);
NBA

The top forgotten players of the 2000s

kirilenko-bowen-052620-ftr-getty.jpg
Jazz vs. Spurs (NBA Getty Images)

This week on NBA.com, we're taking a closer look at each decade in NBA history.

Today's focus? The 2000s.

While we will spend the day looking at the best players, teams and biggest storylines from the decade, we also wanted to shine a light on the players from the 2000s who you might have forgotten about.

Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Andrei Kirilenko should own more than a soft spot in the hearts of Utah Jazz fans and mid-2000s fantasy basketball players.

Maybe it's because of the small market or the relative lack of scoring, but Kirilenko never received the love that his game warranted. A swiss army knife who could do a little bit of everything especially on the defensive end, Kirilenko is one of only four players in NBA history to average 3.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game along with Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Ben Wallace.

At 6'9" with a monstrous 7'4" wingspan to go along with some serious quick-twitch lateral ability, the Russian forward would have wreaked havoc as a do-everything power forward if not somewhat miscast for much of his career as a small forward alongside Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. It's hard to label him as "ahead of his time" when he couldn't really shoot, but Kirilenko was simply too quick for most power forwards of his era to handle. Playing in an overly conservative Jazz system for the entirety of his prime, it's fun to think about what might have been had Kirilenko been unleashed in a way that Golden State did with Draymond Green. Owner of the NBA's best nickname, AK-47 was at his best as an agent of chaos, running the floor with reckless abandon and slashing through the lane from every angle.

His calling card? The 5x5 game - at least five points, five rebounds, five assists, five blocks and five steals. Kirilenko did it three times, officially second all-time behind only Olajuwon and a major reason he maintains a cult following among any fantasy fanatics from the 2000s.

A whopping 56 players made more All-Star teams during the 2000s than Kirilenko who got the call just once. And yet in my estimation, there's simply no way there were 56 better players than AK47 throughout the decade.

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Bruce Bowen would've made a lot more money in today's NBA now that 3-and-D wings come at a premium.

Bowen bounced around a little at the start of his career, but between 2001 and 2008, he made eight All-Defensive Teams (five First Team, three Second Team) and shot 43.0 percent from the perimeter. While he averaged only 3.4 3-point attempts per game during that period, that represented just under half (46.2 percent) of his field goal attempts. He was a shooter, through and through.

The combination of his defence and shooting made Bowen the perfect role player for the Spurs teams that won three championships in the 2000s. He provided valuable spacing around Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan on offence and chased around the opposing team's best player on defence.

If he were playing now, Bowen's defence would probably be appreciated even more than it was back then because we have more means of evaluating a player's impact on that end of the floor. The NBA is also currently littered with the types of players Bowen matched up with best, such as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Paul George, Luka Doncic and Jimmy Butler.

That's not to say Bowen wasn't appreciated back then, because he was. The All-Defensive Teams are proof of that. He just tends to be the forgotten piece of the Spurs dynasty and I can't stop thinking about how his game is tailor-made for the modern NBA.

Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): Michael Redd.

Redd was the 43rd overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. Given where he was picked, it comes as no surprise that he took a while to get his opportunities. Playing behind Ray Allen for his initial years, Redd's career took off in the 2003-04 season, the first full season after Allen was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics.

That season, he averaged 21.7 points per game, and then reeled off another five seasons of averaging at least 20 points per game with his career-high 26.7 coming in the 2006-07 season.

He is one of only three players in Bucks franchise history to have multiple 50-point games with the other two players being former league MVPs in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (16) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (2). In fact, he holds the franchise record for most points in a single game when he scored 57 against the Jazz in 2006.

That 2003-04 season was the only year he made it to the All-Star Team or any All-NBA Team (Third Team). The Bucks were never able to field a competitive squad around him, posting a winning percentage of better than 50.0% just once (2009-10) since his career took off but there was no denying his talent.

That's not all. He was also part of the USA Basketball's superstar-studded Redeem Squad that clinched the Gold Medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Jermaine O'Neal was buried on Portland's bench for the first four years of his career, but when he got to Indiana he quickly became one of the best players in the league.

O'Neal was an All-Star six times in the decade and All-NBA three times. In 2003-04 he led the Pacers to a 61-win season and finished third in MVP voting behind Hall of Famers Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

The following season, O'Neal was in the midst of his career-best campaign and had the Pacers likely on their way to a deep playoff run, but the Malice in the Palace put a stop to it all.

Who knows what O'Neal's legacy could've been had the Pistons and Pacers not gotten into that night. O'Neal was one of the favourites for league MVP which eventually went to Steve Nash. The Pacers might have made a Finals; instead, they got bounced in the second round by Detroit playing the series without Ron Artest.

Injuries would slow O'Neal down towards the back end of the decade, but at his peak, O'Neal was a walking 20 and 10 guy - a fierce rim protector who had the talent to bring a championship home to Indiana.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

#Harris
NBA stars sit down with VP candidate Kamala Harris
Benyam Kidane
#Cp3
Who should trade for CP3?
NBA.com Staff
#Bjorkgren
Pacers tab Raps assistant as new head coach
Gilbert McGregor
best-shooters-nba-draft
5 best shooters in the draft
Eric Fawcett
nba-duos-nbae-gettyimages
Who is the best duo in the NBA?
Gilbert McGregor
ball-kidd
NBA player comparisons for top draft prospects
Kyle Irving
More News