Chauncey Billups: Overrated or Underrated?

Charles TabbCorrespondent IApril 18, 2009

DENVER - MARCH 05:  Chauncey Billups #7 of the Denver Nuggets takes a free throw against the Portland Trail Blazers during NBA action at the Pepsi Center on March 5, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Trail Blazers 106-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Chauncey Billups is a player whose status varies widely based on others' interpretations. On the one hand, he has been the key cog for two very successful teams, the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets, and is one of the best point guards of his generation. On the other, he is a good, but not great.  He is a point guard whose reputation has become far too grand for the player that he is.

Billups, whose career got off to a slow start after Rick Pitino drafted him with the Boston Celtics in 1997, has a host of accolades to back the strong reputation that he has. A four-time all-star, he was also the 2004 Finals MVP and has also been selected for the all-NBA second and third team, each once.

So, from an objective perspective, or mostly objective—as we all know the All-star game is a subjective, fan-driven event.  Billups is a highly respected, esteemed player, but not seen as one of this generation's absolute best. He's never been seriously considered for the regular season MVP award, until now.

As a consequence of his trade from Detroit to Denver catapulting the Nuggets from fringe playoff team to the best of the West, besides the dominant Lakers, Billups is appearing on some mock MVP ballots, with some ESPN experts going so far as to consider him the third most valuable player in the NBA this season.

This is patently ridiculous. Chauncey Billups was not the third or even the fifth most valuable player to his team. Clearly, his inflated perception this season has to do with the fact that everybody has been able to see the difference for the Nuggets with Billups versus without Billups.

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The Nuggets got a lot better, no doubt.

Billups provided a steady, good, and veteran point guard presence and helped make the offense more efficient and functionally running.

However, the leap made by the Nuggets needs to also be attributed to the loss of Allen Iverson, who has, by this point in his career, proved himself to be a phenomenally good player who, paradoxically, actually makes teams worse.

Also, if Billups gets credit for making the Nuggets better, experts must also consider the difference it would make if players were not on their current teams. Can you imagine the Hornets winning a game without Chris Paul? I hardly can. Yet Billups is actually ahead of Paul on many ballots.

Thus, in the context of this year's MVP balloting, I think it is clear that Billups has become overrated. This year's ballot is symptomatic of a larger phenomenon—Billups is widely and consistently overrated.

Billups has become overrated because he fits a point guard persona that is well received by a large cross section of the American public.

He is consistent, he gives the same output night in and night out. He is steady and an upbeat but reposed leader. He is clutch, with calm nerves at the moments when it matters.

If there were such a thing as a working class point guard, it would be him. The ethos he exudes as a player leads some fans and experts to overestimate his value.

He is a good point guard, perhaps even a very good point guard, but he should in no way be even considered on the same level as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and maybe even Tony Parker.

I do not mean to tarnish his reputation, and he is certainly a player that I have lots of respect for. Yet, fans and experts alike need to maintain a sense of perspective and understand his place in the hierarchy of point guards in today's NBA.

He has been instrumental to the success of the Pistons and the Nuggets and has probably deserved most of his all-star appearances, but he is not an elite point guard, he is merely very good.

I hope this season's MVP ballot holders understand that.

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