By Court Zierk @courtzierk on August 9, 2014
Grit, determination, hardiness , tenacity. These are words that often get lost when looking across the NBA landscape. These players make invaluable contributions to their teams that don’t always show up in their stat line. Yet if you ask their teammates, I bet that they would tell you they would go to battle with every one of these guys. Here are the top 10 hustle guys in the NBA today.
Allen has been in the league for 10 years now and has only once averaged over 10 points (2006). Yet, over that time he has been named twice to the all-defensive first team, and once to the second team. Arguably, he should have been in the running more often, and he was a clear snub last season. Allen is an all-out, wear-you-down, get-into-your-head type of guy, but doesn’t cross the line into dirty territory. He’s just a guy you can root for.
Varejao has been the consummate hustle guy for years. Wild hair bouncing, poking through his yellow headband, lanky body flying all over the court. There is a reason LeBron made a point to call Varejao one of his favorite teammates of all time. He is a foxhole guy, and always seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Mbah A Moute plays even harder than his name is to pronounce. He has never been a dynamic scorer, but is one the most unheralded defenders in the league, partially because he has been forced to rot away in several NBA wastelands (Milwaukee, Sacramento, Minnesota), but also because his game isn’t sexy or appealing to the eye. He is gritty and is purportedly a hustle junkie.
Valanciunas may be one of the most unsung players on a list of unsung players. He is constantly active, running the floor, setting screens, going for every rebound, and that is a contagious trait. His teammates purportedly love him for all these reasons. Oh, and he’s turning into a pretty good player too. He is definitely one of the up-and-coming centers in the NBA.
Overall No. 1 picks aren’t exempt from this list, are they? Davis looks like he drinks a couple of energy drinks before he steps onto the court. He isn’t afraid to do the little things like dive for loose balls or set a good screen, which is a testament to his advanced maturity at a young age. He truly gives it his all every game.
Noah is another high profile guy who isn’t afraid to mix it up and get dirty. Many who have played with Noah call him the best teammate they have had, and that is because his energy and fierce leadership are contagious. He makes everyone on that team better because he doesn’t come across as too much of a star to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Faried isn’t called the “Manimal” for no reason. He truly plays like a man who is half beast, flying around the court like his braids give him the strength of Samson. He is the ultimate energy guy, and usually those guys are best suited coming off the bench, but Faried gives that energy from the opening tip, and his teammates follow suit.
Johnson has been in the league for nine years, and yet he is still a relative unknown. One of the longest tenured Raptors, he is known in the locker room as someone who will sacrifice it all on the court for his teammates. As the last player to come into the league directly from high school, he has had a steep learning curve, but has used his unrivaled effort to battle through the struggles, and has carved out a solid and consistent career.
Carroll flat out out-hustles and outworks his opponents, and that really the only reason he has made a living in the NBA. The “Junkyard Dog” contests every shot, goes for every rebound, dives for every loose ball. Frankly, he does everything that very few other people want to do, and that is why is revered in Atlanta. He has even become a decent shooter, and looks to have found a home with the Hawks.
Beverly was bouncing around in the D-League and the Euroleague before he caught the eye of Kevin McHale, who immediately fell in love with his game. Beverley is the ultimate throwback to the 90’s when players like Mookie Blaylock or Nate McMillan made themselves known on the defensive end, through relentless effort and by getting into their opponents heads. Watch any game with Beverley in the lineup and he is the one that immediately stands out.
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