Alex Kennedy over at Hoopshype recently asked a number of NBA players, both working and retired, who they thought qualify as the most underrated players in the league. The opinions range from relatively unknown players like Philadelphia’s TJ McConnell and Miami’s Tyler Johnson to bona fide superstars like Draymond Green and Marc Gasol. And in between are players like Trail Blazers guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, both of whom made the list.
Lillard was selected by a “Western Conference forward” as his most underrated player, presumably due to facing the 6-3 guard out of Weber State a few times a year for the last five season…
Western Conference forward: “Dame Lillard. Being in a small market, he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves considering the numbers he puts up. He should be a perennial All-Star.”
Despite being one of the NBA’s most prolific scorers and leading the Trail Blazers to the playoffs every year since his rookie season, Lillard has been passed over for the Western Conference All-Star team for the past two years. And considering the seemingly never ending influx of talent in the West, there’s a very good chance that streak extends to three years.
But at least Lillard has made an All-Star game, something McCollum can’t claim despite being one of the NBA’s most promising up-and-coming players. The 2016 Most Improved Player, averaged 23.0 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field, 42 percent shooting from three and 91 percent shooting from the free throw line last season, was picked by a past NBA player as his most underrated…
Former NBA player: “CJ McCollum is still underrated, in my opinion. He would be a superstar if he had his own team. He definitely should’ve been an All-Star this year, but being in a small market hurts him. It hurts Damian Lillard to an extent too. Put CJ or Dame on, say, the Lakers or the Celtics and they’re superstars.”
While it might be the case that McCollum and Lillard would get more of the recognition they deserve playing in a larger market, one would imagine Trail Blazers fans would rather not know for sure. And with both players under contract with Portland for the next four seasons and president of basketball operations Neil Olshey declaring both players as basically untradable, there’s no reason to believe we’ll find out how much bigger they could be playing somewhere else. And most importantly, neither seem interested in doing so anyway.