The NBA season has seen a lot of familiar faces putting up MVP caliber seasons in 2019. From Paul George to James Harden, it seems like this will be one of the closest MVP races in a few years. Lost in all the noise about the game’s elite stars are the underrated players having stellar seasons, too. The faces of franchises aren’t the only ones on the court making plays for their teams. The league has over 400 players and a number of them go unnoticed a variety of reasons. Here’s a look at the 10 players we think don’t get enough appreciation from the casual NBA fan.
10. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic — 20.6 PPG, 12.0 RPG
If you haven’t watched a lot of Orlando Magic games this decade, chances are you have missed one of the best big men in basketball. Nikola Vucevic has been a post presence since his second season in the league and has averaged a double-double four out of his six seasons as a starter.
He can score in the paint and is also shooting 38% from behind the arc this season. He earned his first All-Star selection this year and could be in the running for Most Improved Player.
9. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz — 15.4 PPG, 2.3 BPG
How can the reigning Defensive Player of the Year be one of the NBA’s underrated players? He isn’t viewed as an All-Star by his peers or coaches around the league, as he was snubbed from the All-Star roster. Gobert is the best post defender in the NBA, but he could be the first two-time DPOY not to be selected to an All-Star team in either season.
His defense will be the key to Utah’s success in the playoffs this season, and fans can only hope for a rematch with the Thunder in the first round.
8. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks — 17.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG
Khris Middleton doesn’t get as much of the spotlight as he should in the Bucks’ offense. Between Giannis Antetokounmppo and Malcolm Brogdon, he seems to get overlooked by anyone who doesn’t follow the league closely. Middleton is a lights-out shooter and earned his first All-Star bid while helping the Bucks hold down the No. 1 seed in the East.
7. Thaddeus Young, Indiana Pacers — 12.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG
Thaddeus Young’s numbers won’t pop out at you, but his consistency each year is what stands out the most. Young puts the ball in the hoop in a variety of ways and has averaged double-digit points for 10 straight seasons (including two in Philadelphia, where he came off the bench). If you need a bucket in a late-game situation, then Young is a good option to have.
6. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors — 16.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG
No one in Toronto could have predicted such a huge jump in Pascal Siakam’s game from year two to year three. With Kawhi Leonard coming to town the Raptors had visions of a strong playoff run, and Siakam is helping them get there. His ability to score in the post and mid-range has been an excellent complement to Leonard and Kyle Lowry. Arguably the leading candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year, expect him to be an X-factor for Toronto in the playoffs.
5. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets — 18.3 PPG, 4.9 APG
Murray was an excellent pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and he has improved each season he has played with the Nuggets. Teammate Nikola Jokic takes a lot of the spotlight in Denver, which is why Murray is one of the game’s underrated players despite averaging more than 19 points a game.
The team is young and inexperienced, but it has the talent to push Golden State to six or seven games in a Western Conference playoff matchup. He’s already a quiet leader for the Nuggets, but look for Murray to take his game to another level in the playoffs and become a household name by the end of the season.
4. Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trailblazers — 15.4 PPG, 10.4 RPG
Since arriving from Denver, the Bosnian Beast has been an excellent player for the Trailblazers. Pairing him with Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum has given Portland the scoring and rebounding they needed for their lineup. Lillard and McCollum are Portland’s stars, which is why Nurkic has the status as one of the games most underrated players.
Portland could see a matchup against Oklahoma City in the first round of the postseason, and if the Blazers want to avoid another embarrassing playoff exit (they were swept by the Pelicans as a No. 3 seed in the first round last year), Nurkic will have to play at an All-Star level.
3. Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers — 16.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG
The Clippers have a number of good players on their team, but Harrell may be one of the most important and one of the most underrated players for Los Angeles. He provides excellent scoring in the post and is valuable on the defensive end. He blocks 4% of the opponents’ shots when he is on the floor and has 7.6 total win shares on the season.
Los Angeles may face Denver or Golden State in the first round, and Harrell will be counted on to secure the interior scoring options for those teams.
2. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons — 17.4 PPG, 15.3 RPG
The former two-time All-Star doesn’t get any love in casual NBA circles. He is a rebounding machine, who is arguably the best at pulling down a board since Dennis Rodman, but has become one of the most consistent offensive players for the Pistons.
If a shot is missed while Drummond is on the court, there’s a 25% chance he will grab the rebound. If Detroit has any shot at making noise in the playoffs it will need Drummond to perform in the clutch.
1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks — 21.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG
We all know how wonderful Luka Doncic is, so why do we have him listed as one of the underrated players? The big reason is that he wasn’t named to the All-Star team which seems crazy because he is having a historic rookie season, and he may be an All-NBA snub as well.
The Mavericks are going to be very good while Doncic is in town, and we could be looking at a Hall of Fame-caliber player just one season into his NBA career. If Doncic can improve on the defensive end of the floor, he can become an All-Star starter within the next two seasons.