We all know that the arena of professional sports can be a fickle mistress indeed. The goldfish bowl in which our favorite pro athletes compete can be shattered in a relative flash, and that one-way mirror through which the public and media view them can become oppressive very quickly. A player who is just slightly off his game for a short period can end up having that streak extended by the additional pressure that the media and the public can rain down on their unfortunate targets.
By the same token, if the media pushes in the right direction and issues a few choice words here and there, there’s a few statistics presented with a favorable wind, and suddenly a couple of great performances can become career defining, and the chatter becomes hyperbolic and phrases like “all time great” and “hall of famer” can get banded around very quickly. Such is the power and speed with which movements and opinions can be distributed and manipulated in this connected, global community we now occupy.
As a result of the instantaneous nature of discussion and debate through the internet, opinions can get inflated and hype can get out of control very quickly. With that in mind, today we look at 15 of the most overrated NBA players in recent memory.
15. Dwyane Wade
Wade is a player who legitimately could be known as one of the greats of the game when his career is over. This is a guy who has won three championships, been the face of the NBA for a number of years, and been a solid 20+ points contributor to his team for 10 of the 14 seasons he’s been playing! He is as good as anyone at getting to the basket and getting to the free throw line.
Because of that, I realistically include him here as being overrated for the last two or three seasons. Dwyane’s prime years were 2004-2010. However, he isn’t great on defense and consistently provides four turnovers a game to opposition, and those problems are becoming more prominent now that his other numbers are starting to drop. Due to a combination of his age and his injury-prone nature, as great as Wade once was, I would argue he probably shouldn’t be commanding $20 million a year any longer.
14. Derek Fisher
Fisher was a solid point guard and an incredible clutch player during his career, making many memorable game winning shots, and providing a number of team-leading performances over the years. He was also able to maintain a 90% plus efficiency on free throws over the season, no less than three times in his career.
Everyone who follows basketball remembers the game winning shot with 0.4 seconds on the clock against the Spurs in 2004! But even in that game, not many remember he was 0 for 5 from the three-point line before that shot. It could also be stated that a couple of big shot moments have probably saved him from being labeled a choker. On top of that, he gets possibly an excessive amount of credit for the five championships he won, but it’s a lot easier to collect those rings playing alongside Kobe and Shaq!
13. Stephen Curry
I’m aware that putting Steph Curry on this list is the literary equivalent of walking into the Vatican and setting fire to the Roman Catholic library; there’s going to be some hate for what I’m suggesting. This is an athlete at the prime of his powers, doing things with a basketball that spectators haven’t seen for a long time, and how very good he is at what he does can’t be overstated.
But there are plenty of people out there already throwing around the GOAT acronym and putting this guy in the Jordan bracket for seismic influence on the game. For me, this is overrating of the highest order. Steph Curry is the best in the league at what he does right now and absolutely deserved his MVPs, but for those claiming he’s the best there ever was, LeBron is still playing, and I’d argue his ability to deliver when it matters is far more proven. If Steph Curry is still the best player in the game for the next two to three seasons, then I will rescind this entry, but until then, I believe the hype needs to settle down.
12. Rajon Rondo
Rondo is a very, very good point guard, probably top 10 in the league to even the most discerning viewer. However, this is about being overrated, and once again, this is a player whom certain fans would have you believe is the best in the NBA and Rajon certainly also thinks highly of himself. Rondo is an excellent distributor of the ball and can create scoring opportunities for his teams, no question.
It has to be said though, that Rondo began to fall away in his relevance and efficacy about three seasons ago and is being repeatedly overtaken by other more rounded individuals playing the same position. He is a point guard with woeful shooting stats, relying on his assists to bail him out. In that regard, he’s also been frequently known to chase stats, quite often taking the completed pass option over the open shot. Again, I’m not saying Rondo is bad, but he’s overrated for what he actually brings to the table.
11. Rudy Gay
Rudy is on here because to me he is a great example of “all flash and no cash” — not literally obviously, because he’s clearly making a very comfortable living playing in the NBA. However, he’s a player that will feature regularly on highlights shows and “plays of the week” because he’s a guy that likes to make the attention grabbing plays. He likes to throw down Tomahawks and take shots as often and glamorized as possible.
What those highlight plays won’t show you are the missed shots, the turnovers or the positional errors that result when it doesn’t work out. For Rudy Gay, this was demonstrated perfectly in his first season with the Raptors, when he averaged a decent 15.6 points a game. On paper that sounds great, but there were no fewer than nine other roster representatives who all had higher offensive win shares than him.
10. Tony Parker
Parker is an excellent point guard and a four-time championship winner in the NBA with the Spurs and has a long list of accolades to his name. His pace and high field goal percentage have seen him named to six All Star games and he has been a representative of the French national side for 12 years, recently becoming the all-time leading scorer in the Eurobasket competition.
But, for a guy who is more famous outside North America for having married Eva Longoria, I include him on this list because of inflated significance. Due to his four championship rings, he is in the conversation for some as one of the greats. However, his poor personal contribution and performances in the ’03, ’05 and ’14 championship seasons were frequently covered up by an arguably great Spurs team without him. In 2003, he was often even substituted out of playoff games, and then was likely carried to victory in other series by players like Ginobili and Duncan at various junctures.
9. Andre Drummond
Drummond was, and still is, seen by many as one of the most exciting new prospects in his position at center in the NBA. However, the promise of combining him with coach Van Gundy at the Pistons was supposed to cultivate and develop this talent to team-beating standards. Andre is a great defensive talent, and a fantastic guy to have protecting your net, but he still shows too many gaps in his game on the offensive end.
It’s clear to see that his footwork still hasn’t improved sufficiently and as a result, his transitional play isn’t where it should be and his free-throw conversion is weak at best. According to some sources, if he shot as well/poorly as Shaq from the free-throw line, he’d have had 100 more points in the 2015-16 season. Many still believe Drummond will be one of, if not the best center in the game at some point, but he still has too many holes in his game to be considered delivering on his potential promises, and therefore remains overrated at the moment.
8. Jeremy Lin
In a sense this entry is a little harsh on Jeremy Lin as he’s a solid point guard and has posted some decent numbers over the course of his career for periods. However, it’s his 2012 season that landed him on this list. Lin scored a last second three point winner against the Raptors which would kick off “Linsanity,” just a week after he had scored a career high 38 points.
He would go on to lead a streak of 7-0, which coincided with his getting more court time and further fueled the Linsanity of 2012. That year would inflate Lin’s value massively, when during the 2012 offseason the Rockets would sign him for $25 million over three years. Unfortunately for Lin, he never retained the level of that 2012 season again and would struggle at the Rockets before moving to the Lakers, then the Hornets and finally the Nets, all in three seasons without hitting anything like those peaks.
7. Pau Gasol
Pau is a big man and uses that size and strength to score points and collect defensive rebounds at the glass for continuous contribution. This is why he was considered one of the best big men in the league two years ago and still solid now. However, he’s definitely a stats-padder and when you look a little more closely at those numbers, he’s actually incredibly overrated.
Offensively, he is routinely fed isolations on the block, allowing him to score uncontested, with no one around him. When he actually faces strong defense, he withers. He has routinely scored sub 15 points a game and less than 40% from the field when faced with decent defensive opposition. It’s a similar misread defensively. Taking last season as an example, at first glance his 8.9 defensive rebounds per game look great. However, actually 6.8 of those 8.9 rebounds were totally uncontested and resulted from his lack of movement to help contain penetration or rotate effectively. He is way too static under and around the basket, catching whatever drops in his lap.
6. James Harden
This is a tight call. On the one hand, Harden is a scorer of points consistently, gets to the free throw line more than most, and is perennially considered for all-star selection. It also has to be said that without Harden, the Rockets wouldn’t likely be any kind of contenders in a discussion of top NBA competition.
However, it can’t be ignored that he is a remorseless ball-hog, who takes a lot of shots, drops a lot of turnovers and frequently and deliberately draws cheap fouls under the rim, just to get to the free throw line. This is all while being renowned for his poor defensive performances, which lack positional awareness and foresight. I’m not saying that Harden isn’t a good player — he very much is. I just think that much like Iverson, in a team sport, his influence and contribution is overrated.
5. Tracy McGrady
McGrady was a decent shooting guard who predominantly represented the Magic and the Rockets between 2000-2010. His points-per-game statistics for those years were very good at 20 plus for eight straight years. He’s also a seven-time NBA All Star that also won the scoring award twice, in ’03 and ’04.
However, despite all the accolades and shooting abilities, and being named number 75 on SLAM magazine’s 75 best of all time, he never won a championship. He was also renowned as a bit of a ball-hog and consistently complained of not having good enough teammates, yet his teams tasted success once he was traded. And unfortunately, he’s possibly most famous for his biggest choke against the Pistons, when he famously guaranteed victory after being up 3-1 in the series, only to go on and lose.
4. DeAndre Jordan
DeAndre is a highlight reel center! He can smash an alley-oop and he cleans the glass solidly on defense. He is also a two-time All-NBA and two-time NBA All-Defensive team member, and has led the league twice in rebounding. Blocking shots and rebounding are the strengths that Jordan brings to his team, and he does them exceedingly well.
However, to push some of the claims coming forward about him being one of the best defensive players in the league and eligible for the defensive player of the year award is excessive. He literally cannot shoot from outside the paint and his free throw percentages over his whole career have been absolutely horrid. Finally, when you actually compare him to the other elite defenders in the league (which bballbreakdown did last year), he’s actually trailing almost all of them in the categories that really matter to a defensive center.
3. Vince Carter
This entry feels somehow less controversial and debatable than many others on this list. It feels as if the mourning over a career that could have been great, rather than good, is a shared experience for many. If you want to be remembered fondly as a “great” basketball player, you have to have a warrior’s mentality and be willing to walk over flames to represent your team and your city. Fans of the game can be some of the most feverish of any sport, and if they sense a lack of commitment, the vitriol is palpable.
Vince is a player who was once bestowed with the title of “the next Michael Jordan” and has a long list of nicknames relating to his outstanding dunking ability. However, outside of “putting the Raptors on the map,” and showing his amazing dunking capacity, he has disappointed most with a perceived lack of ambition and motivation. He has shown a lack of fight to return from injuries and to lead when required, as well as a lackluster will to improve on the defensive end. All in all, it comes across as though Vince will be happy to be remembered for some flashy hops, rather than becoming an all-time great.
2. Allen Iverson
The very epitome of a personality transcending a sport, a charismatic entertainer with the athleticism and handles to embarrass the very best, this was Allen Iverson. However, a colleague on The Sportster included him as one of the most overrated of all time over a year ago, and I have to concur that Iverson was the very definition of a volume scorer.
Although an incredible individual talent, Iverson had to be one of the worst team players of all time. While he averaged almost 27 points a game over his career, his 0.425 field goal percentage shows just how inefficient he actually was, and just how many shots and resulting turnovers he must have been supplying (as high as five per game at times).
After superb years in Philadelphia, it was his trade away to the Nuggets that illustrated how”‘bad” for the team he really was. In the two years he played there, they failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs. Perhaps if he had attended “practice” more often with the team, he’d have learned to co-exist.
1. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is a superstar scorer with plenty of points and a career PPG stat of around 25. He also has three gold medals and nine all star selections to his name, as well as a litany of other individual awards, but no team championships. He’s also been in the top 10 for highest paid players of the NBA for the last four years, commanding a salary of over $20 million annually.
Unfortunately, much like Allen Iverson, these stats, when levied against his team-based numbers, only serve to cement that basketball is a team sport, and there’s no “I” in team. Melo is an elite point scorer, but he also shoots a lot more than the average bear. He has had zero seasons in the top 20 for win shares, an effective field goal percentage of around 50.3 (only 0.2 above the league average) and never posted a defensive box plus minus. All these stats and others suggest that while Melo is an elite points scorer, it might be because he’s a volume player like Iverson, and like Iverson, he’s doing little else for the team. Even in assists, he’s only averaging around six per game.
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