Which under the radar players stepped up for their team this week?
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Photo Credit: Mark Duncan/AP[/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 unrecognised 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 15 sees the Celtics continuing to defy the critics and stretch their unbeaten streak to seven games. Meanwhile LeBron continues to show why he is the best player in the competition by a mile and leads the Heat to another great week. The Thunder continue to press their claims for a rematch of last year’s finals as they go 4-0 to keep the pressure on the Spurs for the top seed in the West.
Danilo Gallinari (DEN)
Before going any further please take a look at this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBGIoxvEakw
This is what makes Danilo Gallinari so special. When he is up and about he can make the impossible seem effortless.
The 24-year-old Italian’s potential ceiling is one of the highest in the league. When he is hot, he is lights out. In fact, one could argue that on a Denver team that is 33-19, Danilo is often Denver’s best player on any given night.
At this point in the season, Gallinari is averaging career highs in points per game (17.2) and rebounds per game (5.5). Throw in 2.5 assists and close to one steal and one block a night, and you have yourself a very handy asset.
The 6-foot-10 forward certainly bought his A-game this week, helping Denver to wins over Chicago, Milwaukee and Cleveland, while extending his team’s winning streak to nine.
When Danilo is good, he is very good. But when he is bad, it gets ugly.
This was evident in the Nuggets’ triple overtime loss to the Celtics to close out the week.
Gallinari went 7-20 from the field and also coughed up four costly turnovers.
The pleasing thing for Nuggets fans is that these nights are a far less usual occurrence of late.
In fact the “Rooster” appears to be maturing quickly this season. He is leading the team in fourth quarter points, he now grasps the idea of bringing teammates into the game and his leadership is slowly improving.
This Denver team has a chance to do something special. When you look at Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos, the Nuggets have some fantastic young pieces in place.
If this group can stick together as they mature they are going to have a very bright future.
During the past 16 games, the Wizards have given up only 95.1 points per 100 possessions.
That is clearly the best in the NBA; in fact, they are more than two points better off than the second ranked Spurs (97.2 points).
To give this gap some meaning, 2.1 points is what separates the Spurs from the 7th-ranked Miami Heat (99.3 points). In other words, it is a significant margin.
Unlike the past versions of the Wizards, this team is actually working hard every night and genuinely believes it can win every game.
Nene has not had the easiest of runs in his career to date. He played only a few minutes of the 2005-06 season before tearing his ACL.
Then in January 2008, he had a tumour removed from his testicular region.
I believe this is a major reason why the Brazilian plays with the attitude he does. He realises how lucky he is just to be out on the court. He plays with passion and intensity every night.
Maybe this attitude is starting to rub off on his younger teammates.
Nene is one of the keys behind this new look Wizards outfit. Not only in Nene a beast on both ends of the court, but he genuinely carried the Wizards while John Wall was out injured.
To highlight just how good Nene was in that period, here are some numbers.
The Wizards were 18.8 points better off per 48 minutes when Nene was on the court. To put that into context, when Nene was on the bench, Washington numbers are so poor, they would be lucky to win 10 games a season.
When he is on the court, Washington outscores its opponents by 5.7 points per 48 minutes. So theoretically if Nene could play the entire game, Washington would be on track to win 50-60 games for the season.
And at the start of the season, Nene’s numbers were as good as any of last season’s big men that went to the All-Star game.
The Wizards have been even better now that Wall has returned to pair with Nene. They have won 10 of their past 17 games, including three straight this week against the Clippers (division leaders), the Knicks (division leaders) and the Nets (current 5th
seed in the East).
Nene continued his brilliant form collecting two double-doubles for the week.
With Wall, Beal, Seraphin and Nene, Wizards fans have something really special to look forward to during the next couple of seasons.
It could be an exciting time to be a Washington fan, and finally an exciting time for Nene.
Thabo Sefolosha (OKC)
When the Oklahoma City Thunder won games against the Mavs, Warriors and Suns, Thabo probably knew the team had sent a message to the competition.
But how? They should have handled those teams fine, shouldn’t they? Yes—but it was the manner in which they did it that was most impressive.
Their average winning margin this week was 25.25 points. The slimmest winning margin in a game was 21 points.
Talk about utter domination.
While we all know how good Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka are, one guy who does not get enough credit is Sefolosha.
Sefolosha is best known for his lock down defensive abilities and rightly so. The 6-foot-7 utility has kept his opponents to fewer than 40 per cent shooting on the season and an even more impressive 30 per cent when they matchup in isolation.
But it is the Swiss man’s improvement on the offensive end that has helped the Thunder this season.
Sefolosha has increased his points per game average from 4.8 last season to 7.5 so far this season. Not only that, but his shooting is at a career high 47.5 per cent from the field.
Thabo is also draining more than 40 per cent of his shots from deep and has already nailed 67 3-pointers in 50 games this season. That has surpassed the 59 3’s he shot in the past two seasons combined.
These 3-point totals are similar to guys like LeBron, Andre Igoudala and Charlie Villanueva.
Sefolosha’s offensive improvement was magnified this week in the Thunders’ two games against the Phoenix Suns. In game one he hit four 3’s on his way to a season-high 18 points.
Sefolosha then bettered that in game two draining five 3’s on his way to an impressive 20 points.
So while Sefolosha’s first job in a possible rematch of last year’s finals will be to lock down the juggernaut that is the Miami Heat offence, he will also be playing a role as outside shooting wingman the Thunder need.
So that’s it for Week Fifteen 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…