How does an athlete earn a label of “underrated” or “overrated”? Almost always, it’s the level of hype people put into a player that determines their rating, whether it’s fans treating undeserving players like golden gods while ignoring others, or team owners and executives giving big money to players who haven’t earned their keep. For example, in pro wrestling, Brock Lesnar has reached the point of being overrated because he only does two, maybe three things at max, per match, whereas John Cena has become underrated because his past deficiencies have overshadowed how great of a wrestler he has become. For all you non-WWE fans, try… other stuff? Sorry.
In basketball, a sport that generates more hype than maybe any other, especially from social media, and has recently entered a golden age of player salaries, it’s easy for a player to become underrated or overrated. So, this list is dedicated to (And kind of against?) some of the most underrated and overrated players in the NBA. Some players, like LeBron James, Steph Curry, and Russell Westbrook, receive tons of media coverage, but aren’t overrated because they damn well deserve it, and many of the overrated players on this list are still good players ,but have had their reputations inflated for various reasons.
15. Overrated – Devin Booker
Current fan consensus is that Devin Booker is a future All-Star, a volume shooting guard with a penchant for catching fire from downtown. However, while his star is on the rise, it’s far to early to be anointing him anything. Make no mistake, Booker’s star is on the rise and he very well could be the future of the Phoenix Suns franchise, but at the moment, he’s only 20 years old and there are some significant holes in his game. His scoring numbers are gaudy, but inflated, as he’s the number one option on a woeful Suns team. His field goal percentages, and assists and rebounding numbers are poor, his defense is practically nonexistent, and despite averaging 21.2 points per game this season, his PER is only 14.4. Booker has plenty of time to fix his game, but until he does, fans need to slow their roll on coronating him anything.
14. Underrated – Isaiah Thomas
In 2017, Player A is averaging 29.7 points, 6.4 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game with .468%/.386%/.915% shooting splits. Meanwhile, Player B is averaging 24.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game with .466%/.395%/.892% shooting splits. Player A is Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas and Player B is Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving. At his best, Isaiah Thomas performs as well, or better, than Kyrie Irving, and it’s not just this season: he has three separate seasons under his belt with stats comparable to Uncle Drew. Despite being drafted 60th overall to the Sacramento Kings, the NBA’s most caustic franchise, and being traded twice, Isaiah has managed to rise to All-Star status and even MVP contendership. However, fans still balk at the idea of him being on the same level as Irving. They shouldn’t, because simply, he is.
13. Overrated – Lou Williams
Given that, more than halfway through the season, Lou Williams is the front runner for Sixth Man of the Year, how can he be overrated? Well, to put it bluntly: Lou Williams doesn’t help the Los Angeles Lakers win basketball games. Williams has had 8 games this season with 25 points or more. In those games, the Lakers are 1-7. He’s averaging more points than he ever has in his career, but the Lakers are 17-36 and they’ve gotten much, much worse since starting the season at 10-10. Williams definitely isn’t the only reason the Lakers are losing, but he’s the front runner for a major NBA award and his value has been inflated by his gaudy scoring numbers. He doesn’t rebound much, he doesn’t assist much, he plays almost no defense, and his scoring outbursts clearly aren’t helping his team win. Even off that bench, that equals overrated.
12. Underrated – Draymond Green
There are plenty of reasons to dislike Draymond Green: he’s a loudmouth, he plays for a team that has basically shrugged off the concept of parity, and he has a tendency to kick men in their peaches. However, to claim that he’s not an All-Star caliber player or not vital to the success of the Golden State Warriors, as many fans do, is simply outrageous. Dray’s versatility is almost unmatched in the NBA and his positional flexibility makes him the archetype for a small ball power forward. His scoring numbers and field goal percentages are lackluster, but he makes up for it everywhere else on the court. This season, he’s averaging 10.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game, while playing the best defense of his career. The Warriors are a basketball machine and Draymond Green is one of their most vital weapons.
11. Overrated – Chandler Parsons
C.J. McCollum kinda beat us to this one, huh? For a former second round pick who’s never made an All-Star team, Chandler Parsons seems to attract a lot of media attention. His divorces from the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks were highly publicized events, and his new deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, a gargantuan, 4 year, 94 million dollar contract, was heavily criticized by fans and media. Even if Parsons were at 100%, he wouldn’t be worth a deal like that, but he’s been riddled with injuries since his time in Dallas. When healthy, he’s a decent 3 and D guy who gets a lot done on the court. However, healthy Chandler Parsons has been MIA for a while. Considering that there are better 3 and D players in the league making less money, it’s fair to say that the Grizzlies overrated what Parsons could possibly bring to the team.
10. Underrated – Dwight Howard
It’s a strange, strange world when an 8 time All-Star, and 3 time Defensive Player of the Year, can become overrated, then disgraced, then climb out of the depths of irrelevance to be considered underrated, but dammit, that’s just what Dwight Howard has done. Since leaving the Orlando Magic in 2012, Dwight Howard’s reputation has slowly eroded. He was labeled a coach killer and a diva, and people criticized his decreasing talents. Now on the Atlanta Hawks, he’s still not the Dwight of old, but he’s finally back to being a positive force on the court. He’s scoring efficiently, if not much, and his rebounding and defense is better than it’s been since his time in Orlando. Dwight’s playing well and he’s helping the Hawks recover from losing Al Horford. He deserves applause for turning his career around.
9. Overrated – Ryan Anderson
In today’s era of three point heavy, space and pace offenses, big men who can shoot from deep are worth their weight in gold, but Ryan Anderson has become something of a mythical figure in that department. He’s the shining example of a stretch four. However, in terms of on court impact, the long ball is the only thing he does well. He doesn’t pull down many rebounds, despite his size, he doesn’t average one assist per game on his career, he’s never averaged one block or one steal for a single season in his entire career, and he’s a sieve on defense. He’s made a career off being big and shooting threes. That works well when he’s paired with an elite big man like Dwight Howard or Anthony Davis, but in Houston, his weaknesses are more pronounced. Anderson’s great at what he does, but he should better for how much love and money he gets.
8. Underrated – Mike Conley
There is a glutton of great players in today’s NBA and there simply aren’t enough All-Star spots to honor all of them, especially in the Western Conference (Sorry, Damian Lillard). Mike Conley may be the player most affected by that deficit. Although he’s never made an All-Star team, he’s a key factor in the Memphis Grizzlies’ perennial success and he deserves everyone’s adoration. Every starter on the Grizzlies is vital to the team’s grit and grind system, but Mike Conley is the most important, a true franchise quarterback. The team simply runs better with him on the court. He’s the team’s best shooter, he facilitates well without giving up many turnovers, and he plays great defense. It’s not absurd to say he offers a Chris Paul level of play to his team. He may not be an All-Star, but he’s a top notch point guard.
7. Overrated – Tristan Thompson
Only on a superstar squad like the Cleveland Cavaliers could the fifth best player on the team draw so much ire, but that’s exactly the case with Tristan Thompson. When Tristan Thompson demanded a max contract in the summer of 2015, many spectators raised an eyebrow. It was even more shocking when the Cavs actually acquiesced and gave it to him, likely at the behest of LeBron “The Real GM” James, with whom Thompson shares an agent. To be fair, Thompson did have a star making performance in the Finals that year, cementing himself as one of the league’s best offensive rebounders. But that’s as far as his game goes. He’s not much of a scorer, he’s nonexistent as a passer, and he’s a shoddy defender. The Cavs’ massive payroll is preventing them from improving a flawed team and Thompson’s undeserved albatross of a deal is a big reason for that problem.
6. Underrated – Jabari Parker
Lost in the wake of Greek Freak Fever(TM) is the fact that Jabari Parker is quietly developing into Carmelo Anthony/Paul Pierce offensive weapon many thought he had the potential to be. With a never before seen talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the team, it’s understandable that he gets most of the attention, but Jabari deserves more acknowledgment for his development. After tearing his ACL his rookie season and struggling to regain his footing last season, people weren’t sure if he’d be able to seize his awesome potential. Luckily, he definitely has. This season, he’s averaging 20.2 points per game, on .489% shooting, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.0 steals per game. He’s doing all that while Giannis leads the team in every major statistical category. That’s huge. The Milwaukee Bucks have one of the best, young one-two punches in the league and if they can straighten out the rest of the team, they’ll be great.
5. Overrated – Enes Kanter
Of all the bad contracts in basketball, many of which appear on this very list, Enes Kanter’s may very well be the worst. The Portland Trail Blazers essentially duped the Oklahoma City Thunder into signing Kanter to a 4 year, $70 million dollar contract by offering the Turkish big man that deal as an unrestricted free agent in 2015, which OKC had to match, lest they lose him. To put it bluntly, Kanter is fool’s gold. He can put up gaudy scoring and rebounding numbers, but he’s a terrible passer and his defense is abysmal. Literally, he’s one of the worst defenders in the NBA. In his defense, he does try on defense, but it makes no difference. Despite his huge contract, his numbers have regressed since his first (half) season in OKC and he’s been replaced in the starting lineup by Steven Adams. Kanter is the perfect example of not signing someone just because they can score many buckets, especially when they let even more past them.
4. Underrated – Julius Randle
The Los Angeles Lakers are an extremely young team currently overflowing with potential and high hopes, even though winning isn’t in the cards at all right now. While D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Brandon Ingram get most of the attention, Julius Randle may be the team’s most concrete, surefire cornerstone for the future. D-Lo is still developing, Clarkson is a good scorer, but a limited overall player, and Ingram may take years to fulfill his lofty expectations, but Randle is blossoming right before our eyes. If he stays on the course he’s on right now, he could develop into a Draymond Green, jack-of-all-trades type of superstar. He doesn’t score tons, but he scores accurately, he’s a voracious rebounder, and his passing is improving every game. Even better, his defense, which was a weakness in college and last season, is now a huge positive. Randle deserves not only to be considered the best young star on the Lakers, but one of the best in the entire league.
3. Overrated – Rajon Rondo
At this point, almost everyone knows that Rajon Rondo is busted goods. His half a season on the Dallas Mavericks was one of the most embarrassing, painful to watch train wrecks in recent NBA history and while he dropped a lot of dimes in Sacramento, he didn’t win very much. So, if everyone sees that Rondo is bad news, why is he on this list? Because despite all evidence to the contrary, people keep thinking Rondo can help them. The Chicago Bulls signed Rondo this past summer, making a trio of him, Dwayne Wade, and Jimmy Butler one of the most shooting adverse groups in NBA history. He struggled mightily and eventually got benched in Chi-Town. He’s shooting worse than ever, his assist numbers are way down, despite leading the league in assists just last season, and his defense is still disappointing. However, he’s still being connected to the Cleveland Cavaliers in trade rumors. Raise your hand if you want to see LeBron yell at Rajon Rondo. Yeah, we all do.
2. Underrated – DeMarcus Cousins
Here he is, the cream of the crop of underrated NBA players. DeMarcus Cousins is the best center in the NBA, hands down. This season, he’s averaging 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. He’s getting to the free throw line 10 time a game, shooting .774%, and his defense is incredibly underrated. Granted, the Sacramento Kings are losing, like they always do, but that’s less Boogie’s fault and more the fact that Kings are the most dysfunctional team in the NBA, besides maybe the Knicks (FREE CHARLES OAKLEY!). He balls out of his mind every single night, but can’t seem to get the respect he deserves. He doesn’t get to start in the All-Star game and he’s denied All-NBA First Team honors. To be fair, his temper is brutal and notorious and he’s leading the league in technical fouls, as he has many times, but that shouldn’t completely outshine how great he is. Boogie deserves way, way, way more love than he gets, plain and simple.
1. Overrated – DeAndre Jordan
Okay, now, put down those torches and/or pitchforks, Los Angeles Clippers fans. No one’s saying DeAndre Jordan isn’t a good player. He is. He’s one of the league’s best defensive centers and he’s led the league five times in field goal percentage. He’s good. However, he gets a lot of hype he doesn’t deserve. Doc Rivers compared him to Bill Russell, a man who has more championship rings than fingers. He was named to the All-NBA First Team last season over DeMarcus Cousins, the aforementioned best center in the league. His free throw woes have become comical. And, oh yeah, the Clippers once camped out in his own house to make sure he didn’t sign with the Dallas Mavericks. No one ever camped out for Michael Jordan or Tim Duncan or Hakeem Olajuwon, but they did for DeAndre Jordan. No one’s saying DeAndre isn’t excellent at what he does, because he is, but for a man who has yet to win a Defensive Player of the Year award, he gets a lot of attention and honors that he doesn’t exactly deserve.
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