Every year the NBA celebrates the league’s best performing players at the All-Star Weekend. It’s always a highlight-packed few days of the best dunkers, best three-point shooters, and the best overall rookies and stars. Unfortunately, only 24 of the nearly 500 NBA players are selected for the prestigious All-Star game so there are a number of names who are often left out and “lower-class” players who deserve their recognition. This list will compile not the 5 best players who didn’t make the all-star game, but the 5 players who deserve their credit for their quality of play that isn’t recognized by the average NBA fan.
Pascal Siakam – A player who is definitely underrated and who will be a future All-Star however after winning the championship with the Toronto Raptors he is starting to receive the praise he earned throughout the 2018-19 season.
Tobias Harris – After coming off a career season averaging 20 points per game with the Los Angeles Clippers, it looked as if Harris was potentially making his first appearance as an All-Star. However, just a few weeks before the All-Star weekend, Harris was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and that caused the end of his All-Star hopes for the season.
Jrue Holiday – Holiday has spent the last six seasons playing the sidekick role to Anthony Davis, this didn’t stop him from shining in the 2018-19 season averaging over 20 points per game nearly 8 assists. He is commonly known as one of, if not the best defensive guard in the entire league.
Sabonis has only just completed his third year in the NBA, yet at the young age of 22, he has solidified himself as one of the best bench players in the league. For most people that is all they see, an energetic big man coming off the bench for the Indiana Pacers who can only excel as a second unit player. Sabonis spent the entire season proving them wrong after Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending injury. Sabonis played a huge role for the Pacers as they finished as the 5th seed in the very top-heavy Eastern Conference. With averages of 15 points per game and almost 10 rebounds a game, Sabonis was an absolute double-double machine all season long finishing with 30 double-doubles in 76 games with only 5 starts. These incredible stats and accomplishments were all achieved in less than 25 minutes per game. His per 36 minutes averages would look like this: 20.4 points per game, 13.5 rebounds per game and 4 assists per game all on 60% shooting. He is not very well-known for his shooting abilities despite attempting 17 three-point shots in the season and knocking down 9 of them, credit is due for his shot selection and sticking to what he knows works. It is due time for Sabonis to get the appreciation he deserves and compete for the 6th Man of the Year award.
First things first, Montrezl Harrell is an absolute bulldog on the court. If anyone has seen one of the 88 games played by the Los Angeles Clippers this year they would have seen Harrell running around like an utter madman. The ferocity and dominance he brings to the game are on the same level as high-caliber players such as Russell Westbrook and Draymond Green. Selected as the 32nd overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets after spending 3 years in college for Louisville, Harrell averaged minimal minutes in his rookie season and only competing in 39 games. He is listed as a center despite being only 6’8” in height making him “undersized” for his position; this, however, has not made a difference in his ability to punish the opposition’s defense averaging 16.6 points per game in only 26 minutes played per game. Similar to Sabonis, Harrell only started in 5 of the 82 games he played in the regular season, therefore, putting him in contention for the coveted 6th man of the year award. He exceeds in his role as a tenacious rebounder, solid post-shot, and the intensity he brings to each match-up. The Clippers were also known as a team who were supposed to be tanking at the start of the season after trading two of their three stars and letting the third walk. Chris Paul went to the Rockets and Blake Griffin was traded to the Detroit Pistons while DeAndre Jordan tested free agency. This didn’t stop the “starless” Clippers squad start the year at 19-14 and finish the season in a playoff spot also taking 2 games away from the defending champions Golden State Warriors who at the time had Kevin Durant in that series. Harrell is an undeniable talent who’s energy and passion is unmatched throughout the league, he is worth keeping an eye on and is the type of player who can push a playoff contender into a championship contender one day.
Blake Griffin is obviously not an unknown player, the 1st pick in the 2009 NBA Draft coming out of his second year at Oklahoma averaging a ridiculous 22.7 points per game and 14.4 rebounds per game all on 65% shooting from the field. There was no denying Griffins stardom as he became the first rookie since Yao Ming to make the All-Star game while dominating the league with his out of this world athleticism and flashiness. His rookie season, however, was debatably his best season for the Los Angeles Clippers as the 22.5 points per game he averaged was only beaten once by himself in his time there, he also never averaged more than 12.1 rebounds per game which was achieved also in his rookie season. Then, in the season of 2017-18, after signing a huge contract with the Clippers, Griffin was traded alongside role players Willie Reed, Brice Johnson and a second round pick for the Detroit Pistons Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and a first and second-round pick. Since the trade, Griffin has averaged 24.5 points per game in the 2018-19 season marking the highest amount of points per game averaged in his career. His rebound numbers have gone down but to be fair to Griffin, he is playing in a frontcourt alongside the best rebounder in the league and one of the best of all time in Andre Drummond. Consistently averaging over 5 assists per game he has transitioned his style of play to meet the expectations of the modern day NBA, Griffin attempted the third most step back shots by an individual player this year only behind James Harden and Luka Doncic respectively. Since adopting his game to the modern NBA style he has grown as a player and it seems as if paying him more than thirty million dollars a year is paying off.
The Phoenix Suns line-up consists of four things: Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, so many forwards and finally even more forwards. The battle between Kelly Oubre Jr, Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges, and Warren is tightly contested and from a fan’s perspective, Warren stands out from the pack. Now as a member of the Indiana Pacers who is able to give him a clear cut opportunity, it is now his time to show everyone what he is really capable of achieving as his competition at the small forward position would be Bojan Bogdanovic. Warren was never known as an efficient spot-up shooter when coming into the NBA or even for his first few years as he averaged a 28% three point shot in his first four seasons in the league connecting 79 of his 279 attempts from the outside. The changes made before the most recent NBA season were drastic and career changing for him yet it seems to have gone unnoticed due to the Suns’ disappointing record. Shooting a ridiculous 43% from behind the line, Warren has completely redefined his game as one of the most efficient shooters in the league as he drained 77 of his 180 attempts. This is a player who isn’t talked about enough and assuming he can perform to the same standard as the 2018-19 season, is the play that the Pacers needed to push them over the edge into a real contender spot.
Chavano Rainer “Buddy” Hield is a stud and a future champion. I’m calling it right here and right now, the Sacramento Kings by my prediction will win a championship ring in the next 5-8 years max. This is due to the fact that the team that the Kings are building fit perfectly with each other and have all the necessities to a championship team in this modern era. I believe that Hield will be the x-factor alongside De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III in this scenario. He has been breaking records over his first 3 years of his NBA career as he has already broken the Kings single-season record for most three-pointers made finishing the season on 245 three-pointers for the entire season. As well as that, in April 2019 he broke Damian Lillard’s NBA record (599) for most three-pointers made in a player’s first three seasons in the league. This is a player who isn’t talked about enough, someone who averaged only 30 minutes a game and finished with 20+ points per game whilst missing only 2 games in the last 2 regular seasons. Definitely, someone in consideration for the Most Improved Player award and is someone that I can see continuing to progress and expand his game to become one of the deadliest backcourt duos in the league alongside Fox.