Ranking the NBA's 7 Most Overrated Stars Heading into 2013-14
Now, more than ever, the NBA is a league driven by superstars. However, not all are created equal.
Several of the league's biggest names have reputations that overshadow their on-court performances, and inflated salaries aren't helping their causes.
It should be noted that this list was constructed with the above framework in mind. Statistics, both basic and advanced, and current earnings were both given significant weight when evaluating players who are grouped among the game's most overrated.
Honorable Mention: Amar'e Stoudemire
Amar'e Stoudemire's designation on the list is a reflection of his inflated salary and history of knee injuries more than his production at this point in his career.
In fact, despite appearing in just 29 games last season, Stoudemire posted some rather impressive numbers, averaging 14.2 points and five rebounds in just 23.5 minutes of run per night. Those efficient totals earned Stoudemire a PER of 22.16, per ESPN, a mark that ranked 13th overall in the NBA.
Unfortunately, the fact that Stoudemire only played in 29 games is the bigger story here. That, and he's still raking in max dollars as the New York Knicks' highest-paid player. In the final two years of his contract, Stoudemire is slated to earn just over $45 million, per HoopsHype.
For a player who's coming off of offseason knee surgery, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, and who could be on a nightly minutes cap for the second consecutive season, per Marc Berman of the New York Post, it's hard not to rank Stoudemire among the league's most overrated and overpaid players.
7. Josh Smith, F, Detroit Pistons
Yes, Smith busts his hump on the defensive end unlike many of the other qualifiers on this list, but his offensive inefficiencies often overshadow his otherwise intriguing blend of athletic qualities.
Examining Smith's shot distribution last season, we see a disturbing trend.
According to HoopData, Smith was true on 77.6 percent of his looks at the rim. That was well above the league average of 64.6 percent.
However, outside of the restricted area, the story was completely different. On shots between three and nine feet, Smith shot a lousy 39.4 percent, and between 16 and 23 feet he converted on just 33 percent of his attempts. According to Basketball-Reference, Smith attempted 301 shots between 16 feet and the three-point line last season, the second most from any range on the floor.
If Smith can redistribute those shots more efficiently—whether it's in the high or low post—and lead the Pistons defense by example, he won't be overrated much longer.
6. Joe Johnson, SG, Brooklyn Nets
Joe Johnson hit his fair share of clutch shots during his first season with the Brooklyn Nets, but those alone weren't enough to justify the gaudy salary he's making. Johnson is set to earn a shade over $69 million during the final three years of his deal, per HoopsHype, which is an obscene total when you consider that Johnson, statistically, was the Nets' third-best offensive player last season.
Logging a team-high 36.7 minutes per game, Johnson averaged 16.3 points on a pedestrian 42.3 percent shooting from the field, although he was a steady 37.5 percent from distance. However, for a player who was brought aboard to be a go-to option on the perimeter, Johnson didn't exactly prove that he was worth the max dollars he's raking in.
And now, with Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry in tow, touches will be harder to come by for Johnson, whose numbers could very well decline as a result of improved personnel.
5. Monta Ellis, SG, Dallas Mavericks
Monta Ellis does one thing and that's play offense. Whether he does it particularly well is still up for debate. But is a player who only commits himself on one end of the floor and scores the way Ellis can still worth more than $8 million annually?
Yes, Ellis averages 19.4 points for his career, but he's just a 45.6 percent shooter from the floor and lacks a consistent stroke from three. Only once in his career (2010-11) has Ellis topped 35 percent shooting from three, while his production has dropped off steadily from long range since his last full campaign with the Golden State Warriors.
In 2011-12 Ellis shot 30.8 percent from distance and was an even worse 27.8 percent from three in his first full season with the Milwaukee Bucks.
With a career defensive rating of 110 and an offensive rating of 104, per Basketball-Reference, Ellis is six points in the red for his career when it comes to points produced per 100 possessions.
His reputation as an electric scorer may precede him, but Ellis simply isn't the player he's often made out to be.
4. Brandon Jennings, PG, Detroit Pistons
If Monta Ellis is overrated, then it's only fair that his former teammate, Brandon Jennings, earns the same designation. Through four NBA seasons, Jennings has posted a field-goal percentage of 39.4 percent, an atrocious mark for a player who averages 15.5 field-goal attempts per game for his career.
And here's how bad his shooting efficiency is: Jennings shot 39.9 percent from the floor last season, and that was still the second-best mark of his career. Only once has he topped 40 percent, and that was in 2011-12 (41.8 percent).
Jennings is built in from the same mold as Ellis, but his inefficiencies are even more glaring than his fellow gunner. At $7.6 million this season, $8 million the next and $8.3 million in 2015-16, Jennings is simply too inconsistent and too unreliable to effectively run the point for a young, inexperienced team like the Detroit Pistons.
3. Al Jefferson, C, Charlotte Bobcats
Al Jefferson is a proven offensive commodity who will help an improved Charlotte Bobcats offense, but it's fair to question if he is really worth the $13.5 million a year that Rich Cho has agreed to pay the 28-year-old.
Jefferson arrives in Charlotte with a 16.4 point-per-game average for his career and a shooting percentage of 50 percent. He's also shot 41 percent from 16-23 feet each of the past three seasons, per HoopData, which is nearly three points above last season's league average of 38.3.
The story is different on defense, and the big man knows it. In a candid interview with Grantland's Zach Lowe, Jefferson even admitted that his defensive game could use some work:
It ain't no secret around the league that I struggle with my defense, Jefferson says. My pick-and-roll defense is my weakness. And that's mind over matter. I just gotta suck it up, get my ass out there, and do it.
According to Basketball-Reference, Jefferson's career defensive rating sits at 106. That's not exactly a pristine mark for a player who's tasked with protecting the rim.
And speaking of offensively gifted big men who struggle defensively...
2. David Lee, PF, Golden State Warriors
David Lee is among the most versatile offensive big men in the game, but his defensive deficiencies are glaring enough to the point where he can absolutely be considered overrated.
According to HoopData, Lee shot above the league average at the rim, between three and nine feet and between 16-23 feet last season, and that range adds yet another dimension to the Golden State Warriors' potent attack.
However, much like Al Jefferson, Lee struggles mightily on the defensive end. If you're not sure, just check out this in-depth breakdown of Lee's play in the restricted area from Grantland's Kirk Goldsberry.
Considering the Warriors were just an average defensive last team last season—allowing 105.5 points per 100 possessions (15th overall) and 100.3 per game (19th overall), per Basketball-Reference—Lee is looking like a weak link who could ultimately hinder the Warriors' lofty aspirations.
Factor in the more than $44 million Lee is due over the next three seasons, per HoopsHype, and it will be hard for him to escape the overrated label.
1. Rudy Gay, SF, Toronto Raptors
A miniature uproar occurred when the Memphis Grizzlies dealt Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors for what appeared to be pennies on the dollar, but as we saw, things went just fine for the Grizzlies following Gay's departure.
In fact, after the All-Star break (the deal was made in late January), the Grizzlies were 2.9 points better per 100 possessions than they were prior with Gay, according to NBA.com's stats database. That alone should tell you a bit about Gay's perceived and actual values.
And like so many other qualifiers on the overrated list, Gay struggles due to a lack of efficiency, particularly in the jump-shooting department. With a career PER (16.1) that sits just above average, it's clear that Gay isn't maximizing his touches on the offensive end.
Last season, Gay shot a career-worst 41.6 percent from the field and posted the second-lowest three point percentage of his career (32.3). With a 6'9'', 220-pound frame at his disposal, Gay would be wise to take notes from Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James and go to work in the post.
Instead of relying on shots between 16 and 23 feet—he attempted 4.1 per game with Toronto last season and hit on 27 percent of them, per HoopData—Gay should use his size and length to implement turnarounds and jumpers down on the blocks into his repertoire.
As a point of reference, Gay hit on 46.7 percent of his attempts between three and nine feet with the Raptors last season, according to HoopData, which was 6.9 percentage points better than the league average.