-share total. The Hawks were a combined 10 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor.

    Though he’s not an elite scorer, he’s able to shoot the three-ball at a league average clip—he shot 36 percent from distance last year—and shot 47 percent overall in 2013-14, including 69.5 percent within three feet of the basket.

    He held opposing small forwards to a player efficiency rating of just 13.1, a 48.6 effective field-goal clip and under seven boards per 48 minutes.

    He’s a low-key difference-maker on a team that should be sneakily competitive in the new Eastern Conference next year.

Brooklyn Nets

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    Mason Plumlee

    He’s gained a bit of mainstream popularity with his appearance on Team USA’s final roster for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, but on a roster full of high profiles and underachievers, Mason Plumlee stands out as the most undervalued Brooklyn Net—especially when you take his mere $1.4 million salary for 2013-14 into account.

    He appeared in 70 games (22 starts) for Brooklyn as a rookie and logged around 18 minutes nightly, posting 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds on average.

    Though in a small sample, Plumlee’s PER of 19.0 was better than every Net except Brook Lopez, and his .670 true shooting percentage would’ve been the best in the NBA if he played enough to qualify for the leaderboard.

    With his average shot distance clocking in at under three feet from the rim as a rookie, he’ll need to improve his arsenal with the ball in his hands moving forward. Adding bulk to his frame in order to help stop opposing centers at the rim will be useful too.

    But considering his cost to the team versus his overall production, the 24-year-old packs is the best value Brooklyn has.

Boston Celtics

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    Jared Sullinger

    With little established talent throughout the Boston Celtics’ roster, Jared Sullinger has strangely become one of the team’s most reliable performers. Still only 22 years old, Boston was roughly six points per 100 possessions better with Sullinger on the floor in 2013-14.

    His shooting numbers dwindled in his sophomore year after an encouraging rookie campaign—he ended last season by shooting just 39.7 percent over his last 25 games.

    However, he was the team’s leading rebounder at 8.1 per contest and his assist percentage was the team’s third-highest among non-guards.

    His salary is the second-lowest guaranteed number Boston has on its books this year, and he’s one of just four Celtics to combine for six win shares over the past two seasons. That’s not bad value.

Charlotte Hornets

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    Noah Vonleh

    Noah Vonleh’s draft status took a fall just before the night it all went down last June, but the lengthy big man still has the potential to make a giant impact for the new-look Charlotte Hornets this season.

    In his only season at Indiana, he averaged 11 points on 52.3 percent shooting and nine rebounds over 26.5 minutes. He drained 16 of his 33 three-pointers (48.5 percent) and has the ability to space the Hornets offense out to give Al Jefferson room to operate in the middle as well as provide Charlotte’s attacking guards with room to cut to the hoop.

    In March, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman wrote about Vonleh's future as a pro:

    He's got a body that's built for the NBA paint. Despite playing less than 27 minutes a game, Vonleh still led the Big Ten in rebounding. He takes up a ton of space inside, and he's got the foot speed to match his size. 

    Vonleh isn't overly explosive, but his level of athleticism supports the specific game he likes to play.

    From a physical standpoint, there's really just nothing to question, and plenty to praise and admire. Only he's not just straight physical tools—Vonleh already has a legitimate offensive game to go with them. 

    He’s 6’10”, 240 pounds and his 7’4” wingspan should translate well on the defensive end. He just turned 19 this past week and is on a rookie-scale deal, which could have a real effect on the Hornets’ output on both ends early on.

Chicago Bulls

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    Mike Dunleavy

    Somehow surviving the Chicago Bulls’ array of salary-slashing, luxury-tax-avoiding moves, Mike Dunleavy may provide the team with the best bang for its buck.

    In the second year of an extremely favorable two-year deal that’ll pay him only $3.3 million this season, he’ll act as a legitimate floor-spacer for a new-look Bulls offense that’s set to feature Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol.

    Last year was Dunleavy’s worst three-point shooting season since 2009-10—and he still sank 38 percent of his looks, better than any Bulls to play at least 50 minutes besides D.J. Augustin.

    Surprisingly, he was a plus on the other end as well, limiting opposing small forwards to a PER under 11 and just a 44.1 percent effective field-goal clip. With him sitting, Chicago was 3.2 points per 100 possessions worse.

    Dunleavy’s most prominent asset is his shooting ability, but his minuscule price tag and success in other areas of the game make him a bargain for any NBA team.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Dion Waiters

    His off-court issues and the team's sudden emergence of star power make it easy to overlook, but Dion Waiters still may blossom into one of the better 2-guards in the league.

    At the very least, he's certainly the best fourth option in any NBA offense.

    He's yet to post stellar numbers over a full campaign, but over his last 23 games in 2013-14, he shot 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from three while posting 19 points, 3.5 assists and a steal per contest.

    He obviously won't be able to launch 14 shot attempts up every night on this year's team, but in a diminished role, Waiters may finally break out as a reliable option in the Cavs' backcourt.

    He likely has the starting job he yearned for all summer, with Andrew Wiggins being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Under LeBron James' leadership, and on a championship-contending Cleveland team, Waiters seems to be in the perfect situation to pull all his raw talent together in 2014-15.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Brandan Wright

    May you address him as "PER Machine" Brandan Wright. Over 18.6 minutes under Rick Carlisle last year, Wright posted a 23.5 PER that landed just behind Dirk Nowitzki's 23.6 for the team lead. His 69.5 true shooting percentage was tops on the Mavs, as was his .227 win shares per 48 minutes. Wright should be a fan of this whole analytics movement.

    Though those metrics are results of a limited sample, Wright deserves to be somewhat of a household name among NBA circles. He averaged 9.1 points on just 5.7 shots last year, and his 4.2 rebounds normalize to 8.2 per 36 minutes.

    Behind Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler in the frontcourt, Wright, entering his seventh NBA season, is in a position to shine with Dallas this season.

Denver Nuggets

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    Timofey Mozgov

    With two of the Denver Nuggets' three centers sidelined for much of last year, Timofey Mozgov stood as the team's last remaining hope in the middle. And on a team without much playoff hope once he took hold of the starting job, the 28-year-old solidified his role as a legitimate center in today's league.

    At 7'1" and with a well-rounded offensive game, he's always had the tools to make an impact but has never gotten extended burn—until last season under Brian Shaw.

    After averaging less than nine minutes per game in George Karl's last season on the bench, Mozgov logged 21.6 minutes nightly for the Nugs in 2013-14, posting 9.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest.

    Denver was 5.9 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor, and if you discount JaVale McGee's five games last season, Mozgov's 11.8 offensive rebound percentage ranked third on the team.

Detroit Pistons

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    Andre Drummond

    With the Detroit Pistons' mess of a frontcourt situation last season, Andre Drummond's breakout sophomore campaign went largely unnoticed.

    At just 20 years old, Drummond scored 13.5 points a night while pulling down 13.2 rebounds, blocking 1.6 shots and coming away with 1.2 steals. He logged a PER over 21 for the second straight year and upped his true shooting percentage from 57.8 to 59.9.

    A lot of the offenseand league-wide attentionwas funneled through to Josh Smith and Greg Monroe, leaving Drummond in a crowded, unfavorable position in the paint during just his second NBA season.

    Still, the UConn product made the best of it and enjoyed one of the more successful seasons of any center in the league last year.

    With Smith and (probably) Monroe still in the picture for 2014-15, it'll be up to Stan Van Gundy to make the big-man situation work in Detroit. But if the Pistons are aware of the kind of star Drummond could develop into, they'd be wise to build things around him moving forward.

Golden State Warriors

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    Draymond Green

    Through most of his first two NBA seasons, Draymond Green was an afterthought. He was drafted in the second round of 2012, played in just 13 minutes per game in his rookie year and hadn't made much of an impact during the regular season last year in his 22 minutes per game.

    That changed when the playoffs started and Andrew Bogut was sidelined with a fractured rib, as all of Green's potential morphed into tangible results.

    As a small-ball center, Green was a legitimate difference-maker for the Warriors. With him on the floor in the postseason, Golden State was a ridiculous 28.5 points per 100 possessions better. He averaged 12 points, eight boards, two blocks and two steals per contest over the Dubs' seven-game series against the Los Angeles Clippers.

    The Warriors lost the series, but they learned a lot about Green's capabilities moving forward. New head coach Steve Kerr surely took notice, as he was calling several of those games as a color analyst, and he'll be wise to utilize the 24-year-old in a role similar to the one he filled during the postseason.

Houston Rockets

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    Terrence Jones

    With all the talk of the Houston Rockets pursuing Carmelo Anthony (per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News) and Chris Bosh (per Chris Broussard of ESPN the Magazine) this past summer, it seems Terrence Jones' status as a more than capable starter at power forward was forgotten.

    After appearing in just 19 games his rookie year, Jones was thrust into the starting lineup by Kevin McHale once the Omer Asik-Dwight Howard pairing predictably failed.

    With his role expanded, he became one of the more productive players on the roster.

    His 19.1 PER and 57.7 true shooting percentage came in third on the team (among rotation players) behind Howard and James Harden, and his defensive rebounding percentage was third behind only Howard and Asik. He shot 71.6 percent at the rim, and though his jump-shot numbers aren't spectacular, they're an improvement from his rookie year.

    He's still only 22, and with Asik completely out of the picture, Jones' role should expand even further this season.

Indiana Pacers

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    Roy Hibbert

    Yes, he was abominable in the playoffs. However, there's no way Roy Hibbert is truly that bad of a player—in fact, he's usually quite good. Last postseason may have ruined his reputation enough to make his talents a bit understated on a diminished Pacers team.

    His shooting numbers have never been anything to write home about, but as recently as 2012-13, he led all team rotation players in total rebound percentage and had the second-highest PER behind David West.

    This past season, even despite struggles offensively and on the boards, he was a perhaps the best rim protector in the league.

    According to NBA.com's player tracking data, among players who appeared in at least 20 games and defended more than nine shots at the rim per night, Hibbert held opponents to a league-low field-goal clip of 41.4 percent.

    With seemingly all the pressure taken off Indiana to exceed expectations this season after the losses of Paul George (injury) and Lance Stephenson (free agency), perhaps Hibbert can return to form in other areas of his usually respectable game.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Spencer Hawes

    After a season of unsuccessfully trying to patch up holes in the reserve frontcourt, the Clippers' addition of a truly serviceable big man shouldn't be understated.

    Last season, while taking four threes a game, Spencer Hawes shot them at a 42 percent clip. That's better than any 2013-14 Clipper aside from Sasha Vujacic and Hedo Turkoglu.

    He's also coming off his best season in terms of defensive rebound percentage—his 24.2 would've only fallen behind Vujacic (who played 10 minutes) and DeAndre Jordan for last year's team lead.

    He averaged 13.2 points on 43 percent shooting and eight boards over 31 minutes per game for the Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers, and Doc Rivers scooped him up near the beginning of free agency.

    His contract value ($5.3 million in 2014-15) may be a bit inflated for his role on the team, but he'll undoubtedly give the team an advantage where it struggled to find one in 2013-14.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Carlos Boozer

    Over the last few years with the Bulls, Carlos Boozer's bloated contract has progressively ruined his reputation as a player. But at a mere $3.2 million against the cap—as opposed to the $16.8 million he's actually earning, per Spotrac—Boozer brings good value to a bad Lakers team.

    With the Bulls over the last four seasons, he averaged 15.5 points on 49 percent shooting while also posting nine rebounds and two assists per game.

    Entering his 13th pro season, his production will likely decline further—and his defensive woes are well-known—but Los Angeles was desperate for talent this summer. At the very least, Boozer is a fine scoring option down low.

    He won't bump the Lakers into contender status, and he may not even post very attractive numbers. However, after being a punch line this summer, adding Boozer certainly didn't make the Lakers any worse.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Kosta Koufos

    The Memphis Grizzlies' trademark grit trickles all the way down the roster, especially with 25-year-old backup center Kosta Koufos.

    On his fourth NBA team, Koufos still hasn't managed to net a major frontcourt role. With Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol ahead of him in Memphis, it won't be easy. However, he's shown plenty of ability in limited time over recent years.

    Over 17 minutes per contest last season, he averaged six points, five rebounds and a block. Over 36 minutes, that equates to 14, 11 and two, respectively. Though he's averaged just 15 minutes per game for his career, his teams are a combined 1.1 points better per 100 possessions with him on the floor.

    Last year with the Grizzlies, he held opposing centers to a league-average PER, an effective field-goal rate under 50 and 13 rebounds per 48 minutes.

    In a league desperate for talent in the middle, Memphis has a reliable 7-footer on its bench who deserves much more credit than he's gotten thus far.

Miami Heat

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    Josh McRoberts

    Though Pat Riley envisioned a far different scenario for the 2014-15 season when he inked Josh McRoberts to a $23 million deal this summer, the signing is still a good one for a Miami Heat team that can still be a top seed in the East.

    It's easy to write off McRoberts and Luol Deng as consolation prizes after losing LeBron James to the Cavaliers, but the former Charlotte Bobcat brings much more to the table than many realize.

    He put up 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game last season, finishing alongside Joakim Noah and Kevin Love as one of just three players taller than 6'10" to average more than four dimes.

    While taking 3.7 attempts from three-point range nightly last season, McRoberts drilled them at a respectable 36 percent clip. From 10-16 feet out, he made more than 63 percent of his looks.

    Nobody can make up for LeBron's production, but along with Deng, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, McRoberts fills a role very nicely for Miami.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Giannis Antetokounmpo

    The Greek Freak struggled to make a huge impact on a painfully dreadful Milwaukee Bucks team in his rookie year, but his rare combination of size, athleticism and all-around talent should make for a standout player as soon as this season.

    Standing over 6'10" and possibly still growing, Giannis Antetokounmpo can soon evolve into a rare breed of NBA wing player.

    His 7'4" wingspan and mammoth hands are just two examples of what a physical marvel the 19-year-old truly is.

    Over 25 minutes per game as a rookie, Giannis averaged 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists for the Bucks, though he shot under 42 percent from the field. Defensively, he held both small forwards and shooting guards to near-league-average PERs.

    Though his numbers may not seem overly impactful, Milwaukee was more than seven points per 100 possessions better with him playing.

    With plenty of room for growth in his game, and playing next to legitimate talents in Larry Sanders and Jabari Parker next season, it's only a matter of time before Antetokounmpo shows significant strides.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Gorgui Dieng

    It took Gorgui Dieng until mid-March to earn a role on the Minnesota Timberwolves, but once he did, it seemed as if he belonged there all along.

    He appeared in only 41 of the team’s first 64 games, playing a mere six minutes per contest. However, Dieng started 15 of Minnesota’s final 19, averaging 30 minutes, 12 points, 11 rebounds and a block per night.

    Dieng is 6’11″ and can protect the rim defensively while working well in the screen-and-roll. Most of his offense originated within 10 feet of the rim last season, but he also shot 52 percent between 10 and 16 feet, leaving room for optimism in terms of offensive growth.

    A year ago as a draft prospect, it was unknown how his game would transfer to the pro level.

    After a later-season impression made on the organization, and Kevin Love now a Cavalier, Dieng should have a prime role on a young, rebuilding Timberwolves team.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    Ryan Anderson

    Before suffering a season-ending back injury early last season, Ryan Anderson was enjoying breakout success with the New Orleans Pelicans. Over his first 22 games (14 starts) Anderson was averaging a career-high 19.8 points per contest to go along with 6.5 rebounds and a 41 percent clip from downtown.

    But that was all New Orleans saw of him.

    According to NOLA.com's Rachel Whittaker, he expects to be back for the start of this upcoming season, and if he returns in anywhere near the form he was in last season, the Pelicans may put out one of the more potent offenses in the West.

    He's a career 39 percent shooter from three-point range, and at 6'10", he creates mismatches almost every night. He's been a net positive in all but one of his six NBA seasons and has posted an individual offensive efficiency above 120 on three separate seasons.

    With Anthony Davis, New Orleans could boast one of the better scoring frontcourt pairs in the league.

New York Knicks

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    Iman Shumpert

    In his third year last season, Iman Shumpert was expected to leap into the next tier of NBA youth after an impressive 2013 postseason.

    Though his 2013-14 stat line looks mediocre at best, what Shumpert brings to the table is something the New York Knicks can't find anywhere else.

    Averages of 6.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game don't do his season justice. His 37.8 field-goal percentage and 33.3 percent three-point clip are indicative of the swingman's shooting struggles, but there's still more to the story.

    He grabbed 14 percent of available defensive rebounds last year, which was one of just 13 instances in league history when a player 6'5" or shorter posted that number in his first three NBA seasons.

    The team's defensive rating improved by nine points per 100 possessions with Shumpert on the floor, and the offense improved by 3.3 points per 100. His plus-12.3 net rating was the second-best in New York behind Carmelo Anthony's.

    Shumpert had a down year, but judging him by offensive output is never a proper measurement of his value. Even when he's not shooting particularly well, his impact is felt on both ends.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Jeremy Lamb

    Assuming Scott Brooks unleashes the 22-year-old more than he did last season, Jeremy Lamb should take over as the Oklahoma City Thunder's go-to shooting guard. This coming after two seasons of sporadic minutes, and only 100 minutes of playoff action (all last season).

    Lamb contributed 8.5 points over his 19.7 minutes per game last year, shooting 43 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point distance.

    With Anthony Morrow being the only other shooting guard on the roster for OKC this year, Lamb should certainly get a chance to prove himself early on.

    Over two years at UConn, he shot 48 percent from the field, averaging 18 points, five rebounds and two assists per contest in his final season before hitting the draft.

    With him on the floor last season, the Thunder outscored their opponents by 7.9 points per 100 possessions, which was a 1.8-point increase over their numbers with him sitting. With a bigger role this season, don't be surprised if Lamb has an even bigger impact in 2015.

     

Orlando Magic

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    Channing Frye

    The Orlando Magic shelled out $32 million for him this summer, but it's still important to understand how meaningful Channing Frye is to the team. Over his four seasons with Phoenix, the Suns were better by at least 5.7 points per 100 possessions every year.

    He's a career 38.5 percent shooter from three-point range, and at 6'11", he provides Orlando with the shooting prowess it needs to space things out for its attacking wings.

    With so many players able to attack inside, the team was desperate for a player that could stretch the offense, and Frye brings that to the table.

    He started all 82 games on a surprisingly effective Suns team last year, and the team's eighth-ranked offense surely benefited from Frye's presenceeven if he posted the 10th-highest usage rating on the team.

    He'll likely have the same effect with Orlando, which has plenty of talented pieces but has been looking for a winning combination to put it all together.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Hollis Thompson

    Scanning the Philadelphia 76ers' roster for names that sound familiar isn't easy. Neither is taking a gander at last year's statistics.

    While next year's team may very well be historically bad, there are a handful of players that may be good enough to stick around if/when Sam Hinkie rights this ship. Former Georgetown Hoya Hollis Thompson could be one of them.

    Thompson went from being undrafted to starting games for Philly in one season and can contribute on both ends of the floor. He's got prototypical small forward size at 6'8", 206 pounds and can be one of those three-and-D wings down the line.

    Last season, speaking with the Delaware County Daily Times, former San Antonio Spurs assistant and current Sixers head coach Brett Brown compared him to a former Spur: Bruce Bowen.

    Thompson responded to the comparisons:

    “Whatever’s gonna get you on the court,” Thompson said. “(Brown) just tells me he wants me to come in and make it hard for somebody. Just the little things like putting a hand up on somebody and contesting shots. ...

    “He’s an awesome defender. I’ve got a long way to get there, but I’d love to be a Bruce Bowen-type defender.” said Thompson.

    In his 41 starts, Thompson knocked down 41 percent of his threes and averaged 6.7 points and 3.5 rebounds over 27 minutes. Though the 76ers as a unit may not be a group that sticks around for a while, Thompson seems to have a future in the league if he can build on his rookie success.

Phoenix Suns

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    Gerald Green

    It's understandable to think of Gerald Green primarily as a ferocious dunker—as long as you also realize that other important areas of his game are becoming increasingly solid as well.

    He averaged 16 points a night for the Suns last season on 44.5 percent shooting, making 40 percent of his threes while shooting six a game. Defensively, he held shooting guards to a 15.9 PER and 50.7 effective field-goal rating, and opposing 3s to an 8.6 PER and 42.6 effective field-goal mark.

    At 28, he seems to be realizing his game's strengths, which are spacing the floor with elite shooting from distance and occasionally dashing to the rim for ferocious slams.

    In a lineup with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, he only needs to continue his three-point dominance to fill a role offensively. If he can build off a resurgent, successful season during 2013-14, Green can certainly carve out a role in the NBA moving forward.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Wesley Matthews

    Perhaps the most low-key member of the Portland Trail Blazers' core five last year, Wesley Matthews was a key part of the team's impressive run.

    He made a consistent effort defensively, was reliable with the ball in his hands and started all 93 games for Portland including the postseason.

    He shot at the third-highest true shooting clip on the team. He connected on 39 percent of his threes, and the team was 3.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court—in fact, he's been a net negative just once in his career, which was in his rookie campaign with the Utah Jazz.

    He held his shooting-guard counterparts to a 12.9 PER all year and received votes for this past year's NBA All-Defensive Team.

    Jason Hortsch of Rip City Project recently discussed Matthews' quiet surge to the top of his position last season:

    Recognizing that the ESPN positional assignments are somewhat kooky and Goran Dragic is actually a point guard, Gordon Hayward is actually a small forward, andTrevor Ariza (now in the West) is also a small forward, there are only five Western Conference shooting guards ahead of Matthews in PER – James HardenJamal CrawfordMonta EllisKevin Martin, and Arron Afflalo (the jury is out on Kobe Bryantas he returns from injury).

    Looking at this list, it is easy to see one of PER’s biggest weaknesses – properly valuing defense. The statistic is notorious for undervaluing defensive contributions (due to the difficulty of quantifying such measures), and this list cements this idea. I would take Matthews over any of these five players without question on the defensive end, which comprises a solid half the game of basketball.

    ...

    When it is all said and done, Matthews stacks up incredibly favorably against the league’s other shooting guards. With the current glut of talent at other positions (such as point guard and small forward), Matthews represents one area in which the Blazers could often times walk into a game with an immediate advantage.

    Matthews' all-around game has become increasingly solid over recent years, and his impressive output on the defensive end helps explain why his rise hasn't been very well-documented overall.

Sacramento Kings

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    Rudy Gay

    His reputation has taken a bit of a nosedive, dating back to his latter days with the Memphis Grizzlies, but after Rudy Gay's resurgence with the Sacramento Kings last season, prior critiques of his game might not be as accurate anymore.

    Notorious for killing possessions with isolation looks that typically ended in the inefficient mid-range area, Gay's field-goal percentage improved from 38.8 over 18 games with the Toronto Raptors last season to 48.2 percent with the Kings over the final 55.

    He cut his field-goal attempts from nearly 19 a game to 15.3 and averaged more points than he did with the Raps. As you'd imagine, his net rating rose from minus-5.7 with Toronto to plus-2.4 with Sacramento.

    Gay opted into this season for $19.3 million in order to help reverse his reputation even further, and that doesn't seem all that unrealistic. He finally seems to have understood the flaws in his game and has worked to correct them.

    If you're still marking Gay as the poster boy (in a negative sense) for analytical player analysis, this might be a good time to find somebody new.

San Antonio Spurs

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    Tiago Splitter

    Don't let Tiago Splitter's offensive limitations fool you. The way he impacts the game defensively and on the boards, while playing within his offensive role, is tremendously valuable to the San Antonio Spurs' success.

    According to mySynergySports (subscription required), he held post-up players to 0.72 points per play, which ranked 43rd among all players league-wide.

    He averaged eight points and six rebounds over 22 minutes per game this past season and grabbed 16.1 percent of all available rebounds while he was on the floor—including 11.4 percent of available offensive boards.

    Over 36 minutes, his 2013-14 numbers normalize to 13.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and a block, which, when you consider his defensive impact, could put him into the Tyson Chandler realm of NBA centers if he continues to improve and is given more time on the floor.

Toronto Raptors

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    Greivis Vasquez

    The Toronto Raptors solidified their point guard future when they re-signed Kyle Lowry for four years, but they also made the wise decision of bringing back Lowry's backup, Greivis Vasquezeven if it was a small overpayment.

    Vasquez was brought over to Toronto in the Rudy Gay trade, and after joining the Raps, his game improved almost immediately. His frequent pairing with Lowry was largely responsible.

    Among Lowry's most frequent two-man lineups, it was the one with Vasquez that posted the highest efficiency: plus-17.6. The same can be said for Vasquez.

    With the New Orleans Hornets in 2012-13, Vasquez averaged nine assists, finishing among the league leaders. While sharing the backcourt with another natural point guard in Toronto, he still logged 29.5 percent of the team's assists while he was on the floor.

    Lowry is the team's best player, and a Lowry-Vasquez pairing brings the best out of both. There's value in bringing the best out of teammates, and Vasquez has developed that trait over recent years.

Utah Jazz

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    Alec Burks

    The dynamic of a potential Dante Exum-Trey Burke pairing has been the talk of the summer in Jazzland, but it'll be interesting to monitor how Alec Burks factors into the rotation.

    Burks averaged 14 points last season on 45 percent shooting, while grabbing three rebounds, dishing three assists and coming away with a steal over 28 minutes per game. He's still only 23, and despite being a 12th overall selection in 2011, hasn't been as publicized as Burke or even the newly drafted Exum.

    At a lanky 6'6", he could run minutes at the 3, but his more natural spot at this stage is in the backcourt.

    Defensively this past season, he held shooting guards to a 15.9 PER and a 50.6 effective field-goal percentage.

    He posted the fourth-highest PER on the team and the fifth-best true shooting-percentage. Among guards, he was the best on the team at getting to the free-throw line, posting a 44.9 free-throw rate (number of free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt), more than tripling Burke's mark.

    Burks has the potential to blossom into a very steady all-around option for the Jazz. This season, with Exum and Burke in the mix, will be very indicative of Utah's plans for him moving forward.

Washington Wizards

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    Martell Webster

    The Washington Wizards' success last year was the result of several productive parts working together, and Martell Webster was an underrated piece. Over 27.7 minutes per game, he averaged 9.7 points on 43.3 percent shooting while nailing 39.2 percent of his threes.

    Defensively, he held shooting guards and small forwards to PERs of 10.4 and 12.5, respectively, and effective field-goal rates under 49 percent.

    With John Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene and Marcin Gortat around to do the heavy lifting on offense, Webster's role has mainly been to camp along the perimeter, stretch things out and wait for an open look.

    He shot threes at a higher rate than ever this past season, launching 63 percent of his total attempts from behind the line—the highest number on the team

    Newly signed Paul Pierce will be around to man the starting role at small forward, but behind him, the duties will be left to a combination of Webster and Otto Porter.

    If Webster can build on his 2013-14 season and shoot the ball as well as he did in 2012-13, the 27-year-old shouldn't have a problem earning more playing time next year.

     

    Advanced statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and 82games. Salary information courtesy of ShamSports.com.