Building the All-Overrated Team, Pre-NBA Training Camp Edition
In order to put a finger on who the most overrated NBA players are, we assembled a full squad of the most overvalued and overhyped ballers in the league.
Some players are inordinately admired for their scoring prowess even though they're one-dimensional, while others are overly esteemed and overpaid due to their style of play or exciting potential.
In reality, their impact isn't worth all the fuss.
Who's in the starting lineup of our All-Overrated team, and who fills out the rest of the roster? We break down exactly why each player was picked for this not-so-glorious unit.
Starting Point Guard: Brandon Jennings, Detroit Pistons
2012-13 Stats: 17.5 PPG, 6.5 APG, 40% FG, 38% 3PT, 16.1 PER
Career Stats: 17.0 PPG, 5.7 APG, 39% FG, 35% 3PT, 16.1 PER
No one puts Brandon Jennings in the discussion of elite NBA point guards, but his playmaking still generates more credit than he deserves.
While he's creative and inventive as a scorer and distributor, he also demonstrates deplorable shot selection and execution, along with mediocre play diagnosing.
Jennings' career-high field-goal percentage came in 2011-12, when he posted 42 percent shooting. The Detroit Pistons are crossing their fingers, hoping that figure doesn't remain his all-time high for long.
He's prone to putting up some crazy shots from mid-range and in the lane, and his outside dribble-up-and-spot-up shooting is far from special. According to Synergy Sports, Jennings notched 0.69 points per possession on isolation plays in 2012-13 and 0.84 on pick-and-roll plays.
If he keeps up such an inefficient approach, it will be extremely difficult for Detroit to pull off a playoff run.
Starting Shooting Guard: Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
2012-13 Stats: 16.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.0 RPG 42% FG, 38% 3PT, 14.1 PER
Career Stats: 17.6 PPG, 4.4 APG, 4.1 RPG, 44% FG, 37% 3PT, 16.3 PER
Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson is no longer an elite NBA wing and should not be viewed as such.
He's considered a major part of Jason Kidd's "loaded" attack, but he's actually a slower, less dangerous version of the Atlanta Hawks All-Star we used to know.
Due to his size and outside shooting touch, he remains a great option late in games and when things break down at the end of the shot clock. As a playmaker and driver, though, he's not nearly as threatening as he was in his mid-20s. Johnson can't get past opponents with ease anymore.
When Brooklyn needed him most, in the 2013 playoffs against the Chicago Bulls, he scored 14.9 points per game and 13.8 per 36 minutes.
Reminder: he's due to make $21.5 million in 2013-14.
Starting Small Forward: Rudy Gay, Toronto Raptors
2012-13 Stats: 18.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 42% FG, 32% 3PT, 15.6 PER
Career Stats: 18.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 45% FG, 34% 3PT, 16.1 PER
Toronto Raptors star Rudy Gay is an exciting player to watch, and at 27 years old, he still has several quality years left in his career.
However, he is vastly overvalued by the fans, media and on the payroll ($17.9 million salary in 2013-14).
On the court, the eye-test evidence lies in the Memphis Grizzlies' 2013 playoff surge once they traded him. They became a more efficient club on both ends of the floor without him wasting time creating inconsistent shot opportunities. Yes, the Raptors improved when Gay arrived, but let's face it: They had nowhere to go but up.
In the stat book, it's equally painful for Gay. According to Basketball Reference, his 2012-13 PER was 15.6, his true shooting percentage was .494 and his effective field-goal percentage was .449—hardly numbers worthy of such a prominent status and exorbitant contract.
He's a tremendous slasher and a streaky shooter. That's about it.
Starting Power Forward: David Lee, Golden State Warriors
2012-13 Stats: 18.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 3.5 PPG, 52% FG, 19.2 PER
Career Stats: 14.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 54% FG, 19.2 PER
Because he's a highly effective offensive player who passes and shoots so smoothly, we often fall into the trap of putting Golden State Warriors star David Lee on a pedestal of basketball greatness.
There's more to the game than great hands around the rim and a jump shot.
Lee is frequently exposed in the open floor on both offense and defense. As a stopper, his inadequacies are particularly detrimental, as he lacks the lateral quickness or vertical explosiveness to stay with most of today's power forwards.
82games.com broke down his defensive influence, and in 2012-13 the Dubs allowed 107 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court, compared to 105.3 when he was off.
Lee's a superb talent as a scorer and rebounder, but the next time you're tempted to rank him alongside the likes of Tim Duncan and Kevin Love, think twice.
Starting Center: DeAndre Jordan
2012-13 Stats: 8.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 64% FG, 17.2 PER
Career Stats: 6.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 64% FG, 15.4 PER
Most NBA fans know Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan is predominantly a dunker and close-range player. Yet he remains overvalued in the minds of fans, media and front offices.
Part of it is an overestimation of his development in the post, and part of it is an underestimation of how his limited skills handcuff the Clippers.
Jordan is slowly acquiring post-up moves, but he's still in the early stages of progress. Successfully executed moves are isolated incidents, as he lacks the fluidity and footwork necessary to foil defenders.
Due to his nonexistent jump shot, shaky footwork and limited ball skills, L.A. can't utilize him at the high post or in pick-and-pop situations. And since he's a free-throw nightmare, he's useless at the end of games. Defensively, he has the physical tools to succeed, but he's often schooled by being out of position or overpursuing plays.
The Memphis Grizzlies' first-round series in 2013 proved he still has a long way to go on both sides of the ball. Jordan tallied 3.7 points and 6.3 rebounds with an offensive rating of 84 and a defensive rating of 111.
Backup Point Guard: Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
2012-13 Stats: 17.7 PPG, 8.0 APG, 43% FG, 37% 3PT, 16.7 PER
Career Stats: 13.4 PPG, 5.8 APG, 44% FG, 37% 3PT, 15.1 PER
Jrue Holiday is unquestionably a promising young floor general, and he's bound to progress as he joins the New Orleans Pelicans. He's already earned an All-Star bid and finished fourth in the NBA in assists in 2012-13.
It's fun to watch him weave through defenses and create shots for his team, but a closer look at the stats uncovers the uglier side of the 23-year-old.
Holiday is a woefully inefficient shooter, with a 2012-13 true shooting percentage of .496 and an effective field-goal percentage of .466. A Synergy Sports examination of his offense shows that he notched 0.82 points per possession, including 0.78 as a pick-and-roll ball-handler.
As he continues to grow, he'll become a more consistent outside shooter. For now, he's an overrated youngster still polishing his game.
Backup Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
2012-13 Stats: 27.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 5.6 RPG, 46% FG, 32% 3PT, 23.0 PER
Career Stats: 25.5 PPG, 4.8 APG, 5.3 RPG, 45% FG, 34% 3PT, 23.4 PER
Incredibly gifted scorer? Check. One of the best players of all time? Check. Closest thing to Michael Jordan we'll see in our lifetime? Check. Undeniable competitor? Check. Winner? Check.
So why do we have to check the "overrated" box, too? Because he's considered to be "so close" to Jordan, both in skill, production and championship legacy. We think of Kobe as an immortal on par with His Airness, but he's not.
Few have ever worked harder and maybe none have ever been more skilled. But despite his greatness, Bryant also is one of the most overrated players of all time. He chucks bad shots and isn't nearly as clutch as the narrative poses. He has pushed two future Hall of Famers out the door and hasn't won much when not flanked by elite "big" talent.
Bryant's skills and capabilities will never be overrated, nor will his passion for the game and work ethic.
But his overall legacy and current status as an elite player are definitely inflated.
Backup (Shooting) Forward: Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks
2012-13 Stats: 12.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 40% FG, 31% 3PT, 11.2 PER
Career Stats: 15.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 44% FG, 36% 3PT, 14.3 PER
When the New York Knicks traded for Andrea Bargnani this summer, general manager Glen Grunwald explained the benefits of the acquisition:
Seven-foot versatile players with a good midrange offensive game and an ability to stretch the other team's defense are hard to come by in this league. Andrea has proven to be a quality scorer who adds another dimension to our team. We are excited to add him to our frontline.
Grunwald's not wrong, but calling Bargnani "versatile" might be a stretch, considering the seven-foot shooter isn't an adept rebounder or passer.
In New York, he has a chance to settle into a stretch-4 role, but that doesn't change the fact that people overrate him due to his height and soft shooting touch.
And as for that shooting, Bargnani has suffered slumps throughout the years, as his true shooting and PER are frequently ugly. That helps explain the career PER of 14.3 and grand total of two playoff series over his seven years in the league.
Backup Power Forward: Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 Stats: 13.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 57% FG, 35% 3PT, 19.4 PER
Career Stats: 9.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.6 BPG 55% FG, 35% 3PT, 18.1 PER
Fans love his shot-blocking. Announcers and media love his much-improved jumper. The Oklahoma City Thunder loved him enough to choose him over James Harden.
Serge Ibaka is good, but his true value doesn't match the value the front office placed on him ($12.4 million per year).
It's simple: He can dunk or hit spot-up mid-range jumpers. That's it.
He lacks a back-to-the-basket game, advanced footwork or a reliable touch off the glass. Ibaka doesn't have the best positional awareness around the rim, nor does he have great knack for rebounding. In isolation, he mustered a measly 0.64 points per possession in 2012-13, according to Synergy Sports.
Defensively, there's no denying his extraordinary gifts and instincts. But his nonthreatening post skills makes things difficult for OKC, and the sum of his contributions fall way short of his salary and status.
Backup Center: Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats
2012-13 Stats: 17.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 49% FG, 20.9 PER
Career Stats: 16.4 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 50% FG, 20.6 PER
You can ignore the numbers above, because those certainly aren't the reason Al Jefferson is overrated.
The incoming Charlotte Bobcats center is often placed too high in the big-man hierarchy, and I'm as guilty as anyone for falling in love with his scoring skills while forgetting how weak he is defensively.
In both team and individual scenarios, Jefferson is not a dependable low-post stopper. He doesn't possess the skill, physical explosiveness or drive necessary to contain foes.
According to 82games.com, the 2012-13 Utah Jazz surrendered 111.3 points per 100 possessions while Jefferson was in the game and allowed only 102 when he was sidelined. That's a staggering 9.3 points per 100 possessions' improvement without him.
When you think "best big men in the NBA," his name might pop up because of his scoring prowess, but don't forget how detrimental he is on defense.
Backcourt Reserve: Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks
2012-13 Stats: 19.2 PPG, 6.0 APG, 42% FG, 29% 3PT, 16.2 PER
Career Stats: 19.4 PPG, 4.7 APG, 46% FG, 32% 3PT, 16.8 PER
It's great to have a player who can score 18-25 points on any given night, but the cost must be factored in.
Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis is an electric talent who can light up the scoreboard with his athleticism and shot-making abilities. Unfortunately, it takes him about 18-20 shot attempts to accomplish this, including a 30 percent three-pointer conversion rate and numerous sabotaged possessions.
As an isolation creator, he fails to find high-percentage looks and settles for off-balance shots.
Until he exercises better discretion on a game-by-game basis, his 19-plus points per game will be some of the most overrated in the NBA.
Frontcourt Reserve: Blake Griffin
2012-13 Stats: 18.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.7 APG 54% FG 22.4 PER
Career Stats: 20.4 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 53% FG, 22.5 PER
Los Angeles Clippers megastar Blake Griffin isn't quite as overrated as he used to be, as he's making noticeable progress in the post and with his jumper.
However, he's still one of the most overhyped athletes in the country. His aerial exploits and big-market location garner coast-to-coast attention, and therefore he enjoys similar or more fame than players much better than himself—players like Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose.
Griffin's jump shot could still use some ironing, his short-range game off glass could use polishing, and most importantly, his free-throw shooting could use a major boost (his career-high is 66 percent).
Including him on this roster isn't so much an indictment of disappointing play as it is a realization of his disproportionate stardom and popularity.
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