It is commonplace in sports culture today to label a player a ‘bust’ way too early in their career. Whether they live in the shadow of an older brother or were a top pick that didn’t have instant success, athletes are plagued with expectations before they even step on the court. With a fourth of the NBA season behind us there are a few players who haven’t gotten the credit they deserve. Here is our list of 12 of the most underrated players in the NBA today.
The 12 Most Underrated NBA Players
1. Seth Curry
15.7 PPG, 2.9 AST, 39.4 3PT%
When the name “Curry” is mentioned it’s hard not to immediately think of all-time three point record champion Stephen Curry. In the shadows of the two-time league MVP is his younger brother, Seth Curry. Seth can do just about everything Steph can do, just not quite at the same production level. Efficiency wise, Seth Curry has a TS% of 63%, which would place him top 15 in this category. If you turn on a 76’ers game it’s easy to spot Curry as he roams around the perimeter waiting for his catch-and-shoot threes. One of the strongest aspects of his game is the confidence he shoots with. The second the basketball touches Curry’s hands, you can see in his body language that he knows the shot’s going in.
2. Luke Kennard
Los Angeles Clippers
11.4 PPG, 2.0 AST, 45.1 3PT%
Casual NBA fans were mystified when the Clippers awarded Luke Kennard a four-year, $64 million contract extension last December. This deal was actually a steal for the Clippers. Kennard has knocked down 45% of his three’s while attempting over 6 a game. An absolute menace roaming the floor, Kennard is primed to knock down a shot at any second. An underrated way that Kennard is used in the Clippers offense is through the pick-and-roll with Paul George. The Clippers like to run a set where Kennard sets an on-ball screen for Paul George and either rolls to the free-throw line or out to the perimeter for an open shot. Kennard will continue to be an integral part of this Clippers offense, and for good reason.
3. Jalen Brunson
14.8 PPG, 5.0 AST, 4.0 REB
After winning two national championships at Villanova as well as the John R. Wooden award, Jalen Brunson’s future in the NBA was blurry. Some scouts weren’t sure if he could transition to the playstyle of the NBA. Brunson has proved all those doubters wrong, solidifying himself as one of the best sixth men in the league. Brunson plays an extremely high-iq brand of basketball and relishes the role of floor general. Similarly to prime Le'veon Bell, he has a sense of patience on his drives that frankly can’t be taught. Brunson’s impact for the Mavericks cannot be understated, as he adds nearly eight points per hundred possessions when on the floor.
4. Dejounte Murray
San Antonio Spurs
17.7 PPG, 8.4 AST, 8.3 REB
Everytime it feels like the Spurs are about to be written off, Greg Popovich finds a way to bring them back from the brink. After a disappointing few seasons, the Spurs looked to be in rebuild mode. Amidst a litter of great young guards, Dejounte Murray stands out as one of the best. The Spurs play fast basketball sitting top 10 in the league in pace. Murray catalyzes this fast pace, as he is one of the best transition guards in the league. His three point shooting can be spotty at times, but Murray has shown to be an elite two-level scorer. At 6’4” he has great size for a guard while also being quick on his first step. Murray does all the right things to help generate W’s for the Spurs, and he will undoubtedly get the clout he deserves soon.
5. Jarrett Allen
17.3 PPG, 11.1 REB, 1.3 BLK
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the most impressive young squads this NBA season. The man-in-the-middle, Jarrett Allen, can be attributed with much of this success. Acquired via a trade from Brooklyn, Allen has been an unstoppable force defensively for the Cavs. Allen has one of the highest motors in the league, actively surveying the floor for the best positioning. An underrated aspect of Allen’s game this season has been his on-ball defending. The Cav’s love to switch on defense, and Allen has shown he can defend even guards on the perimeter. With his fanatic defensive playstyle the Cavaliers success will surely continue.
6. Garrison Matthews
11.9 PPG, 3.3 REB, 62.0 TS%
Garrison Matthews is most likely a name that isn't familiar to most NBA fans. The third year guard for the Rockets should be on everyone's radar. Matthews is a constant threat to knock down the deep ball. Like the NBA 2K badge ‘deep range deadeye’ Matthews is unfazed by closing out defenders. There are stretches when Matthews gets hot and the tape looks eerily similar to that of Klay Thompson on offense. Sitting top 20 in the league for TS%, Matthews has earned the title of knockdown shooter.
7. Ricky Rubio
12.6 PPG, 6.5 AST, 3.9 REB
After bouncing around the league the last couple of years, Ricky Rubio finds himself calling Cleveland home for the season. Expectations were high for Rubio on draft night, as he was taken two selections before Steph Curry. Though Rubio never lived up to that hype, he did find his role in the league as a bench general. When the Cavs need to go to the bench for inspiration, Rubio is the first man up. Rubio is amongst the best passers in the league, especially in transition which has helped put the Cavaliers in the top 10 for assists.
8. Grayson Allen
12.7 PPG, 3.6 REB, 40.7 3PT%
Grayson Allen was one of the most scrutinized NCAA basketball players in recent memory, and many are quick to dismiss him because of this. Allen however has been a great fit for the Bucks this season serving a next man up role amongst various injuries and positive covid cases. Serving a perimeter role on offense Allen can be found roaming the perimeter most possessions. He is a constant threat to knock down the three shooting 40.7% from distance on seven attempts a game. Allen may be hated for his time at Duke, but there is no denying that he can make an impact at the NBA level.
9. Desmond Bane
16.2 PPG, 4.4 REB, 2.3 AST
With Ja Morant sidelined due to injury, the Grizzlies needed someone to step up. They got all that and more in second year guard Desmond Bane. Nearly doubling his scoring average from last year, Bane has been a key scoring threat for the Grizzlies. Unlike many other players on this list, Bane is an excellent scorer and shooter off-the-dribble. With combination of hesitations and quick step-backs, his bag runs deep. The Grizzlies have an exciting young core and Bane will be a highlight of that for years to come.
10. Alec Burks
New York Knicks
11.4 PPG, 3.7 REB, 1.2 STL
The Knicks had a hot start this season but have cooled off as of late. A bright spot, however, has been Alec Burks. After a few years playing for multiple different franchises, Burks finds himself settled in New York. A great pull-up shooter combined with excellent finishing ability, Burks has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. He also has a huge impact defensively, actively pursuing the passing lanes and causing deflections. Burks doesn’t truly get the credit he deserves for keeping the Knicks afloat.
11. JaVale McGee
10.3 PPG, 7.5 REB, 65.8 TS%
After largely being a joke earlier in his career, JaVale McGee— a.k.a Tragic Bronson— is now a key contributor to the Phoenix Suns. When Dario Saric fell to injury in the finals last season, the Suns knew they had to fill the hole of back-up center. McGee was brought in for that role and has fit perfectly. It’s fair to say at this point in his career, McGee has championship DNA. His ability to play for quick stretches and allow Deandre Ayton to rest will be pivotal to how far they go in the playoffs. One thing is for sure, the McGee signing was one of the best this off-season.
12. Isaiah Hartenstein
Los Angeles Clippers
7.7 PPG, 4.7 REB, 1.9 AST
Look at the leaderboards for any of the best advanced stats and you’ll see a lot of the same names: Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic, Jimmy Butler, Lebron James—and Isaiah Hartenstein. After spending most of his first three seasons floating around the NBA’s fringes, the 23 year-old German big man has emerged as an integral part of the Clippers’ rotation. While his counting stats are fairly modest, they belie his true impact. He’s a clever passer who conducts offense from the elbows, a deft finisher who ranks in the 91st percentile as a pick-and-roll finisher, and a heady rim protector who patrols the backline for the NBA’s fourth-best defense.