Which under the radar players stepped up for their team this week?
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Photo Credit: Tim Fuller-US Presswire[/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 5 was yet another action packed week in the NBA. The Wizards finally won their first game of the season; while at the other end of the spectrum, the Heat and Thunder continue to roll. We saw buzzer-beaters, games going into overtime, half-court shots and plenty of guys putting their hands up for an unsung hero nomination.
Kyle Singler (DET)
Leading up to the regular season, many people believed the Detroit Pistons had a bright future. A team stacked with young talent like Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey, it oozed potential. Yet the one young man no one was talking about was Kyle Singler.
Whether it was because he spent last season in Europe, or whether it was because no one actually thought he was good enough, Singler was barely mentioned in any discussion about the Pistons’ future.
Many believed Singler to be a “tweener,” caught between a small forward and a power forward, unable to really hold down one position.
We all know what happened next. The Pistons started the season 0-8 and were arguably the worst team in the NBA.
With seemingly nothing to lose, Singler was handed the opportunity to start, but not only that, he was asked to start at shooting guard of all places.
Since the 6-foot-8 Duke graduate took up the starting role, the Pistons have gone 5-5 and are looking dangerous.
Singler had huge games in both of the Pistons’ wins this week, grabbing 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and shot three 3-pointers in a 7-point win over the Trailblazers.
This impressive performance was followed up by a 12-point, 4-rebound and 2-steal effort in a win over the Phoenix Suns.
Here is a telling stat: When Singler is on the court the Pistons offense is the ninth best in the NBA. When he is on the bench, Detroit’s offense ranks 27th
in the league. This says a lot of the impact Singler is having in Detroit.
In speaking to a friend of mine who lives and breathes Detroit basketball, he explained how he sees Detroit’s latest hero. He has likened Singler to Tim Tebow, who last season lead Denver Broncos all the way to the playoffs after taking over as the starting quarterback.
Tebow and Singler both started on the bench. Their teams both got off to awful starts, and because of this they were handed an opportunity.
Similar to Tebow, no one really believes in Singler. Similar to Tebow, through seemingly no reason or logic, the Pistons just play far better with him in the line-up. He doesn’t have an amazing jump shot, he is not an amazing athlete, but he just brings it each and every night. His will to win is second to none.
So I guess the question now is, can Singler follow in the footsteps of the great man and lead Detroit to the playoffs? If so I believe this would surpass even Tebow’s effort as far as stunning sports turnarounds go.
Serge Ibaka (OKC)
Serge Ibaka is certainly a unique individual. Born in the Republic of Congo, the third youngest of 18 siblings, he began playing basketball at a young age. Now, I’m not sure what the backyard basketball games were like at the Ibaka house, but I cannot imagine that too many points would have been scored.
Ibaka is a blocking machine, leading the league in blocked shots last season. This season looks to be no different with Ibaka totaling a massive 16 blocks this week while leading the Thunder to a perfect 4-0 record for the week.
Ibaka’s most impressive game this week came against old teammate James Harden when the Thunder took on the Houston Rockets.
Last season all the talk was about OKC’s big three, Durant, Westbrook and Harden. Probably a little annoyed at always being left out, Ibaka felt like he had something to prove in this game. He wanted to let everyone know there was a new big three in OKC and that he was a part of it.
Ibaka hit 11 of 13 shots from the floor for 23 points, including a 3-pointer. Add to that nine rebounds and six blocks to go with no turnovers, and you have an incredibly complete performance.
The Thunder understand just how important Ibaka is to their title hopes. In fact they decided to pay big dollars him before they paid Harden, ultimately leading to Harden’s departure.
With Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder have the offensive firepower to match any team in the league, but it is Ibaka’s ability to defend the hoop that will be crucial come the business end of the season.
George Hill (IND)
To say the Pacers’ game against the Lakers earlier in the week was unattractive would be an understatement. The Pacers shot 36.7 per cent from the floor, and the Lakers a putrid 31.6 per cent. But one man who was not to blame for the ugly offensive effort was George Hill.
Hill shot five from seven to rack up 19 points, to go with five rebounds and five assists in a solid game.
The one aspect that saved this spectacle was that it was close throughout, with the game coming down to the last play. Hill nailed a beautiful right-handed layup with 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock to give the Pacers a huge 79-77 win on the road.
It wasn’t just the game against the Lakers where the former San Antonio Spur shined. Hill blitzed the Sacramento Kings for 25 points, including four from long range, to go with eight assists and six rebounds as Pacers got across the line by five points.
With Danny Granger missing the Pacers have needed a player to take the next step. George Hill has been that man. Together with David West, Hill is keeping the Pacers competitive in the even Central division.
Hill is averaging career highs in points, assists and rebounds and is certainly enjoying the extra responsibility that being a starting point guard entails.
So that’s it for Week Five 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…