The Five Most Valuable Non-Superstars In The NBA

Everyone knows that the NBA is a superstar driven league. People tune in for the best individual match-ups (Kobe v LeBron, CP3 v Deron Williams, etc.) just to see what kind of show the best athletes in the world can put on against their most skilled counterparts.

There is no doubt that guys like Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade and others are the leaders emotionally and on the court for their respective ball clubs and that their teams depend on them for the majority of their team’s production. For example, the Lakers are undefeated when Kobe scores 40.

Sometimes, the opposite is true. Sometimes when a superstar is doing all the work by themselves, it is hard for their teammates to get involved. And sometimes, Wade’s 28 points might not be enough to defeat a team all by itself. That’s why almost every superstar has a wingman. Someone who’s success determines the success of his entire team.

Here are the five guys in the NBA that fit that definition the best:

#1 Mo Williams, Point Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers (LeBron’s wingman) – This might be the most obvious one. LeBron will always get his 28-30 points with eight or nine rebounds and assists but opponents have become accustomed to weathering the storm if you will and allowing James to get his and forcing his teammates to come through.

In the playoffs, his teammates didn’t come through. Mo Williams completely disappeared in the post-season last year. This season? In games that Williams has scored 20+ points, the Cavs are 12-3 and in those games Mo is shooting a ridiculous 61% from three (43-71).

Simply put, when LeBron drives and kicks to Mo and that shot falls, the Cavs are very close to being the best team in basketball. Also, Cavs fan Eric, does it seem like Mo has been better at getting to the rim this season? Maybe I didn’t notice it last season because I saw him as solely a three-point shooter but it looks like he is getting to the basket at a higher rate this season. Just a feeling.

#2 Aaron Brooks, Point Guard, Houston Rockets (Nobody’s wingman) – Well, the Rockets don’t really have a superstar per say. T-Mac and Yao used to be but neither of them are suiting up anyways. That does not mean that Brooks does not play an interval part in each Rockets win.

Much like Williams, when Brooks is hitting the three point shot, the Rockets are a much better team. In Houston victories, Brooks is shooting 46% from deep (49-107) compared to 30% (28-92) when the Rockets lose. When you watch this team play and Brooks knocks down a 28-footer in the first quarter, you’re probably in for a fireworks display.

Often times Brooks success with his outside shot leads to more tenacious defense, too.

#3 J.R. Smith, Shooting Guard/Sixth Man, Denver Nuggets (Carmelo Anthony’s wingman) – The ultimate gunslinger, just like the two guys ahead of him, Smith’s three point shot is perhaps the most important shot for the Nuggets as a team. When Smith hits one early, he’ll get his confidence will go up and there is no telling how many points he can go for.

Smith is shooting 40% (39-97) from downtown in the Nuggets 15 wins but his numbers drop 20% from behind in the arc in Denver losses. I think this is one of the greater reflections of how this team flows through him. Carmelo is actually averaging more points in losses but Smith’s numbers show that he is the key component to a Denver win.

#4 Jason Richardson, Shooting Guard, Phoenix Suns (Steve Nash’s wingman) – Richardson may be aging but he is still a valuable commodity on this team. He is expected to get 15-20 on the board every night and be active offensively.

In Phoenix wins, Richardson is scoring 18 points a game on 50% shooting from the field and 46% shooting from downtown. In losses, J-Rich’s numbers go down to 11 points a game on 40% shooting and 18% shooting from deep. Richardson often settles for outside jumpers when the Suns are down and doesn’t take it to the hole as often as he does when the Phoenix offense is operating at it’s best.

#5 Rashard Lewis, Power Forward, Orlando Magic (Dwight Howard’s wingman) – Lewis wasn’t as big of a factor last season as he is this season, in my opinion. Last season, if he was missing three’s, they had other options, including Hedo Turkoglu, that could knock down the same shot.

Now, it seems like the Magic are having to really less on Dwight Howard, who continuously gets in foul trouble, and more on Vince Carter, who isn’t shooting the three and does most of his work in the mid-range game. This means when the Magic go back to kicking the ball out of the post to a shooter, when Lewis gets, most of the time he is the only three-point threat unless J.J. Redick is on the floor.

Lewis goes from shooting 47% from the field and 45% from three land (averaging six attempts) in Orlando wins to shooting 30% from the field and 32% from three in losses. When Lewis isn’t going right, the Magic almost lose every bit of the match-up problems they had last season, which could be a big problem come playoff time.

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