Atlanta Hawks—Kevin Huerter
The rookie out of Maryland has been an impactful role player for Atlanta. He was drafted 19th, but he’s outplayed that position, posting very efficient stats: 40.4% from three, on 3.5 attempts per game. He’s one of two qualified rookies to shoot 40% from deep. He’s also averaging two assists per game, 8th among rookies. He’ll continue to be a piece of the Hawks’ future and we’ll see if he can keep up that accuracy from beyond the arc.
Boston Celtics—Marcus Morris
The turning point of Boston’s season was inserting the Marcuses (Morris and Smart) into the starting lineup. The new lineup wasn’t as talented on the surface, but the styles of the five players fit better. Morris and Smart bring a toughness and a competitiveness that the other starters don’t seem to have. However, Morris is also playing really well. Averaging 14.8 points per game, he’s shooting 49.3% from the field, and 42.6% from three. Both of those are career highs, and the 3pt percentage is the best of the Celtics.
Brooklyn Nets—Jarrett Allen
Young big man Jarrett Allen is starting to look like the center of the future for Brooklyn. He’s averaging 12.0 points and 8.3 rebounds, but those points are on only 7.8 attempts—He’s shooting 65.3% on two-pointers. Especially for these bad teams, I like to choose young players that will stick around for a while, and Allen looks like one so far.
Charlotte Hornets—Willy Hernangomez
Hernangomez, whose name is pronounced “Billy”, Spanish doesn’t have a natural W, has put up some pretty good stats in limited minutes in Charlotte. This season, he’s averaging 7.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in only 13.1 minutes. Adjusted to 36 minutes, that would be 21.3 points and 12.8 rebounds! Cody Zeller won’t be around forever, and soon Hernangomez should be seeing those minutes increase.
Chicago Bulls—Ryan Arcidiacono
Those of you who aren’t from Chicago probably haven’t watched a lot of Bulls basketball, and haven’t noticed the contribution of “Arch”, a convenient abbreviation considering his difficult-to-pronounce last name. A two-way player in 2017-18, he’s been worth the new contract he signed, averaging 7.1 points and 4.3 assists. He’s the Bulls only 40% three-point shooter, other than Lauri Markkanen, who just recently returned from injury. Arcidiacono originally played to replace injured Kris Dunn but has leapfrogged Cam Payne in the rotation.
Cleveland Cavaliers—Tristan Thompson
Tristan Thompson has been wildly underrated throughout his time in Cleveland. He’s averaging 11.6 rebounds, but 5.0 of them have been offensive—he’s one of the best offensive rebounders in the league. His ORPG is 2nd in the NBA, and he gets the offensive rebound 49.8% of the time he has the chance, which is 2nd in the league, too, according to NBA.com’s tracking stats, provided by Second Spectrum. He also shoots a Cavs-best 55.1% from the field.
Dallas Mavericks—Wesley Matthews
Matthews averages 14.5 points per game on only 11.2 shots. He plays his role very well, 40.2% from three-point range. 96% of his three-point attempts are assisted. He’s not a creator, but he’s great at doing his job, which is spacing the floor to make room for Luka Doncic, Dennis Smith, and Harrison Barnes to create.
Denver Nuggets—Monte Morris
Morris leads the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio, with 6.1. He’s been one of the most underrated players of the NBA season, playing incredible defense and shooting ridiculous percentages, 49.1% from FG, 44.9% from three. Those three attributes together make Morris a breakout player so far this year, and it’s hard to see Isaiah Thomas taking lots of his minutes away when he returns from injury.
Detroit Pistons—Reggie Bullock
After the three high-usage Pistons, Reggie Bullock has done exactly what a 3-and-D role player is called on to do. 11.9 points per game, 42.7% from the field, and a Detroit-leading 55.0% effective field goal percentage, which is field goal percentage, but weighted to reflect three-pointers being worth 3 and twos being 2. 98% of Bullock’s threes are assisted. He’s a great catch-and-shoot wing.
Golden State Warriors—Jonas Jerebko
When it comes to scoring, the Warriors have three clear leaders, but this season Jerebko has actually been fourth. He’s averaging 8.0 PPG, more than Draymond Green and all the non-all stars. Jerebko’s shooting 38.5% from three, and 61.8% from two—he’s been a contributing member of the bench, which has been one of Golden State’s weaknesses since signing Durant.
Houston Rockets—P.J. Tucker
Most of the players on this list are putting up unnoticed but impressive stats. But Tucker’s impact is hard to find in the stat sheet. He’s a great defender, and his agility on the perimeter gives him the ability to switch pick and rolls, something Clint Capela has struggled with, especially in the playoffs. Tucker is also the best in the league at corner threes, 52.9%.
Indiana Pacers—Domantas Sabonis
Sabonis is averaging 14.2 points and 9.6 boards, plus 2.9 assists, good for a big man. He’s shooting 62.8% from the field, 4th in the NBA. And he’s doing all of this in 24.5 minutes, 7th on the Pacers. Per 36, Sabonis’s stats are 20.8 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. He’s been incredible, one of the top candidates for Most Improved Player, and he very well may be Indiana’s 2nd best player.
Los Angeles Clippers—Boban Marjanovic
Boban, the tallest and heaviest player in the NBA, has become somewhat of a joke, but he’s been a legitimate contributor for the deep Clippers, playing 11 minutes a game and averaging 7.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. Shooting 71.6% from the field, Marjanovic has made himself valuable through great shot selection and efficiency. He won’t be able to play much in the postseason, considering his lack of mobility, but he’s been a solid role player.
Los Angeles Lakers—Kyle Kuzma
Kuz has been the Lakers’ second-best player thus far, which is surprising considering the experience of Rajon Rondo and the talent of Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. But Kuzma is averaging 18, 6, and 3, and he’s shooting 48.2% from the field. Kuzma’s defense has also been improved, and if the Lakers want to make it to the Conference Finals or the Finals, they’ll need him to keep it up.
Memphis Grizzlies—Jaren Jackson, Jr.
Jackson was one of the top prospects of the 2018 draft, but no one expected him to be as good as he has been thus far. “Triple J” has the third-best defensive rating of any player averaging 25+ minutes. He’s also shooting 35% on three-pointers, especially impressive considering how many he’s been shooting off the dribble, like the game-winner over LeBron the other night. For a rookie, he’s been great and has lots of potential to become a great “unicorn” big man.
Miami Heat—Justise Winslow
Today, with the injury of Goran Dragic, Coach Spo named Justise Winslow the Heat’s new starting point guard. Winslow’s defense has never been in doubt—he’s 11th in defensive rating of players who play 25 minutes. His three-point shooting is improved, 38.3%. But his most underrated attribute is his playmaking—4.6 assists per game on limited opportunity.
Milwaukee Bucks—Malcolm Brogdon
Brodgon is one of the NBA’s best 3-and-D role players. His defense is solid, especially playing next to Eric Bledsoe, noted poor defender. Meanwhile, on the offensive end, Brogdon is shooting 43.7%, which is perfect around Giannis Antetokounmpo. That’s not to mention his 98.1% from the free throw line.
Minnesota Timberwolves—Robert Covington
Since joining the Timberwolves, RoCo has been outplaying Andrew Wiggins on both ends of the floor. We know he’s a great defender, but he’s also averaging 13.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.4 steals. 43.7% from the field, 38.6% from three, Covington may be the Wolves’ second-best player already.
New Orleans Pelicans—Julius Randle
In his first year as a Pelican, Randle has been incredibly efficient in limited minutes. He’s shooting 55.4% from the field, best of New Orleans’ rotation players. Per 36, Randle is averaging 24.8 points, 12.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. He’s been one of NOLA’s most effective players outside of Anthony Davis.
New York Knicks—Alonzo Trier
There’s an argument to be made that the undrafted Trier has been the best Knicks rookie, ahead of Mitchell Robinson (36th) and even Kevin Knox (9th). Take a look at Trier’s per 36 numbers: 17.4 points, 4.8 boards, 2.8 assists. He’s been an effective scorer, hence the nickname “Iso Zo”.
Oklahoma City Thunder—Dennis Schroder
Paul George has been excellent this year, maybe better than Russell Westbrook. Those two and Steven Adams will contribute for Oklahoma City, almost guaranteed. But the last two guys in the lineup may fluctuate. So far, Schroder has played with Westbrook a lot, and he’s averaging 16, 5, and 4 thus far.
Orlando Magic—Jonathan Isaac
Isaac hasn’t put up great numbers yet, but he’ only 21. 6’10” with a 7’1” wingspan and incredible athleticism, he’s got the intangibles to become an even better defender than he already is. He’s already averaging 13 and 8 per 36 minutes, but with an improved jump shot and role, he can develop into an even better piece for Orlando.
Philadelphia 76ers—Landry Shamet
What a season for Shamet. The 26th pick out of Wichita State, He already plays the 4th-most minutes on the Sixers, and he’s really stepped up after the Jimmy Butler trade. Shamet’s shooting 40.6% from beyond the arc, leading all rookies that average 7+ mins a game. He’s legitimately been one of Philly’s best players, also appearing in each of their 35 games. It’s incredibly unusual for any rookie to be such a contributor in his first season, especially a late first-round pick, and especially on a contending team.
Phoenix Suns—T.J. Warren
Warren has always been a consistent defender and a solid scorer around the rim and in the midrange, but this season he’s vastly improved his three-point shooting. Last season he shot 22.2% from beyond the arc, and this year, that’s up to 43.2%. His attempts are also up from 1.4 to 4.3 per game.
Portland Trail Blazers—Zach Collins
At only 21 years old, Collins has been a sneakily good up-and-coming big man. He’s shooting 50.3% from the field, and although his three-point shooting hasn’t been there yet, only 32.2%, He’s averaging 7.6 and 4.3. Per 36, that’s 14.7 and 8.1.
Sacramento Kings—Willie Cauley-Stein
Everyone knows De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield have had a breakout season as a backcourt, but Cauley-Stein’s production has flown under the radar. He’s putting up 13.9 points and 8.6 rebounds, plus 54.1% from the field. He’s also averaging 2.5 assists on a minimal opportunity as a center. That’s 18, 11, and 3 per 36. And he’s only 2.
San Antonio Spurs—Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay has always been a bit of an inefficient high-volume shooter, but this season his three-point percentage is up to 46.8%, 8th among players with 2.5+ attempts per game. He’s also shooting 55.3% from the field. Gay’s been a great third option after DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Toronto Raptors—Pascal Siakam
Siakam has been given far more opportunity under new coach Nick Nurse. He’s been grabbing rebounds and taking the ball up way more often than last season, and he’s also been shooting incredible percentages. His field goal attempts are up from 6.1 to 9.2, and his percentage is up from 50.8% to 63.6%. He’s shooting 1.8 threes a game compared to 1.6, but his percentage has vastly increased, 22.0% to 36.6%. Siakam is one of the top candidates for Most Improved Player.
Utah Jazz—Derrick Favors
This season, the lineup of Gobert and Favors together has been used far less, and Favors is getting more minutes at the center position. He’s shooting less than one three-pointer per game, which is probably for the best, he’s shooting 29% from three. His 60.1% field goal percentage is far more impressive, coupled with 11.1 points and 7.0 rebounds. That’d be 18 and 11 per 36.
Washington Wizards—Thomas Satoransky
Especially with the loss (intentional release) of Austin Rivers, Satoransky should get some more minutes off the bench. He’s been great in limited minutes so far, shooting 50% from the field and 39.1% from three. Satoransky’s a solid defender, and when he gets more minutes, he could score more too. Per 36, he’s averaging 11, 3, and 6 already.