Among the most valuable players in the NBA are the ones who don’t need to score to be effective. Here are the best players who don’t necessarily need the ball in their hands to be great:
Green is the fourth option on the Golden State Warriors’ offense, but his impact is felt everywhere else. In this year’s NBA Finals, he averaged just 9.3 points, but led the champs with 8.5 assists per game and a usage rate that ranked 13th on the team.
In the regular season, Green finished 22nd in the league in assist percentage and was second behind LeBron James in forwards. Green can defend guards on the perimeter and big men in the post. The former Defensive Player of the Year was second in the league in defensive win shares. His role as a facilitator and a defensive anchor has helped the Warriors get three rings and it will help him go down as one of the best role players the NBA has ever seen.
Roberson’s season ended early after just 39 games when he ruptured his left patellar tendon in January. Though he only averaged five points and rebounds this season, Roberson is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA.
The Oklahoma City Thunder missed his defense after they lost in the first round to the Utah Jazz. His defensive real plus-minus was second in the league behind Rudy Gobert. Even in the regular season, when the former Colorado Buffalo went down, the Thunder were 11 points worse per 100 possessions in the four games following his injury.
During the regular season, the Rockets were 43-3 when Capela, Chris Paul, and James Harden were all in the starting lineup. Paul and Harden are the flashy offensive leaders, but Capela brings defense to a Mike D’Antoni-coached squad. The 24-year-old center finsihed third in block percentage. He is also extremely efficient offensively with a sky-high 65.2 field goal percentage on an average of nine shots a game.
Capela is a great rebounder, too, averaging 10.8 per game in just 27 minutes per game. The Rockets big man was top five in the league in rebounding rate. Capela is a restricted free agent this summer so the Rockets should look to keep their emerging star since his impact is felt beyond scoring the ball.
Smart, of the Boston Celtics, is a player one must watch in order to see his impact on a game since it probably won’t show up in the box score. He struggles with his three-point shot and watching him shoot one evokes groans from Celtics fans. In fact, two seasons ago, the former Oklahoma State guard had the worst three-point shooting season ever for an NBA player.
What Smart excels at is intangibles, such as taking back-to-back charges to cap off a 26-point comeback. The Celtics in the first round of the NBA Playoffs dropped two games in a row to Milwaukee before Smart returned and changed the series. The fourth-year guard entered Game 5, his first of the playoffs, and brought life to a struggling Celtics team missing Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Players and fans alike believe Smart is the emotional anchor for the team and their deep playoff run wouldn’t have been possible without him.
Some have called Simmons a modern-day Magic Johnson and so far the rookie has been proving them right. The 6’10 point forward is coming off a great rookie season in which he averaged 16 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists and will likely win the Rookie of the Year award.
Simmons has built a reputation that he’s a very willing passer and accurately. The Australian-born guard finished seventh in the league last season in assist percentage. While it does seem to be true that he doesn’t have a jump shot, the former LSU point guard is still efficient in scoring when he needs to and finished 13th in the league with a 54.5 field goal percentage. He made some rookie mistakes in the playoffs, but Simmons has established himself as a future star in this league who is okay with not scoring because his impact is felt elsewhere.