As the entire basketball universe will be fixated to their TVs today to finally witness this season commence, there are several underrated gifts under the Christmas tree to unwrap as well. While the league’s brightest stars will be going at it throughout the five-game docket, every hoops junkie should also pay attention to some of the other battles that’ll take place. Kind of like those unexpected cash envelopes you receive from your distant aunt, uncle, or grandparents, the following 10 matchups will surely not disappoint.
Here are the top 10 underrated Christmas Day matchups. Enjoy these worthwhile, hidden presents.
Boston Celtics at New York Knicks
12:00 PM ET, Madison Square Garden
1. Ray Allen vs. Landry Fields
Beantown fans know that this Celtics squad is on its last legs and in desperate need of a youthful overhaul. With all the offseason speculation that Danny Ainge would make a blockbuster move to try and keep these vets in the “contender instead of pretender” category, their consistent backcourt comes back for another run — in spite of being the team’s most tradable assets. And as hard as it is to believe that he is now 36, Jesus Shuttlesworth still possesses the sweetest stroke in the game, having shot 52 percent from the field and a staggering 57 percent from downtown to go along with his 19 points a night during last year’s playoffs. His jumper alone against “defensive guru” Mike Woodson and the Knicks should be a sight to see as one opens up presents early Christmas morning.
How soon people forget how nice Landry Fields was prior to the ’Melo trade. He was an early runner-up candidate to win ROY. But after one preseason game, Mike D’Antoni has already given praise to rookie Iman Shumpert.
“He might become a starting point, he might also become a starting two. I think it will depend more on his teammates more than what he does,” said D’Antoni.
So, it will be interesting to see how Landry responds throughout this season as his starting gig has been put up on notice. The fact that he crashes the boards so well at a little over six per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three-point land last season, his game should bode well in New York this year. That’s because, where shots outside from ’Melo and STAT will definitely be at a premium – especially as BD works himself into shape – he’s a player that doesn’t need the rock often to score.
2. Brandon Bass vs. Jared Jeffries
Now that Jeff Green has been deemed medically ineligible to play this season because of a heart condition, the acquisition of Brandon Bass as a banger and only legitimate backup big will be critical to the C’s success this season. They traded Big Baby Davis for Bass in order to gain more toughness and productivity. For what it’s worth, Bass played 25 minutes in their preseason opener and scored nine points while grabbing five rebounds. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his numbers increase as he should see additional playing time during the weeks where games are piled on in this condescend season. KG can only be active so much, and Bass should bring the energy needed to try and keep this team afloat.
When New Yorkers hear the name Jared Jeffries, it’s usually followed by some kind of smirk or laugh. What is not so funny is the fact that the Knicks have no reliable safety net if STAT or Tyson Chandler goes down with injury at some point this season – unless you think Josh Harrelson is some kind of savior. Although his game is limited and unbearable to watch, Jeffries is the Knicks’ ultimate glue guy. Through getting timely charges and offensive rebounds, Jeffries performed this at 0.83 times per 48 minutes and third on the team, respectively, according to Stats, LLC. Such stats propelled him to earn the squad’s highest plus/minus point average at plus-3.6, which is three times better than that of ’Melo! Whatever the reason, the Knicks are far better with him on the floor than off it.