The NBA is full of superhero-like figures who are looked up to and admired by people of all ages. Players like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook dominate headlines and often leave some players’ performances to go unnoticed.
There are 12 players on each NBA team and usually, the top two or three players score the most points, make the most highlights, and garner the most attention. Not being the most popular player or even not playing for the most lucrative of teams allows some players to float under the radar.
At the All-Star break in the 2018-19 season, a number of teams are performing much greater than expected, as are many players. Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis, Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic who was an All-Star—yes, and All-Star is underrated—and New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday are three players who are playing the best basketball of their careers in 2018-19 and are not getting the love they deserve.
Domantas Sabonis – Indiana Pacers
Domantas Sabonis has quickly become one of the Indiana Pacers’ most valuable pieces in 2018-19. Sabonis, who came to Indiana in the deal that sent Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder in summer 2017, is in his third NBA season and is having his best season yet.
The 21-year-old big man is averaging 14.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 60.2 percent from the field in 56 games this season. Sabonis—like his father, the Hall of Famer who spent seven seasons in the NBA—is extremely versatile and efficient.
Indiana currently stands third in the Eastern Conference with a 38-20 record and Sabonis’ play is a partial reason for the team’s success. Sabonis is easily one of the most underrated players in the league today and has carried a heavier load since All-Star teammate Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending quad injury.
Nikola Vucevic – Orlando Magic
If you don’t think Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic didn’t deserve to be an All-Star in the East in 2018-19, you’re crazy. Vucevic is averaging career highs in points (20.4), assists (3.8), and field goal percentage (52.1) along with 12.1 rebounds and is leading the Magic to a 27-32 record, 10th in the Eastern Conference.
Vucevic has already had five games of 30 points or more this season—two of them against the Lakers and Warriors on back-to-back nights. Last season, he finished the year with only three such games. Vucevic can do it all—his post game has shown much improvement as well as his mid-range game. He’s been extremely efficient, too. His 55.5 effective field goal percentage is a career high.
Other than Joel Embiid, it’s tough to say a center in the NBA had a better start to the season than Vucevic. Sure, Vucevic was named an All-Star, but casual basketball fans do not understand how great of an impact Vucevic has on the floor.
Jrue Holiday – New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday IS a great player and has proven himself as he is in his 10th NBA season, but he is having his best career year in 2018-19 and it is going somewhat unnoticed. Masked by the Anthony Davis trade rumors, Holiday is averaging career highs in points (21.1), rebounds (5.1), and steals (1.6).
Not only is Holiday holding it down on offense, but the 28-year-old guard is now a lockdown defender and is becoming known as a defensive stopper. For example, on Thursday, Feb. 14, Holiday guarded Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George in New Orleans’ 131-122 win. Holiday held George to shoot 4-of-16 from the field and 0-of-8 from three-point range. Holiday guarded George—an MVP candidate—on 47 possessions.
Sure, Holiday is regarded as a marquee point guard, but his value is underlooked, as he was snubbed from the All-Star team this summer. His complete averages in 2018-19 are 21.1 points, 7.9 assists, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game on 47.0 percent shooting in 59 games.