The 5 Most Underrated NBA Players This Season
The NBA is full of underrated and undervalued players who can go completely unnoticed despite their contributions on a nightly basis.
However, our nERD metric is a great way to prevent that from happening. nERD measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of the season, based on efficiency. The league average is zero, and it measures how many wins above (or below) .500 a league-average team would be with that player as a starter.
Instead of arbitrarily picking guys off our NBA player power rankings, we've selected five players who rank significantly higher than Basketball Monster's current NBA Power Rankings, which are based on fantasy performance.
So, without further ado, here are five players who are probably undervalued in the basketball world, based on nERD.
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
nERD Rank: 2nd
Basketball Monster Fantasy Rank: 19th
Rudy Gobert is probably in the running for Defensive Player of the Year honors, and for good reason -- his defense carried the Utah Jazz at times. The big man held players he defended to just 43.3% shooting this year, and further limiting those players to below 50.0% shooting within six feet of the basket.
Gobert led the league in blocks, block percentage and defensive win shares this season, while his free throw percentage shot up from 56.9% to 65.3%. Compared to his Yahoo average draft position (ADP) of 48th in the preseason, he was a monster value in fantasy leagues and was extremely undervalued compared to where he finished the year.
The defense was elite, but he flew up the nERD power rankings because of his expanded and efficient offensive game. Gobert's points per game jumped from 9.1 last season to 14.0 this year, while his true shooting percentage went from 58.2% to a league-leading 68.3%.
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
nERD Rank: 25th
Basketball Monster Fantasy Rank: 69th
Jonas Valanciunas averaged 16.7 points, 13.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes this season, and even though he rarely sees more than 25 minutes on any given night, he does the most with what he's given by the Toronto Raptors.
Due to his situation -- those limited minutes coupled while playing on a team with a couple All-Star guards -- Valanciunas tends to go undervalued for what he does. His free throw percentage improved to a career-high 81.1% this season, and his strong true shooting percentage of 60.1% also helped him settle in with the 25th-highest nERD this season.
With so much of their offense coming from DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, Valanciunas has become one of the more efficient big men in the league thanks to his ability in the paint, his strong free throw shooting and an improving mid-range game.
Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder
nERD Rank: 33rd
Basketball Monster Fantasy Rank: 128th
Kanter's Yahoo ADP sat at 80th this year, and if you drafted him in fantasy hoops, he did not disappoint outside of punching a chair and missing several weeks. He averaged 24.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, and his usage rate shot up to a career-high 27.3%, which could account for his slight dip in efficiency from last year (finished 14th in nERD for the 2015-16 season).
George Hill, Utah Jazz
nERD Rank: 33rd
Basketball Monster Fantasy Rank: 61st
Even though he finished the year hampered by injury and was limited to just 49 games, George Hill was fantastic in his first season with the Jazz when on the court. That can be evidenced by setting new single-season career highs in points per game (16.9) and effective field goal percentage (55.4%).
Hill also shot above 40% from distance for the second straight season, which really improved his nERD rating. Tied with Kanter at 33rd in our power rankings, Hill probably could have cracked the top 20 if he was healthy all year. Among starting point guards this season, he ranked fifth in effective field goal percentage. With a career-best 119 offensive rating, his presence for the Jazz is going to be huge if he can stay healthy in the playoffs.
David Lee, San Antonio Spurs
nERD Rank: 41st
Basketball Monster Fantasy Rank: 188th
David Lee might be one of the most undervalued signings from this past summer. The San Antonio Spurs were looking to beef up their frontcourt, and signing Lee has given them some great depth off the bench. Despite averaging just 18.7 minutes per game, he had seven double-doubles while posting a 61.3% true shooting percentage, which is his highest since the 2006-07 season.
When looking at his per-36-minute numbers, Lee averaged a double-double for the seventh straight season, and his ability to contribute without playing a ton went overlooked by almost everyone before the season started -- Lee had a Yahoo ADP of 134, and Sports Illustrated didn't even include him in their preseason rankings. Along with his 41st ranked nERD of 5.4, Lee had 5.7 win shares this season, his most since 2013-14 and the most of any player averaging below 20 minutes per game.