In the shadows: Five underappreciated NBA players

Whether they’re buried on a bad team or playing in the shadows of star talent, many NBA players don’t get the recognition they merit. Here are five of the most underappreciated players:

Ben McLemore, Rockets

It seems like it was just yesterday that McLemore was a lottery pick of the Kings out of the University of Kansas. High first-round picks are typically expected to be franchise-changers, All-Stars at least and perhaps MVP-worthy. In reality, most first-round picks, even late-lottery picks such as McLemore, wind up in supporting roles — if they even manage to stay in the NBA. 

On a Rockets team (17-9) facing injury issues and questionable depth, McLemore has provided a major boost off the bench. In stops in Sacramento and Memphis, he was either asked to do too much or was thrown into tumultuous situations. In his first season as a Rocket, McLemore is expected to play off superstars Russell Westbrook and James Harden. That means making wide-open shots, which McLemore is getting in abundance. Almost 84 percent of his shots have come without him taking a dribble. Nearly 44 percent of his shots are what terms “wide open,” taken with a defender not even within six feet of the shooter.

Not coincidentally, McLemore’s shooting touch has been on full display lately. Since November 30, the veteran guard — who averages 10.4 points — has three 20-point games and only failed to score in double figures once. Over his past 10 games, McLemore is shooting 48.5 percent from the floor and 41.4 percent from behind the arc. As long as Harden and Westbrook stay healthy, McLemore should pile up points and knock down shots at a high percentage.

Sometimes it just takes awhile for a player to find a good fit. McLemore, in his seventh season on the league, isn’t a franchise savior, but he’s settling nicely into an off-the-bench role.

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