Posted: Fri March 29, 2013 2:17PM; Updated: Fri March 29, 2013 7:18PM
Matt Dollinger

NBA Power Rankings: Examining unheralded players on every team

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Jimmy Butler
A steady wing defender, Jimmy Butler (21) is also blossoming as an offensive player in Chicago.
Gary Dineen/Getty Images

The streak is over, but the Heat's reign atop the Power Rankings is still alive and well.

Miami fell to the short-handed Bulls in Chicago on Wednesday for its first loss in 52 days. The biggest key to Chicago's victory wasn't Joakim Noah or Derrick Rose (both sidelined) or even Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer (both had huge games). Instead, it was a little-known swingman making just his eighth start of the year. Jimmy Butler not only checked LeBron James and Dwyane Wade but he also added 17 points, five assists, four rebounds and a critical three-pointer to help seal the upset.

Butler's been a valuable, albeit unheralded, contributor to the Bulls all season, but he's not the only one making a difference while going largely unnoticed. With that in mind, let's take a look at the most underrated players on each team in this week's Power Rankings.

(Note: All statistics and records are through March 28.)

NBA Power Rankings
1 Miami Heat
Last Week: 1
Since: 3-1
Miami Heat (56-15)
It's tough to steal the spotlight playing alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but photobombing savant Chris Bosh has gotten creative in Miami with his background antics. Bosh, however, doesn't need to pull any stunts on the floor to get noticed. The third amigo of the Big Three, Bosh has embraced the role of being the Heat's superstar role player. The big man has played in the last eight All-Star Games, but he's no longer showcased on offense like he was in Toronto. Instead, he defers to James and Wade and carefully picks his spots to do his damage -- much like he does in his infamous photos/videos. He's shooting a career-high 53.3 percent from the field while posting his highest Player Efficiency Rating (20.0) and lowest usage rate (22.7) in his three years in Miami. Combine Bosh's effectiveness on the court with his comic relief off it and you start to understand how Miami was able to stay so dominant, yet so loose during its 27-game winning streak.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 4
Since: 3-0
The least heralded member of the Thunder's starting five contributes on both ends of the floor. Thabo Sefolosha's most valuable trait is his defense, which earned him a spot on the All-Defensive second team in 2009-10. But he's also an incredibly efficient shooter, likely a byproduct of the wide-open shots generated by defenses converging on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He's shooting a career-best 47.7 percent from the field, including 40.6 percent from three-point range.
3 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 3
Since: 2-1
The Spurs are regarded as an old team, but they start two wings 25 or younger. One is Kawhi Leonard, who made the All-Rookie team last season. The other is Danny Green, who garners almost zero press yet has started the most games for the team with the best record in the league. Green is the perfect complementary player on a star-studded team, playing sound defense and making open shots (45.5 FG%/44.2 3P%/86.4 FT%). He ranks fourth in the league in three-point percentage and has made the sixth-most triples. Not bad for a guy we never hear about.
4 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 2
Since: 1-2
Corey Brewer is finally realizing his potential at 27. Brewer helped Florida win back-to-back titles when he was a Gator, making him a lottery pick in the 2007 draft. But Brewer was never going to be a player you could build around. Instead, he's found his niche doing the same things in Denver that he did in Gainesville. The lanky high-flyer is a great defender and dangerous player in the open court. He's helped the Nuggets push the pace and provided them with enviable depth on the wing.
5 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 6
Since: 2-1
You won't find Matt Barnes in many "Lob City" highlights, but he's been a big part of L.A.'s success. Playing on his eighth team in 10 years, Barnes was a late addition to the Clippers' roster, but they're thankful they did their due diligence. With Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups unable to contribute most of the year, Barnes has seized the opportunity, averaging a career-high 10.5 points. He's given Los Angeles a capable three-point shooter (34.6 percent) in the frontcourt and the physical enforcer it lacked after Reggie Evans bolted for Brooklyn.
6 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 7
Since: 4-1
There's a reason most of the NBA wants to fight Tyler Hansbrough -- he's one of the most physical players in the game. He's also been a valuable backup to power forward David West. And when West missed six consecutive games recently with a back injury, Hansbrough stepped into the starting lineup to average 14.8 points and 10.3 rebounds while helping Indiana to a 5-1 record.
7 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 5
Since: 1-3
Where would the Grizzlies be without Tony Allen? As's's Chris Mannix highlighted this week, the defensive stopper (and occasional offensive liability) has been huge for the Grizzlies the last few years, establishing himself as one of the best lockdown defenders in the league while embodying the type of toughness for which Memphis is known. The Grizzlies, who face luxury-tax issues, will have plenty of competition for Allen when he hits the free-agent market in July.
8 New York Knicks
Last Week: 10
Since: 4-0
Kenyon Martin has been a lifesaver for the beat-up Knicks. Originally signed on a 10-day contract, Martin has been an invaluable contributor since Tyson Chandler, Amar'e Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas went down. Martin has started the last eight games, the six most recent of which have been wins, averaging 10.8 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 66.1 percent. Not bad for a guy who couldn't find a team until late February.
9 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 9
Since: 2-1
The backcourt gets a lot of credit for the Rockets' success, but forward Chandler Parsons deserves a mention as well. One of only two holdovers from last year's team, the second-year player is averaging 15.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Most important, however, has been the progress of his jump shot. He's improved his three-point shooting to 37.8 percent (he made 33.7 percent as a rookie) while attempting 5.2 per game (2.8 last season), and he's hitting 47.7 percent of his shots overall.
10 Brooklyn Nets
Last Week: 8
Since: 2-1
We've given him some ink already this season, but Andray Blatche is really deserving of more considering the contributions he's making on a minimum salary. As Brooklyn's first big man off the bench, Blatche has averaged 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds. More important, he's shown that he can contribute to a winning team and not be an off-the-court distraction. His PER (22.5) trails only that of teammate Brook Lopez among centers.
11 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 11
Since: 2-1
He's on his fourth team in six years, but power forward Carl Landry is the type of sturdy contributor every team needs. He is averaging 10.6 points (on 53.5 percent shooting) and six rebounds for a Warriors bench that also includes another key contributor in Sixth Man candidate Jarrett Jack. Landry is the team's third-most-efficient player (17.4 PER), behind Stephen Curry and David Lee.
12 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 15
Since: 3-0
Jimmy Butler was huge in Chicago's streak-snapping win over Miami, but he's been making big contributions for weeks. Coach Tom Thibodeau has used Butler for more and more minutes each month this season, including 28.9 in March. Butler's not only a trustworthy defender -- he helped hold Kobe Bryant to 17.5 points on 36.8 shooting in two games against the Lakers -- but he's also a blossoming offensive player, averaging 15.5 points on 45.1 percent shooting in his eight starts.
13 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 13
Since: 2-2
John Jenkins might not be prolific, but he's proficient. Since Lou Williams went down in January, coach Larry Drew has given Jenkins more minutes and opportunities and the shooting guard hasn't disappointed. The rookie has averaged 6.8 points off the bench the past two months while shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 40.5 from three-point range.
14 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 14
Since: 1-3
Injuries have sapped the Celtics of their depth, but they've also given Jeff Green a chance to show he's fully recovered from heart surgery. His 43-point explosion earlier this month nearly ended the Heat's winning streak, and his 21 points and buzzer-beating layup Wednesday took down the Cavaliers. Green might not be the successor to Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett, but he's scored in double digits in 17 of his last 19 games and showed he's capable of being a featured offensive player when called upon.
15 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 18
Since: 3-1
The Mavericks are making a late run at a playoff spot, winning 10 of their last 15 and putting pressure on the eighth-seeded Lakers. Much of the credit goes to Dirk Nowitzki, who is averaging 19 points and shooting 52.6 percent during that stretch. But praise should also go to Vince Carter, who continues to diversify his game as he ages. The 36-year-old guard is shooting 40.7 percent from three-point range and his Player Efficiency Rating (17.4) is the highest since 2008-09. Carter might not be the leaper he once was, but he's found ways to make huge contributions to the Mavs below the rim.
16 Milwaukee Bucks
Last week: 16
Since: 1-3
Brandon Jennings appears to have found his second straight coach's dog house. Interim coach Jim Boylan benched the star point guard Wednesday after he went a combined 5-of-30 in the two games before. Picking up the slack has been Ersan Ilyasova, who overcame a brutal start to the season to regain the form he showed in 2011-12. In March, Ilyasova has averaged 18.2 points and 9.5 rebounds.
17 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 12
Since: 1-3
Earl Clark was the biggest revelation on the Lakers when Mike D'Antoni first took over, but he's since fallen out of favor, averaging just 11.7 minutes the past four games (although that could change with Metta World Peace's knee surgery). Lately, the most unlikely source of production has been Antawn Jamison, who has provided Los Angeles some much-needed balance on offense. At 36, Jamison struggles to hold his own on defense, but the team is 13-4 when he scores at least 15 points. With the injuries piling up, Jamison's and Clark's effectiveness could be tested down the stretch.
18 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 19
Since: 2-2
Martell Webster likely wasn't happy signing a one-year deal last offseason, but he's taken advantage of his season-long audition with the Wizards. Webster has enjoyed a career year, averaging 11.6 points and emerging as a sniper from behind the arc. He ranks fifth in the league in three-point accuracy at 44 percent, while shooting more threes (300) than twos (261). The Wizards would be wise to keep a spot-up shooter like Webster, but there will be a slew of teams interested in adding him for next season.
19 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 20
Since: 2-2
Utah Jazz (36-36)
Before gruesomely dislocating his shoulder against the Spurs, Enes Kanter was quietly having a solid sophomore season. The Turkish center has averaged only 15.4 minutes because of Utah's logjam of big men, but the third pick in the 2011 draft has thrived when on the floor. His per-36 minutes numbers are outstanding: 16.9 points and 10.2 rebounds, to go with 54.4 percent shooting. With changes likely to come in Utah this summer, minutes should be freed up for Kanter to take on a bigger role.
20 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 17
Since: 1-2
Is J.J. Hickson the most underrated big man in the league? You could certainly make the case. He ranks in the top 10 in field-goal percentage and rebound percentage and is one of 10 players averaging a double-double. At 24, the power forward is only scratching the surface on his potential and will be even more dangerous once he develops a low-post game. Hickson is shooting just 36 percent on shots between 3-10 feet this year.
21 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 22
Since: 2-1
Thaddeus Young is one of just six players averaging at least 15 points and seven rebounds and shooting 50 percent (the other five are LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Al Horford, David Lee and Dwight Howard). Young has his flaws, namely free-throw shooting (56.3 percent) and jump shots (36.6 percent), but he plays within his limitations. He's attempted just seven three-pointers all year and taken more than 70 percent of his shots from 10 feet or closer.
22 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 23
Since: 2-2
The Kings might have found their point guard of the future -- and it's not Jimmer Fredette. Instead, it's the player they took with the very last pick in the 2011 draft (50 picks after Jimmer), Isaiah Thomas. After a solid rookie season, Thomas has gotten better and better as his sophomore year has progressed, averaging 19.2 points and 5.3 assists in March, up from averages of 12.3 and 4.2 in January.
23 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 26
Since: 2-1
The Hornets have won three of their last four, and they've gotten four consecutive good games from Brian Roberts. The 27-year-old undrafted rookie from Dayton dished out a career-high 18 assists against the Nuggets on Monday in one of the Hornets' best wins of the year. In those four games, he's averaged 10.7 points and hit 5-of-8 three-pointers. New Orleans has a crowded backcourt, but coach Monty Williams will have to find him minutes if Roberts keeps playing like this.
24 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 27
Since: 2-2
A litany of injuries has led to regular playing time for Dante Cunningham, who has taken advantage of his opportunity. The 25-year-old forward has been a reliable presence off the bench all year and is now enjoying his best month of the season, averaging 10 points (on 49.3 percent shooting) and 4.9 rebounds in 15 March games.
25 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 21
Since: 0-3
Although he missed significant time with a broken finger, Jonas Valanciunas has been impressive when on the floor. The rookie big man has started 48 of 53 games and is averaging 7.9 points and 5.8 rebounds in just 22.4 minutes. This month, he's been even better, averaging 10.7 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 62.5 percent from the floor. Toronto has plenty of question marks heading into next season, but Valanciunas looks like a keeper. 
26 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 28
Since: 1-2
It has been months since the Pistons sniffed .500, but they're a .500 team when Kyle Singler scores. Detroit is 6-6 when the swingman scores at least 14 points, a sign the rookie might deserve an increased role in the offense. Give Lawrence Frank credit; he's at least played Singler in every game and started him in all but eight. The Pistons' record in those non-starts for Singler? 0-8.
27 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 24
Since: 0-4
Phoenix Suns (23-50)
In the second season of a five-year, $21.2 million deal, Jared Dudley is one of the best values in the NBA. The forward is Phoenix's best defender and most accurate shooter, leading the Suns in true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage. He would be a welcome two-way role player on any playoff team.
28 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 25
Since: 0-2
Tyler Zeller hasn't made anyone forget about Anderson Varejao, but Tristan Thompson hasn't missed a beat since his partner in the post went down. Thompson was criticized after a so-so rookie year, but his sophomore campaign has been solid; he's nearly averaging a double-double, with 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds. Thompson does most of his damage on the glass, ranking third in the NBA in offensive rebounds, but he's also added a hook shot to his repertoire. Last year, he shot just 40 percent on such attempts, but he's raised that number to 56.9 this season.
29 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 29
Since: 1-2
Bismack Biyombo might never be an All-Star, but the 20-year-old former lottery pick has shown he has the potential to be a force on the defensive end. Biyombo finished fifth in the NBA in block percentage (5.9) as a rookie and ranks seventh (5.2) this season. Throw in nearly seven rebounds per game this year and Biyombo's proficiency on the boards and defensive end make up for his offensive shortcomings (6.3 points per 36 minutes).
30 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 30
Since: 0-3
Although the Bucks have benefited from the addition of J.J. Redick, the deadline deal that landed him in Milwaukee may one day be known as the "Tobias Harris trade." After averaging 4.9 points in 11.6 minutes in Milwaukee, the second-year forward has averaged 15.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 33.2 minutes 17 games in Orlando. He's started the last 10 games and could be a fixture in Orlando's starting lineup for years to come if the last few weeks are any indication.
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