For some peculiar reason, we equate "All-Star" with "winning" in the NBA, often forgetting that basketball is a team game and that there are very few players in the league who are single-handedly capable of leading a team to the postseason—or even a winning season.
There are a few, but very few. If we made the All-Star game consist solely of those players, we would't be able to field two starting fives.
Some players that are "All-Stars" aren't as good as players that aren't "All-Stars." They earn the moniker for no better reason other than they happen to have better teammates.
There is a short list of players in the NBA who, if they were playing for a better team, would be no-brainers. Yet because they are toiling with losing teams, they are overlooked.
In each of these cases, the player in question has played for a bad team and not made the All-Star game. If you were to put them on a winning team, they'd probably be in. If they were on a team contending for a title, they'd be a shoo-in.
Note: These are not players who are underrated; it's players who haven't made All-Star games because they're on bad teams. Before suggesting omitted players ask two questions. 1) Were they on wining teams, and 2) Have they made an All-Star game. The "Ty Lawsons" and "Kevin Loves" of the league are not on this list because they didn't meet the criteria.
Brandon Jennings is a player that gets unfairly dubbed as overrated. Exactly how is he "overrated' if he's not even an All-Star? What accolades is he receiving that makes him so overrated? Was it getting named to the All-Rookie team?
Jennings is not a highly decorated player, but he is the player who scored the most points (and no, it's not Monta Ellis) last year of any player who didn't make the All-Star game. He as also fifth among all non-All-Stars in both assists and steals.
Granted, he does tend to take a few too many shots, and his defense is, at best, average. But both of those things are issues that are better masked playing on better teams. Put him on a contender, and those things are hidden, and he's an All-Star.
Greg Monroe is a downright, blue-collar hero. You put him on any winning team, and he's an easy All-Star selection. Some would argue that if you do that, his numbers would go down. I completely disagree.
What makes Monroe so phenomenal is that he has so much success without a true point guard to feed him the ball. No player in the NBA made more unassisted field goals inside the restricted area* than Monroe last season.
Last season, the Pistons also had the third fewest assists of any team in the NBA.
That suggests to me that if he has a better point guard who can create shots for him, his numbers go up, not down. Imagine what he would do with Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo feeding him the ball!
*The sorting is by total field goals made. To the right is the number of assisted field goals. To get the unassisted field goals, you have to do the extra math. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Now, Evans might have his flaws, and he might be in a bit of a decline, but when you can say "only LeBron, Wade and (blank)" in any conversation, whoever the "(blank)" is pretty much deserves some mad respect.
In fact, no player in the history of the NBA who is Hall of Fame eligible has maintained those numbers and not made the Hall of Fame (although Steve Francis, who isn't eligible yet, will never get in once he is). Here is the complete list of the 13 players who have done it.
That's sort of All-Star-caliber play, don't you think?
Some will be surprised to see Marcin Gortat up this high, but there's a good reason for that. No player on a losing team who missed the All-Star game had more win-shares than Marcin Gortat last season. That's a pretty good argument that he's the best player on a losing team that didn't make the All-Star game.
The Polish Hammer quietly toils under the Suns, but that doesn't mean he's not an All-Star-caliber center.
He has averaged 15 points and 10 boards over the last season-plus. Only two players have maintained that average over the last season-plus and not been in the All-Star game. The other is next on this list.
DeMarcus Cousins has broken out the last season and the early part of this year, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. He has the most offensive rebounds of any player in the NBA over that span.
He is rapidly ascending the ranks of the "best center in the NBA" conversation. Right now, it's getting harder and harder to make an argument that he doesn't belong in the top five. Were he on a contending team, we'd be talking about him as the next great center.
Kyrie Irving is going to end up in the conversation for best point guard in the NBA if he's not careful. He already would be if he weren't playing in Cleveland. His early numbers this season are starting to look eerily similar to what Derrick Rose's were in his MVP season.
Rose averaged 25 points and eight assists per game that season. So far this year, Irving is averaging 24.6 points and 6.7 assists.
And there's still a chance those numbers are going to rise.
He's averaging .98 points per play on the pick-and-roll, which is the third-best number in the NBA, and he runs it almost 35 percent of the time, according to Synergy. Doing what you do well a lot is a good way to keep your numbers up.
The other thing is that it has been only 66 games since this kid was in high school. He's still learning the game.
What he's doing is flat-out ridiculous.
Only four players—Chris Webber, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Shaqulle O'Neal—had a higher player-efficiency rating through 20 years of age.
Irving isn't just All-Star material; he's MVP material. Given the right teammates and another season or two, and he might very well be one.