Overpaid. Overrated. Underachieving. These are all words that get thrown out to describe certain NBA stars, but why? What classifies a player as overrated?
Well for starters, if a star is to be considered overrated, he must at first be a star. Being a star in the NBA means more than other sports. The individual is so glorified in the NBA that stars become household names even among casual and non-NBA fans. Everyone on the planet knows the names LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
Along with this level of notoriety, there must be some monetary discrepancy. Teams are forced to overpay for stars, but when you are overpaying an already overrated star, then you run into issues.
I want to emphasize that these are players who have a certain status or cache in the league, yet have largely won nothing. They are all stars, so they are great players Yet, for what they have brought to teams, their stature is misleading.
Partially through how great he is at one skill, Blake Griffin has become overrated. We are so overexposed to every dunk he throws down (and there are a lot of them), that we expect the rest of his game to be as crisp.
However, the real deal is quite the opposite. Griffin, though still young, is flawed as a player. He has one transcendent skill that is misleading our judgment of his value.
He has burst into a national star, with numerous commercials and public appearances, all while playing in Los Angeles. Griffin is the one young star whose name people know right now.
Griffin also signed a five-year, $95 million contract extension this offseason. This was just before he injured himself training for Team USA and was forced to have surgery. This injury was just another warning sign for Griffin, who sat out the entire year he was drafted with an injured knee.
It is easy to look at Griffin's stats and be impressed; however, as he continues to grow up in the NBA, he needs to develop more. After missing the playoffs as a rookie, the addition of Chris Paul brought the Clippers to the second round. There they were steamrolled by San Antonio in a sweep.
Around the league, Griffin is viewed as one of the top young players in years. However, he may just be a hollow player who can fill the glory stats.
Derrick Rose was the most popular player in the NBA last season, selling more jerseys than anyone in the league. However, he played just 39 games.
It is a difficult argument to make, saying a Most Valuable Player winner is overrated. The Chicago Bulls went in on Rose in December for more than $94 million over next five seasons, and right now they don't know if he can stay healthy.
After missing various streaks of games this past regular season, he finished it off with a torn ACL, and it is still unknown when he will return.
In many ways, Rose is the quintessential volume scorer. He just happens to be very good at it. Over the past three seasons, Rose has averaged around five more shots per game than the next highest shooter on the Bulls. He scores, but it comes at a price. I am still not sure you can win when it counts with your point guard shooting 19 times a night.
This listing can disintegrate instantly if Rose is able to get back to leading the Bulls and force his way into an NBA Finals. However, playing in his current style, I do not see that happening.
Rose is overrated in part because, despite his accolades, it is still vastly unproven that he can make his teammates better and make a good team into a championship-caliber one.
Carmelo Anthony is the not-so-proud owner of a slightly embarrassing, yet incredibly telling statistic. Despite reaching the postseason in all nine of his NBA seasons, he has averaged just six games per playoff appearance. Anthony has exited the first round just once in nine tries and been swept three times. Overall, he is 16-38 in playoff games.
Despite all this, Anthony is thought to be in the same class of with the league's elite. There is a lot of good will towards him right now, and understandably so after his Olympic performance. Still, in NBA terms, he may be the most overrated player in the league.
It feels like things are going to click for him before every season, but nothing ever seems to change. He is going to be among the league leaders in scoring every season; that is a given. Don't expect intense defensive effort, or vast improvements in his teammates' games because of him, though.
Anthony's flaws don't seem to mean much, as he still sells jerseys (fifth most) and keeps hope alive for a relevant Knicks team. Anthony is the epitome of a wildly popular player who, while greatly talented, is so overrated because his flaws are ignored.
I may have dropped the "epitome of overrated" bomb a slide early. While Joe Johnson can't touch Carmelo Anthony's postseason failures, he has quite the impressive resume as well. Johnson's Hawks teams became synonymous with being "not quite good enough." They took on the personality and style of their best player.
Johnson had an electric five-year run with Atlanta, but tapered off right in the midst of his massive contract. They were able to get Brooklyn to bite on the contract this summer, but either way the player is owed an average of $22 million per year through 2015.
Johnson is a six-time All-Star and a fairly well-known player around the country, but that type of money is obscene for the production you will get.
His overrating has been increased ten-fold over the past two seasons. Coupling the massive contract he signed with his steadily decreasing output, and you have a mediocre star being paid like the best player in the NBA. Johnson is going to have trouble shaking this rating even with a change of scenery.
Congratulations to Russell Westbrook, as this past postseason showed us the great strides he was making to work off this list. An appearance in the NBA Finals, however brief, moved him closer to the hype built around him and Oklahoma City.
Everyone knows the reasons he is here; too many bad shots, errant alpha-dog quality, refusal to submit to better players.
Westbrook is so physically gifted that he became instantly one of the coolest stars in the NBA. He helped one of the smaller markets in the country, Oklahoma City, finish seventh in jersey sales last season. People nationwide have fallen for this team and their electric young point guard.
However, Westbrook's game still is way too much flash and not enough substance. Like Derrick Rose and Chicago, the NBA is not a league you can win when it counts when your point guard is jacking up 19 shots per game.
Westbrook took a step back in his distribution this season, seeing his assists total drop to a mere 5.5 per game. How is it possible to average that low number while on a team as offensively proficient as the Thunder?
Take a quick look at the Westbrook's postseason numbers. In games he put up more than 20 shots, the Thunder were just 6-5. In the one-sided Miami series, he averaged 24 shots per game. Contrarily, in 20 games Westbrook posted double-digit assists just twice.
While Westbrook is a fantastic basketball player, he still has work to do to earn the level of stardom he has reached with two All-Star appearances already under his belt.
And I swear, I'm not trying to pick on the New York Knicks, but this is exactly what happens when you have a team with a lot of promise and talent but little substance.
Players like Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire may seem like winners, but when it matters, they have rarely done that. Stoudemire does have a richer history with Phoenix, but still has failed to exit the first round of the playoffs in five of his eight postseason appearances.
To top that off in each of the past two postseasons, Stoudemire's numbers have dropped considerably from his regular-season production.
The six-time All-Star finished just outside the top-ten in jersey sales last season (11th). Stoudemire is undoubtedly a star, but injuries and age have sapped him of a lot of his prior physicality. He still receives the credit of a 2007 Amar'e, when in reality, the 2012 version is infinitely weaker as a player.
Like with Anthony, you are always hopeful that one year it will click. Especially because these two players meshing smoothly is a scary thought for any team to deal with. As of now, though, Stoudemire is just another overrated star.
Hypocritical? Yes. True? Also, yes.
While Andrew Bynum does have two NBA championships to his name, I simply could not omit him. Especially with all that has happened this offseason.
This is more of an indictment on his future in Philadelphia than anything else. His high profile in the league has come from being fortunate enough to share a court with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Phil Jackson.
Bynum is due to make $16.8 million this coming season and a huge payday is sure to follow. At this point in the NBA landscape, I'm not even sure it matters what kind of season he has, he will be getting paid. The issue is, does Bynum have the maturity level to work hard regardless?
He has had documented maturity issues in the past, most recently feuding with Mike Brown in Los Angeles. In Philadelphia there is no Bryant, Gasol or Jackson. The 76ers are a very young team and were forced to give up their one leader, Andre Iguodala, to acquire Bynum. Can he handle not having big brother around to keep him in line?
The bottom line is that Bynum was just a kid on those championship teams. He was rarely a top-three option until the past two seasons. His stardom came quick, and because of his natural abilities and teammates, he didn't really have to earn it. He has to start earning it this season in Philadelphia.
Sometimes a player reaches a point where he is so widely appreciated as underrated, that he becomes overrated. That is exactly what has happened to Andre Iguodala over the past two years.
His star has never and probably will never be brighter than it is right now. Coming off an All-Star appearance and a gold medal in the London Olympics, Iguodala's stock is riding high. He was also a major cog in one of the biggest NBA trades in recent history and will now be suiting up for the Denver Nuggets.
For a player who is owed $15 million next season and $16 million the following year, what does Iguodala give you? He is a defensive stopper, which he has always been. The problem is he never got the credit he deserved for his abilities in that role.
Then the outpouring of affection began, and after the proper amount of credit was given, it continued until it was over the top.
Is Iguodala deserving of the superstar status he currently seems to have obtained? Probably not. Being the centerpiece for a team in a trade involving Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum is a stretch.
Iguodala may be the best role player in the league, but he is still a role player and nothing more.
Two Olympic medals and three All-Star appearances grant Deron Williams the necessary star quality that is required to make the list. However, leading a team that finished 22 games under .500 begs to differ.
How can a player considered to be among the league's elite and possibly its best point guard, allow his team to have a season like the one the Nets just had? There are things great players can do to make poor teams respectable, what Williams did last season does not qualify.
Perhaps he spent too much time worrying about his next contract, or trying to convince his buddies to join him in Brooklyn next season. Either way, despite shooting just under 40 percent since joining the Nets, they rewarded him with a five-year, $98.7 million contract this offseason.
As for his recent situation, Williams really has no one to blame but himself. After shooting his way out of a good situation in Utah, he soon realized that this is what happens to NBA stars who overrate themselves. They wind up struggling for bad teams, instead of perennially fighting for a championship.
Speaking of championships, Williams' postseason career has yet to amount to much. With the Jazz, his four trips to the postseason almost always ended in sweeps or near-sweeps by the Lakers. The one year the Jazz advanced to the conference finals happened to be the year Williams did the least.
Williams is a streaky shooter, who, when he's on, can look otherworldly. However, far too often he uses poor judgment and does not do what is best for his team, instead doing what is best for his stardom.
There is no doubt he is a great point guard, but he chose the situation he is in, and he must succeed in it to be considered an evenly rated star.
A long internal debate took place over whether to include Jeremy Lin. The deciding factor was his stardom.
One could argue that Lin has yet to qualify for the star quality necessary to be on this list. However, he has become a household name among casual fans and boasted the second-highest selling NBA jersey last season.
Lin's merits are well-established at this point, but to rehash a few things, he has played in just 64 NBA games and started only 25 of those. While there are some eye-popping stats, there are major flaws in his game like ball control and defense.
When a point guard is being talked about as a possible All-Star, there needs to be more substance to his game. Neither his on-court play, nor his service time are deserving of the level of stardom which has been awarded to him.
The money also checks out, as Lin was paid handsomely this offseason for his 25-game performance in New York. They say you are paid for what you will do, not for what you have done.
However, when what you have done amounts to nothing more than a solid third of a NBA season, you are overrated.