Writer’s Note: We’re getting ready for the NBA season here on My Mind on Sports, and today begins the “Most Underrated” series. I discuss each team’s most underrated, unsung player who will have an impact in the 2014-15 season. We start today with the Atlantic Division.
- Boston Celtics: Evan Turner, guard. Boston is Turner’s third team in the NBA, which may delude fans from the fact that he’s only 25 years old with plenty of career ahead of him. His second-half numbers last season were promising: 17.4 points and six boards a game, both eclipsing his career averages. He’s a versatile, consistent player who has a potent scoring touch and is steadily improving defensively. Marcus Smart will likely start at point while Rajon Rondo is sidelined with his hand injury, and Avery Bradley will be the two-guard, which means Turner will probably start at small forward to kick off the season. If he can take over as the team’s go-to scorer, he could be in Beantown for years to come.
- Brooklyn Nets: Mason Plumlee, center. Whether Plumlee should have made Team USA’s FIBA World Cup roster this summer was up for discussion, but what isn’t debatable is the experience he got from playing with the All-Star squad. Practicing against DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond was a great opportunity for the Brooklyn big man entering his sophomore season. He will surely improve on his rookie-year averages of 7.4 points and 4.4 boards, and the Nets will need that increase of production off the bench if they are going to make a deeper playoff run this year.
- New York Knicks: Samuel Dalembert, center. The 33-year-old is entering the twilight of his career, but Phil Jackson is willing to give him a run after the departure of Tyson Chandler to Dallas. Dalembert’s skill-set translates to this current Knicks team quite well; he’s a defensive specialist, which New York certainly needs with their team of lax defenders. He’ll still give you around six points a game, with five or six rebounds as well. If the Knicks are going to get back to the playoffs, Dalembert’s defense will be essential.
- Philadelphia 76ers: Brandon Davies, center. As you can see, the Atlantic Division is full of underrated centers, and Brandon Davies should fall into that category. Davies, an undrafted free agent entering his second season in the league, is most known for his 2011 suspension from BYU’s basketball team for violating the school’s honor code. Those days are in the past; Davies is now focused on having an impact in 2014-15. He played 11 minutes a game last year but should see increased time this season with Philadelphia’s lack of depth (Joel Embiid has a foot injury that threatens to sideline him for the first half of the season). Davies has the potential to be a fine defensive player and a capable offensive threat. Only time will tell if he’s part of the Sixers’ long-term rebuilding project, but he has a solid shot at staying in Philly for years to come.
- Toronto Raptors: Louis Williams, guard. After seven years with the 76ers and two with the Hawks, Williams, one of the league’s top reserve players, went to Toronto to bolster the Raptor bench. He’s incredibly comfortable as one of the first players off the bench, averaging double-digit points every season since ’07-’08. Toronto already has a strong chance of winning this division to begin with, but if Williams is drilling threes on a consistent, night-after-night basis, they’re the front-runners for sure. High-flying Terrence Ross will start the Raptors’ games, but Williams may have a bigger impact on how far Toronto goes in the postseason.