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.
3. KYLE KORVER
Korver is a three-point magician who is dangerous from anywhere on the court. His ability to stretch the floor as a versatile forward allows for spacing on the court and causes an opening inside for penetration. Korver shot 45.7 percent from three-point range and was money from the corners, shooting a combined 51.1 percent from both sides. He was more active on the boards this year, grabbing four a game, a career-high. The team shot .051 percent better with him on the court and scored 6.4 points per 100 possessions better. Another key stat was that they assisted on 9.9 percent more of their points with him in the game, which is indicative of the spacing that he provides when he is on the floor.
2. MARIO CHALMERS
Chalmers isn’t one of the “Big 3” but he sure played a pivotal role for the Miami Heat this season. As I’ll mention later with Carter, taking shots at the rim or past the three-point line is of huge significance to a team’s success. Chalmers has always been a good three-point shooter and continued the trend this season with a 40.3 three-point percentage and an effective field goal percentage of 54.5 percent (effective field goal percentage takes into account that a three-pointer is worth more than a two-point shot).
In a lineup that is constantly changing, it was encouraging to see that the two best Miami Heat lineups have Chalmers in them. He is a defensive ball hound who was been a bit outplayed in the NBA Finals by Tony Parker, but that isn’t uncommon considering he is the best point guard in the NBA. Regardless, Chalmers has attacked the basket more the past two seasons than his previous three with 152 shots coming at the rim.
1. VINCE CARTER
If I had asked you a few years ago if Vince Carter would be on this list, I would’ve heard a collective “Hell No!” from the readers. This isn’t the same Vinsanity. Rick Carlisle, the coach for the Dallas Mavericks, got the wily, old veteran to buy into the concept of team defense and playing within the offense. Carter averaged 13.4 points per game this season while starting only three games and playing 25.8 minutes per game. Even though it was the least amount of games that Carter has started in during his career, it was a blessing for it allowed him to stay fresh the entire season, as he played in 81 games. One of the biggest reasons that Carter was so effective this year was his efficiency on three-point attempts and his shot selection.
Carter shot 399 three-pointers this year, a number he hasn’t eclipsed since the 2006 season in which he took 19.5 shots a game, nearly double what he took this year. The three-point shot and shots at the rim are believed to be far more efficient shots than long two-pointers from the wings, considering the added weight of the extra point for a three-pointer. Carter not only shot the three-pointer more often but also did so at a far more efficient rate than prior years. He shot 40.6 percent from there, which ranks as his second-best shooting percentage of his career. The team played much better with him in the game as he made the Mavericks 7.4 points per 100 possessions better on offense. The defense suffered by 3.9 points per 100 possessions when he sat on the bench. Everyone knew “Vinsanity” could score, but it is impressive to see him become defensively invested after years of indifference in Orlando, Phoenix, New Jersey and Toronto.
Who else do you think is an undervalued player?
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