The All-Underutilized Team
With the NBA regular season winding down, it’s a good time to take a look at those players that just don’t get enough love. I’m talking about underutilized players; guys who produce, but just don’t get the minutes commensurate with their production.
I like to use the Efficiency Per Minute statistic when looking at players. It takes the NBA’s Efficiency calculation...
EFF = ((Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) - ((Field Goals Att. - Field Goals Made) + (Free Throws Att. - Free Throws Made) + Turnovers))
…and divides it by the number of minutes the particular player has played. The league average for the 2006-07 season is 0.447.
I removed the top 150 players (30 teams x 5 starters) in minutes per game (MPG) which created a cutoff at 26.0 MPG. So any players who have played between 15 and 26 MPG are eligible for the All-Underutilized Team. Here’s what I found:
Jose Calderon, PG, Toronto Raptors
20.8 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 5.0 apg, 53.6 FG%
Take a look at the NBA standings. See something strange? That’s right, the Toronto Raptors are in first place in the Atlantic! The team is on pace to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. A lot of that has to do with GM Bryan Colangelo’s makeover of the roster, including a trade that sent Charlie Villanueva to the Bucks for T.J. Ford. But Ford was unable to start 11 games this season, and Calderon stepped in, averaging 13.3 points and 8.8 assists in those starts. More importantly, the Raptors went 8-3 during that span and established themselves as the best team in the division.
Tony Allen, PG/SG, Boston Celtics
24.5 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.7 apg, 51.4 FG%
The C’s have something in Tony Allen. Filling in for an injured Paul Pierce, Allen put up 18.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg and 2.9 apg in a 14-game stretch in December and January. Shortly thereafter, he tore his ACL on a freak play and will not return until next season. If Allen can come back healthy and the team can land Greg Oden in the draft, the Celtics will be back in the playoffs in a year or two.
Paul Millsap, SF, Utah Jazz
17.8 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 51.5 FG%
Utah has a lot of good forwards: Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur. Even Matt Harpring and fellow rookie Ronnie Brewer eat up minutes on the front line. But of all those players, only Boozer has a higher EPM (0.738) than Millsap, who has emerged as a key reserve for the division-leading Jazz. In games where he’s played 24 minutes or more, he has averaged 14.2 ppg and 8.5 rpg while shooting 55% from the floor. Not bad for a guy who was drafted in the second round just last summer.
Nene Hilario, PF, Denver Nuggets
25.1 mpg, 11.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 53.7 FG%
Nene was limited by a knee injury in the season, but has come on of late, averaging 16.9 ppg and 6.9 rpg in February. He's averaged better than 30 minutes a game since the beginning of February, but it took a while for the Nuggets to catch on. Considering he’s in the second year of a six-year/$60 M contract, it would be wise to keep giving him an opportunity to earn his salary. He’s proven that if he can stay healthy, he’ll earn it.
Andrew Bynum, C, Los Angeles Lakers
22.7 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 55.9 FG%
There’s a reason the Lakers didn’t want to include Bynum in a deal that would have brought Jason Kidd to L.A. The kid might just be the real deal. He’s been plenty productive in his limited minutes, and his numbers as a starter (9.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg) are encouraging. So why doesn’t he play more? Well, he averages 3.0 fouls per game, so he spends a lot of time on the bench in foul trouble. Plus, Bynum is just 19 and Phil Jackson doesn’t have a whole lot of patience for young players, so the big fella's inexperience has earned him some time in the Zen Master’s doghouse.
So there you have it – the All-Underutilized Team. Are these guys future superstars? Maybe, maybe not. But they’ve already established themselves on their respective teams and have impressed countless others.
So, coaches, give ‘em more minutes!
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