DUAL PERSPECTIVES: Top 10 Underdogs in the NBA

Although basketball-like most sports-is about teamwork, I'm a huge advocate of recognizing individual athletes' unique contributions to their respective teams. As much as I go hard for teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, let's face it; people get tired of hearing about the inevitable crowd favorites. Back in November 2016, I was honored to collaborate with Stik Braxton to discuss our top 10 underdogs in the NFL

Considering just how lofty the league is in terms of quantity, it was tough to choose just 10, but we both accepted the challenge. However, this time around, we will covering our top 5 players to compile our picks of the TOP 10 UNDERDOGS IN THE NBA, essentially curating our own dream squads of extremely underrated ballers.

Point Guards:

Braxton: Kemba Walker

You may be thinking how is Kemba Walker an underdog and I’d probably guess you’re thinking about that fantastic run Kemba had in college. Arguably one of the greatest individual years in college basketball, however, Kemba-more often than not-has gotten lost in the shuffle in the NBA. While still a good player, efficiency issues and not being able to lead his team to victories has plagued his status as an upper tier point guard. But this year, Kemba is putting in work. At the time of me writing this post, he was sixth among all starting point guards in scoring. His efficiency has also been great this year, shooting 46% from the field and nice 42% from beyond the arc. Most importantly, he’s got his team winning games with his play and if I were one of the coaches, I'd seriously think about rewarding him with an All Star nod this year. He’s been that good.

Chymere: John Wall

Although we hear Mr. Wall's name quite a bit, it's rare that his name is brought up in conversations regarding top 10 point guards in the league, when he should be mentioned more often. He was a powerhouse during his freshman year with University of Kentucky, followed by a pretty impressive record his rookie year in the NBA, but he really began to step his game up in 2013-14, which was his 4th season playing with the Washington Wizards that...or at least, that's when I began to take notice. Like Kemba, John Wall has managed to blend in a little too much, being overshadowed in the process. This season, he must've been quietly focused on improvement, as every game seems to increase in numbers for him in multiple areas, such as assists, steals, and average points per gam. On games like the one played December 6, 2016 against Orlando Magic, scoring a career high of 52 pts that night, it was easy to see how valuable he is to his team this season. It was fun watching him during his 3rd appearance the NBA All-Star game last weekend.

Power Forwards:

Braxton: Taj Gibson

If you want to talk about a guy who has been through so much in his solid career with the Bulls, Taj Gibson would definitely fit in that conversation. He’s been through so much trade speculation. In my opinion, he should have been starting years ago instead of doing his damage off the bench. He could have complained, but instead he kept that team first attitude. He’s always had very solid numbers but he’s so much more. He’s an energy guy, always plays great post defense and always brings it every game. He really puts the “pro” in professional.

Chymere: Marcus Morris

One half of the infamous Morris twins of the NBA, my choice for PF is Marcus Morris. Morris, who currently plays for the Detroit Pistons, has moved around quite a bit since his entrance in the NBA in the 2011 draft. He seems to play well on both offense and defense, but he's underrated and obviously isn't a name that's brought up too often in terms of top ranks. I personally think it PF suits him better than small. Much like Gibson, his playing capabilities seem like overlooked when he's the sixth man vs. a starter, but I still think that puts him in an incredible position.

Shooting Guards:

Braxton: Rodney Hood

When you are a player from Duke University, you’re typically not looked to be a good NBA player. As great as those players are in college, for some reason it doesn’t always translate. However, Rodney Hood is carving out a nice little career so far. Injured at the moment, Hood has been averaging 14 points a game. He’s still doing what made him popular in college, which is simply shooting the ball, but now he’s also attacking the rim and doing things like this:

He has a chance to not only make some good money his next contract but also have a nice long career in the league.

Chymere: Bradley Beal

To my understanding and from what I've seen on Sports Twitter, this is someone's whose name has been a buzz word lately. After watching Monday night's game against the Cavaliers, now I see why. Currently in his 5th season with the Wizards, this young baller continuously and increasingly proves his value to his team. I vaguely remember hearing his name during the 2012 NBA Drafts, but I still don't recall him getting the attention he's getting now.  Even then, he doesn't get much play time, only averaging at approximately 30 minutes per game.

Small Forwards: 

Braxton: Doug McDermott

Dougie McBuckets gets my pick, because he could have easily fallen victim to the “College Player of the Year” curse.  Although players such as Adam Morrison, Tyler Hansborough and Jimmer Fredette were great, they were not great NBA players. McDermott could have easily fallen down this same path but so far he’s found a way to make it in this league.  He’s averaging nearly 10 points a game for the Bulls.  He still can improve on different facets of the game, but he definitely lives up to his nickname as he can string together a few buckets in a hurry.

Chymere: Jonas Jerebko

It's hard to understand how someone with such high percentages when it comes to both field and 3-point range shots can be listed as "underrated", yet Celtics' very own Jerebko is an elite player who does just that. Standing at 6'.10, his decreasing number of points per game have more to do with how selective coaches have been about putting him in the game. He had much more playing time during the 2011-12 season. Still somewhat of a newbie in Boston and is still finding his groove with the Celtics' pre-established chemistry, he's a decent two-way player that I believe would benefit Boston in the long run.


Braxton: Jonas Valanciunas

We know about DeMar “I work out like Kobe” Derozan and Kyle “Bulldog” Lowry.  But I think people do not give Jonas Valanciunas, center for the Toronto Raptors, half the credit he deserves. He’s such a solid post option.  As a post player myself, I watch some of the moves he does and just fall in love.

Not only that, he’s a very good rebounder and post defender.   As much as the team depends on their back court to will them victory, JV may be their most important player.

Chymere: Nikola Vučević

Reaching Shaq's record number's for the Orlando Magic in 2015 and starting in more than 50% of games so far in the 2016-17 season, you would think Nikola Vučević would get way more press than he does. In just 4 games he's been in since returning to the starting line up, he averaged at approximately 20 points per game Every time he sets foot on court, he seems to maximize opportunities and really conducts himself as a team player. After the recent win against Portland , he informed Dante Marchitelli, a reporter from FoxSports that he didn't think it was fair for Orlando to bench him, and I absolutely agree. He definitely deserves to consistently be a component in the starting line up.

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{Photo credits: Kemba Walker: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports; John Wall: Maddie Meyer-Getty Images; Taj Gibson: Jonathan Daniel-Getty Images ;Marcus Morris: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports; Rodney Hood: NBAE/Getty Images; Bradley Beal: Kevin C. Cox-Getty Images; Doug McDermott: Dan Lippitt, Getty Images; Jonas Jerebko: Winslow Townsend-USA TODAY Sports; Jonas Valanciunas: Frank Gunn-The Canadian Press; Nikola Vučević:  Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports}