Which under the radar player stepped up for their team this week?[caption id="attachment_14725" align="aligncenter" width="558"] Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images[/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 16 & 17Mario Chalmers (MIA) It's been a great fortnight for Mario Chalmers. His number 15 Kansas jersey was retired, the Miami Heat won all six games, yet what was the highlight of the week? He has received a USSDU Unsung Hero nomination. Chalmers, who is best known for his dramatic 3-point shot in the dying seconds to lead the University of Kansas to the 2008 NCAA title has the best job in the world. He steps on the court every night next to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and gets to see them strut their stuff. While Chalmers may be the envy of all basketball fans, the fact is that he is playing his role perfectly and contributing towards the Heat’s fantastic season. There is no doubt the Alaskan native is full of confidence. Just look at his biceps; tattooed on the left bicep is ‘Mister’ and on the right is ‘Clutch’. However Chalmers does not need to drain copious amounts of points to be effective as scoring is not an issue for the Heat. The point guard's form has been outstanding the last couple of weeks. The key behind this may be the removal of a splint from his left ring finger, which he has worn all season. Mister Clutch played very well in wins over the Hawks, 76ers and Cavaliers this week (8-14 from 3-point land). While also contributing in big wins over Chicago and Oklahoma City. Chalmers is also able to chip in three or four assists most nights to go with a couple of steals, and his turnovers per game are almost at a career low. While no one can argue with the quality of the Heat’s big three, when Chalmers is knocking down three’s (41% career high this season), the Heat are a much more lethal foe. There is no doubt the Heat are massive favourites to take out the title again this year. So while Chalmers may dream about hitting the game winning shot, if he can just execute his role, it will go a long way towards collecting ring number two.
Tony Allen (MEM) A few weeks ago, the Grizzlies traded away arguably their best player in Gay to the Toronto Raptors. Experts claimed the Grizzlies had effectively shot themselves in the foot and therefore no longer title contenders. No one counted on Tony Allen stepping up and making such a big impact. Allen had a terrific fortnight either side of the All-Star break, helping Memphis to five straights wins. What was more impressive was this streak included an away win over Gay and the Raptors, as well as wins at Detroit and Brooklyn. We already know the 6-foot-4 guard is a premier defender, but it’s his increased output on the offensive end that has improved. Allen averaged more than 12 points per game this fortnight, well up from his season average of 8.8, and his rebounding is at a career high 4.5 per game. That was bumped up to more than seven per game this past fortnight. The 8-year veteran is going to have to continue his offensive production if the Grizzlies want to stay in the hunt for a home playoff series in the first round of the playoffs.
Paul Millsap (UTA) One of the key non-moves of the recent trade deadline was Paul Milsap. He is one of the most underrated big men in the competition and has been a staple of a Jazz team that has been relatively successful the past few years. The 6-foot-8 power forward was able to put the trade speculation behind him as he led the Jazz to a 3-1 record over the past fortnight. Millsap was spectacular in Utah’s huge win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He drained 18 points, 10 boards and six assists as the Jazz coasted to a 15-point victory. The Louisiana Tech product also had a 14 point and 9 rebound outing in Utah’s big win over the Warriors as well this week. The Jazz have a crowded front court with Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. It will be interesting to see who Utah keeps in the off season. Millsap does have some great tools; he shoots more than 50 per cent from the field for his career, is a solid rebounder and a good passer for a big man. Plus from all reports he is a great teammate. While it is fun to speculate whether Millsap will reconnect with former running mate Deron Williams, stay in Utah or end up somewhere completely different, the focus now should be on the remainder of the season. Nobody wants to play the Spurs or the Thunder in the first round, however any other team is probable to fall to a first round upset. So the Jazz should target at least the 6th seed. No team is capable of comfortably matching up with the Utah front court. By retaining Millsap the Jazz have given themselves a genuine chance of advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Come the end of the season, they can weigh up their options with Millsap and Al Jefferson to make a decision with their future of the franchise.
So that’s it for Week 16 &17 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…