The NBA has pretty much always been a star driven league. From the Days of Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, to Lebron James, and Steph Curry, the NBA has relied on its superstars to drive the popularity of the league. With this approach to a drawing a broader audience the NBA has, from time to time, aided some of its bigger personalities on their way to stardom. One of the key words in that last sentence is personality. The bigger a players' personality the easier it is for the league to prop them up as a face of the league.
Another factor in a players' exposure and over/underrating is where they play. It is easy to become a mega star in New York, or Los Angeles, take Jeremy Lin for example. It is not as easy to get national recognition when you play in, say Portland. With a league littered with incredibly gifted players it can become easy to overlook some of the greats playing around the league. Also as ESPN and other media outlets force feed us only the best highlights it is increasingly easier to miss out on what players are actually playing the best ball. Today we will clear the clutter and break down the 8 most overrated and 7 most underrated players in todays NBA.
15 Overrated: Harrison Barnes
The Golden State Warriors have been the league’s model franchise when it comes to drafting talent over the past decade. They have drafted Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes during that time. Players like Steph and Draymond make everyone around them better, just ask Kevin Durant.
Since the core four were selected by the Warriors, only Barnes has left the Bay in hopes of leading a team of his own. Barnes was signed to a max deal by the Mavericks last offseason, and he has proven to be quite underwhelming thus far, averaging just 20.1 points on 46% shooting. Barnes was clearly a product of his environment with the Warriors, but hey, he is sure cashing in on it. He probably doesn’t mind.
14 Underrated: Marc Gasol
At 32 years old, Marc Gasol is still at the height of his game. He has been hidden in Memphis since being traded from the Lakers for his brother Pau back in 2008. While in Memphis, Gasol has grown into a top center in today's game. A game that has morphed into a game that no longer utilizes the center like it once did. Gasol, however has found ways to evolve his game and still be a valuable piece to a contending team.
You would think that after nearly a decade in the league and over a dozen years of professional ball he would pretty much be set in his ways. But to the contrary, Marc has worked on his game every year and is currently one of the best three-point shooting centers in the game today. When you add his newly found three-point shot to his already top flight post game and elite defense, it is a wonder how Gasol has only made three All-Star Game appearances.
13 Overrated: Rajon Rondo
I personally had a hard time putting some players on this list, but I have to be fair and objective, and clearly Rondo is highly overrated. Rajon has made many incredible plays and he has some of the flashiest assists in NBA history, but there is a reason he seemingly can’t stay with a team longer than one season anymore.
As a younger player Rondo was lucky enough to play with some of the best leaders in NBA history in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. So when he was with them, Rondo, for the most part, kept his mouth shut. Now that he is a vet in the league, he has no chill. He constantly gets on coaches, and teammates about whatever displeases him. He also is a stat chaser, and that is one of the worst things you can be in a team sport. Rondo has made a habit of passing up easy buckets in hopes of tallying extra assists, or crashing the glass when his responsibility is to push the pace. Stats aren’t everything, sometimes it’s about making the right play for the team.
12 Underrated: Draymond Green
This entry contradicts everything nearly everything that was talked about in the intro. Green has one of the biggest personalities in the NBA, and plays for a big market team with back to back NBA Finals appearances. However, Green tends to get overshadowed by some of his more flashy teammates. Perhaps if Green was on a less talented team, his true value would be more on display, but he still is one of the best all around players in the league today.
Green is the definition of versatile. Earlier this season Draymond put up a triple-double while managing to score only four points. That within itself is cause to pause. Draymond is a one of a kind type of player. His focus is solely on winning basketball games, stats mean nothing to this man.
11 Overrated: Kevin Durant
It has become embarrassingly easy to knock Kevin Durant these days. He left his team and his best friend for the enemy. That alone undermines whatever legacy you hope to have as an NBA superstar, which KD was (and still is.)
KD has led the NBA is scoring four times, and won a league MVP, how could he be overrated right? Well let’s look at how he does in the clutch. In his only finals appearance he was beaten 4-1 by the Miami Heat. In the 2016 playoffs he saw his team lose a 3-1 series lead to the Golden State Warriors, who he signed with the following season. And his 5-18 career record against LeBron James is less than sorry. We now have over nine seasons to evaluate KD and it sure looks like he is a regular season superstar. He is now part of the ultimate super team, and if they can’t get it done this year he could go down as one of the least clutch players of all time.
10 Underrated: Rudy Gobert
Now in his fourth season, Gobert is clearing coming into his own right before our eyes. He is the leading candidate for most improved player, as well as a top candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. On top of that he is helping lead the Utah Jazz into the playoffs, and potentially home court advantage in the first round.
Before the season began the Jazz signed Gobert to a contract worth over $100 million. Many believed they were paying on potential, which is usually a mistake in the world of sports, as many players get paid and begin to lose enthusiasm for the game. Rudy has proven to be the opposite of many players, since signing his new deal he has posted career highs across the board and along with Gordan Hayward, he has the Jazz primed for incredible success for years to come.
9 Overrated: Chris Paul
Chris Paul has been one of the most reliable players in the league over the past decade. Many people even say he is the best point guard in the NBA over that time frame. He just might be, if you only included regular season. Some people even mention CP3 in the conversation for greatest point guard of all time, and that is simply ignorant.
CP3 has long been an overrated defender, as many Steph Curry highlights can show you. He also has been less than clutch in many playoff series. Paul has had other star players around him, so that excuse about not having any help does not fly here. If there were a regular season and a playoff roster I would love to have Paul run the show for 82 games, but once it comes down to a best of seven, there are too many proven point guards out there to choose ahead of CP3.
8 Underrated: Gordon Hayward
The Jazz have clearly found a couple cornerstone pieces for their future. With Rudy Gobert locking down the middle and Hayward putting it on from the wing, the Jazz are poised for many deep playoff runs in the coming years. Hayward has long been viewed as a young player with great potential, and he is finally realizing that potential. He was named to his first All-Star Game this season and he is the best player on a team sitting in fourth place out West.
Although he looks more like an investment banker than a basketball player, Hayward is getting done this season, as he has the previous few. Barring anything drastic, this will be Hayward's third straight season averaging over twenty points per game. Look for him to make one of the All-NBA Teams this season, and likely many more in the future.
7 Overrated: DeMarcus Cousins
The recently traded Cousins is a stat monster. He averages a double-double, and routinely puts up thirty plus points and over fifteen rebounds. The thing about Boogie is that most of those stats are empty, meaning they usually come in blow-out losses, in which he is the only decent player on his team.
Cousins was stuck in the dumpster fire that is Sacramento for his entire career, until recently when he was traded to the Pelicans. He will now play side by side with Anthony Davis. The two are now make up the most formidable front court in the league, yet they are having an extremely difficult time figuring out how to make it work thus far. Cousins will likely get frustrated with the lack of touches he now finds himself getting, and the inconsistency at the point guard position in New Orleans will not help the situation.
6 Underrated: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis is only 22 years old, but is already one of the best players in the game. He is beginning to get his name out there, as he was named to his first All-Star Game this season, but he still has a long way to go before he is finished.
Many people compare him to Kevin Durant, with his combination of size, speed, strength, and ball handling it is easy to see why. He doesn't have the jump shot that Durant does, but that will come with time. I see him as a more efficient Russell Westbrook personally, and as he fine tunes some of his shortcomings he could quite possibly become one of the two or three best players in the game over the coming years.
5 Overrated: Carmelo Anthony
Melo is this generation’s Dominique Wilkins. There is no question that Carmelo Anthony has been one of the premier scorers in the NBA since his arrival in 2003. He has put together a scoring resume that rivals any who have ever laced em up, but there is so much more to an NBA game than just scoring.
Anthony has been called out by players and coaches alike for his lack of enthusiasm when it comes to anything but scoring. He begrudgingly increased his rebounding numbers over the past few seasons, but there have been occasions where he decides it isn’t worth it. Carmelo will always be linked to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as they were all drafted in the same year, but the comparisons to those two legends pretty much ends there.
4 Underrated: Damian Lillard
Two years in a row Damian Lillard has been left off the Western Conference All-Star roster. Granted the points guards in the West are as good as they have ever been, but this man deserves to be recognized.
Lillard single-handedly carried the Blazers to the second round of the playoffs last season, including a first round win against the heavily favored Clippers. Playing in the isolated Northwest has not helped his exposure to the basketball world, as most Portland games begin well past 10pm eastern, but that is no excuse for him to miss out on All-Star Games, and All-NBA Teams. You have to wonder if Lillard will eventually get tired of being so isolated in the NBA and if he would make the jump to a contender when he gets the chance.
3 Overrated: Blake Griffin
There are some things that you can never take away from Blake Griffin; that dunk on Timofey Mozgov is one of them. But Blake has been in the NBA for about eight years now, and he has proven to be a one trick pony. Blake has attempted to work on his jumpshot, and I guess if you compare it to his rookie year jumpshot it has improved, but he still lack consistency.
Since Chris Paul has joined Blake in L.A., the Clippers have been an extremely under performing, and therefore overrated team. With three players who routinely make the All-Star team (Blake, CP3, and DeAndre Jordan) you would think that this team could at least make a Conference Finals series, however, in five tries they have yet to win two playoff series in the same year. A major chunk of that blame must land on the two superstars; Blake and Chris Paul.
2 Underrated: Isaiah Thomas
The 5'9" point guard has been playing at an MVP level this season. He is leading a team with no superstars to the number two seed in the Eastern Conference, and a potential run-in with the defending champs.
Thomas is leading the NBA with over 10 points per fourth quarter, a stat that shows plain and simple, how clutch a player really is. Just recently Thomas led his team to an inspired comeback against that Cleveland Cavaliers, with him making big play after big play down the stretch. It is only a matter of time before the world falls in love with this diminutive superstar, but he is currently not getting the shine he truly deserves. This postseason could be the time when Isaiah Thomas officially becomes a household name.
1 Overrated: Steph Curry
Steph’s rise to glory was perhaps the fastest rise in NBA history. It only makes sense that in this generation of instant everything, Steph would skyrocket to GOAT status in only two years.
After winning back to back MVP awards, the NBA was Curry’s playground. He was already anointed as the new face of the league, and he seemingly ended LeBron James’s reign before its time. There were those stray critics out there who accused Steph as being a one trick pony, but they were quickly shot down by those enamored with the 30 foot three pointer. With Kevin Durant joining his side this season it has only enhanced his opportunity for greatness. However, Durant's presence, and ball dominance has somewhat limited Steph's ability to be what he once was. With Durant currently out with an injury this will be a huge opportunity to Steph to prove me and other doubters wrong.