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The Most Unsung Stars of the 2019-20 NBA Season So Far

You know how it is in life – praise and maximum respect is usually bestowed upon those who are operating on a whole different level to us mere mortals.

Top teams for the top players

In the NBA, it’s the likes of LeBron, Giannis and James Harden that get the major props from basketball pundits and writers alike. But those guys are expected to perform well year-on-year, and especially so given that they play in some of the most exciting teams in the competition – the Lakers, the Bucks, and the Rockets were all well fancied in the outright NBA betting on bet365 odds.

20170329 MCDAAG Trae Young bringing the ball upcourt
TonyTheTiger / CC BY-SA

Underdogs and the unsung heroes

So we thought we’d stand up for these guys, who have been delivering elite level stats during the 2019-20 season but have flown unfairly under the radar given that they turn out for under-performing or unfashionable franchises.

Here’s our five that have shone brightly despite the lack of spotlight this term.

Andre Drummond (Cleveland Cavaliers)

It would be easy to write 10,000 words on why the Cavs have struggled so badly this season, and even easier to write a novella as to why Andre Drummond has been so, so good. His February trade to the Cleveland franchise was set to be a monumental shift for both, and a number of eyebrows were raised when the Pistons agreed to let him leave.

Drummond is the epitome of an under-appreciated baller, largely because he takes care of the less eye-catching business when compared to some. This is a guy that leads the rebound charts and sits third in the steals reckoning, which shows his All-Star prowess. And remember: he has achieved those numbers in a pair of teams that have really struggled at times this season. Why the 26-year-old isn’t plying his trade for one of the NBA’s leading lights remains an eternal mystery.

Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks) Okay, so All-Star selection does not exactly scream ‘underappreciated’… But even so, a case can be made that says Trae Young simply doesn’t get the recognition he deserves in the sport. That’s largely because he turns out for a hapless Atlanta Hawks outfit with a 20-47 record.

The 21-year-old will go on to become a major player in the NBA, of that you can be sure, and the seeds of future greatness have been sewn this season. Young ranks fourth for points scored and second for assists per game – he is an offensive machine.

Only three players have a better ‘usage percentage’ – Giannis, Harden and Luka Doncic – so don’t sleep on Trae Young. This guy is an absolute monster, and his performances are made all the impressive given the mediocrity of his teammates.

Ricky Rubio (Phoenix Suns)

This 29-year-old has made the transition to a new team this season in the Phoenix Suns and while their campaign has been average at best, Ricky Rubio has delivered elite-level numbers. Only LeBron and Trae have a better assist-per-game ratio than Rubio, and his rebound and stealing percentages are also edging towards being elite tier too. How has he reached the age of 29 without getting the appreciation he deserves?

Hassan Whiteside (Portland Trail Blazers)

If basketball was played on spreadsheets, Hassan Whiteside would already be eating from the NBA’s top title. A perennially strong performer in a number of defensive categories, the 30-year-old is once again rebounding like a behemoth and blocking like a beast for a Trail Blazers outfit that is blazing a trail towards premature elimination from the playoff race.

Hassan Whiteside 2016
Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA / CC BY-SA

Some players mature at different rates, and with more responsibility from an offensive perspective Whiteside is also flourishing with ball in hand – he’s averaging more points-per-game than at any other juncture in his career bar 2016-17, and his field goal percentage is up to first-class levels too. Life seems to have begun at 30 for Whiteside.

Mitchell Robinson (New York Knicks)

When it comes to ‘true shooting percentage’, who do you think tops the NBA standings? LeBron? Giannis? Harden? Well, you’d be wrong on all accounts, because it is actually Mitchell Robinson of the New York Knicks who has shot at net more efficiently than any other player. Robinson also tops the field goal percentage ranking, and that goes to explain just how exceptionally he has performed this season – particularly given that the Knicks have been so dismal in the Atlantic Division.

As useful in defense as he is in offense with a fantastic block and steal percentage, this 21-year-old is really going places – he may have to leave NYC to hit the headiest of heights, however.

So let’s celebrate the most outstanding performers in the NBA, but let’s also doff our caps to those underrated stars who could achieve incredible things if drafted to one of the big boy franchises.