PG: Malcolm Brogdon
SG: Jrue Holiday
SF: Caris LeVert
PF: Bam Adebayo
C: Nikola Vucevic
sixth man: Bojan Bogdanovic
Backup: Ricky Rubio
Backup: Collin Sexton
Backup: Serge Ibaka
Backup: Christian Wood
The other day, the CST crew was discussing different NBA topics and trying to make rosters with the given constraints. These ranged from an all-time oft-injured team as well as the most overrated and underrated current and past lineups. Determining a 10- man rotation of the most underrated players currently in the NBA was difficult because there were plenty of guards that could have made the cut. Devonte Graham and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are two names that could absolutely make the list, but given that this is Cleveland Sports Talk, after all, Cavs guard Collin Sexton was chosen instead. Many of these guys do not get the attention they deserve because they are either playing great basketball for average or below-average teams, or they are simply outshone by another star on their roster. These guys are not household names, but they could be thrown together to make a deep, competitive NBA roster.
First up is the starting backcourt. Malcolm Brogdon from the Indiana Pacers ends up as this team’s starting point guard. The 2016 Rookie of the Year was the first second-round pick to win the award since 1965, and he has improved every season since. After quietly joining the exclusive 50-40-90 club last season, he signed with the Pacers and played a big role in making them one of the most surprising teams of the season averaging 16 points, seven assists, and nearly five rebounds per game. At the shooting guard spot is Jrue Holiday. Holiday is arguably the most underrated player in the league as one of the best combo guards in the game. He averages nearly 20 points, seven assists, and five rebounds per game while playing above-average defense and providing veteran leadership to a young Pelicans team.
The starting frontcourt was a little easier to decide once the roster was trimmed down, and it starts with Caris LeVert from the Brooklyn Nets on the wing at SF. LeVert has always flashed great potential but injuries have slowed him down a bit. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, LeVert can be forgotten about, but he is a certified hooper averaging 17/4/4 who scored 51 in a game versus the Celtics in early March. He is set to hit the market this offseason and will make whatever team that decides to pay him very happy.
Bam Adebayo fills in at PF rather than C, but he should fit in just fine. Bam was a first time NBA All-Star this season, but he can be overshadowed a bit by Jimmy Butler. The third-year big man took a huge leap this season going from 9/7/2 last season to averaging a double-double with 16 points, 10.5 rebounds, and five assists per game this year. Adebayo is one of the most athletic rim protectors in the league, and he is becoming quite the emerging superstar in Miami. Rounding out the starting lineup is Nikola Vucevic from the Orlando Magic. He is a contender’s dream trade acquisition being a 7-footer with range, and the ability to carry offenses through stretches. He’s exactly what Chris Bosh was supposed to be in the modern NBA, and he averages 19.5 points, 11 rebounds, and nearly four assists per game to follow up his first NBA All-Star appearance a season ago. Since he plays for the Magic, he does not get nearly the national attention he deserves, but Vucevic is one of the most gifted 7-footers in the league.
Next up is the deep bench with a nice mix of experience and up and coming talent. Bojan Bogdanovic will hold down the sixth man role as instant offense off the bench. Bogdanovic has bounced around the league, but he has always been a wanted commodity due to his shooting ability. This offseason, he seems to have found a perfect fit with the Utah Jazz as he has improved his numbers coming off the best season of his career averaging just over 20 points per game while shooting over 41% from three. The two guards off the bench, Ricky Rubio and Collin Sexton complement one another perfectly as Rubio is a pass-first player while Sexton is an athletic bucket-getter. Rubio is a solid point guard with elite court vision having one of his best seasons to date averaging thirteen points and just under nine assists per game for the Suns. Sexton is a rising star who was nearly omitted from the Rising Stars game this season, who seems to keep improving the more he plays. He can be a spark plug off the bench for this team as he averages 21 points per game, and if he can continue to improve his reads in-game, Sexton could be a real problem.
The last two guys on the list backing up the big men are veteran PF/C Serge Ibaka from the Raptors and PF Christian Wood from the Detroit Pistons. Ibaka fell off a bit after leaving OKC, but he has revitalized his career in the six. Sure, he’s not the elite shot-blocker he used to be, but he has become more of a threat on the offensive end. After being an integral part of their championship run last season, Ibaka is having a fantastic season averaging 16 points and eight rebounds per game, which is good enough for his best scoring season ever at age 30.
Christian Wood has already played for six NBA teams and has bounced between the G League and the NBA, but he always had his fair share of believers who he is beginning to prove right. He was averaging thirteen points and six rebounds per game off the bench this season in just over 21 minutes per game, but he really started to shine before the coronavirus outbreak effectively suspended the NBA season. Wood is actually one of the guys who got infected, and it is potentially from having a career game against Rudy Gobert a few days prior to the shutdown as he went off for 30 points and 11 rebounds against the perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Wood was getting better by the day it seemed as he averaged 12 and six in January, 19 and nine in February and then 27 and nine in five games in March. Wood will be a fun player to keep an eye on when the NBA season resumes.