DimeMag

The NBA’s 30 Biggest Unsung Heroes

Behind every great team, the superstars and the dynasties, are the guys that the average fans don’t know about. Regardless of the amount of talent at the top of the roster, coaches are forced to look for production from role players on a nightly basis. While the average fan may not realize these players exist, their impact, while consistently failing to show up in the box scores, is not disregarded by teammates or coaches.

Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” If that is not enough in itself, John Wooden had a lot to say about the importance of every player on a team: “The main ingredient to stardom is the rest of the team.”

Listed below is a player for each team that has an effect on their team that goes beyond the box score, that doesn’t always show up as points, and rarely gets recognized by those outside of his own locker room.

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Milwaukee Bucks – KHRIS MIDDLETON
After appearing in just 27 games in his rookie season with Detroit, Middleton has latched on with the bottom-feeding Milwaukee Bucks. In 36 appearances for the Bucks, including 24 starts, Middleton has averaged 11.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest on 45.5 percent shooting from the field. Despite the above average numbers, Middleton has stayed out of the spotlight due to his underachieving team and the flashes of brilliance shown by the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Middleton has quietly submitted himself as one of the most consistent players on Larry Drew‘s roster. As a matter of fact, Drew has turned to his second-year versatile forward at the end of games for his shot-making ability. December was the month of Middleton’s career, notching games of 29 and 27 points respectively.

“He’s grown a tremendous amount,” Bucks coach Larry Drew told reporters recently, “Looking at his situation in Detroit last year and where he was to where he is right now, it’s like night and day.”

It is clear that Middleton is a force to be reckoned with in the future, and could turn out to be a key piece to the Bucks’ rebuild.

Not only has the second-year player been able to get it done at the offensive end, but he has often been matched up against the opposing team’s premier wing scorer. At this early stage in his career, Middleton has been in charge of slowing down superstars such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.

Orlando Magic – NIKOLA VUCEVIC
Vucevic showed some promising glimpses in Philadelphia during his rookie season, but with Doug Collins running the show for the Sixers fresh off a loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the 7-footer was shipped off to Orlando as a part of the blockbuster deal that brought Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia.

While neither team could have imagined it at the time, the Magic clearly got the better end of the trade. Bynum failed to suit up even once for the Sixers, and Vucevic has proved to be a steady and reliable force down low. Vucevic isn’t exactly a household name, or at least not yet. Last year, the USC product posted per game averages of 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds. In just his third season in the Association, Vucevic is on his way to averaging a double-double for the second time in his career, currently averaging 13 points and 11 boards.

Despite Orlando’s struggles, Vucevic has impacted his young team in a positive way in just about every aspect of the game. Offensively and defensively, the Magic are a more efficient team with their starting center on the floor. Per 100 possessions, Orlando scores four more points at the offensive end while holding its opponents to fewer points on the defensive end.

However, his impact goes further than that. Orlando’s rebounding numbers are drastically improved with Vucevic on the floor. To demonstrate just how effective he is on the glass, the Magic rebound just 23 percent of their own shots at the offensive end without Vucevic on the court, but when he is holding down the paint they average 26.2 percent. While that increase of 3.3 is a vast difference, the difference of 4.9 percent on the defensive glass better demonstrates just how bad Orlando would be without Vucevic.

Utah Jazz – MARVIN WILLIAMS
Over Marvin Williams’ eight-year career, it is safe to say that he has been undervalued around the league. Not many of your average basketball fans know about Williams, but there aren’t many guys in the NBA with his unique skill-set. At 6-9 with the ability to stretch the floor out to the three-point line and the athleticism to run the floor and finish in transition, Williams causes many mismatches at the offensive end.

In approximately 27 minutes per contest, Williams is posting averages of 9.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. Additionally, the stretch power forward is shooting a career-high from deep at 40.4 percent. Given his rare combination of size and athleticism, it is no secret that Williams is a threat in transition. To be exact, he averages 1.29 points per possession in transition, finishing 60.9 percent of his attempts.

Offensively, Utah is drastically better in almost every statistical category with Williams on the floor than they are without him. For instance, they average just 98.1 points per 100 possessions with Williams on the bench and an impressive 107.2 with him on the floor. While Williams is certainly not known for his playmaking skills, the ball seems to move without an agenda when he is on the court. The Jazz assist 59 percent of their field goals with Williams, but without him, just 54 percent of their field goals are assisted on. Another dramatic improvement at the offensive end when Williams is on the court is Utah’s ball security. When the veteran is on the floor, they average just 13 turnovers as a team per 48 minutes as opposed to the 16 they average in his absence.

Sacramento Kings – ISAIAH THOMAS
Despite the loud splash that new ownership has tried to make this season, Isaiah Thomas has somehow managed to supply the Kings with some of the best point guard play in the league thus far. Bringing in Rudy Gay raised some eyebrows, and perhaps that is justified, but Thomas is raising eyebrows around the league for different reasons. After being taken with the last pick in the 2011 Draft, the 5-9 point guard has become a centerpiece of the Kings franchise. With averages of 19.3 points and 6.3 assists per contest on 45.3 percent shooting to go with the impressive 41 percent clip he is connecting at from three-point range.

The impact that Thomas has goes beyond those basic per game numbers though. Not only has he impressed with his outside shooting, but he is averaging 1.03 points per possession in isolation situations, 1.24 in transition, and 1.29 coming off screens. Defensively, he has done what opponents have failed to do to him, stifle them. Opponents are averaging a lowly 0.73 points per possession in isolation situations against Thomas. To go along with that impressive number, the undersized guard has defended the pick-and-roll extraordinarily well, allowing just 0.79 points per possession.

If all of those numbers failed to do Thomas justice, the Kings average eight more attempts per 48 minutes from the free throw line with him on the floor than they do without. At the other end, his quickness and activity allow him to disrupt the opponent’s offense. To be exact, the Thomas-less Kings average four less turnovers forced per 48 minutes than they do with him on the court.

Philadelphia 76ers – SPENCER HAWES
By far, Spencer Hawes is having his most effective season as a center in the NBA. With career-highs in points per game with 14.3, rebounds with 8.6, assists with 3.4, blocks with 1.5, and three-point shooting at 44.4 percent, Hawes has found himself a niche in Philadelphia.

In a different role in new head coach Brett Brown‘s offense, 7-footer has excelled in every aspect of the game. Serving as more of a facilitator and floor-spacer on a roster of young players that like to attack the rim, Spencer has created countless open looks for others and found himself open from the top of the key more than a few times. Providing veteran leadership to a rebuilding team and an option to run the offense through efficiently in the high post, Hawes has established himself as not only one of the most versatile big men in the league, but a hot commodity.
Still, with the surprising rookie campaign of point guard Michael Carter-Williams, Spencer has escaped the spotlight.

Defensively, Hawes has become one of the better pick-and-roll defenders when it comes to big men. When his man is setting the screen, they are averaging just 0.75 points per possession. At the other end, the Sixers’ veteran center is averaging 1.19 points per possession as the pick-and-roll man, good for 10th in the NBA.

Cleveland Cavaliers – ANDERSON VAREJAO
Varejao has been a serviceable center for the entirety of his professional career. However, he still flies under the radar and is undervalued to an extent. Guys like the Cavs’ Brazilian center are not the ones that the ordinary basketball fans know a whole lot about. Varejao won’t put up 30 points, more than likely, he won’t even put up 20. However, he will run the floor, defend, box out, and clean up the glass with the best of them. Over his nine-year career in Cleveland, he has averaged an impressive 7.7 rebounds.

In just about 29 minutes per game this season, Varejao is averaging 8.3 points and 9.8 rebounds. The most impressive thing about the 6-11, 267-pound veteran is that he brings a passion and relentless energy to the game on a nightly basis.

As a team, Cleveland struggles dramatically on the glass in the absence of Varejao, coming down with just 48.8 percent of rebounds, including 27.9 percent at the offensive end and 69.7 percent at the defensive end. In contrast, the Cavs are an entirely different team with their veteran center, rebounding the ball at an overall rate of 52.5 percent, including 31.9 at the offensive end and 72.5 percent at the defensive end.

New York Knicks – TIM HARDAWAY JR.
The Knicks have been bad. There’s no denying that. There’s also no denying the positive impact that rookie swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. has had on the veteran team. After failing to lock up significant minutes early on in 2013-2014, Hardaway is now a major part of head coach Mike Woodson‘s rotation.

December saw Hardaway come into his own, averaging over 11 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting from the field and 46.2 percent from deep. In 34 appearances thus far, including one start, the rookie from Michigan has averaged an impressive 8.3 points per contest on 45.9 percent shooting and 40.4 percent from three-point range.

Most importantly, Hardaway has given the Knicks efficient minutes off the bench, particularly in the wake of J.R. Smith‘s shoe untying antics. Almost midway through his first NBA season, he has averaged a phenomenal 1.1 points per possession, good for 12th in the league. Hardaway’s shooting ability and athleticism are what made him a first-round pick last June, and both have been on display to this point. In spot up situations, Hardaway is averaging 1.2 points per possession, shooting an impressive 32-of-74 from three-point land. That’s not the only impact he has had on the Knicks, however. He has been explosive in transition, getting 1.28 points per possession, finishing at a 60 percent rate and knocking down four of his nine triples.

Boston Celtics – KRIS HUMPHRIES
Kris Humphries came to Boston solely for salary reasons as a part of the trade that sent franchise cornerstones Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, along with Jason Terry, to the Brooklyn Nets. Nobody could have expected Humphries to have the type of impact that he has had on the Celtics to this point.

Humphries has averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 boards per contest on 53.6 percent shooting. While those numbers may not seem impressive, it is only due to the fact that he struggles to rack up minutes on an up-and-coming team. Per 48 minutes, the veteran forward is averaging 19.7 points and 14.1 rebounds.

In addition, the Celtics are averaging 109.8 points per 100 possessions with Humphries on the floor. However, Brad Stevens‘ club is struggling offensively with him on the bench to a rate of 98.8. Per possession, Humphries is averaging 1.02 points, well above average.

At the defensive end, while not as drastic as the offensive end, the Celtics are an improved team with Humphries on the floor, holding opponents to 1.2 less points per 100 possessions. Humphries in particular has shut down his individual opponent, holding them to 0.76 points per possession, including 0.79 in post ups.

Detroit Pistons – RODNEY STUCKEY
With an offseason that brought in a new head coach in Maurice Cheeks along with Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to Detroit, Rodney Stuckey has flown under the radar. The veteran combo guard is averaging 13.3 points per game in just 25 minutes of action while shooting a career-high 44.4 percent from the field.

Stuckey’s efficiency has been vital to Detroit thus far. With a Player Efficiency Rating above the league average at 15.26, the 6-5 guard has done more than what could have been asked of him prior to the season. With guys such as Smith, Jennings, Monroe, and Drummond, Stuckey was expected to play more of a filler role. However, with the struggles of Detroit’s Big Four, they have leaned on Stuckey to provide some offense from the wing in an offense that lacks spacing due to their big frontcourt.

Detroit is averaging 3.3 more points per 100 possessions with Stuckey on the floor, in large part due to the guard’s ability to create his own shot but also his leadership and ability to draw fouls. The Pistons attempt six more free throws per 48 minutes with Stuckey in the lineup than they do without. In addition, they protect the ball much better with their veteran guard on the floor than they do in his absence. Per 48 minutes, Detroit averages 14 turnovers with Stuckey and 16 without.

Los Angeles Lakers – JORDAN HILL
Jordan Hill has proven to be a very valuable piece to the Lakers. Hill continuously brings energy, toughness, and a rebounding presence to their second unit. There is never a possession that you see Hill relax and not compete. Always fighting to change shots, grab rebounds, and get the best shot available, the Lakers’ backup center is a rare breed.

Without Hill on the floor, the Lakers are a horrific rebounding team, averaging 22 percent of their offensive boards and 45.8 percent at both ends. To demonstrate exactly how much Hill affects Mike D’Antoni‘s Lakers, they rebound at the offensive end at a 28.7 percent rate and 48.9 percent overall. Despite coming off the bench, the effectiveness of Hill’s effort cannot be understated. He’s over 22 points and 18 rebounds per 48 minutes.

His athleticism and ability to run the floor make him a tough cover at the offensive end as well. Hill is averaging 1.1 points per possession in transition, 1.12 off offensive rebounds, and 1.2 in the pick-and-roll. Hill’s basketball IQ and unique skill-set allow him to punish smaller defenders and purely out run the larger ones.

Brooklyn Nets – ANDRAY BLATCHE
Andray Blatche was known for his unique talents during his stint with the Washington Wizards, but more so for his immaturity and lack of consistent production. However, Blatche has resurrected his career with the Brooklyn Nets. Showing glimpses of great talent last year off the bench, it became clear that he matured and started to materialize that experts once thought he would be.

Blatche has served as the backup to Brook Lopez, one of the premier young centers in the game. Despite excelling in that role, he will now be called upon to do much more as the starter with Lopez out due to injury.

Without question, Blatche is an offensive force. With size, strength, and touch, he is as tough a cover as any starting center, if not tougher. In post-up situations alone, Blatche is shooting an impressive 50 percent. He isn’t just effective with his back to the basket however; Blatche is averaging 1.1 points per possession in the pick-and-roll on 56.7 percent shooting.

The most impressive part of Blatche’s improvement is his dedication to the boards, particularly on the offensive end. Brooklyn’s offensive rebounding percentage increases by 5.4 percent with Blatche on the floor, jumping all the way up to 28.6 percent.

Charlotte Bobcats – JOSH McROBERTS
Josh McRoberts is a journeyman to an extent, playing for five different NBA teams at just the age of 26. However, it seems as though the former Duke big man has found himself a home in Charlotte. McRoberts has distinguished himself as the starting power forward for head coach Steve Clifford, despite using the fourth overall pick in this summer’s draft on Indiana star Cody Zeller.

The effect that McRoberts has is felt most significantly at the offensive end of the floor. Although he doesn’t do it with points or assists, the skilled big man plays within the offense perfectly, and the ball movement is significantly better with him on the court. Charlotte averages 6.1 more points per 100 possessions with McRoberts on the floor, and 58 percent of the team’s field goals are assisted on as opposed to just 50 percent without him. In addition, McRoberts serves as a perfect complement to Kemba Walker in the pick-and-roll, averaging 1.17 points per possession, and good for 11th in the Association.

At the defensive end, Charlotte is more efficient with McRoberts on the floor as well, allowing 103.9 points per 100 possessions to 104.5 without. Overall, the Bobcats have a point differential of positive 0.1 when McRoberts is playing and negative 6.6 points without.

Memphis Grizzlies – JAMES JOHNSON
Johnson is a name that not many outside of the Grizzlies’ locker room and fans know. Despite playing just 12 percent of the minutes for Memphis, Johnson has proven to be a difference-maker, particularly at the offensive end and on the glass.

Thus far, Johnson has averaged 8.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. More impressively, the Grizzlies average 105.4 points per 100 possessions without Johnson on the floor but an outstanding 112.9 with him.

From a rebounding standpoint, Memphis is 8.4 percent better at the offensive end, 5.3 percent at the defensive end, and 5.3 percent overall when Johnson is on the floor.

Defensively, Johnson may very well be the best perimeter defender off the bench for Dave Joerger. His opponents are averaging just 0.76 points per possession against him in isolation situations and shooting a mere 30 percent from the field.

New Orleans Pelicans – RYAN ANDERSON
Guys like Anderson have become relevant in the NBA, although their effect on a team is not always noticed to the fullest. A value cannot be placed on a player with size that can shoot from anywhere on the floor. Not only do today’s stretch 4s fill it up from deep, they open up the floor for teammates to either post up, drive the lane, or simply just space the court correctly.

Anderson is easily having his best season yet, averaging 19.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. His value goes way beyond his own numbers though. New Orleans averages 114.6 points per 100 possessions with Anderson on the floor; however, they average just 104 without him. Clearly, Anderson’s play positively affects the entire team and makes New Orleans an offensive juggernaut.

At the offensive end, Anderson has been as efficient as New Orleans could have ever hoped. Averaging at least one point per possession in pick-and-rolls, off screens, in spot-ups, and in transition, Anderson is among the top 25 in the NBA in two of those categories, as well as 15th in the post at 0.98 points per possession.

Chicago Bulls – TAJ GIBSON
To Chicago Bulls fans, Taj Gibson is not an unsung hero. They know how vital he is to their success. However, Gibson has never been perceived that way in the spotlight due to his non-flashy style of play and steady production. Gibson is averaging 12.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in 2013-2014.

Despite Gibson’s offensive output off the bench for Chicago, his presence is felt most at the defensive end. As a team, the Bulls are allowing 107.2 points per 100 possessions with Gibson on the bench but just 97.2 with him on the floor. Opponents are rarely successful against him in the post, scoring just 0.6 points per possession and shooting just 32.4 percent. While his block numbers fail to stand out, the Bulls to manage to block seven percent of their opponents shot attempts with him on the floor as opposed to just four percent without.

Washington Wizards – NENE
A few years ago, Nene could hardly fly under the radar. The 6-11 Brazilian center was a household name throwing down high-flying dunks with the Denver Nuggets. While there is no question that Nene is passed his prime athletically, his value has not been compromised.

In his 12th season in the Association, Nene is averaging 13.1 points and 5.8 rebounds with a Player Efficiency Rating of 16.95. In addition, his presence is being felt at the defensive end at a high rate. As a team, the Wizards are allowing 102.6 points per 100 possessions with Nene on the floor and 109.8 without. Washington is also forcing more turnovers per 48 minutes with their veteran center on the floor and rebounding at a much higher rate at the defensive end. With Nene on the bench, the Wizards are securing just 69.6 percent of their defensive rebounding opportunities, but with him, they are cleaning up the glass at a 74.6 percent rate.

Nene has been one of the more efficient big men in the league in the post at both ends of the floor. On offense, he is connecting on 50 percent of his attempts. Defensively, opponents are shooting just 44.4 percent in the post and averaging just 0.76 points per possession.

Denver Nuggets – TIMOFEY MOZGOV
Mozgov has been one of the pleasant surprises for rookie head coach Brian Shaw. With backup center JaVale McGee out due to injury, Mozgov has stepped in wonderfully. With a positive impact at both ends of the floor to go with his size, Mozgov is making it difficult for when McGee does eventually return.

Offensively, Mozgov is averaging 8.9 points while playing 44 percent of Denver’s minutes. As a team, the Nuggets average 1.6 more points per 100 possessions with their Russian center on the floor. He is among the most efficient big men in the game despite his limited attempts. Mozgov is currently scoring 0.99 points per possession, including 0.91 in the post and 1.59 in transition. If that fails to demonstrate exactly how efficient Mozgov has been thus far, he is shooting the ball at an impressive 55.5 percent rate.

The biggest advantage to having Mozgov on the court is the defensive side of the ball. Denver is allowing nearly 10 less points per 100 possessions with the big man on the court. To demonstrate just how crucial Mozgov has been to the Nuggets, with him on the court, the Nuggets are outscoring opponents by 5.8 points per 100 possessions as opposed to being outscored by 5.4 points without him.

Toronto Raptors – AMIR JOHNSON
Johnson is among the top unsung heroes in the league. While he is as important to his team’s success as almost anyone in the NBA, he often goes unnoticed due to the fact that his numbers don’t jump out at you in the box scores.

Despite Amir’s impressive averages of 11 points and seven rebounds on 56 percent shooting in approximately 30 minutes per contest, he continuously gets overlooked due to his physical, bruising style that doesn’t attract the spotlight. However, Toronto does manage to score 8.1 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and allow 5.4 less. Ultimately, Toronto outscores its opponents by an average of 7.8 points per 100 possessions with Johnson in the lineup and gets outscored by 5.6 without.

Offensively, he’s been as effective as they come despite rarely having plays called for him. Per possession, Johnson scores 1.05 points on average. The majority of his offense comes from pick-and-rolls and offensive rebounds, in which he averages 1.02 and 1.38 respectively.

Defensively, Johnson is as effective as anyone when it comes to defending the pick-and-roll. In 32 attempts, opponents are shooting just 31 percent, good for a mere 0.59 points per possession, third in the NBA.

Atlanta Hawks – KYLE KORVER
Kyle Korver has been one of the most consistent role players since entering the league. He made his name in Philadelphia as one of the premiere three-point shooters and never looked back.

Korver is averaging 12.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists on 49.3 percent shooting, including 47.7 percent from deep. As a team, Atlanta averages 2.1 more points per 100 possessions with Korver on the floor which doesn’t come as much of a surprise given his endless shooting range. However, his effect has expanded from just a three-point shooter. Sixty-nine percent of the Hawks field goals have been assisted on with Korver on the floor, but just 60 percent without. Aside from his assists, Korver never holds the ball too long before moving it on to the next teammate.

What escapes the average eye is Korver’s improvement on defense. The Hawks allow 2.9 more points per 100 possessions in their swingman’s absence. In addition, his opponents are shooting just 40.8 percent against him. Beyond all doubt, Kyle Korver has not only improved but turned into one of the most crucial players in the league to his team’s success.

Dallas Mavericks – JAE CROWDER
On a team with a lot of personalities such as Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki to go along with their flamboyant owner Mark Cuban, Jae Crowder has been a model of consistency for the Mavericks in his short career.

Offensively, Crowder is explosive in transition, averaging 1.3 points per possession, but lacks a true dominant presence with the ball. Instead, he relies on his athleticism to get his points in the open court.

However, Crowder plays a major role in the Mavericks’ defensive scheme. Per 100 possessions, Dallas allows 113 points without their young forward, but with him, they allow just 99.2. Along with his strong defensive presence, Crowder is an improvement on the boards compared to the team’s other options. Their rebounding percentages decrease across the board without him on the floor, most significantly from 73.9 to 68.5 percent on the defensive glass.

Crowder may not be flashy or do anything to grab the average spectator’s attention, but for those involved with the Dallas Mavericks, the impact of Jae Crowder on their veteran team cannot be understated.

Golden State Warriors – ANDRE IGUODALA
Golden State made a name for themselves during their playoff run a season ago; however, their one glaring need was a lockdown wing defender. Subsequently, Iguodala thrives in exactly that role, and not only is he a great defender, but he is a great complementary weapon to the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Given the Warriors’ up-tempo offense, Iguodala fits in perfectly with his length and athleticism. Without Iguodala, Golden State scores 100.9 points per 100 possessions. However, they up their average to 114 when he is on the floor. In addition, Iguodala is a great passer and teammate. Sixty-five percent of their field goals are assisted on with Iguodala, but in his absence that number dips all the way town to 54.

Defensively, Iguodala is as good as it comes when it comes to wing defenders. With length, athleticism, and incredible instincts, he has a reputation as one of the top three in the league along with Luol Deng and LeBron James. As a team, they allow just 97.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and 105.9 without.

Houston Rockets – OMRI CASSPI
Casspi is on his third team in his fifth year in the NBA, however, it seems like he has found a role that suits his skill-set ideally in Kevin McHale‘s system. Naturally a small forward, McHale has also found time for him at the power forward position, serving as a stretch 4.

In 35 games for the Rockets, Casspi is averaging 8.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Defense is his calling card for Houston, however. Per 100 possessions, the Rockets are allowing 109 points with Casspi on the bench and just 104.7 with him on the floor. Casspi is stifling his opponents on the defensive side of the ball, allowing just 0.77 points per possession, including 0.57 in isolation situations and 0.79 in spot-ups. Additionally, Houston is causing three more turnovers per 48 minutes with Casspi on the floor.

Far from a star, Casspi is vital to the Rockets success if they plan to make a deep playoff run. His capabilities to stretch the floor offensively, defend multiple positions, and jumpstart their transition offense by causing turnovers on defense makes him unique.

Los Angeles Clippers – J.J. REDICK
With more household names than your average team, naming an unsung hero for the Clippers was a little tricky. However, Redick fits the criteria. While he may not appear on SportsCenter or be a part of the original Lob City, the Clippers need Redick to perform in order to be successful.

Redick’s primary role is as a floor-spacer. Since his time at Duke, there was nobody that questioned his shooting ability. With his smooth stroke and limitless range, it was simply a question of what else he offered to an NBA team. Despite missing time due to injury, Redick is averaging 15.9 points on 35.4 percent shooting from three-point range in his first year with Los Angeles.

In the 17 games that Redick has played in, the Clippers average 117.2 points per 100 possessions and just 107.7 without him. He has been one of the most efficient scorers thus far despite his limited amount of games. Overall, Redick is averaging 1.05 points per possession. Despite popular belief, he is not simply a shooter. Nearly 20 percent of Redick’s offense is coming in transition, where he is averaging 1.19 points per possession.

Portland Trail Blazers – NICOLAS BATUM
Portland is one of the most surprising teams in the NBA this season. After finishing near the bottom of the West a season ago, the Blazers have now cemented themselves among the best teams in the league. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard have received much of the recognition for the turnaround, but Nicolas Batum deserves much more credit than he has gotten.

In 36 games, Batum is averaging 13.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists with a Player Efficiency Rating of 16.47. By his numbers alone, it is clear that Batum is one of the most versatile forwards in basketball. However, the impact that he has on both ends of the court seems to slip through the cracks.

When Batum is on the floor, Portland is averaging 116.7 points per 100 possessions, but that number dips down significantly to 108.2 without him. Scoring is not the only thing that Batum is capable of however. The team’s rebounding percentages increase with him on the floor and their turnover numbers go down.

Oklahoma City Thunder – NICK COLLISON
Collison is the ultimate unsung hero. He has played his entire career with one franchise, says all the right things, does all the right things, and is as low maintenance as they come. He has an impact at both ends of the floor, on the glass, and his leadership and high basketball IQ rub off on the younger players.

On offense, the Thunder score 116.8 points per 100 possessions with Collison on the floor but without him, they score just 106.4 points. Their turnovers drop significantly from 17 per 48 minutes to 13. Despite rarely having plays called for him, Collison is more than serviceable in the pick-and-roll and scores most of his points in those situations as well as putbacks from offensive rebounds.

Collison is also makes an impact on the boards at both ends, improving Oklahoma City’s rebounding percentages across the board when he is on the court.

Miami Heat – MICHAEL BEASLEY
Michael Beasley has had a troubled career to say the least. Immaturity is the word that most people would use to describe the versatile forward before he headed back to Miami for his second stint with the Heat. However, it seems as though Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, LeBron James, and company have him back on the right track, and his play on the court has been impressive.

Beasley is averaging 10.1 points and 4.2 rebounds on 50 percent shooting, including a 44 percent clip from three-point range. In addition to straightening up his act, Beasley has provided some much needed offense off the bench for the two-time defending champions. Not only has the young forward put up points on a consistent basis, but he has done it efficiently.

His impact can be felt in more ways than one however. When Beasley is on the floor, Miami’s rebounding percentages are all improved, which can prove to be extremely crucial given the fact that rebounding is the Heat’s one glaring weakness.

San Antonio Spurs – BORIS DIAW
Everyone knows about Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. However, far less people know about the impact that Boris Diaw has on the Spurs. While Diaw is not overly athletic, or a great shooter, or even great in the post, his high skill level and basketball IQ make him effective and a major part of Gregg Popovich‘s rotation.

Diaw is averaging 9.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists on 55.2 percent shooting. Not only does it appear that the offense runs much more smoothly with Diaw on the floor, but numbers prove it. Per 100 possessions, the Spurs score 106.6 points with him on the bench and 115.3 with him on the floor.

Efficiency is what Diaw’s game is predicated around. Overall, he averages 1.02 points per possession, including 1.31 in isolation, 1.18 in the post, 1.54 off offensive rebounds, and 1.14 in transition.
Defensively, Diaw has allowed just 0.79 points per possession and an even more impressive 0.58 in the pick-and-roll, good for second in the NBA.

Indiana Pacers – LANCE STEPHENSON
Stephenson came into his own for the Pacers last season after being known primarily for his celebrations on the bench. The combo guard has picked up exactly where he left off, averaging 13.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists on 49.3 percent shooting.

Not only has Stephenson gotten it done at the offensive end for Indian, but he fits in perfectly with their smothering defense. He has proven himself as one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in the Association, allowing just 0.76 points per possession. However, shooters today have gotten so good at using screens to get open jump shots. Take Ray Allen for instance. Stephenson has done an incredible job of working through screens and not allowing open looks at the basket. Shooters are averaging a lowly 0.71 points per possession against Stephenson coming off of screens.

Phoenix SunsCHANNING FRYE
The Suns must be considered this year’s biggest surprise. Coming into the season, most thought they were a likely candidate for the upcoming Tankapalooza, featuring a lineup that included two point guards and no viable two-guard, a center no one wanted (Miles Plumlee), a swingman that was left for dead (Gerald Green) and a young coach. Instead, they’re making it work and Channing Frye deserves some of the credit.

The 6-11 forward is stretching defenses with his three-point shot, shooting 42 percent while finding the space to jack up 5.4 attempts per game. Only five players shoot it more consistently with a higher percentage. That’s his role — spacing the floor — and it’s been a huge reason why Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe have played so well together, driving to the basket and slicing apart opposing defenses.

Frye is second on Phoenix in on-court/off-court ratings, per 82games.com, and his impact dwarfs that of everyone else on the team outside of Dragic. Frye will always be one of the worst defensive players on this list, and predictably, the Suns are better on that side of the court without him. But he’s such a good shooter that it more than makes up for it. Phoenix is averaging an absurd 114.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, per 82games.com. Without him? Try 101.6.

Minnesota TimberwolvesCOREY BREWER
Brewer’s reputation as a solid defender who can jumpstart a transition offense is well-known. So it shouldn’t surprise you that the T-Wolves are playing at the NBA’s second fastest pace. He’s also a long-limbed wing player who has the versatility to throw up 2.1 stocks (steals plus blocks) a night. What should surprise you, however, is he’s been much more impacting on the offensive end this year.

Check this: Minnesota has actually been better on defense without him, but that’s all covered up by his almost perplexing affect on the squad’s offense. The T-Wolves are nearly 11 points per 100 possessions better offensively when he’s playing, a strange situation considering he’s not a great perimeter threat (29 percent from deep), doesn’t create off the dribble (1.5 assists per game) and is only the fourth-leading scorer. But Brewer is a 6-7 greyhound, and he’s often been the receiver on one of Kevin Love‘s immaculate outlet passes. With forty percent of his shots coming at the rim and 77 percent of his buckets assisted, Brewer is the classic role player who doesn’t take much away from the table.

What do you think?

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