The NBA's 10 Most Underrated Players: Part I

 by Jon Nichols

Today I’m going to present the first of a two-part look at ten players who I consider to be the most underrated in the NBA.  They could be underrated for all sorts of reasons.  Some of them don’t put up gaudy numbers in the traditional statistics many people look at.  Others are overshadowed by other superstars on their team.  Perhaps most common on this list, some of them make incredible defensive contributions that go unnoticed.  And because playing defense is half the game of basketball, these players contribute significantly to their teams winning games.  Without further ado, I present to you some of the NBA’s most underrated players, ranked from 10th to 6th.

10.  Anthony Parker (Ranks 81st in 2007-08 Composite Score)
Although Parker came back down to earth after his incredible 06-07 season (ranking 16th overall in the league), he still put up solid numbers.  His defense is what made his numbers just good but not great this past season (although for the second year in a row, the Raptors got an unheralded player to play stellar defense, with Jamario Moon filling the role this time).  Parker ranked solidly in every offensive aspect of CS and maintained his reputation as the Raptors’ most reliable and productive swingman threat.  His defense slipped, and he ended up ranking as slightly below average in that area.  Regardless, he’s still a great player that you never hear about, which is remarkable considering his situation.  Parker was a 1st round pick in the 1997 NBA Draft but lasted just three seasons, getting very little playing time.  Six years after his first exit out of the league, at the age of 31, Parker stuck with the Raptors and has been a solid performer ever since.  Credit must be given to Toronto for finding and sticking with a very good player that seemingly disappeared.

9.  Jeff Foster (Ranks 69th in 2007-08 Composite Score)
            The first of a large number of centers you’ll see on this list, Foster fits the description of a hustle player perfectly.  You’re probably aware already that he rebounds well and plays great defense.  What you’re not aware of is that because he grabs rebounds on the offensive end so incredibly well, offenses perform much better of him.  His hustle, height, and solid athleticism make him tough to box out.  Undoubtedly he gets overlooked by the league and maybe even some Pacers fans.  But he’s a coach’s dream and a good player.

8.  Rasho Nesterovic (Ranks 82nd in 2007-08 Composite Score)
            Ranking right behind his teammate Parker, Nesterovic is another solid Raptor who doesn’t get his due.  His offense is only slightly above average, but his calling card is defense, ranking 40th in the league in that area.  Believe it or not, that rank is actually the worst he’s finished since 2004, and by a large margin.  His defensive ranks before this season?  19th, 3rd, 15th, and 27th.  Nesterovic is not new to this league – he’s 32 and already completed ten seasons.  He’s certainly not spectacular, either.  But he’s a solid player and a great defender, the type of big man every team in the league should want to some extent.  Clearly he hasn’t forgotten whatever it is he learned in San Antonio.

7.  Dikembe Mutombo (Ranks 44th in 2007-08 Composite Score)
            Speaking of players who aren’t new to the league, here’s Dikembe Mutombo.  At the young age of 42 and a 17-year veteran, Mutombo is still a defensive presence on one of the best defensive teams in the league.  You can’t ask for much more from a backup center.  He still blocks shots and controls the paint almost as well as he did in his prime.  Mutombo is not a no-name.  He’s been one of the best defensive players in the history of the game, and people know that.  The one thing they don’t know is that he hasn’t slipped too far in that area. 

6.  Brendan Haywood (Ranks 33rd in 2007-08 Composite Score)
            The Big Three in Washington should probably be switched to the Big Four, because Haywood is a great center and has been for a while.  He actually finished second on the Wizards in Composite Score this past season, beating out Caron Butler.  His Composite Score ranks since 2004: 22nd, 15th, 64th, 77th, and 33rd.  Yes, I’m still talking about Haywood.  He plays well on both ends of the floor, thanks in part to his good size.  It may not always seem like he’s playing hard and he certainly has his faults, but he’s effective.  The Wizards got good value for him when they selected him 20th overall in the 2001 draft.

That does it for today.  Look out for part two, which will go over players ranked 1-5 and reveal the player I feel is the most underrated in the NBA. 





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