Most Underrated Individual Skills among NBA Players: 2012 Edition

The “Barry Sanders Cradle” brought to you by D-Rose

Over two years ago when AGR was in its infancy, we detailed the most underrated individual skills among NBA players. The article was among our most popular, so two years later, here we are again bringing you underrated skills among NBA players.

Our thoughts are this: Anyone can mine for stats and rank players with the litany of resources available on the web. What’s harder for the average fan is to watch every player on every team to get a sense of how he plays. That’s what this post is all about–bringing to light for the casual fan some of the more under-recognized tricks that today’s players use.

Underrated Skill: The “Barry Sanders Cradle”
Player: Derrick Rose

Rose is special in plenty of ways—he leads, carries the scoring and passing load like no other, and redefines humility. Aesthetically speaking, one thing that separates D-Rose to my eyes is his Barry Sanders-like drives to the hoop; like a running back, Rose will clutch the ball with one arm, shield the ball with his body, and navigate the sea of pivot-men with his off-hand. When he sees the light, Rose relinquishes the ball from its safeguarded position and spins it off the glass. It’s worth mentioning that at this point he’s been in the air somewhere in between 2 and 12 seconds, completing a number of ball-fakes in roughly the same 2 to 12 range. Importantly, if not for his ability to protect the ball via the cradle, Rose would be stripped much more often. It’s an underrated adaptation for a player who makes a living driving into the painted area.

It’s worth mentioning that other players execute the cradle, but none with the frequency or success of Rose. One exception is Andre Iguodala, who is bold enough to finish his ball-cradling drives with punctuating dunks.

Underrated Skill: The “Buck-Beatin’ Eurostep”
Player: Tyreke Evans

In our second instantiation of Best Offensive Individual Moves, we bring you a move previously covered in our first edition. Reke’s Eurostep is of the same ilk as Dwyane Wade’s, but Evan’s version is especially explosive to the point where he can take off from great distances, double-clutch the rock, and still have a classy and casual no-look, right-hand finish on the left side. Oh yeah, and he uses it for a game-winners, too.

Since Wade’s popularized the 2-step, other players have caught on–even lesser-knows such as Alonzo Gee–but the heir to the Eurostep is 2009 Rookie of the Year.

Underrated Skill: The “Over My Head, On Your Head”
Player: Jordan Crawford

Opponents of the Wizards usually have a single game-plan: stop John Wall in transition. The league is slowly learning that second-year Jordan Crawford is also a menace on the break. Crawford might be shot-happy like his predecessor, Nick Young, but he’s more relentless on his drives and pushing the ball in transition. It’s these moments where Jordan turns to his specialty, a move where he brings the ball over his head (and the defender’s) as a means of protecting the ball. Maintaining his momentum, he moves the ball fast and far out of reach before a ferocious dunk on the defender’s head.

Like the previous moves, this one can’t be attributed to a single player. I recall the star player on my childhood rec team (Dapper Dolph, for those wondering) using it for his driving layups. That said, few players pull the off the move as effectively or often as Crawfish. Wade, for one, has also taken to this move this season, as seen below.

Underrated Skill: The “Five-Hole Boogie”
Player: DeMarcus Cousins

As Steve Nash nears retirement (kinda?), the NBA needs an heir to the nut-meg. Look no further than DeMarcus Cousins. Naturally, the rebellious DMC takes a departure from Nash’s mold of “run the textbook P-and-R and pass through the defender’s legs”; instead Cousins shows his inner guard by dribbling the ball through his defender’s legs. Opponents are left in the dust while the 300-pound point-center barrels down the court en route to a series of missed lay-ups and offensive rebounds. Rumor has it that Cousins’ five-hole forays drove Paul Westphal clinically insane and was responsible for his eventual departure. Fortunately, new coach Keith Smart understands Cousins; whether he’s encouraging the nut-meg or letting Cousins play “Coach Boogie,” Smart is fostering the right habits in the up-and-coming Cousins…right?

Underrated Skill: The “Off-Hand Sneak-Slam”
Player: John Wall

Wall’s most unique attribute is his 1 on 5 fast-breaks, but those are neither under-the-radar nor underrated. What non-Wizards fans are now realizing is Wall’s sneaky habit of dunking with his left hand. Perhaps I shouldn’t call it sneaky, because it’s not like Wall quietly and secretly dunks with his left—it’s his preferred hand for the shame-your-whole-family variety of dunk. Strategically, his lefty jams allow for unpredictable finishes to complete his otherwise predictable beelines to the rim (yeah, I said it).

The Wizards added another excellent off-hand posterizer in Nene. While we’d have to travel in four dimensions to retrieve Nene’s legs, YouTube has video evidence of Nene’s off-hand slam prowess.

Underrated Skill: The “Cavalier Spin-Cycle”
Player: Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving is the John Wall’s foil. Both are lightning-fast, hyper-competitive, franchise-saving, #1 overall pick point guards, but if you look past those surface similarities, you’ll get see two contrasting styles of point-man-ship. Wall relentlessly and physically attacks the defense; Kyrie, on the other hand, uses change of speed and hesitation to keep a defense on their heels. Thus, it’s no wonder that Wall’s featured skill is an explosive left-handed dunk while Kyrie’s is a nonchalant, silky smooth spin-move. Don’t get me wrong–Irving’s spin-move is also quick and explosive–but while Wall speeds through the smallest of spaces, Kyrie creates space and move through angles previously not thought of with his spin move.

Underrated Skill: The “Not-So-Underrated Rondo-Fakes”
Player: Rajon Rondo (duh)

For players like Pierce and Dirk, their threat to shoot allows for deadly pump-fakes. Rondo couldn’t hit the backside of a barn, but his passing abilities and huge hands set the stage for tricky fakes passes. This skill isn’t underrated or understated, but it’s unique and frequent enough that it warrants mention. Rajon, despite being a prototypical point guard in some ways, still plays the game in such a way that reminds you he’s playing a game. Whether it’s his comical refusal to shoot or playground fake passes, he makes you feel like he’s not only toying with opponents, but also with our very conceptions of how basketball can be played. I should add that Goran Dragic has his own set of ball fakes, and its working name is “Slovenian Sorcery.”

Some skills are either too well-known (like Rondo’s passes) or don’t have good videos online. We’ll still grant them some love.

Honorable Mention: Greg Monroe’s “Jump stop,” Kobe’s “Step-through,” Kobe’s “Self-pass off the backboard,” Jamal Crawford’s “Shake-and-bake,” Nash’s “wrong-footed layups

What other individual skills can you think of? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on facebook.

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2 Responses to Most Underrated Individual Skills among NBA Players: 2012 Edition

  1. Oliver Clyde says:

    Is it just me, or did Rondo take three steps on each one of his behind-the-back-fakes?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Oliver, this has always bothered me. It is true; I have counted on multiple occasions. At the same time, three steps is not unheard of in the NBA (understatement of 2012), so it’s not that much worse than someone catching the ball, taking a step and then going up off of two feet. It’s just par for the course at this point.

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