2012-13 NBA Unsung Heroes: Week 3
But what about the other guys on the team who we don’t know about? The guys who make a substantive yet unrecognised contribution towards helping their teams get the W.
To highlight the efforts of these “unsung heroes,” each week I am going to nominate three players who have gone out and got the job done with no fuss.
A greater weight will go towards those players who helped their teams have winning weeks, rather than those whose teams went 0-4.
So the NBA season is now three weeks old, and the standing are looking quite congested.
The Wizards are the only team yet to win a game, while the rest of the teams are still quite tightly bunched. Our heroes this week come from teams who all managed to advance from week three unscathed and come away with an impressive 3-0 record for the week.
Mike Conley Jnr (MEM)
Ladies and gentlemen, the Memphis Grizzlies have the best record in the NBA. That’s right; after losing their season opener, the Griz have gone 8-0 and are rolling.
However, the most impressive thing for Memphis this week was not so much the fact that they were undefeated, but rather it was who they beat. After dispatching the Heat with their final game last week, the Grizzlies came out and systematically broke down the Thunder, Knicks and Bobcats.
Mike Conley, the number four pick back in 2007, is one of the major reasons behind the Grizzlies impressive start to the season.
Conley is one of the most underrated players in the league, and in a way he epitomises Memphis as a whole. While most people focus on the Thunder or the Lakers or the Spurs and talk about Russell Westbrook or Tony Parker or Steve Nash, Conley and the Grizzlies are happy to sneak under the radar.
The 6-foot-1 point guard started the week with eight points, five rebounds and seven assists as the Grizzlies picked up a 10-point win against the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder.
Conley’s 16 points and eight assists, to go along with two steals and two 3’s helped Memphis overcome the previously unbeaten New York Knicks, again by a margin of 10 points.
After winning their first two games against strong opposition, the only thing standing between the Grizzlies and a perfect week was the surprising Charlotte Bobcats.
The Bobcats had a winning record and were proving difficult for most teams; however, that didn’t bother the former Ohio State product who dropped 20 points, to go with four steals and four rebounds in another great all-around performance.
While Conley does not get the attention of some of the more popular point guards in the NBA, do not be fooled.
His value to this Memphis team cannot be mistaken. His creativity and game management skills are ever improving and he is starting to live up to the expectations of being the fourth pick in the NBA draft.
If the Grizzlies want to maintain their place atop the Western Conference, Conley is going to have to continue to step up and contribute consistently night after night.
Mike Dunleavy (MIL)
Unlike most players in this column, Mike Dunleavy is an NBA veteran. The third pick in the 2002 draft, Dunleavy has been gracing NBA courts for a decade.
A former college national champion with Duke University, Dunleavy has never been a star as a professional. He has, however, always been a serviceable player, one who could fill a role without much fuss.
Coming off the bench for the Milwaukee Bucks, Dunleavy has never been more valuable than he is to this Milwaukee team.
He is shooting career high percentages from the field and is rebounding better than he ever has, while still putting up 12 points a night.
The Bucks ended week three with a 6-2 record. That is a better record than the Miami Heat.
Dunleavy had outstanding games against the Hornets and 76ers, equalling 30 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and six three pointers at 60 per cent shooting from deep over two games.
This kind of production off the bench is allowing the Bucks to become more of a well-rounded team. It is taking some of the heat off Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis and it is putting them in strong positions to win games.
Dunleavy is the symbol of this current Bucks team. Each player performs his role to the best of his ability, and when everyone does that, the results take care of themselves.
Kris Humphries (BKN)
Hmm, Kris Humphries, the name sounds familiar…oh wait, didn’t he marry one of the Kardashians?
Yeah that’s him alright, and while he was never going to fly under the radar hanging with Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and Co. on their highly informative reality show, people still forget he is a basketball player.
Soon after his marriage to Kim, a wonderful thing happened—they separated, and Kris no longer had to worry about poor little Kim and her ridiculous reality show. Humphries could finally get back to doing what he does best—playing ball.
While a quick glance at Humphries’ numbers suggests he may have dropped away slightly to start the season, the truth is in fact the opposite.
While his minutes have been reduced, his effectiveness has gone through the roof.
In helping the Nets go 3-0 for the week Humphries +/- differential (this is basically the score between the two teams while a player is on the court) was a massive +30 over the three games.
Only playing close to 26 minutes per game this week, the 6-foot-7 beast averaged more than nine points and nine rebounds per game to go along with at least one block per game.
The fact that the Nets can afford to limit Humphries playing time is a testament to their depth, and it means their key players can stay fresh and have a greater impact on games.
Not only that, but it should minimise injuries and make sure there is no burnout come the business end of the season.
So that’s it for Week Three of Unsung Heroes. Was there someone from your team who you feel deserves a shout out?
If you think a player deserves a mention in next week’s edition, leave your comment below to make your voice heard.
Photo Credit: Curtis Wilson/US Presswire