The 5 Most Underrated NBA Players This Season
The NBA is full of underrated and undervalued players.
These guys may go completely unnoticed despite their contributions to their team, or the common fan or even the media may just undervalue them in their own power rankings.
However, our nERD metric is a great way to judge some of the most underrated (and overrated) players in the league. nERD is a ranking that measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of the season. It is based on efficiency, with the league average being zero. It measures how many wins above (or below) .500 a league-average team would be with that player as a starter.
However, instead of arbitrarily picking guys off our list, I have compiled a list of five players who rank significantly higher than most major media outlets’ power rankings.
Those include Sports Illustrated’s preseason top 100 rankings, as well as Basketball Monster’s current NBA Player 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.
Enes Kanter, C, Oklahoma City Thunder
nERD Rank: 14th
Sports Illustrated Pre-Season Rank: N/A
Basketball Monster Fantasy Rank: 87th
The Thunder gave Enes Kanter almost $70 million dollars this offseason, and even though he is playing only 20.8 minutes per game, the Thunder big man is putting up huge numbers this season. His per-36 numbers for 2015-16 are 22.0 points and 13.9 rebounds, and he is posting a career-high 58.7 Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%).
While Kanter played well for the Thunder after coming over from Utah at the trade deadline last season, he was still vastly underrated and is still undervalued by most NBA fans. His play for the Thunder has given them a huge scoring option off the bench or a spot starter if need be.
Kanter is leading the league in Offensive Rebounding Rate at 16.8 percent, and his True Shooting Percentage of 62.9 percent ranks him fifth in the league among qualified players behind only Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, J.J. Redick and Hassan Whiteside. With these numbers, Kanter ranks inside the top 15 in our power rankings.
Here is a look at Kanter putting former teammate, Rudy Gobert in the spin cycle earlier this season.
Isaiah Thomas, PG, Boston Celtics
nERD Rank: 17th
Sports Illustrated Pre-Season Rank: 88th
Basketball Monster Rank: 34th
Isaiah Thomas is almost always discounted. The Kings discounted him by trading him for absolutely nothing back in 2014, and then the Suns traded him in a three-team deal for late first-round pick (Cleveland’s pick this summer) and Marcus Thornton. Boston should feel like they got away with robbery, and the Kings, well, should just feel awful.
Thomas is having a career-year in his first season as an All Star. He ranks ninth in total points, fifth in free throws made, and eighth in free throw attempts. He is just outside the top 10 in Offensive Win Shares at 7.2, and no matter how much he keeps getting undervalued, Thomas keeps producing.
One area of his game that was continually trashed when he was with the Kings and Suns was his defense. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Celtics rank fourth in Defensive Rating this season at 103.4, and Thomas has been anything but a detriment on that end. According to NBA Stats, Thomas’ Defended Field Goal Percentage this season is 43.8 percent, and he is holding players he defends to only 29.6 percent from behind the arc.
How the Kings and Suns let this guy go for a song is beyond me.
Tristan Thompson, PF/C, Cleveland Cavaliers
nERD Rank: 19th
Sports Illustrated Pre-Season Rank: 70th
Basketball Monster Rank: 126th
Tristan Thompson has been in and out of the starting lineup in Cleveland this season, but no matter if he starts or comes off the bench, the Cavs’ big man is showing why he is a top-20 player in our nERD rankings and was once the fourth-overall pick in the draft.
Thompson, much like Kanter, is playing limited minutes, but is shining when he is on the court. His per-36 numbers this season are 10.2 points and 11.7 rebounds, and one area of his game that is blossoming this season is his offense, even though he gets little credit for it. Thompson is leading the league in Offensive Rating at 130. Just to put that into perspective, here is a look at the Offensive Rating leaderboard this season.
|Player||Offensive Rating 2015-'16|
|1. Tristan Thompson||129.8|
|2. Stephen Curry||124.0|
|3. Enes Kanter||123.5|
|4. Steven Adams||122.4|
|5. DeAndre Jordan||121.7|
Thompson has improved his Effective Field Goal Percentage to 59.2 percent this season, which ranks him sixth among all players who have played at least 2,000 minutes this season. He is also ranked fifth in Offensive Rebounding Rate at 13.6 percent, and he is currently tied for second with DeAndre Jordan in total Offensive Rebounds at 266, despite playing about 300 fewer minutes.
Remember this offensive rebound from the NBA Finals last season?
Ed Davis, PF, Portland Trail Blazers
nERD Rank: 29th
Sports Illustrated Pre-Season Rank: N/A
Basketball Monster Rank: 124th
Ed Davis is not a player who gets a lot of credit for how good he is. He ranks ahead of Thompson in Offensive Rebounding Rate at 14.3 percent, and he also ranks seventh in the league in True Shooting Percentage among players with at least 1,600 minutes this season at 61.8 percent.
Davis was drafted in the lottery, but despite this, he has spent time in the D-League, been traded, and has been on five teams in six years. However, he has truly shown some great skills over his last two seasons with the Lakers and Blazers. His efficiency has improved a lot, and he has been more consistent (one of the major knocks on him early in his career) this season than ever before.
Of course, he hasn’t lost his ability to finish at the rim in traffic.
JJ Redick, SG, Los Angeles Clippers
nERD Rank: 37th
Sports Illustrated Pre-Season Rank: 93rd
Basketball Monster Rank: 67th
J.J. Redick does a lot of things well. However, the one thing he does almost better than anyone else is shoot the ball. Redick came into the league as a deadly shooter, and it has been taken to new heights this season. Redick leads the league with an insane three-point percentage of 47.5 percent, and he ranks third behind only Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant in True Shooting Percentage at 63.1 percent.
Redick’s insane efficiency has led him to rank 37th in our nERD power rankings this season at 5.6. He is shooting an incredible 54.5 percent from corner three-pointers this season, and he is averaging 21.0 points per-36 minutes.
Redick is simply automatic from behind the arc.