All-Overrated NBA Team, 2015 Preseason Edition
There is also a lot to un-learn.
Not all players are offering an accurate preview of what awaits them during the regular season. Some use unusual amounts of playing time and unsustainably high volume to elevate their numbers and give the appearance of a breakout or sudden leap. Others are just being looked upon too favorably, posting stat lines that look flashy but don't pass more in-depth tests.
These performances, while perhaps pleasing on paper, will make up our "All-NBA Overrated Preseason Team." It's a roster that will be comprised of five starters, a backup at each position and a sixth-man slot just for kicks. It will also identify the biggest overachievers or most mistakenly labeled contributors.
Selected players are not the victims of any vendettas, and their inclusion is not meant to imply that they're worthless. They're merely the most colossal caveats—some of the biggest reasons why we take preseason displays with gargantuan-sized grains of salt.
Jeremy Lin, PG, Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are ninth in preseason three-pointers made and third in long-ball percentage (NBA teams only). Last season, they ranked 26th and 30th in those categories, respectively. Even though many of their snipers are new (Frank Kaminsky, Jeremy Lamb, etc.), do not expect this sweet shooting to continue.
That brings us to Lin. He leads the Hornets in made treys and is draining them at a 50 percent clip. Though his three-point rate has improved through each of his first five seasons, he has shot north of 36 percent from deep once and cannot be viewed as Charlotte's floor-spacing savior.
Gerald Green, G/F, Miami Heat
Green might be due for a bounce-back year after seeing his shooting percentages implode between 2013-14 and 2014-15. But his preseason performance, while impressive in certain areas, has been wildly uneven.
Through six appearances, Green leads the Heat in points (15) and shot attempts (12.2) per game, despite checking in at sixth in minutes (20.5). That kind of volume won't be available to him during the regular season.
T.J. Warren, F, Phoenix Suns
Warren figures to challenge P.J. Tucker for the Suns' starting small forward slot, which is a testament to his Las Vegas Summer League and preseason success. But he won't lead Phoenix in total shot attempts and points during the regular season, and the freedom to create his own looks won't be available in unlimited supply.
And if Warren is unable to handle the ball, his offensive impact will be nonexistent. He is an expert slasher but has limited range outside the paint. The Suns have him actively eschewing three-pointers, and the ones he attempts aren't falling; he's 1-of-7 from downtown in the preseason.
Maybe Warren finds a home as the featured scorer of a thin second unit. But he doesn't make much sense within a starting lineup already composed of the ball-dominant Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight and Markieff Morris.
Bobby Portis, PF, Chicago Bulls
Portis is having himself a preseason, averaging a double-double while flashing three-point chops (4-of-9 from distance). Some will invariably think that's enough for him to sneak into the everyday lineup, when really, it won't be.
Incorporating a rookie such as Portis into the Bulls' frontcourt rotation is next to impossible. Both Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic need to see time at power forward, while the Pau Gasol-Taj Gibson-Joakim Noah logjam isn't going anywhere.
Even if Portis cracks the "Definitely Going to Play" list, it won't be to the extent that he makes much of an impact.
Hassan Whiteside, C, Miami
Sorry, not sorry.
Whiteside is one of the main reasons why Miami is considered an Eastern Conference contender, and his lone preseason appearance (12 points, nine rebounds, six blocks) suggests his breakout 2014-15 campaign was no fluke.
At the same time, he went 0-of-9 from the free-throw line in that outing, and despite notching a usage rate greater than 25, he didn't record a single assist. He's also yet to prove his shot blocking can anchor a solid defense. The Heat, remember, were a defensive minus with him on the floor last season.
All the normal preseason caveats apply, but the hype surrounding Whiteside still hasn't subsided. And that means it's still excessive.
Sixth Man: Lou Williams, G, Los Angeles
Yes, this is the most Lakers ever. No, it's not OK.
Preseason is a time for every team to experiment, even championship contenders. For a rebuilding, obviously not-a-playoff squad like Los Angeles, it should be an extension of the regular season—punctuated by the younger, developing contributors taking control and trying to prove their mettle.
Very rarely is there a genuine exception. Damian Lillard's role with the Portland Trail Blazers is the standard. It's fine if he takes touches away from C.J. McCollum and Meyers Leonard, because he's a 20-something building block himself.
Williams, the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year, is a going-on-29-year-old role player. He shouldn't be averaging more minutes and field-goal attempts per game than anyone else on the Lakers—not when Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell are more important to Los Angeles' future and most certainly not when his team-leading 16.4 points are coming on 36.2 percent shooting.
To that end, Williams isn't overrated for his production—though 23.4 points per 36 minutes is enough to catch the most particular set of eyes. The Lakers are overrating him by default, simply because they're thus far prioritizing his involvement over those who should matter more.
Point Guard: T.J. McConnell, PG, Philadelphia 76ers
Undrafted rookies aren't your typical overrated candidates. But T.J. McConnell's inclusion is more about keeping the Philadelphia 76ers' point guard situation in proper perspective than about throwing cold water on his fiery preseason.
McConnell has been, without question, Philly's best point guard. He leads the team in assists per game with 5.8, and his assist percentage (39) would have ranked seventh in 2014-15 among players to match or exceed his preseason minutes pace.
When McConnell is on the floor, the Sixers offense has at times looked—should I say it?; I shouldn't say it; alright, I'm going to say it—pretty darn good. He's also defending extremely well for someone of his slight 6'1" stature. Nerlens Noel is the only Sixers player to force more steals, and opposing floor generals have been short on breathing room off the dribble with McConnell on them.
Disclaimer: McConnell is basically Philly's only (healthy) point guard.
Kendall Marshall and Tony Wroten Jr. are still watching from the sidelines; Pierre Jackson, who recently returned from injury himself, has just two preseason tilts under his belt and has never appeared in a regular-season contest; Scottie Wilbekin has "Offseason Novelty" written all over him; and Isaiah Canaan is less of a point guard and more of a pull-up shooting god.
The lesson: McConnell's preseason performance is relative to the state of the Sixers. Philly's offense remains statistically horrible, McConnell's mid-range diet is unsustainable in volume and efficiency, and above all else, the Sixers are still the Sixers.
Someone has to put up numbers, so with the exception of Noel's lines, any production must be taken with potent heaps of skepticism.
Shooting Guard: John Jenkins, Dallas Mavericks
John Jenkins is the heart and soul of any and every "It's only preseason" argument.
Just three players are averaging more points: Anthony Davis, Kyle Lowry and Lillard. Of anyone attempting at least 14 shots per game, Jenkins' field-goal percentage (51.8) ranks second only to Davis' (52.4).
Ergo, when the Dallas Mavericks signed him to a three-year deal, they acquired an offensive steal.
Or, you know, maybe not.
Nevermind that Jenkins' high-end usage rate (29) has no chance of leaking into the regular season. His three-point touch remains inconsistent (30.8 percent), he doesn't rebound or pass especially well and the Mavericks are being outscored by 26.6 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor. That's the team's second-worst differential, trailing only Raymond Felton (minus-37.3).
This isn't to say Jenkins hasn't earned a spot in Dallas' rotation. To the contrary, the Mavericks need another backcourt weapon with Wesley Matthews still on the shelf. There are minutes to go around at shooting guard for the time being—potential exposure that is fueling Jenkins' preseason accolades.
“I came here competing for minutes,” he said, per ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon. “I knew if I played my game, I wouldn’t be in any discussion about making the team. My skill level is there, and I work hard. That speaks for itself. I’m coming for minutes.”
Still, there's a difference between regular-season minutes and preseason minutes. Jenkins won't be able to work off the bounce as much and will need to fall in line behind Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams and Chandler Parsons (when healthy).
More than half of his shots have gone assisted in Dallas, but the Mavericks will need to rely more on the off-ball three-point touch that he isn't showcasing now and only boasted intermittently and in small doses with the Atlanta Hawks.
More than anything, Jenkins is purely a scoring threat until he proves otherwise. And even during a preseason run deserving of regular-season burn, he has yet to prove otherwise.
Small Forward: Jeff Green, Memphis Grizzlies
Why is Jeff Green listed as our small forward? Because the Memphis Grizzlies insist on playing him there.
Almost 80 percent of Green's minutes in Memphis came at the 3 spot last season—a troubling trend that shows no sign of slowing this year. All four of his preseason appearances have seen him start at small forward.
On the bright side, Green is averaging 16.5 points, six rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.2 steals per 36 minutes. He's also jacking up 4.9 long balls per 36 minutes—which, in regular-season speak, would be the second-highest mark of his career—and putting them in 46.2 percent of the time.
On the downside, Green's preseason feats are nowhere near translatable. He has only eclipsed a 35 percent success rate from deep twice—and not since 2012-13. Too many of his looks are still coming from mid-range to boot (27.6 percent), and his nylon-nuking three-point rate is accompanied by sub-38 percent shooting overall.
Oh, and Green has never posted an assist percentage of 10 or better. There's no use pretending his preseason rate of 17.4 is going to hold, it will come close to holding or it will even be in the ballpark of holding.
That's always been the danger of Green—especially Jeff Green, the small forward. He does just enough at times to make you believe this is the season he turns a corner—that this is the year he makes some semblance of a leap.
In the end, though, the Grizzlies are still playing Green at the wrong position—he's markedly better at the 4, per 82games.com—and his production is only flattering when put in super-specific context.
Power Forward: Derrick Williams
There seems to be a rush to declare the New York Knicks have alleviated Derrick Williams—the second overall pick in 2011—of his "Draft Bust" label.
Exhibit A, per the New York Post's Marc Berman:
The 6-foot-8 Williams, sporting a set of braids this fall, is the Knicks’ most athletic player, scoring in transition, on dunks and from 3-point range. Jackson said last month Williams was a good fit with Carmelo Anthony, interchangeable players at the 3 and 4. The bigger revelation is Williams can be the sixth man spark plug when Anthony gets a breather.
Let's get this straight: A career tweener, who hasn't even shot 34 percent from beyond the arc since he was a senior at Arizona five years ago, is officially fit to spell one of the NBA's premier superstars. Sure.
If Williams' preseason numbers aren't fleeting anomalies, they at least need to be taken with six to 60 servings of caveats. The fifth-year forward leads the Knicks in points per game (16.6), is shooting a would-be career-best 58.8 percent from the floor and is drilling 47.1 percent of his triples, despite firing up 5.7 per 36 minutes—would-be career highs on both counts.
It's unrealistic, as well as unfair, to expect Williams', um, breakout to last into the regular season, even as his volume comes down.
Some of what he's doing on offense isn't wholly untenable. Most of his made shots are coming off teammates' passes, and he's scoring a ton within the restricted area.
But in addition to torching twine from long range, Williams is shooting a definitely temporary 53.8 percent from mid-range. No one does that. The league leader from mid-range last season, among players to average one attempt per game, shot 53.2 percent.
Most importantly, the backup small forward role doesn't suit him. Williams is neither a touted passer nor defender, and when at the 3, there won't be room for him to camp out on the baseline and underneath the basket.
Playing power forward would give him the best shot at making a similar offensive impact. The thing is, rookie Kristaps Porzingis is essentially guaranteed to start at the 4, per Berman, while Kyle O'Quinn and Anthony each need to see time there as well. This alone makes it difficult to take Williams' preseason showing as a sign—or even a hint—of what's to come.
Center: Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder
Enes Kanter's value to the Oklahoma City Thunder remains unclear.
Indeed, his preseason stats are imposing. His 15.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game are right in line with the 18.7 and 11, respectively, he posted through 26 games with the team last season. But the concerns remain the same.
Most of Kanter's points are coming close to the bucket. Actually, make that all of his points. He has yet to make a shot outside 10 feet of the basket in the preseason, and more than 75 percent of his attempts came inside 10 feet of the hoop with the Thunder last season.
That limitation is of marginal importance when Kanter plays beside Serge Ibaka, who has legitimate three-point range. But Kanter won't enjoy the same operating room when head coach Billy Donovan throws him out with the offensively unpolished Steven Adams.
Establishing adequate ball movement with an offense that features Kanter, meanwhile, is maddeningly difficult. He eats valuable seconds off the clock with some of his sets, and his assist percentage last season was the league's eighth-worst among the 107 players to log at least 2,000 total minutes.
And don't waste energy reading too much into his defensive efforts through the preseason. His defensive rating is actually better than the Thunder's average, but he is still inept when guarding on the move and doesn't block enough shots.
Oklahoma City's defense was also six points per 100 possessions worse with him on the floor in 2014-15. Not even safety nets like Adams and Ibaka could help. The Thunder played like a bottom-two defense whenever Kanter shared the hardwood with either of them.
Kanter's offensive and rebounding numbers are, for the most part, solid. But it's difficult to feel good about a $70 million defensive liability who could feasibly end up inhibiting, not boosting, the Thunder's offensive ceiling.
Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @danfavale.