The National Basketball Association is a league chock full of great talent. Players from around the globe all come together to be trained and coached by the best staffs and coaches and to compete with and against the elite performers in this game to gain the right to call themselves the best and earn basketball supremacy. Around this time of year we are well into the thick of things in the NBA season, and the All-Star Game participants are named. Because of the tremendous amount of talent from across the league, it is difficult to narrow down the All-Star rosters to just 12 players from each conference. Even after the selections are made, there always goes the conversations had across the NBA world about who got snubbed and who shouldn’t have made the teams. All this, in addition to other influential factors, are part of what drives the conversation on who exactly are the best players in the league today.
Moreover, this re-sparks the never ending universal argument about which players are great but overlooked, and which are good but given a little too much credit for what they do. With all that has happened thus far in the NBA 2017-18 season, we have a pretty good idea on which category each these players belong. Keep in mind that all the players that I am about to list are good, but somebody has to tell the truth. So here are 10 players whom I believe are underrated, and 10 more who may arguably be overrated.
20. Underrated: Khris Middleton
When you think about the stars on the Milwaukee Bucks you usually think of The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, who should be returning from injury soon, Eric Bledsoe, who is one of the more underrated point guards in the league, or maybe even Thon Maker, who has a tremendous upside and unlimited potential in terms of what he could be as an NBA player. Someone you probably don’t consider is a guy who quietly has averaged 20 points a game this season for the Milwaukee Bucks, Khris Middleton. In past seasons he has struggled with his health, but when on the court, Middleton is one of the better players on the Bucks roster and is a significant piece to their potential success in the future. All that being the case, it’s quite disappointing that he wasn’t even considered to be an all star prospect. While Milwaukee is in the midst of a little bit of turmoil being amidst the search for new head coach and the impending return of Parker all while at the same time trying to get back into the fold as it pertains to the Eastern Conference standings, we still should take a minute to give Middleton a little more respect than he’s been given.
19. Overrated: J.R Smith
J.R Smith has to be one of the most frustrating players in recent memory. The reason why I say that is because throughout his career he has shifted back and forth through stretch after stretch from being the hottest shooter on your team to arguably the worst player on your team. For example, you remember when he was hitting three after three against the Atlanta Hawks in back-to-back postseason matchups? Or how about Game 4 in last year’s NBA Finals where he led the Cavs charge by hitting shots from the parking lot? J.R. has always had the talent to be one of the better shooting guards in the NBA. It is for this reason that he is a former Sixth Man of the Year when he was with the New York Knicks, the reason why the Cavaliers acquired him, and the reason why he was a key component to their championship team back in 2016.
However, there are those times where he just struggles, and struggles, and STRUGGLES, which is why he has been trade bait at times in his career rather than coveted. In spite of that, Smith has still been able to maintain a solid stat line average throughout his career but it hasn’t look the same this year. He hasn’t put up the same amount of points, he’s not playing any defense, and at times he doesn’t look like he even wants to play. With that being the case, it raises the question as to whether or not we have overrated him as a player. Maybe those hot streaks made him just a flash in the pan.
18. Underrated: Jrue Holiday
When you think about the New Orleans Pelicans, the first thing that comes to mind is the dynamic, monster frontcourt they have that consists of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, right? That’s understandable, considering that in the majority of their games you see either Cousins or Davis or both put up startling numbers. (Well, at least until Cousins’ recent season-ending injury.) However, what you may not notice is that there may be a tertiary star in that mix, and his name is Jrue Holiday. In a season where he was shifted to the shooting guard position as head coach Alvin Gentry gave the point guard duties to Rajon Rondo, Holiday is quietly having arguably the best season of his entire career, statistically speaking. This may come to you as a surprise considering that the Pelicans are, as of this writing, only a few games over .500, and are the 6th seed in the Western Conference.
This is true but it doesn’t speak to the talent on the starting lineup, rather, this relates more to the lack of depth beyond the starting lineup. Holiday, of course won’t enter the conversation for one of the better shooting guards in the league, but be honest, if I didn’t tell you that he was averaging 18 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds, you wouldn’t have figured that he was underrated at all, would you? That right there is the very reason why he is underrated.
17. Overrated: Dion Waiters
So does anyone remember when Dion Waiters was a top 10 (maybe even top 5) shooting guard in the NBA? Where did all that talk go? Now, I don’t want people to get the wrong idea, Dion Waiters is a pretty good basketball player and I thought he fit really well with the Miami Heat, but he’s not a top-tier player, he’s not a top-tier shooting guard, he’s not even the best player on his own team. He just so happened to have gotten really hot during Miami’s scorching hot streak down the stretch in the 2016-17 NBA season. Waiters was the team’s best player at that point and nearly led them into the playoffs. The problem is that’s the only stretch of time he has been the NBA where he was the key piece to a successful basketball team. I’m not trying to bash the guy or anything, but while he’s out with an ankle injury for possibly the rest of the season, Miami is currently the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and playing better without him than they did with him. All that taken under consideration, in addition to the fact that he got paid a lot of money this past offseason and hasn’t quite played up to it, I think it’s safe to say that we may have jumped on the Waiters train a little too soon.
16. Underrated: Kris Dunn
I remember at the end of the disappointing season that the Minnesota Timberwolves that had last year, where there were those who dismissed Kris Dunn as a bust in the making. Well he’s proving those doubters wrong this season. In his second season in the NBA, now with the Chicago Bulls, he is averaging 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists a game. He, much like other components of the current Chicago Bulls roster, has shown to be a pretty good player when given the opportunity to put his skills on display. You see, while Dunn wasn’t given much of an opportunity to develop as a player and showcase his ability in Minnesota, Chicago is in the midst of a rebuild and just wants to let their young players play while the front office reconstructs the team and hopes to build a contender in the future, and Dunn has taken full advantage of the opportunity.
A lot of people think that Nikola Mirotic is the driving force for the Bulls showing out the way that they have in the past few weeks, but if you were to ask me I’d say Kris Dunn has been a large part of that as well. He is on a bad team and doesn’t give you the glamour stats that most star point guards do, which is why I would consider him to be one of the more underrated players in the game today.
15. Overrated: Serge Ibaka
I don’t want people to get the wrong idea about this guy. Serge Ibaka is a good player and when utilized right he can be a key component to a championship contender, but I can’t ignore how some seem to have the wrong idea about the type of player that he is. See, in OKC, after James Harden left to Houston, people were still referring to the Thunder’s star core as a “Big 3” which wasn’t true, and after acquiring him at the trade deadline last year there were those who suggested that Toronto then had a big three involving DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka, which wasn’t true either and isn’t now. I mean, I’ll give him his credit as a former defensive player of the year, he’s good rim protector and on the offensive side he presents an opportunity to space the floor at times and is a dominant physical presence at the rim, but he’s no star, in fact he is more of a role player. There are guys like that all across the NBA (i.e. Trevor Booker, Taj Gibson, etc.). Serge is a good player, but he’s not going to change the fortunes of a franchise.
14. Underrated: Aaron Gordon
Let me read this stat line to you: 18 points and 8 rebounds a game on 45% shooting. That’s all star caliber right? I think we can all agree on that. So with that said, how come Aaron Gordon didn’t get any All-Star consideration? Now don’t get me wrong, I know he’s on a terrible team and it’s very possible that his stats are inflated by the fact that he’s the best player on a bad team, but I’m pretty sure most of you didn’t know that he was putting up numbers like that. As a matter of fact, when you think about Aaron Gordon you don’t really think about an efficient scorer or go-to guy in your offense, I’m pretty sure most of you just thought of him as a dunker, which makes sense seeing as how the most time he’s ever really gotten on a nationally televised production was the Dunk Contest in the past couple years, but he’s more than that, and I heard that he really doesn’t like when people do this, but he’s not all that different from Blake Griffin. The only difference is that if you can put a team together, he might look better than Blake in the long run.
13. Overrated: Otto Porter
Let me ask you something. What kind of player would you pay top dollar for? The top players in this game like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and others? If you’re smart then the answer would be, of course. Well how about the second-tier stars, like LaMarcus Aldridge, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry? A bit of a stretch but you would still do it, right? Okay, what about a guy who was the third-overall pick in his draft primarily for his ability to score, yet as a starter for the majority of his career, he has woefully underachieved with career averages 10 points and 5 rebounds a game? No chance, right? So please tell me why Otto Porter is getting paid max money. He was supposed to be a guy who scores 20 points a game for you and would be the anchor of your depth at SF, but he has done none of that. You see John Wall was paid max dollars and he was worth it. Bradley Beal, who has now made his first All-Star game, was also paid top dollar and was worth it. For you to pay Otto Porter at the same level, you must think he is near or at the same level as the two previously mentioned players, which is far from the truth. Case and point: overrated.
12. Underrated: Gary Harris
When I bring up the Denver Nuggets, who comes to mind? Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, “The Manimal” Kenneth Faried, Canadian sensation Jamal Murray, maybe even Emmanuel Mudiay, even though he hasn’t been very impressive in his NBA career? Probably, but you know who none of us really think, talk, or ever even hear about, Gary Harris. Now a significant portion of those of you who are reading this article made hear that name think “who?”, and that’s the point. There’s no doubt that Nikola Jokic is the best player on the Nuggets, but the team’s leading scorer is Gary Harris at 17 points a game. This is why, even with Paul Millsap out with injury, that the Nuggets have been able to maintain some level success and currently hang on to the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Given that, it’s really weird that we really don’t hear anything about Harris at all.
11. Overrated: Hassan Whiteside
I don’t like doing this because I really do like Hassan Whiteside, but he is in fact one of the most overrated players in the NBA today. Here’s why: Whiteside was originally drafted into the NBA by the Sacramento Kings where he made little to no effect on team success, and was your basic benchwarmer. Years later after spending a couple seasons outside of the NBA, he received a second chance with the Miami Heat. Whiteside would show out with a strong defensive prowess and ability to rebound and proved himself to be a worthy NBA prospect in that time and would later become the Heat’s highest paid player. However, there seems to be a slight problem here. Whiteside is not very effective for the Heat now. He’s a good, defense-first, complimentary player, much like Serge Ibaka, whom I previously addressed in this article. Like him, Whiteside isn’t your face of the franchise type of guy, and I don’t think Miami really saw that judging from the contract that they gave him. In fact, the team recently went on a winning stretch ignited largely without Whiteside on the floor. All that just goes to show you that in the end, Hassan Whiteside is not the best player on the Miami Heat…
10. Underrated: Goran Dragic
…This guy is. Since he joined the Miami Heat years ago, Goran Dragic has been one of the more overlooked players in the NBA. He’s not known to be one of the better point guards in the league, he’s a rather quiet player compared to other stars of similar stature, and he much like other players on our list was not given much All-Star consideration (if any) despite being the best player on a team that is all but guaranteed to make the playoffs this year. It took him a while to get into form with the Heat when he first arrived, as Dwyane Wade was the primary ball-handler to run the offense, but since Wade’s departure in 2016, Dragic has played at the level that he played in the 2013-14 season where he was awarded with the Most Improved Player award. Even with the Heat in the position that they are in right now, we still haven’t given their best player his proper due, and it’s about time we started to.
9. Overrated: Clint Capela
So I’m sure most of you have heard Clint Capela’s comments from a while ago when he proclaimed that his Houston Rockets were better than the Golden State Warriors, the defending champions. These comments prompted Warriors forward, Kevin Durant to reply in a way that would make you look at Capela as a less valuable asset to the Rockets than he is. Although, when you really think about it, I’m not sure if Kevin was completely wrong. Durant, in his comments, basically said that Capela’s job in the Houston Rockets offense is pretty easy, and I actually agree. It’s comparable to the job of Javale McGee and Zaza Pachulia on the Golden State Warriors, where their job is to simply grab rebounds and when on offense, just be close to the rim.
The same seems to be the case for the Rockets starting center. He is playing with Chris Paul, after all. In the past several years DeAndre Jordan led the league in field goal percentage, and this year Capela does. The common denominator between both gentlemen is that when they led the league in field goal percentage, Chris Paul was their teammate. You couple that with the fact that he plays in an offense that really opens up the floor for the big men around the post more so than most systems in the NBA, and maybe KD had a point after all.
8. Underrated: Tobias Harris
Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris is another one of those underrated guys. Harris has been quite the journeyman throughout his time in the league, currently playing on his third team in his seven-year career. He started as a benchwarmer in Milwaukee, then later became a key piece on a struggling Orlando team, and now he spends his days as the starting power forward for the Pistons, helping them fight to get into the playoff picture once again. Harris is currently putting out the best scoring average of his career at 18 points a game, but what truly has made him an underrated player in this league is the fact that the stat line he has right now for the season (18 ppg, 5 rpg, 2 apg) is really just par for the course when it comes to him, especially since he’s arrived in Detroit. In spite of this, if I would have asked you who do you think about when you think of the Detroit Pistons you’d have your mind go through the head coach, Stan Van Gundy, the team’s best player, Andre Drummond, starting point guard Reggie Jackson, and maybe a few others before you had gotten to Tobias Harris.
7. Overrated: Brook Lopez
Remember when Brook Lopez what is one of the more underrated players in the league as a star center for the Brooklyn Nets? You Know, when he looked like he could be he offensive contributor on a contending team? When he looked so good that people (including Nets fans) were clamoring for him to be traded so he can have more success elsewhere? Whatever happened to that guy must have been colossal because when he was traded to the Lakers, I assumed that while the Lakers would still struggle to win games, he would be a bright spot on the roster both as an efficient and effective scorer in the post and a key veteran presence. Boy, was I wrong. Right now he doesn’t look any better than his brother Robin Lopez. I mean for crying out loud, Lonzo Ball, the rookie, averages almost twice as many rebounds than him. He’s a center, Ball is a point guard. That is not supposed to happen. Off of that and the poor play all throughout the season, Brook Lopez is now an overrated NBA player.
6. Underrated: D’Angelo Russell
Speaking of the trade Lakers and Nets made in last year’s NBA offseason, one of the guys that the Lakers gave up in that trade has looked really good in his brief tenure with the Nets so far. The Lakers had grown tired with D’Angelo Russell and opted to move on from him, with the goal of reshaping the culture of the Lakers and having someone else lead the charge at the point guard position. The Brooklyn Nets, being a team with plenty of cap room and no draft picks to speak of, had nothing else to lose really, and jumped on the opportunity to grab Russell. So far, it’s worked out for them. Strictly based off what he’s done on the court, it looks like Brooklyn has someone to build around for the team’s future. Remember, before he took some time off to deal with an injury he sustained earlier in the season, Russell was making a really good case for the Most Improved Player award. And with him only being 21 years old, this is just the beginning of what could be a bright future in Brooklyn.
5. Overrated: Tristan Thompson
Somebody want to tell me what happened to this guy? I’d understand if you go through a slump or something like that, but Tristan Thompson pretty much since the beginning of last year’s playoffs has arguably been one of the worst centers in the NBA. That cannot happen when you are in the midst of an $82 million contract. Tristan Thompson was never somebody who you could build your franchise around or something like that, but he was revered as one of the better offensive rebounders in the game. I can’t say that anymore. In last year’s finals he was out-rebounded in almost every game by the opposing team’s starting point guard. Let me reiterate: Tristan Thompson is a CENTER! Maybe you could attribute his downfall to getting less minutes this season, but I never saw him being this ineffective for Cleveland this season. Maybe all the trade rumors got to him.
4. Underrated: Gordon Hayward
When the Boston Celtics signed Gordon Hayward in the offseason, I saw a bunch of people shrug their shoulders, look the other way, and give it no mind. I understand that he’s no superstar in this league, but a whole lot of people just looked at the transaction and said “so what?. While I would argue that Boston may have given him a little too much money, I don’t seem to really understand what the big turn-off was for. They added a guy who made the Western Conference All-Star team last season, was the best player on a fifth-seeded Utah Jazz team that went to the second round of the NBA playoffs last year, and is one of the 25 best players in the game today. Now I know 25 is a lot, but given the amount of talent in this league having one of the top 25 goes a long way. Believe me when I tell you that with him on the court the Boston Celtics are bound to become one of the more formidable teams in the NBA. I mean – you’ve seen what they’ve been able to do without him all year long right? Just imagine the damage they’ll be able to make once he gets back.
3. Overrated: George Hill
When I first heard that the Cleveland Cavaliers were interested in acquiring George Hill from the Sacramento Kings, I thought it made a lot of sense. He’s always been a pretty good, solid, starting caliber point guard, and on a team that has LeBron you don’t really need anyone else to run the offense on the floor, so he fits well in that regard. Then I took a look at how he’s been doing so far this season, and if I’m being honest, hearing that Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and possibly Derrick Rose would be sent to Sacramento for the Cavs to acquire Hill, that would be entirely too much. In his 10th season in the NBA, Hill is averaging a mere 10 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds per game for a Kings team that could use a little more of the George Hill that we saw in Utah just last year. If Cleveland were to pick up Hill, I doubt it would make much of a difference. It sounds more to me like they are trying to acquire him because of the weight his name carries, rather than what he is doing this season. That speaks to the very essence of what an overrated player is.
2. Underrated: C.J. McCollum
When we all think about the underrated players in the NBA, a lot of the time Damian Lillard is one of the biggest parts of that conversation because of how in past seasons he didn’t make the All-Star game despite him putting up All-Star level numbers. While I in no way am disputing that Damian Lillard is not underrated or at times overlooked, what I will say, however, is that he is not the most underrated or overlooked player on his team; C.J. McCollum is. When we have discussions about who the best shooting guards in the NBA are we, discuss Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal, James Harden, maybe even Devin Booker, but C.J never comes up in the conversation, and I really can’t seem to figure out why. In the past three seasons he’s averaged 22 points a game after not even reaching a double-digit average in that department through his first two seasons, and is one of the biggest reasons why the Portland Trail Blazers did not experience some huge drop off when LaMarcus Aldridge left the team in free agency years ago. In spite of all this, we still for some reason refuse to give McCollum the respect he deserves.
1. Overrated: Dwyane Wade
It pains me to do this more than you will ever know. I don’t know about some of you guys, but to me Dwyane Wade is the third greatest shooting guard of all-time in NBA history. He’s a former Finals MVP, a three-time world champion, and on quite a few occasions he was close to winning the regular-season MVP over the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and others. At the top of his game, there’s no doubt that he was one of the best, but that’s just it, he’s not at the top of his game anymore. In the past few seasons we saw that he was starting to decline just a little bit, but was still very effective in the things he did for whatever team he played for whether it was with the Heat or the Bulls. You see, the way the Cavs are playing right now, it sometimes feels like Dwyane’s not even there. I’m hearing a lot of names come up in trade talks: Kevin Love, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Tristan Thompson and others, but no one talks about Dwyane Wade mostly because he’s a legend and friends with LeBron, not realizing that he’s not that Dwyane Wade anymore. I certainly hope that he proves me wrong and shows that he still has plenty in the tank, but as the games went by the more I felt like he is now and overrated NBA player.
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