Blogtable: Underrated But Key To A Title




Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Week 19: Lakers: Any better? | Can Indiana beat Miami? | Underrated player on a title contender


Give us the most key underrated player on a title-contending team.

Steve Aschburner: Not sure how below-the-radar to go with this: Does Serge Ibaka qualify, since he’s yet to be an All-Star but gives Oklahoma City its “edge?” Or are you looking for someone at the Nick Collison level, because he’s a very helpful rotation guy at both ends? On further review, I’ll just punt and say San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard.

Fran Blinebury: Kinda sounds like two questions wrapped in one, or at least one question that can be interpreted several ways. I’m going to assume you’re looking for the non-star who must step up for his team to win a championship and, in that case, nobody will face more scrutiny and more heat (upper and lower case versions) than Kevin Martin. He’s replacing last season’s Sixth Man of the year, the guy who’s become a breakout star in Houston, the back-up point guard, the clutch performer, the late game free-throw maker and the one who shot down the Spurs in the Western Conference finals a year ago.  If he can fill all those roles through June, nobody will ever call K-Mart underrated again.

Jeff Caplan: My pick is the man who had the seemingly seamless transition in Oklahoma City, the man who made Thunder fans quickly forget about James Harden. The pressure is on Kevin Martin to perform like a star in the postseason to get OKC back to The Finals, and compared to his younger teammates, Martin is a virtual playoff newbie with just six career playoff games under his belt, and that was six years ago. Martin has struggled lately, scoring in single digits in four of the last eight games. In those four games, OKC is 1-3. In a playoff series, teams are going to attack Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as best they can — we know the Heat can do an excellent job of this — and Martin is going to have to step up to make defenses pay.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Kawhi Leonard. Despite understated numbers, his rebounding and the complementary offensive role will have a say in how far the Spurs go in the playoffs. The early returns are encouraging. Leonard stepped up to the pressure with a nice showing in the 2012 postseason as a rookie, exceeding regular-season numbers in many cases.

John Schuhmann: This may be an obvious answer and it also may be a silly answer, because being a productive complementary player is easier when you’re on LeBron James’ team. But Shane Battier is a critical piece for the Heat on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he’s been a better 3-point shooter than Ray Allen, and it’s no coincidence that the Miami offense has reached ridiculously efficient levels with how well Battier has been shooting over the last month. It’s no secret that he’s a smart and effective defender who sometimes has to take on a dirty-work assignment against opposing power forwards.

Sekou Smith: While I’m not a fan of his box out tactics, Serge Ibaka’s play in the postseason is going to be crucial to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s chances of returning to The Finals and trying to finish what they couldn’t against the Heat last year. Ibaka should be a double-double machine, but he’s had just 10 in 57 games. The Thunder essentially chose him over James Harden last summer, ramping up the pressure on their young shot-blocking expert and increasing his salary and expectations simultaneously. Ibaka’s talent is undeniable. Whether or not he’s ready to realize that potential this season and into the postseason is the one lingering question surrounding the Thunder.

22 Comments

  1. HMH says:

    That’s a good question — why isn’t Ibaka a double-double player?

  2. Sean says:

    Are you kidding me??? Shane Battier…No discussion

  3. Celtics All The Way!
    CELTICS-HORAAH-UBUNTU!!!

  4. Kamote says:

    I’d have to go with Avery Bradley (yes, Boston can still upset a top4 team). He has been the reason why Allen wasn’t serenaded as much by the C’s, and now he has to step-up big time on the loss of Rondo. His defense is always been lauded, but his offense and how he’d lead the team with Rondo gone isn’t even a question. If he steps up come the post-season, the i would be right :).

  5. King Gary says:

    No One in this day and age of the Nba will win without a big 3 or a hugely in depth team look at all the top contenders Spurs- Manu, Parker, Duncan and big bench players like Splitter and Leonard. Clippers- Paul, Griffin, Butler, Crawford and even more of the most depth in the NBA. OKC- Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and a solid bench that includes K-mart, collison, dfish and other solids. Knicks- Anthony, Smith, Stoudamire, Chandler and a huge bench with Kidd, felton, shumpert, novak and more. Bulls- When Back D-rose, Noah, Deng and a solid bench with robinson, hinrich, gibson and plenty more…. Need I continue there are plenty more teams who apply. Its a different era of basketball and you cannot just win on your own, And sometimes you cant even win with a ton of stars for example the lakers. You need to respect the game for what it is today and all the talent it holds in so many players and appreciate the evolving and how much lebron had to do for that title win and how big it was for them.

  6. Adam says:

    What has Lebron James accomplished that Kobe Bryant has not? Switch teams to desperately win a championship! LOL! He is indeed the greatest!

    • dattebayo says:

      I hate to break it to you, but that’s the way it goes, you need a team to win and Kobe, Wade, Pierce and even Jordan only won because their teams were good. Nobody could save Cleveland on his own…

      btw. James has 3 MVPs and he will probably retire with more Final MVPs than Kobe…

      • hats off to the man kobe says:

        well lebron might not have had any help in clevland but kobe has never had all star greats as wade or bosh never playing with him.even now howard is not 100 percent nash is never 100 percent .lebron played better when he was in clevland ,lebron also betrayed cavs leaving them just to rot.

      • bullsfan0218 says:

        Kobe never had anyone as great as Wade or Bosh? I’m pretty sure Shaq in his prime is a better choice then Bosh for any team and probably Wade too

  7. Adam says:

    I say the Wade, Bosh and the whole Heat team. Lebron wouldn’t win a ring if not for them. He wasn’t able to do it in Cleveland because he didn’t have good teammates. Nuff said.

  8. ginobili says:

    I would say Tiago Splitter. Which Splitter shows up this post season? Double double machine guy who’s post game must be respected and a 75% free throw shooter…. or the awkward 7ft Brazilian guy who takes up space and shoots 52% from the line? I think that will ultimately prove to be the deciding factor.

    • dattebayo says:

      I look forward to seeing the Spurs kill the West. Leonard, Green and Splitter have improved, Duncan has found the fountain of youth and Parker is playing at an MVP level. Hope we will see Spurs vs Heat in the Finals :D

  9. 305 says:

    As a Heat fan, I’m gonna go with both Miami PGs, Chalmers and Cole. They complement each other very well, and obviously get little to no attention because of the star power we have. However I believe they are key especially at the defensive end of the floor. This is the era of great point guards, and frankly, Miami is probably the only serious contender without an elite point guard. They are likely to meet either OKC or Spurs in the final, who have Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker respectively. Parker may be injured but if the Spurs make it to June, I have little doubt that he will be rolling on all cylinders by then – people forget he is only 29. The third option is the Clippers with CP3, which is less likely then the previous two. This means that in the championship series these two guys will have to defend a player in the MVP Ladder. And the East won’t be easy either. I personally like both guys, and more importantly their teammates seem to like them both as well. And I believe they will play well, and so will the rest of the Heat, simply because LeBron makes everybody around him at least a tier better. Especially now with the streak, the Heat look scary good and I do not see anybody beating them.

  10. Cory John says:

    Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone. From: NBA.com | Hang Time BlogSent: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 10:55 AMTo: cbrzozowski@cogeco.caReply To: NBA.com | Hang Time BlogSubject: [New post] Blogtable: Underrated But Key To A Title

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    Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the co”

  11. Franz says:

    For the Spurs it always comes down to Ginobili. He seems to be the life or death of this team (2011 injured elbow, 2010 broken nose, 2009 and 2008 ankle injury, 2006 stupid foul on Dirk, 2004 bad D on Fisher’s 0.4 second shot).

  12. MSF10710 says:

    Mike Conley! He never gets the respect he deserves.

  13. koiikoii13 says:

    I agree about shane battier . He’s a defense-offense guy you can count on your team. As for now , heat’s 15 winning streak , battier is a also a great factor going to the playoff. With Jones and Miller on injury roll , Ray Allen should step up to the challenge. Co-acquisition Rashard Lewis should step up also . For the Thunder , Serge Ibaka is a big contributor in defense. Now he’s improving on his offensive side. A must see performance if he’ll stay like that till playoff. Question is , if he’s attitude is not going to change.

  14. aaronwatters104647113 says:

    I’d actually go with Thabo Sefolosha as the most underrated player for a title contender. He did an amazing job on Tony Parker last year and really flipped the series upside down. My Spurs are going to coast in to the playoffs, but I don’t know if TP can overcome Thabo’s suffocating defense. If it’s another Heat vs OKC Finals I could see Thabo trying to disrupt Wade’s game, but he really can’t do much to Bron Bron. With that said though, he’s my pick.

  15. michael says:

    For me as a HEAT fan is important how after injurys gonna look James Jones, Mike Miller this two guys with great 3 pts.% can be a decisive argument in trophy this year.

  16. aaronwatters104647113 says:

    I’d actually go with Thabo Sefolosha as the most underrated player for a title contender. He did an amazing job on Tony Parker last year and really flipped the series upside down. My Spurs are going to coast in to the playoffs, but I don’t know if TP can overcome Thabo’s suffocating defense. If it’s another Heat vs OKC Finals I could see Thabo trying to disrupt Wade’s game, but he really can’t do much to Bron Bron. With that said though, he’s my pick.

    • dattebayo says:

      I don’t understand why him, Iggy and Afflalo don’t get credited for their defense. Instead Kobe is named All Defensive First Team every season and this dude hasn’t played good defense for an entire game since Artest joined the Lakers…