The Portland Trail Blazers may understand how invaluable forward Robert Covington’s play was during the 2020-21 season, but to the national eye his contributions may have gone unnoticed. In Dan Favale of Bleacher Report’s list of Every NBA Team’s Most Underrated Player, he spotlighted Covington as Portland’s unsung representative.
Favale noted that followers of these teams most likely wouldn’t consider these players underrated, but his list is composed of players who didn’t get enough love on the national stage.
According to Favale, the biggest reason for Covington’s lack of recognition was because he couldn’t single-handedly fix one of the league’s worst defenses. Covington’s herculean efforts as a fantastic help-side defender, accompanied with his nightly task of guarding the opposing team’s star player, got lost in the shuffle of Portland’s otherwise abysmal defense.
Who cares that he clearly gave a damn on defense—an aberration, frankly, in Portland? Or that his knack for busting up possessions in the passing lane and as the weak-side help was alive and well? Or that he continued to salvage broken defensive sets from behind?
Or that he continued to do all this while fending for himself against No. 1 options more often than anyone save for Derrick Jones Jr., per BBall Index? Or that sticking him at the 4 next to Jusuf Nurkic actually proved to be quite stingy?
Add all this to the fact that Covington connected on 37.9% of his threes on 5.1 attempts per game, and according to Favale, “No one who matters thought RoCo sucked last year.”
There were familiar faces elsewhere on the list. Former Blazer forward Nicolas Batum was named the most underrated player on the Los Angeles Clippers. In his first season in LA, Batum showcased an impressive ability to defend multiple positions and high efficiency on offense as a perimeter kick out option.
There is immense value in defenders who can scale their workload across different positions and player archetypes. Batum is not someone rival offenses can target to repeated success.
He is just as adaptable at the offensive end. The Clippers don’t have to assure him a certain amount of on-ball volume. He shot better than 40 percent on threes last season while binging on catch-and-fire looks, and his table-setting comes via split-second touch passes and pump-and-drives rather than clock-killing isolation.
After an impressive rookie campaign as backup point guard, Oregon native and former University of Oregon standout Payton Pritchard was tabbed the most underrated player on the Boston Celtics.