It is easy to get caught up by the frenzied media surrounding some of the NBA’s highest paid players; with Stephen Curry and Co. doing great things on nightly bases, guys of his ilk get the shine every time.
Being an MVP winner helps since past winners and runner ups steal the spotlight from teammates. Oklahoma City Thunder was put on the map by a pair of MVP winners in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook recently.
Should James Harden maintain his delightful yet historic play through the second half this season, the Thunder can proudly boast of drafting three Maurice Podoloff winners. Cleveland wasn’t going to have world appeal without the presence of LeBron James for 11 out of his 15 year career.
Tiny Milwaukee Bucks could be the next small market team to have its hands on phenomenon in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak or Human Alphabet is in the MVP conversation but is an outsider since he doesn’t own a consistent jump shot and three point stroke. Per Kevin Garnett, Thon Maker is a future MVP meaning the Bucks could replicate Oklahoma’s formula but this time in the Eastern Conference.
However, there are players in the league who don’t get a lot plaudit mainly due to their effectiveness on the less glamorous end of the pitch. A recurring theme when a player like Tony Allen gets half the appreciation he gets is basically because of what he does on the defensive end than the opposite end.
But Westbrook’s defense is far from ideal, neither is DeMarcus Cousins too; conversely both players’ defensive lapses don’t affect their status as stars. Here is a list of players fans should celebrate more:
Bet you enjoy watching Westbrook fly constantly to the hoop for those rim shaking dunks he unleashes on NBA defenses. His supreme athleticism gives him an edge to get away from players but beating your man is one thing and getting a clear lane for takeoff is another. Look closely and you will find Adams setting bone crushing screens to free Westbrook. The standout aspect of the New Zealander’s play is his impressive rebounding precisely offensive rebounding.
Adams has been gobbling them up to feed second chance opportunities for his star teammates Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Westbrook. He has gathered 255 offensive rebounds this season which is more than half of Dallas Mavericks mark for the season (414) per Basketballreference.com. Fellow big rebounders DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond have been named All Stars in their careers so why not Adams?
It is funny a player who has converted just 63 of 211 three point attempted shots this season deserves to get the adulation of fans but Boston Celtics Guard Marcus Smart should be given more credit than he gets. His impressive contribution without the ball is as valuable as Kyrie Irving’s electric handles and tough turn around three point shots. His ability to smother opposing Guards and switch to hold his own against bigger opponents makes a nightmare opponent to face. Perhaps his value to the Celtics was highlighted in the final minutes of a win over Houston Rockets.
Without touching the ball, Smart handed Celtics the win as his choking defense on MVP frontrunner James Harden frustrated the Beard to push Smart to the floor. Harden was called for an offensive foul turning over possession to Boston leading to the win. His presence on the team allows the Celtics to gamble on Greg Monroe’s toxic defense as they build their championship winning side they have longed for since the “Big Three” era.
While Adams has been great on the boards, the ball still bounces off the floor and someone has to get some work done down there. Carmelo isn’t going to do it at this stage in his career while Westbrook conserves his energy to rampage down the other end. Paul George does that but his league leading steals mark cannot be accomplished without the presence of Andre Roberson. The latter averaged five points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists before a season ending knee injury in January.
Despite making just 22 percent of his three point shot attempts, the Thunder have lost four straight games as the team finally gets to feel his absence after a rash of wins curtailed talk of his importance. When the 6 foot 6 inch Swingman plays, Oklahoma concede 96.4 points per 100 possessions but when he sits, that figure jumps to 108.3 points per 100 possessions. With George tasked to defend a lot , his exhaustion is making his scoring numbers inconsistent as he converted four of 16 shots in a loss against New Orleans Pelicans but rebounded by scoring 10 of 19 shots in a loss against Los Angeles Lakers.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter