Building the NBA's All-Overrated Team at Midseason Point
Uh, oh. We're dealing with the dreaded "overrated" tag, and fans of the players on the All-Overrated Team aren't exactly going to be happy.
No one likes hearing that their favorite players aren't as excellent as their reputations would lead people to believe, but that's unfortunately the case in a lot of situations.
Misleading stats, like points per game, can steer NBA fans in the wrong direction, and an aggressive or flashy style of play can do the same. When a player thrived in the past or displayed signs of lofty potential, they can easily become overrated if they fail to live up to those expectations.
And that's what this is all about: A failure to meet expectations.
Calling a player overrated is not akin to saying he's not any good.
If the world suddenly decided that LeBron James is unquestionably a league above Michael Jordan in any set of historical rankings, then LeBron would be overrated, even though he'd still be the best player in the Association. The same theory applies to many of these players, just not quite to that extreme.
Cross your fingers and hope your favorite guys didn't end up on the midseason version of the 2013-14 All-Overrated Team.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, are current as of Jan. 21 and come from Basketball-Reference.
Starting Point Guard: Ricky Rubio
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
2013-14 Stats: 8.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 8.1 assists, 2.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 14.9 PER
Ricky Rubio might be great at passing and stealing, but he doesn't bring much else to the table.
His shooting is absolutely atrocious, and it's leading some people to make some rather bold statements. HoopsHype.com's David Nurse is one:
Rubio is on pace to become the worst shooter in the modern history of the NBA. In a league that has had thousands of players since its inception—including shooting phenoms such as Rajon Rondo, Nikoloz Tskitishvili (look him up) and many two-hand heave pre-jump shot shooters—how could Rubio be the worst ever? Simple, almost every aspect of his shot is flawed. Anytime the label of “worst ever” is attached to a player’s name, it is not to be taken lightly.
That might not be hyperbole.
Rubio is shooting only 34.6 percent from the field during the 2013-14 campaign—worse than both his rookie and sophomore go-rounds. Although his shot has improved from beyond the arc, that's more a credit to the improvement of his teammates' offensive capabilities, as teams are electing to leave him wide open on the perimeter.
But his problems go well beyond shooting. His game is not showing any growth.
Rubio is now posting the lowest assist percentage of his career, per Basketball-Reference, and he's also recording the highest turnover percentage. Not exactly a good combination, last time I checked.
Although the Spanish point guard is still a glamorous name, he's so much of a liability that he sometimes holds his team back. The passing brilliance still allows the offense to thrive, but it's not to the extent that some think.
Starting Shooting Guard: Dion Waiters
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
2013-14 Stats: 14.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.2 blocks, 12.1 PER
Dion Waiters might score a lot of points and play an entertaining brand of basketball, thanks primarily to his fearlessness when driving to the basket.
But there's a difference between scoring a lot of points and being good at scoring a lot of points.
Waiters certainly does the former, but the latter is still a mystery that eludes him. His rookie season was filled with promise, as he used a stellar second half to showcase improvement and remind the world why the Cleveland Cavaliers reached for him in the 2012 NBA draft.
However, his follow-up campaign has done the opposite.
Although his three-point shooting is looking better in 2013-14 than it did in 2012-13, Waiters is still shooting only 40.4 percent from the field. His free-throw percentage is also down rather significantly, and that's led to lower true-shooting and effective field-goal percentages than he posted during his already-inefficient rookie season.
Posting a sub-15 PER isn't a good thing.
Waiters did that as a rookie, and he's been even worse this year. According to Basketball-Reference, the Cleveland 2-guard has earned minus-0.4 offensive win shares, which means that the Cavs would've been better offensively if he'd never stepped onto the court.
Starting Small Forward: Jeff Green
Team: Boston Celtics
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 15.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 13.6 PER
Remember when Jeff Green was supposed to be the next star in Beantown?
During the offseason, it seemed as though everyone thought he was going to be the next big thing for the Boston Celtics, cementing himself as an All-Star candidate and building block for the foreseeable future.
And yours truly was guilty as charged. I even wrote:
This two-way impact is what will eventually make the 27-year-old into a star player. I'd hesitate to ever call him a superstar, but at his peak, he'll compete for one of the last few spots on an All-Star squad's bench.
In that article, I included a poll that questioned whether Green would ever make an All-Star team. At the time of this article's publication, 2,098 votes had been cast, and 90.7 percent of them responded positively.
But Green's emergence has stagnated, and his failure to emerge as a star has been overshadowed by a handful of glamorous plays. The buzzer-beater to beat the Miami Heat, for example.
While the dunks are still there, the rest of Green's game isn't. He's shooting only 42.9 percent from the field, and he's largely failed to handle the burdens that were placed on his shoulders during the pre-Rondo portion of the season.
Starting Power Forward: Josh Smith
Team: Detroit Pistons
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 15.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks, 14.6 PER
The Detroit Pistons might not be playing Josh Smith at the right spot, but I'll put him in his natural power-forward slot.
According to 82Games.com, Smith has spent 56.9 percent of his time on the court at the 3, and he's been absolutely terrible. By posting an 11.8 PER and allowing opposing small forwards to put up a 19.0 PER, he's way on the wrong side of the ledger.
Smith's status as a league-wide punchline is pretty well-established at this point, but it's still unclear just how little value he's provided for the Pistons.
He's shooting only 41.1 percent from the field while failing to make much of an impact with his passing. In the past, he's been a valuable offensive player even when his shot isn't falling because he can involve himself in such a variety of ways, but that isn't happening this year.
And the three-point shooting. Oh, the three-point shooting.
J Smoove is knocking down 23.9 percent of his tries from downtown, and he's attempting a career-high 3.8 per game. That's not just bad, rather, it's historically bad.
Basketball-Reference shows that throughout NBA history, 1,214 qualified players have lofted up at least three shots per game from beyond the arc. Of those, here are the only ones who haven't been able to top Smith's putrid percentage.
And the list is over before it begins.
There aren't any, and Tony Wroten's current 25.2-percent shooting is the second-worst mark. Checking in with the antepenultimate percentage is Antoine Walker, who shot 25.6 percent from downtown during the 1999-00 season.
No one has ever been worse than Smoove.
Starting Center: Dwight Howard
Team: Houston Rockets
2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 18.1 points, 12.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.7 blocks, 21.6 PER
Is there a reason that Dwight Howard still hasn't developed more post moves than that sweeping jump-hook he uses going in either direction? Now that he's worked with Hakeem Olajuwon (twice) and is coached by Kevin McHale, he's out of excuses for failing to become more of a go-to post player.
You couldn't ask for better mentors than those two, but D12 still doesn't do much with his back to the basket. According to Synergy Sports (subscription required), the big man is scoring only 0.76 points per possession in post-up situations, a mark that's topped by 86 players around the Association.
Between the mentors and his physical gifts, Howard has the tools for improvement at his disposal. Therefore, the lack of strides in the right direction seems to point toward the laziness and indifference that he's been accused of exhibiting so many times over the last couple of years.
Frankly, though, I don't care about mentality as much as production.
Howard simply isn't doing as much as he should on offense, and his defensive impact has not lived up to the reputation that precedes him.
Synergy also shows that he's allowed 0.86 points per possession, which gives him the No. 159 mark in the NBA. He's no longer functioning as an elite post-up defender, and he's struggled to stop roll men, which is where he made his mark during his Defensive Player of the Year days.
According to NBA.com, the Rockets are only allowing 2.5 fewer points per 100 possessions when D12 is on the court. That's still a positive impact—I'd never dream of calling him a liability on defense—but it falls short of what we've come to expect.
Basketball-Reference shows that when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers, the team allowed five fewer points per 100 possessions when he played. During his final season with the Orlando Magic, that number was up to 6.8.
It's time we stopped calling Howard, not DeMarcus Cousins, the best center in basketball. At least until he starts playing like it again.
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Wasn't Bradley Beal supposed to start looking like a star during his sophomore season in the nation's capital?
He can use injuries as a convenient excuse, as what seems like a never-ending stream of them has kept him from establishing much chemistry with the rest of the Washington Wizards. But that only gets him so far, because his shot isn't living up to the pre-draft hype.
Beal's three-point shot is deadly, but his work inside the arc is anything but. He's shooting only 40.9 percent on the season, and his rise in turnovers is counteracting what look like improving passing skills.
Simply put, this young 2-guard—while he may eventually get there—isn't anywhere close to stardom.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
An NBA scout recently told ESPN's Marc Stein, "Kyrie Irving is an unbelievable talent—and I think [Dion] Waiters wants to be Kyrie Irving—but those young guys need to see [Deng in action] and learn how to approach the game like he does."
Right now, Irving has a superstar's reputation, but he doesn't play like one night in and night out. The poor outings are popping up with far too much frequency, and he's failing to display the type of maturation that such a young player should.
Don't get me wrong, Irving is a phenomenal talent. It's tough to find 10 better players to build a franchise around, and he's on the shortlist for the unofficial Most Fun to Watch award.
But should he be starting for the Eastern Conference All-Star team?
Absolutely not, especially with a certain John Wall straight up balling for the Washington Wizards. Yet fans are voting him in, which is pretty much the definition of being overrated. When voting support yields something that's undeserved, it can't get any more clear.
Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors
Mark Jackson hasn't really given Harrison Barnes too many opportunities to thrive with the Golden State Warriors, especially since Andre Iguodala got healthy and stepped back into the rotation.
It's not like the UNC product has given him too many reasons to change his approach, though.
Barnes thrived during the 2013 postseason, but he hasn't done much else since. In fact, he's averaging only 10.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game during his second professional campaign, and he's shooting the ball worse than ever before.
It's troubling that he hasn't figured out how to create his own looks or set up teammates at this stage of his basketball career, yet no one is talking about him as a potential draft bust.
Pretty amazing how far a dozen postseason games can go.
Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
Is Gordon Hayward a max-contract player?
Nope, and he should really never be much more than a complementary player on a team with another star. He's only been able to post such excellent per-game stats—17.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists—because no one else on the Utah Jazz is capable of taking away his touches.
But it's not like Hayward has been particularly efficient. He's shooting only 41.5 percent from the field, 31.7 percent beyond the arc and 82.9 percent at the charity stripe. That last number would be great if he spent more time at the line.
Defense and greater efficiency are necessary before Hayward can legitimately start drawing the coveted "star" label.
Tayshaun Prince, Memphis Grizzlies
It's a little bit sad when players hang on too long, and that's what's happening with Tayshaun Prince. Even though he's only 33 years old, he's still too far past his prime to be starting basketball games.
Prince is still relying on his reputation in Detroit, but the inconvenient truth is that he's failing to make an impact on either end of the court.
Offensively, Prince is recording only 6.3 points and 1.7 assists per game, and his mid-range jumper is no longer carrying him. The veteran small forward is shooting just 39.8 percent from the field, and he's failing to space the court like the Grizz need him to.
82Games.com shows that the 12-year veteran is holding opposing 3's to a 13.0 PER, but that's largely due to the excellence of the defenders around him. Not many players have the luxury of a great defensive scheme and the protection afforded by Mike Conley and Tony Allen's presence in the starting five.
Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kendrick Perkins is starting basketball games for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kendrick Perkins should not be starting basketball games for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
That is all.
Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors have been able to shock the world—well, mostly the Eastern Conference—ever since Rudy Gay was traded to the Sacramento Kings, but Jonas Valanciunas hasn't been a big part of the revival.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry deserve the bulk of the credit, and some can be handed out to Terrence Ross as well. But J.V. has disappeared for long stretches of games, and he's failed to make strides after a promising rookie campaign north of the border.
Valanciunas' scoring average is up to 10 points per game, but he's also shooting below 50 percent from the field.
There are still plenty of reasons to be excited about the future, and his defensive development and work on the boards have been nice. But this guy was viewed as a franchise centerpiece, the one player whom new general manager Masai Ujiri shouldn't even dream about trading.
That's no longer the case.