We may not be any smarter as NBA fans nowadays, but we are more discerning and scrutinizing. Where fans once simply enjoyed the scoring exploits of larger than life basketball stars, modern league followers evaluate those stars through the context of perceived value relative to their contract. Beyond that, a newfound attention to analytics means that gaudy stats are no longer good enough and efficiency reigns supreme. Not only has this impacted the way we watch an NBA game, but it has also served to influence the way we rate players. As evidenced by the fall from grace of Carmelo Anthony, ball-dominant scorers with high usage rates who aren't willing to adapt have quickly gone from celebrated to unwanted.
Even apart from 'Melo, there are a slew of once-revered players who enjoyed star status who are now being re-examined. Yes, they made All-Star teams, but did they actually help their own clubs?
All of this analysis helps inform both the things we now value (field goal percentage, free throws, high point totals on few shots) and the players who should probably be talked about more and less than they are. Since 2000, the modern NBA has changed the way we look at who might be considered overrated. After all, some of the loftiest scoring seasons in recent memory have come from players jacking up 25 shots a night, which doesn't tend to help your team, especially if you're only making 10 of them. With that, let's have a look at the player on each club since the turn of the millennia who can now be indisputably considered overrated:
30 Atlanta Hawks: Josh Smith
Throughout his 13-year career, one that appears to have ended following a marginal, three-game tryout opportunity in New Orleans last season, Josh Smith left people wanting more. Enticed by his 6'9" frame and combination of physicality and explosiveness, Smith was gifted with numerous opportunities to thrive and be an offensive focal point for teams, most notably in his nine years with the Atlanta Hawks. But even though the preps-to-pros forward averaged 14.5 career points and 7.4 rebounds, he never even made an All-Star team nor did he quite serve as a suitable second option next to Joe Johnson.
29 Boston Celtics: Paul Pierce
Before Boston Celtics fans come at me with pitchforks here, I should point out that it's partly because of how storied a franchise the Celts are that I'm tabbing Paul Pierce as overrated. The Truth was unquestionably a key cog in the club's 2008 championship and even won a Finals MVP for his troubles. But even with Hall of Fame enshrinement on the horizon, can we at least pump the brakes on holding him up as one of Boston's all-time greats?
Before elevating him to the same plane as the likes of Larry Bird and Bill Russell, it's probably worth noting that Bird won two more titles and made six more All-NBA teams while playing more than 400 fewer games while Russell won 10 more titles in nearly 400 fewer games.
28 Brooklyn Nets: Keith Van Horn
As the second pick of the 1997 NBA Draft, Keith Van Horn should really be considered an all-time draft bust at this point. After all, he was selected between Tim Duncan and Chauncey Billups, both of whom would lead teams to championships over their careers. Van Horn never came close to such heights, but he managed to shed the 'bust' label largely on account of a strike-shortened 1998-99 season in which he averaged 21.8 points and 8.5 rebounds while netting huge minutes for a 16-34 New Jersey Nets team. His career 16.0 PPG average shows that he wasn't just a one-season wonder in the scoring department, but Van Horn had little else to fall back on, proving unable to play even league-average defense and rebounding poorly (6.8 career average) for a 6'10" big man.
27 Charlotte Hornets: Gerald Wallace
Trivia time: over the decade-long stretch between 2004 and 2014 in which Charlotte's NBA team was known as the Bobcats, they had exactly one All-Star. That would be Gerald Wallace, an Expansion Draft choice of the 'Cats who became one of the better players on some pretty awful Charlotte teams. The long, athletic forward enjoyed his All-Star campaign during a 2009-10 season in which he averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds, but also played a whopping 41 minutes per game on a team otherwise led by Stephen Jackson. Wallace, who never advanced past the first round of the playoffs over his 14-year career, was really an energy guy who got to play the role of top scoring option on a few bad teams.
26 Chicago Bulls: Carlos Boozer
For anyone who questions the ability of 13-year NBA veteran power forward Carlos Boozer, defenders of the Duke alum can easily point to two All-Star appearances and nearly $150 million in career earnings. But that only tells part of the story of a big man who saw his first two NBA stops in Cleveland and Utah end amid much enmity and ill will and a third in Chicago end via amnesty clause.
At his peak, Boozer was a beast inside and a nightly 20-10 threat, but he was never a truly elite player and certainly wasn't worth the five-year, $80 million contract bestowed upon him by the Bulls in the summer of 2010. Now, Boozer was on some pretty good teams in the Windy City, but he was neither the club's leading scorer (Derrick Rose) nor their top rebounder (Joakim Noah).
25 Cleveland Cavaliers: Larry Hughes
During the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, Larry Hughes stood as the highest-paid player on Cavaliers teams that also featured a blossoming LeBron James, who was earning less than half of Hughes' salary. Sure, most NBA players will look bad in comparison to 'Bron, but the 1998 eighth overall pick stands as an easy parallel, especially since he was signed to a lucrative five-year, $70 million contract to serve as a mentor to the King in Cleveland. The athletic wing had his moments in the league, leading all players in steals and being named to the All-NBA Defensive first team in 2004-05, but with the chance to be James' long-term running buddy, Hughes dropped the ball.
24 Dallas Mavericks: Josh Howard
The recent starry rookie campaigns of Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic have prompted some to reflect on the last potential-laden homegrown draftee to invigorate the franchise. That would be Josh Howard, who rose to prominence on some very good Dallas teams before flaming out spectacularly. Howard was just entering his prime when he established himself as a vital cog in the Mavs' 2006 NBA Finals run and again the following season when he made the All-Star team as the second-leading scorer (behind Dirk Nowitzki).
But at a time when Howard was poised to take the next step towards superstardom, the small forward got in his own way through a litany of off-court incidents. Rick Carlisle tired of his act shortly thereafter, trading him for Caron Butler. Howard was out of the league just a few years after.
23 Denver Nuggets: Voshon Lenard
Eleven years seems like a pretty long time to manage to deceive people, but Voshon Lenard seems to have pulled the wool over the eyes of the entire NBA during his career. Across stops in Miami, Toronto, Portland and two stints with the Nuggets, Lenard carved out a reputation as a three-point specialist. Whether it was deserved or not, however, was another matter. Sure, he attempted a lot of threes and made some of them, but only in Lenard's best shooting season -1996-97 - did he crack the league's top 10 in three-point percentage, squeaking in at #10. For his career, the University of Minnesota alum ranks an underwhelming 93rd all-time in career three-point percentage. Some specialty!
22 Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond could erupt for a 30-point, 30-rebound game tomorrow and few would be surprised. That's the type of dominant interior presence that the UConn big man is capable of being. Why, then, hasn't he had more success - either individually or as a member of the Pistons? Not only has Drummond played in a mere four playoff games, but he's been named to just two All-Star teams in seven seasons despite playing in the weak East. His two rebounding titles are nice and he's still only 25, but questions of desire and effort have stuck to Drummond for years now. The tandem of he and superstar power forward Blake Griffin should give Motown one of the league's best front courts, but that only happens if their long-time center commits himself.
21 Golden State Warriors: Monta Ellis
Currently, there are only 133 players who boast a higher career PPG average than Monta Ellis' 17.8. Every single one of them - even the active players - has been an All-Star at least once in his career, leaving Ellis with the dubious statistical distinction of 'greatest scorer never to be an All-Star'. Most of those lofty scoring numbers were racked up in Golden State for Warriors teams that predated the powerhouse franchise we know today.
Yes, the diminutive-but-entertaining two-guard knew how to score, but his passive defense and penchant for turnovers were not overcome by some inefficient offensive figures. Clearly teams across the league didn't find the Monta Ellis experience worthwhile, as the 2006-07 Most Improved Player would be out of the league by 2017 at the age of 31.
20 Houston Rockets: Moochie Norris
Despite being a fringe NBA point guard who averaged a meager 5.1 career points and 2.8 assists, Norris stuck around for nine seasons spread across five teams, with most of his 445 games coming as a member of the Houston Rockets. At one point, he even had his own bobble head doll released, complete with 'fro. The bobble head obviously came about on account of his coif, but you might even argue that the hairstyle helped bring about a level of league-wide recognition that prolonged his career.
19 Indiana Pacers: Jermaine O'Neal
Jermaine O'Neal was one of the most gifted big men of his generation, and has both the numbers and accolades to back it up. What keeps him apart from the all-time greats, however, is his track record for disappearing in the playoffs and for a career that careened off a cliff at 28 years of age. Yes, the 2001-02 Most Improved Player endured a long list of debilitating injuries throughout his 18 years in the league, but that only goes so far in explaining a wholly underwhelming 11.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG in 97 career postseason games, let alone the fact that he wasn't much more than a league-average forward as he bounced between six teams for his last seven years.
18 Los Angeles Clippers: Shaun Livingston
Yes, Shaun Livingston's long-term leg injury robbed him of more than a year and a half of his career. But while the 2004 fourth overall pick surely deserves some slack for his near-two year absence, let's not pretend like he's been on a Hall of Fame path otherwise. Livingston's first three seasons in the league saw him fail to overtake the starting reins with the Clippers from an aging Sam Cassell while providing steady-but-underwhelming offensive support.
Since then, three championship rings with Golden State has surely softened the blow of largely being a role-playing backup, but that doesn't change the fact that his resume - rings aside - skews more towards bust territory than smash success for a guy who was once thought to potentially revolutionize the game as a 6'7" point guard.
17 Los Angeles Lakers: Robert Horry
A nickname like "Big Shot" Bob instantly establishes three things: 1) you are trusted to get the ball in clutch situations, 2) you make good on enough of those key opportunities, and 3) your name is Bob. While I don't know how many people actually call Robert Horry 'Bob', he certainly came through in his fair share of big moments. With all due respect to the seven-time NBA champ, though, basketball is a 48-minute game and Horry's overall body of work is surprisingly unsatisfying.
Few players are afforded the chance to stick in the league for over 1,100 games with a 7.0 career PPG average. While he deserves credit for finding a way to stand out on some truly loaded Lakers and Spurs teams, you could make a pretty good argument that Horry was no better than the sixth- or seventh-best player on those rosters.
16 Memphis Grizzlies: Rudy Gay
In the span of just over 10 short months within 2013, the Grizzlies and Raptors both made the decision to trade Rudy Gay in his prime. But what's notable was how well dealing the supremely talented forward worked out for both clubs. After shipping Gay to Toronto mid-way through the 2012-13 season, the 29-15 Grizzlies lost just 11 times the rest of the way and made the franchise's first Conference Finals trip.
When the Raptors sent him to Sacramento for an underwhelming platter of veteran role players, they turned a sputtering 6-11 start to the 2013-14 season into a 48-win division champion and built the foundation of a perennial playoff contender. It's probably unfair to suggest that these teams got better by jettisoning the now-32-year-old, but there's something to be said for the fact that he has a minimal playoff record (12 postseason games across 13 seasons) and still hasn't made an All-Star team.
15 Miami Heat: Dion Waiters
For a couple of months mid-way through the 2016-17 season, we got to see the Dion Waiters that we had always hoped for. The No. 4 pick of the 2012 NBA Draft came alive during a memorable 2017 stretch in which he carried the Heat with his scoring prowess and had them on the precipice of the postseason before an ankle injury sidelined the shot-happy shooting guard and torpedoed the Heat's playoff hopes. Sadly, that version of Waiters has been a rare sight.
Injuries have played a significant role in that, holding him to just 76 games over the previous two seasons and leaving him sidelined this season into the new year. That doesn't entirely erase the fact that the former Syracuse standout hasn't consistently realized his potential, playing his way out of Cleveland and Oklahoma City before landing in Miami.
14 Milwaukee Bucks: Glenn Robinson
For anyone who played against Glenn Robinson during the late-90s and into the early 2000s, it was pretty clear what his 'Big Dog' nickname was all about. Where most of the league's small forwards would typically get by on skill and shooting prowess, the 6'7", 225-pound bruiser would generate scoring chances by bullying opposing defenders. That approach helped Robinson earn two All-Star invites and lead the Milwaukee Bucks in scoring five times, but its overall effectiveness might be a bit overblown.
In order to average more than 20 points per game for his career, the 1994 first overall pick needed to put up more than 17 shots per game. That high usage left Robinson with a relatively underwhelming career PER of 17.5 and helps explain why his Bucks won just two playoff series in his eight years there.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins
The Jimmy Butler saga is long over in Minnesota and what's left is a lingering, nagging thought: what if he wasn't the problem? Butler's consternation during his brief time as a member of the Timberwolves focused on the apathetic attitudes of young stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Since Butler left town, it's not exactly as though Wiggins and Towns have sparked a surge in Minny, who recently let coach Tom Thibodeau go.
Among the two franchise building blocks, the younger Towns has shown more superstar potential and appears harder to replace. Wiggins, on the other hand, is an elite athlete, but has shown little beyond scoring ability, having yet to develop playmaking skills, a strong defensive game or a consistent three-point shot.
12 New Orleans Pelicans: Emeka Okafor
Heading into the 2004 NBA Draft, Okafor was thought to be the sure thing, a well-seasoned 22-year-old power forward drafted by what was then the Charlotte Bobcats who had been named Most Outstanding Player on the 2004 national champion Huskies. But while the shot blocker played well enough to avoid bust territory, he didn't exactly excel once he reached the NBA.
Instead, Okafor's modest numbers (12 points, 9.7 rebounds for his career) essentially turned him into a slightly above league average forward - one that was out of the league at 30 on account of neck problems. A comeback with the Pelicans last season made for a feel-good story, but interest seems to have dried up this year and left his NBA future in doubt.
11 New York Knicks: Stephon Marbury
From the amount of press coverage afforded in the New York market to the continually hapless state of the Knicks, this is one franchise with no shortage of overrated candidates. Even among that group, Stephon Marbury stands out. 'Starbury' had already worn out his welcome in three other NBA cities when the Knicks came calling in the 2003-04 season, offering up a massive trade package that included the first round draft pick that would become Gordon Hayward.
Over four and a half seasons in the Big Apple, Marbury clashed with head coaches Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas and refused to accept a bench role, all the while taking more than $90 million of the club's money and getting booed regularly by the MSG faithful. After All-Star stops in Phoenix and New Jersey, it became clear he just wasn't that type of player anymore, even though he was getting star-level pay and floor time.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder: Serge Ibaka
When you watch Serge Ibaka play, it's easy to talk yourself into the big man. Inevitably, you'll wind up seeing an athletic, chiseled force of nature serve up an emphatic block and maybe even drill an open shot on the other end of the floor. Given the $75 million he's already earned in his career, however, and the $45 million he's slated to pull down over the next two years, you may be inclined to want a little more. Don't hold your breath.
A fan favorite in both OKC as a member of the loaded Thunder and now in Toronto with the Raptors, Ibaka still carries relatively meager career averages of 12.2 points and 7.2 rebounds. Despite having led the league in blocks twice and been named to two All-Defensive teams, the power forward seems unlikely to ever earn an All-Star invite.
9 Orlando Magic: Grant Hill
Grant Hill now seems to exist more as a mythical piece of league lore than an actual former player. In the 1,026 games he played in, the seven-time All-Star didn't really assume the role of elite scorer. He currently stands 97th all-time in career points and - keeping in mind his injury history - currently occupies a spot all the way back at 186th in all-time points per game. Maybe he was more of a balanced, layered player, but it's hard to find any particular area in which he stood out as elite, even as he made five All-NBA teams. As for the clutch reputation honed at Duke, Hill only advanced past the first round of the playoffs once - as a sparsely-used 37-year-old on the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns.
8 Philadelphia 76ers: Jerry Stackhouse
The Pistons franchise record-holder for points per game in a full season might surprise you. For all the great players in franchise history, Jerry Stackhouse's 29.8 PPG in 2000-01 looms large above the rest. Of course, it helped that Stack was putting up 24 shots a night while playing over 40 minutes for a 32-win team who were still a year away from morphing into contenders.
Another sign that the UNC star's incredible 2000-01 campaign wasn't quite what it seemed comes in how relatively little he did in the other 17 years of his career. Yes, there were three other seasons of 20+ points per game, but the two-time All-Star always needed a high volume of shots to get his numbers up and never displayed many other facets of his game. Even in his first few years in the league, Stackhouse got his stats by logging big minutes on some lackluster (pre-AI) Philadelphia 76ers teams that won 40 games over two seasons.
7 Phoenix Suns: Leandro Barbosa
At the height of their powers, the run-and-gun Suns were exciting to watch. Sure, you had two-time MVP Steve Nash anchoring a loaded core that featured Amar'e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and a young Joe Johnson in Mike D'Antoni's up tempo offense, but even when Nash sat, the dynamic attack didn't stop when Leandro Barbosa entered the game. He was at the time, one of the league's fastest players. But as Ish Smith will tell you now, speed alone doesn't guarantee stardom.
Barbosa was protected as not just a product of a high octane offense, but also in serving as backup to an MVP. In truth, he wasn't a particularly good passer or shooter, limitations which didn't prevent him from winning Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2007 but did keep him from ever becoming an everyday starting point guard.
6 Portland Trail Blazers: Brian Grant
A fan favorite for his recognizable dreads and hard-nosed style of play, Brian Grant was embraced largely because he wasn't a headlining superstar in the league. That's all well and good to play the role of blue collar workhorse, but that doesn't mean his teams necessarily got their money's worth. The big man's primary area of expertise was on the glass, but only once did he wind up among the NBA's top 10 in rebounding.
For as high character a guy as he may have been, that's simply not enough production from a former eighth overall draft choice who would earn $110 million over his 12 years in the league. In three years in Portland, alone, Grant made nearly $20 million while averaging just 10.2 points and eight rebounds per contest.
5 Sacramento Kings: Jason Williams
If NBA games were awarded purely on style, then Jason Williams would go down as one of the all-time greats. Indeed, it's fitting that the moment that "White Chocolate" is best remembered for - the elbow pass - came in a 2000 Rookie All-Star Challenge exhibition game rather than a meaningful contest that involved defense. For as much fun as the creative, flashy point guard was, that didn't necessarily lead to on-court success.
It's a credit to Williams that he stuck around the league for 12 seasons, with a retirement and un-retirement in there for good measure, but a 39.8% career shooting percentage and 5.9 career assists per game make it hard to celebrate the former seventh overall pick's career beyond a handful of highlights. It's also telling that the Kings, with whom Williams debuted, only took off after Mike Bibby claimed the reins at the point.
4 San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker
The inclusion of Tony Parker here isn't to ignore his four NBA titles, 2007 Finals MVP trophy or his presence as the fulcrum of a practically dynastic San Antonio Spurs core. But just as we wonder whether Kevin Durant should get credit for hitching a ride with the already championship-caliber Golden State Warriors, does the decorated point guard get too much credit on a team that also had Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and head coach Gregg Popovich? Remember, the Spurs had already won a title and reached the Conference Finals before Parker came on board in time for the 2001-02 season.
Regarding his own performance, Parker certainly earned his six All-Star appearances, but was never really much of a defender nor a particularly adept three-point shooter (32.5% career). To suggest that he was among the best point guards of his generation, to say nothing of all-time, is a bit much.
3 Toronto Raptors: Jerome "JYD" Williams
Prior to their current boom period under team president Masai Ujiri, the Raptors hadn't had a whole lot to celebrate. Top stars Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh all bolted, leaving fans of the club to embrace some of the less talented, character guys, such as Matt Bonner, and solid non-stars like Alvin Williams, Charles Oakley and Amir Johnson. At the top of that list is Jerome "JYD" Williams, who still gets a raucous welcome when he occasionally returns to Toronto, where he serves as a community representative.
The warm recollection Raptors fans have of the hustle-oriented Williams likely comes at least partially through rose-colored glasses. After all, for as likeable as the 'Junkyard Dog' is, his Toronto tenure was comprised of just 180 total games (a little over two full seasons) in which the forward averaged just 7.9 points and 7.0 rebounds.
2 Utah Jazz: Greg Ostertag
Like a bad cold, Greg Ostertag just kept coming back. Indeed, he was there when they went to back-to-back Finals in 1997 and 1998 and even returned for one farewell go-around in 2005-06 when Karl Malone and John Stockton had long since departed. In all, the Kansas product spent 700 games in Utah, sixth all-time in franchise history. That achievement is less a sign of Ostertag's loyalty to the franchise and more a remarkable story of survival, given that the largely immobile center often proved maddening for his weight issues and general clumsiness.
Often the victim of elite opponents like David Robinson and Shaquille O'Neal, the 11-year vet retired with meager career averages of 4.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. It's hard to see him existing in today's NBA.
1 Washington Wizards: Gilbert Arenas
We fittingly end this list with a classic example of overrated NBA talent in the form of 'Agent Zero'. Gilbert Arenas built his reputation as an elite scorer on the back of a three-year All-Star stretch in which he averaged 25.5, 29.3 and 28.4 points for the Wizards. Of course, it helped that the cocky guard took an average of 20 shots a game to post those flashy numbers, often while playing passive defense and failing to help better any of his teammates.
Arenas's one-dimensional nature didn't prevent the Wizards from signing him to a six-year, $111 million contract in 2008 that was almost instantly regrettable. Even without the infamous locker room fiasco, the 2003 Most Improved Player simply was never enough of a positive, productive presence to warrant such a lofty financial investment.