Hidden Gems in the NBA
April 12, 2017
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The playoffs are made for superstars. If you want to win a series against a good team, when both squads are firing with 100 percent effort, you had better have the better talent. But whenever you look back at a big series for a team, it’s never just one guy pulling all the weight. Whether it’s key defense, rebounding, timely shots or great playmaking, there are always players who step up and deliver around those guys who grab the headlines. And you’re not winning without them.
I always think of these players as “Man, that guy killed us” guys. They’re the ones who opposing fans look back on with a mixture of awe and loathing. Tim Thomas. Thabo Sefolosha. Ron Artest. Wesley Matthews. Tony Allen. These guys can swing series. Here are a few you should look out for, with the playoffs just two weeks away.
Bojan Bogdanovic SG / Washington (Designation: Crucial shooter)
3PM PER GAME: 3.9
Think of him as the Wizards’ Peja Stojakovic, and not just because of the obvious Eastern-European sharpshooter connection. His athleticism means he can get to the rim, and he’s a constant threat to heat up from outside, shooting 39 percent with the Wizards from 3-point range this season. You need guys like Bojan Bogdanovic to hit those shots that just crush the other team’s spirit. One of the biggest differences with the Wizards this season under Scott Brooks has been both their spacing and use of the 3-point line. They’re on pace to average about a half-3-pointer more per game this season than last, which isn’t a huge jump, but it does show how the spacing has improved.
Bogdanovic has also been clutch this season, shooting 38 percent in clutch-time situations. One of the issues with the Wizards in year’s past was the concern about where they were going to get big buckets late in games if teams focused in on John Wall and Bradley Beal. With Otto Porter and Bogdanovic, they have the weapons now to go toe to toe in big-shot hunting late in games. Malcolm Brogdon SG / Milwaukee (Designation: Sneaky playmaker)
ASSISTS PER 100 POSSESSIONS: 8.2
The Bucks’ 24-year-old rookie has come on strong, earning a spot in conversation for Rookie of the Year. Malcolm Brogdon was thought to be more of just a perimeter weapon as a prospect, but his overall confidence and control of the game is what’s impressed the most. His playmaking is underrated, as he knows how to recognize where the help is coming and find the easy pass to whoever’s open.
Greg Monroe has especially benefited from Brogdon’s playmaking. Brogdon only throws to Monroe about 4.7 times a game, but the result is one made basket per game at least, with Monroe finishing a stellar 61.7 percent of the time he shoots off a Brogdon pass. Brogdon carved up the Celtics with Monroe’s cuts this week, and since he’s a rookie, he’s not a guy who most players have a mental scouting report on. The coaches’ report will try and let them know, but in this league, you have to prove it to guys. Brogdon seems ready for that.
Tony Allen SG / Memphis (Designation: Toughest Guard Alive)
REBOUNDS PER 100 POSSESSIONS: 10.5 CONTESTED REBOUNDS PER GAME: 2.3 (leads NBA for players under 6-foot-7)
You already know Tony Allen is a great defender, that he’s tough and can’t shoot (at least from range). He’s the Grindfather. He’s sixth in players under 6-foot-7 in deflections, top 10 in drawn charges and one of the toughest guys to go against offensively in the league, still, at age 35.
But while Allen’s impact goes well beyond any one metric, his rebounding is really crucial to note. The rebounds Allen gets give life to a Grizzlies offense that can fall down a well. And against teams like the Rockets or the Warriors (who they may not play, but still) who can burn you with perimeter shooting off offensive rebounds, Allen’s ability to snatch the ball out of the air from potential tip-outs is key. Rebounds like that don’t get talked about enough. In a league where so many rebounds go further because of the increased frequency of the 3-point shot, you need guards who can make plays like that, and Allen is undeniably the best at it. Who do you think is a hidden gem in the NBA?