Why Kevon Looney, Richaun Holmes among NBA's top five most underrated players

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·4 min read
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Why Looney, Holmes are among NBA's five most underrated players originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

No fewer than 30 NBA players can fit the profile of underrated or underappreciated, and they exist at several levels, from worthy of All-Star consideration to those who simply excel in their roles for a quality team.

From a deep list, we painstakingly trimmed the roster to five we consider the most under the radar, regardless of position.

Those with annual salaries of $20 million or more were eliminated. Farewell, Jarrett Allen (Cleveland Cavaliers), Malcolm Brogdon (Boston Celtics) and CJ McCollum (New Orleans Pelicans). Big money implies market value.

Anyone with even one All-Star Game on their resumé is cut, so we lose the likes of Allen (2022), Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks (2013), Brandon Ingram of the Pelicans (2020) and Dejounte Murray of the Atlanta Hawks (2022).

Anyone with less than three seasons in the league isn't eligible. We like Herb Jones of the Pelicans and Tyrese Maxey of the Philadelphia 76ers, but it’s too soon to paint them “underrated” or “underappreciated.”

The last five cuts were three Toronto RaptorsOG Anunoby, Chris Boucher and Gary Trent Jr. – along with Brandon Clarke of the Memphis Grizzlies and Daniel Gafford of the Washington Wizards.

Here are, in alphabetical order, the Final Five:

Seth Curry, Brooklyn Nets

At 6-foot-2, 185 bounds, Curry has the physique of a point guard but the stroke of an elite shooting guard. His defense is ordinary, his deep shooting is spectacular. His career 3-point shooting percentage (44.0) ranks third all-time and first among active players. He has shot 45.0 percent from deep in four different seasons, topping out at 46.8 percent after being traded to Brooklyn in February.

While his brother, Stephen benefits from the stability playing for only for the Warriors, Seth has managed to post these numbers while wearing jerseys of eight different franchises. Whether starting or coming off the bench, the 31-year-old is a perfect fit for today’s NBA.

Current contract: Four years, $32 million

Richaun Holmes, Sacramento Kings

Several NBA franchises seem to automatically reduce a player’s profile, and Sacramento is such a place. Holmes is not a star, but he his skills and athleticism make him a top-10 big man in today’s game. Averaging 23.9 minutes per game last season, the 6-foot-10 forward/center from Bowling Green scored 10.4 points while shooting 66.4 percent. He was top-five in contesting shots at the rim. He grabbed an average of 7.0 rebounds per game.

Such numbers were compiled while battling an assortment of injuries. Holmes runs the floor as well as any center in the league and is versatile enough that, in some lineups, he can play alongside Domantas Sabonis.

Current contract: Four years, $46.5 million

Tyus Jones, Memphis Grizzlies

While Ja Morant’s high-risk, above-the-rim act gets the attention of defenders and video producers, Jones provides the perfect change of pace at point guard. His shot – 39 percent beyond the arc – is good enough to command sufficient respect, but his floor generalship is top shelf. His assist-to-turnover ratio last season was an astonishing 7-to-1. It was 5-to-1 the previous year, 5.5-to-1 the year before that. Generously listed at 6-foot, Jones doesn’t rattle, no matter the circumstances.

If you’re wondering why Memphis played so well (21-6) when Morant was out of the lineup last season, start with Jones. He’s the best backup PG in the league.

Current contract: Two years, $29 million

Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors

Despite multiple hip surgeries and ongoing management of neuropathy, he has become a valuable member of a team that has won three championships in the five seasons that he played the majority of games. He took a significant leap last season, leading all players in total games with 104. He reached yet another level in the postseason, where his defense and rebounding were crucial in the final three rounds – even as he shot 67.1 percent from the field.

RELATED: Re-signing Looney was priority for Lacob

Great teams need players willing to do the dirty work without acclaim. Looney helps lubricate the offense and solidify the defense. His journey is among the most inspirational in professional sports.

Current contract: Three years, $22.5 million (plus $3 million in incentives)

Jarred Vanderbilt, Utah Jazz

The 6-foot-9 power forward is a badger on defense and a solid rebounder – 11.9 per 36 minutes – who can play small-ball center. His shot is decent, but he’s efficient in the paint, where he’s shooting 60.7 percent over his four-year career. His presence, particularly on defense, allowed Minnesota teammate Karl-Anthony Towns to jack up 3-pointers on offense and freelance on defense.

When Utah basketball boss Danny Ainge, a good talent evaluator, dangled Rudy Gobert in a trade with the Timberwolves three weeks ago, he had his eyes on Jaden McDaniels. Offered Vanderbilt instead, Ainge made the deal. Vando is coveted enough that he might not remain with the Jazz.

Current contract: Three years, $13.1 million