In 2009, an article came out in The New York Times called “The No-Stats All-Stars” by Michael Lewis, the same Michael Lewis who wrote the famed book “Moneyball” that highlighted the Oakland Athletics and the idea of finding hidden value in untraditional manners. The article did the same thing except it spoke of the Houston Rockets and small forward Shane Battier. It talked about the effect of winning and what he did to put the team on a winning track even though he didn’t seem to make the biggest difference stat-wise. He just made his teammates much better… much, much better.
It became increasingly important to find value when the Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified in December of 2011, ending the NBA lockout for the 2011-12 season. Owners now couldn’t cry wolf when they overpaid for middling players such as James Posey and Jerome James. They realized these were the types of players that were truly burdening down the cap and that it would be essential for the team’s success to find value in other places. Everyone but David Kahn got the memo.
I decided to look at five players who were these kinds of players. Here are the rules for deeming who was considered an undervalued, statistical steal:
1) Couldn’t be considered one of the three best players on a team
2) Couldn’t average more than 14 points, 12 rebounds or seven assists per game
3) Had to make less than the average NBA salary of $5.15 million
4) Couldn’t be on a rookie contract
Players like Mike Conley Jr. and Nene were originally considered but were unable to crack the list due to their failure of one or more of the four rules above.
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5. REGGIE EVANS
Reggie Evans is known for two things and two things only: setting nasty screens and rebounding (well, Chris Kaman might argue differently). He’s also known for taunting LeBron James but we’ll save that for another day. Evans is extremely good at the things he is known for, along with being one of the dirtiest players in the NBA. Last season, Sports Illustrated conducted a poll from players that voted him the dirtiest player in the NBA.
His rebounding numbers (3.3 offensive rebounds per game) reflect the toughness and tenacity he brings to the court. Evans grabbed an average of 11 rebounds a game in merely 24.6 minutes of work. The Brooklyn Nets were substantially worse at rebounding when Evans hit the bench, averaging nearly five percent worse on total rebounds. Evans is typically seen as a player who can do those two things but that is it, meaning he typically drags a team’s offense down. That wasn’t true this year as the Nets were three points per 100 possessions better on the offensive side of the ball with him in the game. Evans has two years left on his three-year, $5,086,905 deal and looks to be a steal for that price.
4. CARLOS DELFINO
The Argentinian hoisted up 6.3 three-pointers a game, which was good for fifth in the NBA. He shot an impressive 37.5 percent from deep and the Rockets played better with him on the court. Having a shooting guard who could shoot from deep and push the tempo was a godsend for the Rockets this year, and the acquisition of Delfino — for $3.0 million — was well worth it. The Rockets scored four points per 100 possessions better with Delfino in the lineup and allowed two fewer points on defense.