By: PJ Guippone
The NBA is filled with absolutely fantastic talent these days, but that can lead to some of the best to get completely overshadowed.
PG – Chris Paul
The name of the NBA MVP award opens a lot of room for debate due to the word “valuable.” If this was really what the award was, then Lebron would be first or second in voting every single year. Lebron makes everyone around him better with perfect shooters pocket passes and putting a constant horror in the defense by having no real idea of how to slow him down in any fashion. I would like to add Chris Paul to this conversation as a guy that is so far and away the most important guy on his team. This year, it has really come to light with his prolonged injury, which will cause him to miss about two months of the season. In seventeen games without Paul this season, the Clippers are 8-9, compared to 27-12 with him in the lineup. This discrepancy is largely in part to the Clippers’ differentials depending on what star they have. Since the beginning of the 2011-2012 season, the Clippers are +16.4 with just Chris Paul on the floor, which is 2 points higher than when all three of their stars are playing and almost +30 over either Griffin or DeAndre Jordan. All of this is not even mentioning Paul making DJ the player he is today because of how prolific Paul is in the pick and roll game (I for one am absolutely in Shaq’s camp on Jordan’s skill set and ceiling). Of course Chris Paul is a highly respected veteran guard, but he does not get nearly enough love for how important he really is.
SG – Avery Bradley
Avery Bradley is a very interesting player. Coming out of high school, he was the number four player in the class of 2009 on the 247 Composite ratings, which takes all ranking services into account. On ESPN’s recruiting profile, it said he was an elite athlete that took pride in his performance on the defensive end. After one year at Texas, he was drafted by the Celtics and carried on that same reputation, establishing his place in the league on that end and attempting to settle in to the higher level of play, much like superstars Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. Split his career into 2-year segments, and his field goal attempts basically double per segment. Now, he is averaging almost 18 per game with a player efficiency rating and value added both in the top 13 among NBA shooting guards. One of the most valuable aspects of his game for the Celtics, though, is his rebounding. Especially for a team that lacks high-quality bigs outside of free agent acquisition Al Horford, it is good to have a guard among the best in rebounding. Although not listed since he is not qualified currently due to missing time because of injury, Bradley’s 6.7 per game average would rank him third among shooting guards and fourth among guards overall. His 18.6% defensive rebounding percentage is first on the team when he is on the floor. He will never be an all-star, but Bradley works on intangibles and a steadily increasing offensive production to be an extremely important part of the deep Celtics backcourt.
SF – Otto Porter Jr.
Otto Porter Jr. had an extremely rough patch of his basketball career. Starting with the fifteenth-seeded, high-flying Florida Gulf Coast team stunning his second-ranked Hoyas in the first round of the 2013 NCAA tournament, he took his flawed shot and somewhat one-dimensional offensive game to the NBA. In his first three seasons, he had a slash line of .457/.349/.742. Additionally, he has been on the Wizards, who haven’t really been the cream of the crop in the league, hovering around .500 since he has been in Washington. But this season, everything seems to be turning around. Bradley Beal is managing to stay healthy, John Wall has been his normal uncanny mix of elite, explosive athlete and pass first guard, and Otto Porter has been shooting the lights out. The Wizards currently sit third in the Eastern Conference with a large contribution from Porter’s .534/.465/.795, which are all sizeable improvements over his previous years. And don’t even get me started on his stats on Wednesdays! He is as hot as the sun on hump day, with the Wizards slowly rotating around him as he hits half of his three point jumpers and over 60% of his total shots. Otto Porter’s basketball luck is changing, and so should his league status.
PF – Lamarcus Aldridge
This is my main pick. There is something about San Antonio that is just an absolute black hole of hype. Their superstar, quiet killer Kawhi Leonard, is not exactly a pillar of excitement for the average viewer of the NBA with his stellar defense and complete lack of any level of trash talk. He even drives a twenty-year-old rust-bucket SUV. With the Big Fundamental retired and Manu and Tony Parker on the downhill portions of their career, there really aren’t any other superstars. Oh wait, but who’s that? Oh it’s a 6’11” career 19 points per game and over-twenty player efficiency rating veteran that has a silky smooth shot from the midrange and a monster post-up game. Just look at what he does to poor Steven Adams in the second highlight of this segment. Honestly imagine having to cover Aldridge in a pick and pop scenario. He has only shot less than 41.8% from 15-19 feet once in his career, and in the post his percentages are even more shocking. This is one of the most dynamic post scorers in the modern NBA. Just like the Spurs never get a word of consideration as a threat to the Warriors, their players never get consideration as elite NBA players, but LA is just that, an established veteran who is still massively productive on the offensive side of the ball.
C – Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert is an absolute freak. Watching him play basketball is the closest we’ll ever be to knowing what it was like when Pterodactyls flew through prehistoric skies. The best analogy I can make when I see him block a ball high above the rim is if Mrs. Incredible was the one stalking the middle of the lane. If a ball was shot from the 200 level, he could still block it before it was a legal goaltending call. Seriously. This guy is an absolute animal in the paint. His advanced stats are stupid. He has an offensive rebound percentage over 13% for his career, a defensive one sitting at 28%, and a block percentage of 6.4%. That’s not even mentioning his over-22 player efficiency rating and sub-100 defensive rating. I mean come on, this guy deserves way more love. The Jazz deserve way more love. Which reminds me, Gordon Hayward is the man. What a cool two guys to be your stars. In conclusion, let’s give the French Pterodactyl the hype he deserves since he is an elite-defensive dinosaur.