The suspended NBA season saw the rise of many new superstars.
The likes of Brandon Ingram, Bam Adebayo, Jayson Tatum, and Domantas Sabonis were named to their first-ever NBA All-Star selection. NBA Rookies like Zion Williamson and Ja Morant have been impressive so far and we’ve also seen some terrific rookies like Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, and P.J. Washington. But while the success of these players is well-documented, other NBA players went under the radar but had equally impressive seasons as well.
Here are the most underrated players in the NBA during the 2019-20 season:
During the most recent NBA GMs survey, the league’s executives voted for Utah’s acquisition of Bojan Bogdanovic and Mike Conley as the most underrated move during the offseason. Well, the GMs couldn’t be more correct, maybe not so much on Conley because he hasn’t gotten back to his form due to injury, but on Bogdanovic who has blossomed into a legit 20-point scorer with the Jazz this season.
Bogdanovic was the 31st pick of the 2011 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat but found himself playing for the Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, and Indiana Pacers before heading to Salt Lake City last summer as a free agent. The highest-paid Croatian athlete in the world is averaging a career-best 20.1 points per game this season while shooting 46.0% from the floor and 39.4% from behind the three-point arc. He established himself as Utah’s second-leading scorer behind Donovan Mitchell.
Many thought that Jaylen Brown would be lost in the Celtics’ rotation after the arrival of Jayson Tatum. Brown was Boston’s 3rd overall pick in 2016 and had been struggling to live up to his billing. Although he had a good year during Tatum’s rookie season, Brown’s numbers went down from 14.3 points per game in 2018 to just 13.0 points per game last season. Then Brown signed a contract extension last summer and his detractors said that the Celtics made a mistake by giving him a huge extension. But Brown hasn’t just proven that he deserves his new contract. He has proven that he and Tatum can co-exist and be dual threats for the Celtics.
Brown is averaging a career-high 20.0 points per game this season while also contributing 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per contest. Brown played only 50 games this season but when he was on the floor, he and Tatum were a Fire and Ice combination that was a real headache to the Celtics’ opponents. Brown was the first Celtics player to sign a rookie scale extension since Rajon Rondo in 2009 and he is surely worth the price for the men in green.
Look what winning an NBA title can do. Fred VanVleet was Toronto’s chief bench contributor last season and he was a key member of their title team as he hit the big shots down the stretch. This season has been different for VanVleet as he has been called upon to a bigger role with the departure of Kawhi Leonard. Sure, the Raptors have more established players like Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry while Pascal Siakam is their main offensive weapon. But VanVleet has come to his own this season and is one of the best guards in the Eastern Conference.
VanVleet was undrafted in 2016 and worked his way to the NBA from the Raptors’ farm team Raptors 905. He scored 22 points with five three-pointers in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals and finished second to Kawhi Leonard in the Finals MVP voting. He is averaging 17.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game this season. He is one of the main reasons why the Raptors were 2nd in the East when play was suspended.
Khris Middleton had his best season in 2018 and then earned his first-ever All-Star selection the following year. This year, Middleton has even gotten better and he continues to improve. The 28-year old from Texas A&M is averaging 21.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. Although he got his second All-Star selection this season, he remains to fly under the radar as one of the most underrated players in the league mainly because he plays alongside 2019 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Middleton was the 39th pick by the Pistons in 2012. He was traded to the Bucks during his second season as part of the Brandon Jennings trade. Since arriving in Milwaukee, Middleton has developed as a player. Not only is he a very reliable scorer, but he can also pass and can pull down rebounds. With Malcolm Brogdon’s departure, he has assumed the role of sidekick to the Greek Freak and has done a pretty good job with the Bucks owning the best record in the league.
Since when was Chris Paul underrated? The point god is the best pure point guard in the NBA right now. He has been the league’s best point guard for years but in recent years, his play has declined and he was traded to the Rockets in 2017 and then traded again to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019. Many thought that Paul was done in OKC after a couple of so-so seasons with Houston. But despite the Thunder having a hastily assembled line-up led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, they are currently in playoff position right now. Thanks to Chris Paul.
Paul is averaging 17.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. His 48.9% field goal shooting is his best mark since 2010 and he is providing the young Thunder with leadership on and off the court. When you look at Chris Paul’s play this season, it’s like he’s having a resurrection this year. He has been heavily criticized in the previous years but this season, Paul has proved that he is not done yet. The Thunder were 5th in the West when play was halted. Who would’ve expected that after they traded Russ and PG13 last summer?
Spencer Dinwiddie was supposed to take a backseat this season with the arrival of Kyrie Irving. But not only was Irving inconsistent, but he was also always on the injured list. Despite Irving’s troubles this season, the Nets were able to salvage 7th place in the Eastern Conference thanks mainly to Spencer Dinwiddie. Last March 10, he set a record for most points by a Nets player coming off the bench in a single season.
This year, Dinwiddie has scored at least 30 points 4 times, at least 25 points 11 times and more than 20 points 14 times.
He is averaging a career-high 20.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game. Brooklyn is just 8-12 with Kyrie Irving playing but is 22-22 without him. The main reason behind that .500 record is Dinwiddie who has been almost unstoppable and who is always willing to take the big shot. He has been Brooklyn’s go-to guy with both Irving and Kevin Durant hurt. I’m not sure what the future holds for him with Kyrie and KD set to return next season but this is a breakout year for Dinwiddie who is arguably the most underrated player in the NBA this season.