Which under the radar players stepped for their clubs in week 6?
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Photo Credit: Paul Kitagaki JrSacramento Bee[/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 6 was dominated by the Western Conference. The surprising Sacramento Kings went undefeated throughout the week as did the Clippers and the Spurs, while the Jazz and Warriors also had terrific weeks. The Eastern Conference tells a different story, however, with the Nets going winless, the Heat losing two straight, including a loss to the lowly Wizards and then again to the Carmelo-less Knicks. The unsung heroes this week highlight the Western Conference this week with all three players, plying their trade out west.
Jason Thompson (SAC)
The Sacramento Kings are easily the least talked about team in the NBA—and probably rightly so. Apologies to any Sacramento natives and/or enthusiasts out there, but Sacramento isn’t the most exciting city to host an NBA team.
It seems every year the Kings are looking to relocate to a different city. Whether it be Seattle, Anaheim or Virginia, the Kings may be out of Sacramento sooner rather than later.
The other thing that works against them is that they aren’t very good. Well, not yet at least. But that may just be starting to change.
The Kings won all three of their matches this week and have gone 5-5 in their last 10 outings.
While DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans seems to cop what little media attention the Kings receive (more often than not negative), Jason Thompson has been going about his business and is starting to turn into a very good NBA player.
Thompson has been Mr Consistent for the Kings this season, rarely playing a bad game and putting up very nice numbers, given the limited amount of plays that are run through him.
While in basketball JT may not be bringing sexy back, like a much higher profile JT, his energy and hustle cannot be matched on a Kings roster desperately lacking leadership.
JT’s consistency was put on display in the Kings’ three wins this week. The 6-foot-11 forward started the week by putting up a double-double (13 points and 10 boards) against the Raptors, followed by a 12-point, 6-rebound effort against the Orlando Magic.
The first round pick out of Rider University then closed the week with 12 points and eight rebounds against the Blazers.
It’s this kind of consistency that is so highly valued on a roster containing the inconsistent Cousins and Evans.
While no one outside the Kings organisation really pays attention to Thompson, the rest of the roster may need to take a leaf out of the book of JT if the Kings want to make a run to the playoffs in the near future.
Gordon Hayward (UTA)
Behind an incredibly strong home court advantage, the Utah Jazz find themselves with one of the better records in the West.
The Jazz have lost only one home game so far this season, and that was against the red hot LA Clippers at the start of this week.
After the tough 1-point loss to the Clippers, the Jazz went on to win their next three games against the Magic, Raptors and the Lakers to make it a successful week.
While Gordon Hayward may have begun the season as a starter, his switch to the sixth man spot should not be looked at as a demotion.
Hayward simply fits into Utah’s system better coming off the bench. While the 22-year-old’s streaky shooting can let him down at times, (just look at his 0-6 effort against the Magic this week), his ability to get to the basket often more than makes up for his bad shooting nights.
Hayward ranks 21st
in the league in free throw attempts and this can be put down to his athleticism and his attacking mindset.
Hayward’s strength is his versatility. He is 6-foot-8 but he can play like a guard. He has a massive tank, can handle the ball and his size makes his a great defensive presence, especially when playing the shooting guard position.
If we forget about his off-night against Orlando, Hayward had a very nice week, putting up 17 points against the Clippers and the Raptors and 14 points against the Lakers.
Throw in a 3-pointer, a few boards and a couple of assists per game to go with his impressive free throw shooting, and you start to see why the former Butler Bulldog is so valuable.
With a distinct lack of star power, the Jazz are going to have to rely upon Hayward to provide strong support to Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap if the Jazz want to make it past the first round of the playoffs this season.
Luke Ridnour (MIN)
When will Ricky Rubio return? That is the question on the lips of all Timberwolves fans. While he may be back in just a matter of days, there is no set date for Rubio to make a return to the court.
In Rubio’s absence it has been 31-year-old Luke Ridnour who has stepped in as the T-Wolves’ starting point guard. A former first round pick for the Seattle Supersonics, Ridnour spent some time in Milwaukee before eventually landing in Minnesota.
While Ridnour hasn’t been particularly exciting, and he is far from flashy, he has stepped up in the absence of Rubio and has ensured the T-Wolves have kept within striking distance of the leaders of the Western Conference.
The former University of Oregon star had 10 points and four assists in the Wolves’ win over the 76er’s and also had 12 points and seven assists in a win over the Cavs.
Ridnour also chipped in with 11 points and five assists in a 10-point lost to the Boston Celtics.
While Ridnour may not show up on Sportscenter’s top 10 very often, his consistency is what makes him valuable. A quick look at his career numbers as a starter during the past three season shows his points per game average always hovering between 11.5 and 12.1, his assists between 4.6 and 5.4 and his rebounds between 2.7 and 2.8.
Long story short, you know what you are going to get from the 6-foot-2 guard, which is something coaches love.
He has done the job for the first 18 games of Minnesota’s season and while I’m sure he is not ready to hand the keys back over to Rubio just yet, when he does he can be proud that he has given the Timberwolves every chance to be competitive in the stacked Western Conference..
So that’s it for Week Six 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…