When we think of great NBA teams of the last decade, all the heavy-hitters immediately come to mind. The 2017 Warriors, the 2013 Heat, and the 2014 Spurs–all very complete and dominant teams. However, many groups are underappreciated and don’t get the credit they deserve. This lack of recognition can be for various reasons: plagued by injuries, couldn’t get over the hump in the playoffs, or played for a small market team that wasn’t as popular. Today, we’ll dive into some of these underrated NBA teams from the last decade.
2012-2013 Memphis Grizzlies
This era of Memphis Grizzlies basketball embraced the Grit ‘n’ Grind mantra. Their elite defense and scrappy basketball play made them a fan favorite. Composed of gritty, hard-workers like Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, and Mike Conley, this team was nothing to scoff at.
Living up to their name, the 2012-2013 Grizzlies indeed were a defensive-minded team; they had the second-best defensive rating in the NBA and allowed the fewest points per game that season. As a result, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Tony Allen were all named to an all-defensive team. The NBA also named Zach Randolph to his second all-star game.
The 2012-2013 Grizzlies finished with an imposing record of 56-26. They finished as the fifth seed, however, because of a stacked Western Conference. In the first round of the playoffs, the Grizzlies played the fourth LA Clippers. Despite being down 2-0, the Grizzlies would win four straight to advance to the second round.
In the second round, the Grizzlies would face a depleted Thunder team. The Thunder were missing Russell Westbrook, who had tore his meniscus in the first round of the playoffs. The Grizzlies took care of business, beating the Thunder in five games. Zach Randolph would erupt in game 5, recording 28 points and 14 rebounds to close out Oklahoma City.
However, the Grizzlies would sadly fall short in the Western Conference Finals. Sadly, a stacked Spurs team would sweep Memphis, ending their title hopes.
Despite this, the Grit ‘n’ Grind Grizzlies indeed had a fantastic season. They were a scrappy fifth seed that made it to the Conference Finals. A team that made a name for itself on the defensive end, the 2012-2013 Grizzlies are genuinely an underrated NBA team.
2014-2015 Atlanta Hawks
The 2014-2015 Hawks were the embodiment of teamwork. Composed of underrated stars like Al Horford, Paul Millsap, and Jeff Teague, Atlanta was a fantastic all-around team.
What made this Atlanta team so special is that they didn’t have a clear first option, so game in and game out; everything was a team effort. As a result, they had a whopping four players named to the all-star team: Jeff Teague, Al Horford, Paul Millsap, and Kyle Korver.
The 2014-2015 Hawks were a top-six team in offensive rating, defensive rating, and opposing points allowed. Also, Atlanta would finish first in the East with a record of 60-22–they were the only sixty-win team in the conference.
Atlanta performed very well in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Hawks beat the Brooklyn Nets in the first round and Washington Wizards in the second round in six games. However, LeBron James and the Cavaliers swept the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals in crushing fashion. Despite being the first seed and having a home-court advantage, the Hawks crumbled.
Despite this loss, the Hawks achieved a great deal 2014-2015 season. Their uniqueness and ability to get it done on both sides of the floor caused them to be a top team in the league and strong contenders. As far as underrated NBA teams go, no list is complete without the 2014-2015 Hawks.
2013-2014 Indiana Pacers
Similarly to the Hawks, this Pacers team was a complete one. They were a force to be reckoned with in the East. They had an elite team defense, a tremendous all-around roster, and fantastic chemistry.
This Pacers team consisted of players like emerging 2-way star Paul George, elite rim protector Roy Hibbert, and scrappy veteran David West. With the best defensive rating in the league, Indiana was a nightmare for opposing teams. The NBA would name Paul George and Roy Hibbert all-stars and members of the all-defensive teams.
The Pacers finished first in the East that year, with a record of 56-26, even above LeBron James’s Miami Heat. In the first round, the Pacers won a nail-biting series that went to seven games against the Hawks. In Game 7, Paul George would record 30 points and 11 rebounds to send Atlanta home. The second round of the playoffs saw Indiana beat the Washington Wizards in six games.
But the 2013-2014 Pacers would fall to a similar fate as the Hawks team, losing to LeBron. Indiana would lose to the Miami Heat in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. This is a story we saw yet too often in the East, a solid team unable to get LeBron James, an all-time great.
Despite this loss, the 2013-2014 Pacers had a lot to be proud of. They were two games shy of the NBA Finals and had a fantastic all-around season. From their excellent defense to their valiant veteran leadership, the 2013-2014 Indiana Pacers are an underrated NBA team.
Sadly, none of these teams were able to get over the hump in the playoffs. However, they have a lot to be proud of and accomplished a great deal. These underrated NBA teams certainly deserve more appreciation.