Which under the radar players stepped uo for their team this week?
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Photo Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports[/caption]
The NBA is filled with stars who put up 30 points a night and are rightfully discussed endlessly through all forms of media.
But what about the other guys on the team who we don’t know about? The guys who make a substantive yet unrecognized contribution towards helping their teams get the W.
To highlight the efforts of these “unsung heroes,” each week I am going to nominate three players who have gone out and got the job done with no fuss. A greater weight will go towards those players who helped their teams have winning weeks, rather than those whose teams went 0-4.
Week 11 sees the chase begin in the Atlantic division. The Nets and the Celtics have found some form and are quickly closing the gap between themselves and the division-leading New York Knicks. Out West the Denver Nuggets are taking advantage of a nice part of their schedule to storm into second place behind the Thunder in the Northwest division.
Greivis Vasquez (NOH)
The New Orleans Hornets are starting to heat up. The Hornets won three massive games this week over the Spurs, Rockets and Timberwolves.
The Hornets, who endured an 11-game losing streak earlier this season, are really starting to build some confidence.
Greivis Vasquez has been a shining light for the Hornets this season. He probably could have made this column as number of times already this season if it wasn’t for the Hornets’ poor record.
Bodily Harm, or GBH as he is affectionately referred to by fans, had another outstanding week and is starting to become the court general the Hornets desperately needed.
Vasquez had double-digit assists in each of the Hornets’ three wins this week, while also averaging more than 16 points per game and a tick under three rebounds.
The Venezuelan native is a passing machine, trailing only Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul for total number of assists so far this season. His ability to create and bring his teammates into the game is his real strength.
His assist-to-turnover ratio could be a little better, as could his defense, but there is no doubting Vasquez’s importance to this team. Take into account the number of points scored or created by this young star, and you realise just how badly the Hornets need him firing on all cylinders.
While there is no doubt the return of Eric Gordon has helped relieve Grievis of some of the pressure of carrying this team, true Hornets fans points to Vasquez’s beard as the source behind the Hornets’ recent success.
All jokes aside, Vasquez would be a real contender for this season’s Most Improved Player award. As the Hornets’ young guns continue to develop and improve, Vasquez should find himself dishing out even more assists, and his profile will continue to rise as he becomes one of the elite point guards in the NBA.
Bradley Beal (WAS)
It’s been a tough few months for Washington sports fans.
First the Nationals made the MLB playoffs, decided to rest a healthy Steven Strasburg and were booted out of contention by the surging St Louis Cardinals.
Then the Redskins made the NFL playoffs, decided to start an injured Robert Griffin III and were booted out of contention by the surging Seattle Seahawks.
They Capitals have not been on the ice due to the NHL lockout, and so it has been left to the hapless Wizards to try to bring some joy to the faces of distraught sports fans who reside in the Washington area.
For the most part the Wizards have been fairly unsuccessful in bringing a smile to the faces of their loyal fan base, but this week, seemingly sensing a downtrodden city, they lifted their game.
Before the week began, only one team had beaten both of last year’s NBA conference champions, and that was the Memphis Grizzlies. This week the Washington Wizards joined this elite club.
That’s correct—the team with the WORST record in the NBA has now beaten both the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Pretty incredible, huh?
The win over the Thunder aside, what made this week even more special for the Wizards was that the fans got a glimpse of just how bright this team’s future could be.
Young gun John Wall played with Beal for the first time, resulting in a nice Wizards win over the Atlanta Hawks.
While Wall, the overall first pick in the 2010 NBA draft, only returned this week, Beal has actually been playing very well of late, even winning the Rookie of the Month Award for December.
Despite what the stats suggest, Beal can knock down shots, he can create with his movement off the ball and he is only 19 years of age. The upside is HUGE with Bradley Beal.
The best thing for Wizards fans is that Beal should get even better with the return of pass-happy Wall.
Wall is sure to draw defenses his way, leaving Beal free to hit wide open looks, resulting in more points for Beal.
So how did they get him? The Wizards drafted Beal with the third pick in last year’s draft with the idea in mind that he would complement Wall perfectly. Wall is a fantastic passer, whose assist numbers would be through the roof if the people he passed to could actually knock down a shot.
But Beal can knock down shots, and this is why they will make the perfect pair.
Despite their struggles on offense (league worst), the Wizards actually have a top 10 defense. If they can improve their scoring even a little, it should result in a lot more wins and finally a bright future for all long-suffering Wizards fans.
I have no doubt that Beal can be the man to lead Washington to a brighter future.
Jared Sullinger (BOS)
The Boston Celtics are winners of five straight games. They have started to storm back into contention in the Eastern Conference.
At the start of the season the Celtics, despite their remarkable record of the last few seasons, were looking quite unremarkable.
Garnett and Pierce, while still outstanding, are not what they once were. Ray Allen was gone. Rondo was struggling to keep his cool. The Celtics were in trouble.
One area the Celtics have really had issues with this season is rebounding. But that is beginning to change.
Jared Sullinger was Boston’s first pick in last year’s draft (21st
overall), and he is really starting to find his feet.
Sullinger played his role in wins over the Knicks, Suns and Rockets this week.
The Celtics are starting to trust Sullinger and his ability; as a result he is seeing more game time and greater responsibility.
The 6-foot-9 Ohio State product is repaying this faith in bucket loads, grabbing two double-doubles this week.
In their match against the Phoenix Suns, Sullinger dominated the boards, pulling down a career-high 16 rebounds. What makes this feat even more impressive was that it came against the much taller Marcin Gortat.
The 20-year-old rookie is ranked 15th
in total rebound percentage, which measures the available rebounds a player grabs. In fact Sullinger only trails Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins by less than one per cent in total rebound percentage.
If Sullinger keeps producing the numbers he has this week, it is going to go a long way towards helping the Celtics become a force, come the business end of the season. The Celtics are in desperate need on someone who can play with energy and intensity and really clean up the boards.
With Kevin Garnett still around to guide him, the future is bright for Jared Sullinger.
So that’s it for Week Eleven of Unsung Heroes. Was there someone from your team who you feel deserves a shout out? If you think a player deserves a mention in next week’s edition, leave your comment below to make your voice heard…