Credit must be given where it is due, but sometimes, the NBA is far too generous.
Though the Association is home to a slew of underrated stars who are unjustly chastised and overlooked, it also houses a surfeit of overrated superstars as well.
They're the players whose names hold more weight than their production suggests. The ones whose impact is overstated, whose abilities are exaggerated, who receive far more recognition than they deserve.
Yeah, those stars.
While they may not necessarily be undeserving of some adoration, the current degree to which their talents are glorified and exalted is bordering on fatuous.
Which of today's distinctive dignitaries are the biggest culprits?
Perception is everything when it comes to status, and in more than a few instances, our collective comprehension must be tempered considerably.
*All stats in this article are accurate as of Jan. 3, 2012.
If I'm Amar'e Stoudemire, I want to be on this list. It implies that the general population still has lofty expectations for me and holds my potential impact in somewhat of a high regard.
But Stoudemire isn't officially a part of this list. Not anymore.
The perennial All-Star is no longer a superstar and thus no longer generates the expectations of one.
After years of being considered overrated, Stoudemire has finally reached the point where he is but an afterthought, where he is but an overpaid role player.
He has barely played this season as he continues to work his way back from yet another injury. Yet to call us surprised would be a gross embellishment.
Normally, the removal from such a list would mean a congratulations is in order, but not for him.
Commend Carmelo Anthony for expanding his game to stave off the one-dimensional label that often comes with being overrated, but Stoudemire? He's done no such thing.
He hasn't done anything.
And that means that, for the first time in years, Stoudemire is actually meeting our expectations.
Pau Gasol is almost no longer overrated. Instead, he's toeing the line of irrelevancy.
Much like Amar'e Stoudemire, our expectations of Gasol have already been tempered significantly, just not to the point of extinction.
Despite averaging a career-low 12.7 points on a career-worst 41.7 percent shooting, Gasol remains an integral part of the Los Angeles Lakers' immediate future. The problem now is we can't tell if that's out of necessity or preference.
Sure, Los Angeles rejected numerous trade offers for the big man's services, but does that necessarily mean the franchise still believes in him?
Absolutely not. The return on his departure could simply be underwhelming. After all, what team is poised to relinquish a high-profile player in exchange for a 32-year-old whose abilities have diminished by the season? The $38-plus million he's owed isn't helping his case, either.
I personally have an immense amount of respect for Gasol. The fact that this is the first season in which he's on pace to average fewer than 17 points per game is amazing.
Gasol himself, however, is not.
Our gradually abated expectations tell us this much.
One year ago, Blake Griffin would have topped such a compilation.
Color me impressed. But not too impressed, because this athletic fiend still has a long way to go.
I'm still not sold on Griffin as a superstar. He's improved his back-to-the-basket sets and increased his efficiency off the dribble, but his jumper is still a project. And don't even get me started on his defense.
At present, the Los Angeles Clippers are allowing opponents to score at a rate of 104.1 points per 100 possessions with Griffin on the floor. When he steps off, that number falls to 95.4.
Not at all. It takes but a cursory glance at Griffin's defensive sets to see that he's still soft on the defensive end. His anticipation is regrettable, and he simply cannot defend bigs that can take him off the dribble.
Also, for someone with as impressive a leaping ability as his, Griffin's 0.6 blocks per game are laughable. He must become more of shot-contester if he wishes to reach the next level as a player.
Only then will he be able to permanently escape the stigma that comes with being overrated.
Derrick Favors of the Utah Jazz is right: Kevin Love is overrated.
I get that Love's current averages of 18.3 points and 14 rebounds per game are impressive. I also understand that his 26 points and 13.3 rebounds a night from last season are even more impressive. But I'm still troubled by his lack of progress on defense.
At 6'10", it's nothing short of incredible that Love is maintaining a deep-ball conversion rate above 35 percent for his career. That said, such versatility has not translated over to the defensive end.
Not only is Love a poor shot-contester—0.5 blocks per game for his career—but his rotations are terrible as well. He's also no stranger to being outmaneuvered near the rim.
Yes, his rebounding is magnificent, but his overall defense is without substance. The Minnesota Timberwolves are even allowing fewer points per game with him off the floor.
Absolutely. So is his sudden penchant for injury and his tendency to complain about, well, everything.
None of this has prevented us—unless you're David Kahn—from deeming Love a superstar, and perhaps it shouldn't.
But it should dissuade us from putting him on a pedestal upon which he doesn't deserve to be situated.
Monta Ellis is the embodiment of one-dimensionality.
The volume shooting guard can score—19.5 points per game for his career—but he rarely does so efficiently. His defense is also atrocious, and his ball protection is inconsistent at best.
All that aside, Ellis is still considered a star, one who takes home $11 million annually. Thus I ask you: Why?
It would be different if the guard was having a profound impact on his team's offense, but he really isn't. Currently, the Milwaukee Bucks not only relinquish fewer points with him off the floor, but their offense is just 0.3 points better with him in the lineup as well.
Considering Ellis is valued for his offensive potency, that's more than concerning.
As is the fact that he's shot better than 35 percent from beyond the arc just once in his career, and in recent years he has struggled to shoot even 40 percent from the field overall.
And that's more indicative of a streaky role player than bona fide superstar.
Joe Johnson has reached a whole new level of overrated.
We've always known that the $126 million man has been overpaid, but this season, he has taken his reputation as an overstated superstar to new heights.
Right now, the once-dominant scorer is averaging 17.1 points on 42.8 percent shooting (third-worst conversion rate of his career).
More troubling than Johnson's perpetually declining offensive numbers, though, is his lack of aggression on defense. He's never been known as a stout defender, and he has done little, if anything, to quell such concerns.
It's not just that he's an underwhelming rebounder who can't defend the weak side; it's that his aggression in general on that side of the floor is almost nonexistent.
Rarely will he chase down loose balls, force turnovers or even contest shots. He's also infamous for running under screens far too often.
Don't think for a minute that the Brooklyn Nets haven't suffered defensively as a result of his poor instincts, either. With him on the floor, opponents are scoring 4.8 points more per 100 possessions, meaning his deficiencies are measurable by both sight and statistics.
While Johnson's stardom is predicated on his offensive production, that's no longer as potent as it once was. Toss in his exorbitant salary and the absence of a defensive conscience, and you've got one of the most overestimated players in the league today.
Rajon Rondo is not who we make him out to be.
While the Boston Celtics' floor general remains one of the most crafty passers in the game, his individual value continues to be unjustly amplified.
After six-plus seasons in the league, Rondo should have become a more aggressive scorer, yet he's still averaging just 13 points per game.
After caroming an excess of open shots off the rim, Rondo should have developed a jumper, yet he still connects on just 35.9 percent of shots outside of nine feet.
But that's fine, right? He's still one of the best distributors in the game, as well as one of the most formidable defenders there is.
Or is he?
Rondo's 1.9 steals per game indicate that he has no qualms about forcing turnovers, but his defensive impact—especially this season—remains severely overstated.
Opposing point guards are posting a PER of 15.1 when going up against Rondo, which certainly isn't terrible, but it's not great either. The Celtics are also allowing fewer points with him off the floor.
Couple this with his deficient sense of accountability and the fact that he improves Boston's offensive production by just 1.8 points per 100 possessions when on the floor, and you have a sorely misperceived star.
Yes, he's still a star, but he's riding the coattails of a reputation he doesn't necessarily deserve.
Deron Williams' reputation certainly precedes him, yet it's one he fails to hold up.
I'm a big fan of what Williams is capable of doing on the court, but right now, he's not showcasing much of his supposed talents.
Not only is the point guard shooting a career-worst 39.9 percent from the field, but he's dishing out just 7.7 assists per contest, his lowest rate as a full-time starter.
Thus, even if I ignore the my assertion that he pushed out yet another head coach in Avery Johnson, I cannot sit here and call him a deserving superstar.
Not when he's playing as inconsistently as ever on the offensive end. Not when his team allows 8.6 fewer points per 100 possessions with him off the court.
Not when he tries to use years worth of fatigue as an excuse for his underwhelming play.
And most certainly not when he admits that he's not playing like an elite point man.
As I stated previously, perception is everything when it comes to stardom.
And if Williams doesn't consider himself a reputable superstar at this point, why should we?