November 7, 2012
These players may not be overnight sensations, but they’ll be fan favorites by season’s end. They do the little things, put forth 110 percent on a daily basis and simply make their team better. These are guys that are priceless to their franchises, the reason they put spectators in seats and win games. They may not get the recognition that some stars do, but they make those stars better.
Here is the NBA’s all-underrated team:
Omer Asik, Houston Rockets: The Houston Rockets reshaped their entire roster in the off-season and big man Omer Asik is one of the many new pieces to the puzzle. The Rockets caught plenty of flak when they signed the somewhat untested center to a robust contract in the off-season.
Just a few games into the season, the Rockets look more than wise to pay the man. He’s not paid to score, he’s paid to play defense and he’s doing just that. In just three games this season he’s tallied 44 rebounds. 44!
This is only his third year in the league and he’s only 26 years old, so the future is bright for Asik in Houston. Basketball enthusiasts everywhere will grow an appreciation for Asik before the season concludes.
Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks: The Milwaukee Bucks have something special in 6’11” Larry Sanders. The third-year kid out of Virginia Commonwealth is still learning the NBA game, but he has the potential to be a well-rounded post player.
He’s currently listed as a center, but at only 235 lbs. the Bucks hope he develops his outside game a bit until he grows into his body. Right now playing with his back to the basket isn’t the best option, but his quickness is the upside to his lack of weight.
Through two games this season, he is 13-for-16 from the floor with 14 rebounds and six blocks. Given its just two games, but the sky is the limit for Sanders. Thanks to the play-making ability of Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, Sanders should have plenty of easy buckets this season. If you get a chance to see the Bucks, pay special attention to Sanders.
Greivis Vasquez, New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets were scolded by many of their fans when the seemingly gave star point guard Chris Paul away via trade last season. Now, their tough decision doesn’t look so bad because of third-year point guard Greivis Vasquez out of the University of Maryland.
There are plenty of improvements to be made from Vasquez, like good shot selection, but he’ll be a completely different player by season’s end. In just three games this season he’s averaging 13 points, 9.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds, which tells everyone that he’s on his way to success. His ability to drive and dish puts him in position to rebound.
Once he develops the knack of knowing when to pass and when to take it all the way to the hoop, he’ll be as good as gold. His quickness is taken for granted, but not for long.
Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons: The Detroit Pistons have been looking for a decent big man since the early 1990’s and Greg Monroe is their man. There’s nothing this guy can’t do, but not even he realizes just how good he’ll be yet.
He and the Pistons are off to a slow start, but there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be an All-Star this season. In the game against the Denver Nuggets on November 6, Monroe showed his true potential with 27 points and 10 rebounds. He also went 7-for-7 from the free throw line, which is an achievement for a big man.
The Pistons won’t be the best this season, but thanks to Monroe, Brandon Knight and company, they’re setting themselves up nicely for the future.
James Harden, Houston Rockets: Wait. What? How is James Harden underrated? He’s a pure scorer, an Olympic gold medalist and sports the best beard in sports.
He’s underrated because he’s never started in the NBA—until now. The Houston Rockets made a bold move just prior to the season by acquiring Harden from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The league’s best sixth man is now the league’s best scorer. The Rockets quickly paid the man and he’s producing. In three games this season he’s averaging 35.3 points/game on a whopping 52.9 percent shooting.
Combined with the aforementioned Omer Asik, the Rockets are a can’t-miss team this season. Harden can simply stuff the stat sheet and will leave fans in awe the entire season. Don’t be surprised when he wins MVP.
July 11, 2011
Way back in 2002, Yao’s detractors stood almost as long as the Great Wall of China. We all remember the pre-NBA Draft video footage, right? Sure, he looked fine against a run-of-the-mill center from Oregon, Chris Christoffersen (not to be confused with Kris Kristofferson), in a one on one matchup in front of a host of NBA scouts. Yes, he could shoot jump shots and block shots as well as advertised, but we’d also been down that road before (see Shawn Bradley circa 1993).
The fact is there were question marks about Yao Ming – and lots of them.
The trendy pick for the No. 1 selection was point guard Jason Williams out of Duke. He was a ‘proven commodity’ shall we say, having played against the best amateur players in the world. Unfortunately, Williams suffered a career-ending motorcycle crash shortly thereafter, ending his brief NBA career and ensuring that the mantra ‘There is no sure thing’ remained firmly intact.
But back to Yao. The Houston Rockets gambled with the No. 1 pick taking the big man. Ming immediately paid dividends on a poor Rockets’ team, averaging more than 13 points and 8 rebounds in his first season. The best news, though, was that there was far more to come. Three seasons later, Yao averaged 20 and 10 and had established himself as one of the NBA’s best big men.
Even though Yao Ming had become an NBA star, his biggest contribution may have been expanding the reach of the league overseas. Ming was an instant hero in China and at many points over his career, was one of the league’s leaders in jersey sales. His influence was apparent when he repeatedly led the NBA in All-Star voting at center, even in seasons in which he was injured.
More importantly than that is that Yao Ming appears to be a genuinely good person. When Shaquille O’Neal mocked him with faux Chinese, Yao was the bigger person choosing to not make it a big deal. Yao Ming has also donated two million dollars and set up a foundation in order to help rebuild schools after the earthquake in Sichuan.
But on the court, the problem was that injuries eventually derailed his career. Yao missed 25 games in his fourth season and was never quite right the rest of his career. The frustrating part was that when he played, it was clear that he had the talent. From 2005 through last season, Yao was heavily injured playing only one full season over that span. But during those years, he averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. Now at the young age of 30, Ming’s been reportedly forced to retire.
The announcement hasn’t yet been made official, but if all reports are correct, Yao has decided to call it a career. The good news is that he may be back. At 30, he’s still young enough to even sit out for a year or two and still have several more seasons left. One of his agents is saying the chance exists for him to make a return and that’s encouraging.
So if it’s the end of the line, where does Yao stack up amongst the greats? It’s hard to find a spot for him as a top ten center of all-tme because his career ended so early and he’s not a likely selection for the Basketball Hall of Fame. But Yao Ming was definitely one of the best centers of his era and proved a lot of people wrong on draft day.