As we near the half way mark of the 2019-2020 season, playoff pictures, awards and other achievements are becoming more and more clear to NBA fans. But while we’re busy focusing on the MVP’s like Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as the breakthrough stars like Brandon Ingram and Andrew Wiggins, sometimes we lose track of a few players who have been playing exceptionally well, but not getting the exposure or credit they deserve. This list will highlight 10 NBA players who have quietly put together an impressive season, while managing to escape mainstream talk around the league!
- Evan Fournier
Evan Fournier has quietly been the Orlando Magic’s best player. Fournier’s ability to score from all over the floor, and be a force to reckon with from beyond the perimeter makes it very realistic to credit him with Orlando’s success this season. I don’t think there’s much debate that Nikola Vucevic hasn’t been as good as he was last year, and won’t be considered too much for an All Star spot this year, but Fournier has really stepped into the primary scorer role for a once again surprising and young Orlando team. Fournier’s ability to knock down threes easily makes up for Markelle Fultz’s hesitancy to shoot them. This has been a solid season personally for Fournier, who averages a career high 19.4 points per game, including a career high 41% shooting percentage from behind the three point line. Fournier also is averaging his best field goal percentage since his rookie season, where he only started 4 games. Fournier has been steadily improving, and is going to be key if the Magic want to hold off hungry east teams like the Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons.
2. Marcus Morris Sr.
It’s easy to look at the Knicks and quickly label them as a dysfunctional failure. While their team certainly has been nothing short of a disappointing disaster, Marcus Morris has been a point of success for the saddened Knicks franchise. Morris has broken out of an average 13 points per game in Boston into a team high 18 points per game for New York. Morris, who nearly signed with San Antonio, but switched to New York last minute has made Madison Square Garden a somewhat desirable place to watch basketball. Morris has also surged his three point percentage this season. Morris carried a career high three point percentage of 38.1% going into the season… well 31 games into the season the 28 year old forward is averaging an impressive 45.2%, which is higher than his FG%!!! (42.6). The Knicks have secured an unlikely secondary star, with Morris on the roster, maybe the Knicks fans have something to look forward to. Morris also brings a sense of grit and toughness to the game, that could attract reluctant free agents to New York. Morris won’t have an opportunity to make much noise this year, but in the future, Morris could be a key player on a contender looking to add shooting to their championship caliber roster.
3. Collin Sexton
The controversy surrounding literally every Cavaliers member, from their brand new coach being criticized by their players, to Kevin Love’s occasional court side meltdowns, it’s important to realize that the Cavaliers are actually not that far out of a playoff spot. Much of this unexpected success is due to the emergence of Collin Sexton as a potential steal for the Cavaliers in last years draft. Sexton really didn’t do enough to impress anyone but Cavs fans last year, and the general feeling was that shiny new point guard Darius Garland was going to overshadow the no longer special Collin Sexton. Sexton has seemingly shocked the world, managing to average 18 points for the Cavs, and often putting up 30 point games en route to wins. One trend that Cavaliers fans may agree on, is that when Collin Sexton plays good ball, the Cavs are much better. Sexton is a crucial piece to the Cavaliers struggling offense. Sexton’s three point shooting has been a big disappointment, however his aggression and mid range pull up has resulted in a FG% increase. Sexton’s defense is also rapidly improving. Sexton is averaging 1 steal per game now, which is fairly respectable for a widely recognized offensive juggernaut who’s just 21 years old. Collin Sexton might not be LeBron James, but right now, he’s the king of Cleveland.
4. Terry Rozier III
When Terry Rozier signed his massive contract with the Charlotte Hornets this off season, many laughed it off as yet another case of the Hornets overspending for borderline role players. Rozier, who had an incredible 2017-2018 season, was cast aside for Kyrie Irving last year, and made it very clear he wanted a new home. Rozier has found his home in Charlotte, and while he is joined by the unexpected rise of Devontae Graham, he has not at all been hindered by Graham’s success. Rozier is averaging 17.5 points per game as the second option for the Hornets, which many don’t realize is actually more than the 16 points per game he averaged in his incredible playoff run that shocked the world. Rozier has been an excellent rebounder for the Hornets as well, grabbing 4.4 rebounds per game despite being one of the smallest players in the league, he has also come away as a solid playmaker, putting up around the same number of assists per game. Rozier has been a very reliable ball handler for Charlotte, and along with Graham, is notorious for his clutch late game runs that often lead to impressive comeback victories for the Hornets. Rozier is shaping up to be a crucial piece to the Hornets unit for years to come, as Charlotte looks to Rozier and Graham to lead the mediocre franchise back to the playoffs, and finish what Kemba Walker started.
5. Alec Burks
Many casual NBA fans have never even heard of Alec Burks. Burks for the Utah Jazz from 2013-2015, but apparently not solid enough, after seeing a minutes decrease, Burks bounced around the league playing for the Jazz, Cavaliers, Kings and Warriors all within the past 365 days. Burks currently sits on the Warriors roster, where he averages a surprising 15 points per game. Recent rumors suggest that Burks could be on the move to a contender, as the Warriors really have no need for someone that good at this point. While trading Burks makes sense, it also makes sense to keep him around, the full force Warriors with Curry, Klay, DLo, Eric Paschall and now Alec Burks could reinsert the Warriors into playoff contention next year. Burks has been a solid shooter, great slasher and respectable defender that has been a positive piece to a not so positive Warriors season. Even if he is traded, Burks has proven that he has what it takes to receive substantial minutes in the NBA.
6. Richaun Holmes
Richaun Holmes’ success has been somewhat appreciated by fans around the league. Holmes’ power and dominance around the hoop have been a major piece to the Sacramento Kings offense thus far. While the Kings still haven’t reached their full potential, the new addition in Holmes is certainly a major leg up for the Sacramento, who are looking to come back from a rough start to the season. Sacramento looks to have finally found a go to big man duo in Holmes and Marvin Bagley. Holmes currently sits among the league leaders in field goal percentage, hitting exactly 66.6% of his shots. Holmes plays the role of a classic center, who finds success in the post, and is sneakily picking up offensive rebounds for easy put backs. Holmes has also been phenomenal defensively, swatting away 1.4 blocks per game, and swiping 1.1 steals per game. Holmes is receiving some credit around the league, however some people forget how young he is, and how much potential Holmes has to become a household name around the league. Richaun Holmes is someone who any team could use, he is a tough rebounder, and has impressed the Kings enough to earn a starting job on a team stacked with young players like Buddy Hield, DeAaron Fox, Marvin Bagley and more.
7. Seth Curry
His brother watching from the bench, Seth Curry has not only been the best Curry this year, but has actually shown some flashes of his brother. Curry’s stats won’t blow you away, her averages just 10 points a game, which is pretty customary for Seth, but it’s games where Curry takes over, and really lets his shot fly that we see him blow up. On multiple occasions this season, Curry has come off the bench as the 8th or 9th man for the Dallas Mavericks, and dropped 25 points or more in less than 20 minutes. Curry’s ability to really heat up behind the three point line is quite honestly more impressive than his older brothers. If Seth Curry took on a starting position in this league, there’s not a doubt in my mind that he would average above 20 points per game. Seth isn’t as strong at creating shot, or finding open teammates as his brother, he is as good, or better at catching the ball and shooting it from beyond the arc. Curry adds to an extremely efficient and productive bench that includes Boban Marjanovic and Delon Wright.
8. Mitchell Robinson
I hate to put two players from the same team on this list, let alone two Knicks players, but Mitchell Robinson’s greatness can no longer be ignored. As of January 3rd 2020, Mitchell Robinson leads the league in field goal percentage. Mitchell Robinson has not only been an immense defensive threat, holding a block party every night. Robinson has now become a two way beast, being one of the hardest players to score on, and according to stats, the hardest player to stop from scoring. Robinson hasn’t exactly received the minutes he needs to thrive in New York. Robinson has somehow managed to be benched behind Taj Gibson, where he plays just over 20 minutes a game. If Robinson had the keys to the starting job in New York, there’s a possibility the Knicks could have an up and coming superstar in Mitchell Robinson. I see Robinson being a mimic of Rudy Gobert, he is big, defensive minded and an underrated offensive threat that has quietly put together one of the best bench seasons in the league.
9. Clint Capela
If there’s one centre who doesn’t get the credit he deserves, it’s Clint Capela. Capela is averaging an impressive 14 points and 14 rebounds per game, the rebounds being a league leading stat just behind Andre Drummond. Capela scooping up 14 rebounds a game is even more impressive when we consider that James Harden and Russell Westbrook always like to grab 10 rebounds a game en route to a triple double. Capela is undoubtedly a top 5 center in the NBA, but most would place him borderline top 10. Capela is a proven scorer, one of the best rebounders in the league, a surprsingly efficient playmaker and a very strong shooter from the field. One thing Capela needs to add to his game is a three point shot, once he can do this, he will likely earn the respect he deserves. Capela’s season is not getting nearly enough credit, mostly because of the star studded backcourt of Westbrook and Harden, but also because some people fail to notice what Capela does off the score sheet, and fail to understand what he does on it.
10. George Hill
Most of you see George Hill’s name and think about the finals blunder where Hill missed the free throw and JR Smith had his brain fart. But George Hill is more than meets the eye. You might not realize that George Hill currently leads the NBA in three point percentage, knocking down 51% of all his threes he takes. The NBA record, belonging to Kyle Korver, is just over 52%. Hill has also been a solid bench player, and should take lots of the credit for Milwaukee’s new bench strength. Hill has also been averaging 55% from the field, and averaging 10 points per game. 55% field goal percentage from a ball handling guard is extremely efficient. Hill has been the Darren Collison of last year, Hill plays limited minutes, doesn’t score very many points, but takes really good shots, and always makes great decisions. Hill certainly won’t step into a starting role with Eric Bledsoe running the point guard show in Milwaukee, but if the Bucks want to step into the spotlight and take the title this season, George Hill could have a chance to redeem himself, and be recognized for a different reason in the NBA finals.
Of course there’s so many players that deserve recognition, and it hurts to just choose ten. Great players like Nemanja Bjelica, CJ McCollum, Robin Lopez, Danuel House, Spencer Dinwiddie, JJ Redick, Lonnie Walker IV and so many more were left off this list. But that’s what’s so great about having 30 teams in this league. There’s so many players to choose from, and they’re all so skilled, all someone needs to do is have a few shots go down and they lead their team to victory. The people on this list are maybe not the superstars of their team, but players who aren’t talked about enough for what they do. We hear lots about Markelle Fultz, Derrick Rose, Zach Lavine, Luka Doncic, all great players, but it’s also important to recognize those that the masses don’t. I hope you learned something reading this article, and will watch the next game with an eye on one of these players.