There are always players who you could classify as “unsung heroes.” Such was the term used by Michael Jordan for some of his Bulls teammates back in his second three-peat with the team, namely for guys like Ron Harper, Jud Buechler and Steve Kerr. This season, there are five players in particular who have made significant contributions to their respective teams and are putting the league on notice, even if they haven’t been.
5. J.J. Barea (Mavs):The old cliche that “his impact isn’t reflected on the stat sheet” can be a perfect description for Barea. However, his 1.6 turnovers per 23.1 minutes is one stat lines that stands out. Barea has earned qualitiy minutes with the Mavs and he has made the most of the opportunity by taking care of the ball while sharing playmaking responsibilities with that Jason Kidd. As little as he is, Barea has proven his worth by being a reliable role player, and playing in a team loaded with scorers. His 9.1 ppg isn’t bad at all and the Mavs are off to a 7-3 start.
4. Chris Kaman (Clippers): Whoever says they expected Kaman to average 21.7 ppg and 9.6 rebounds in his first nine games is lying. No doubt, Kaman has provided the interior presence the Clippers desperately need especially since their prized rookie, Blake Griffin is hurt. Kaman has doubled his career scoring average while playing almost 40 minutes per game. Actually, all his numbers so far are up from his career averages, and the way he is playing, Andrew Bynum might have a bit of competition as to who the top center in L.A.
3. Marreese Speights (Sixers): Speights caught a bad break over the past weekend by injuring his left knee and could be out until January. But don’t forget about him, he is going to be really good in this league. Prior to getting hurt, he was averaging 15 ppg and 7.1 rpg in just 24 minutes per contest. With Elton Brand still trying to get back to his old self, he has also helped out with the Sixers’ interior. He is a huge presence downlow on both ends of the floor, and like evryone else on this list, he has intangibles. The future looks bright for this promising big man, barring more injuries, of course.
2. Boris Diaw (Bobcats):The Frenchman’s statline does not do him justice. Diaw has become the guy the Bobcats run their offense through. In typical Diaw fashion, he has done a little of everything: 11.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 5 assists per. There was a time when he was with the Suns where Diaw could fit in every position. Once Charlotte gets a few stars (and we’re not talking about Stephen Jackson) then Diaw will be that Pippen to him.
1. Channing Frye (Suns): It’s just really hard to put anyone above Frye right now (at least on this list) because of how well he has fit in with Phoenix. How well? In their first 10 games, they’ve won eight. They have reverted back to their free-flowing offense of old. Steve Nash is back to 20-assist nights and running pick-and-rolls with his best buddy, Amar’e Stoudamire. Frye is averaging the most minutes of his career, scoring 12.9 and getting 5.2 rpg. He’s also had his share of blocks every now and then, and has showed decent passing ability. Talk about a perfect fit.