All apologies: A dozen who deserve more love

Originally Published: March 16, 2006
By John Hollinger | ESPN Insider
No matter what they do or how well they do it, some players can't seem to get any attention. Take Gerald Wallace, for instance. A high-flying forward with gaudy stats who makes two "SportsCenter"-quality plays a night, you'd think he'd be a household name by now. Instead, the talented wingman toils in anonymity for a Charlotte team that's rarely deemed worthy of a highlight reel.

Ask a fan to name the best forwards in basketball, and he might rattle off 40 names before he gets to Wallace ... if he/she even remembers that Wallace is still in the league. Yet the Bobcats forward has played at an All-Star level this year, shooting 53.7 percent thanks to his explosive finishing skills off the wing. And defensively, he's turning into the second coming of Andrei Kirilenko. Wallace currently leads the league in steals and ranks 10th in blocked shots. If he keeps it up, it would make him one of just a handful of players in league history to finish a season ranked in the top 10 in both categories.

Wallace is still improving, as well. He's only 23 years old and is really in only his second season of action, because he spent three seasons at the end of Sacramento's bench before the Bobcats stole him in the expansion draft. As a result, he figures to be one of the game's top forwards for a long time coming.

Yet relatively few people even know who he is, which is why Wallace gets my vote for captain of the All-Underrated Team -- he is the single most underrated player in the entire NBA.

Before I introduce the rest of the squad, I should point out that underrated can be kind of a hazy definition, and it can vary throughout a player's career. Shawn Marion, for instance, was wildly underrated for most of the past few years, but that appears to have evened out this season. And sometimes a player can be world-famous and still be underrated. Yao Ming, for instance, is a household name ... and yet most people routinely underestimate how good he actually is.

You'll also note a few trends -- most underrated guys are young, play in small markets and aren't on winning teams. There's a reason for that. The players who are on national TV all the time rarely stay underrated for long, while most veterans have been delivering long enough to eventually garner some appreciation.

Of course, there are exceptions to these rules, including a few big ones below. With that in mind, here's the rest of the 2005-06 All-Underrated Squad:


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