Five NBA Players You May Not Know About, But Should
Behind the glitz of the NBA's upper echelon are a number of very talented players getting the job done night in and night out in smaller market cities, and away from national TV cameras. Dedicated fans will of course know who these players are, but the casual fan may not. Let's meet some of them:
LaMarcus Aldridge (PF, Portland Trailblazers): Aldridge has been a proven NBA commodity in the league for several years, and he probably should have been an All-Star last season. He's averaging 22.5 points per game in 2011-12, and has a great +/- ratio of 23.32. Compare that to Kobe Bryant’s 24.63 and you get a sense of how important he is to his team.
Aldridge needs to stop relying so heavily on his outside jumper and become more aggressive on the boards if he wants to reach the highest level, but his offensive versatility is a very potent weapon.
Rudy Gay (SF, Memphis Grizzlies): Most people have heard of Gay's teammate Marc Gasol thanks to his equally talented brother Pau, but much of the Grizzlies' scoring load this season in the absence of Zach Randolph has been taken up by small forward Rudy Gay. Gay is averaging 18.4 points, and helped lead Memphis on its recent six-game win streak, during which he averaged 55-percent shooting from the field.
At 6-foot-8, Gay is very active on the court, and is tough to guard when making quick cuts to the hoop without the ball. Gay can also stretch defenders out wide since he's a 35-percent shooter from three-point range during his career. If Gay can continue this type of productivity once Randolph returns from injury, Memphis will once again be a tough out come playoff time.
Ricky Rubio (PG, Minnesota Timberwolves): Los Angeles may be "Lob City," but Ricky Rubio is serving up highlight reel alley-oops and no-look passes to teammates Kevin Love, Wesley Johnson and Derrick Williams in Minnesota nightly in his first NBA season. While he was originally drafted in 2009, Rubio played in his native Spain in 2010.
The rookie point guard is averaging 8.7 assists and already earning comparisons to future Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash. Like Nash, Rubio is adept at keeping his dribble alive and keeping his head up to find the open man. Only a 37-percent shooter, Rubio's scoring needs to become more consistent if he truly wants to reach elite status. Rubio is not an automatic starter, but head coach Rick Adelman clearly thinks highly of Rubio's talents, using him heavily in late-game situations.
Kyle Lowry (PG, Houston Rockets): Lowry is having a breakthrough season for the Rockets. Averaging 15.9 points and 8.8 assists per game this season, Lowry is heavily involved in everything the Rockets do offensively. Lowry can both score and pass off the dribble, but his improved jump shot is responsible for his career-high scoring numbers. Lowry can also knock down the three and routinely wrestles the ball away from the big men on both the offensive and defensive boards. At only 6-feet tall, Lowry averages almost seven rebounds per game, which is an astonishing bonus from the point-guard position.
Martin Gortat (C, Phoenix Suns): Gortat's career really took off two seasons ago when he arrived in Phoenix from the Magic as part of the Vince Carter deal. After his four years in Orlando, Gortat's points-per-game average jumped by nine points after the move, and the 6-foot-11 Polish-born center is currently the team's leading scorer at 15.4 per game and is now an integral part of Phoenix’ pick-and-roll offense.
Gortat is a near-lock to nab a double-double each time out in scoring and rebounding. Despite the strong play of Gortat and Nash, the Suns' lack of scoring from the forward and shooting-guard positions has really hurt them in the win-loss column this season.