This article also appeared on Raptors Republic.
While many Raptor fans are, not surprisingly, focused more on what’s going on with management, I thought I’d turn the focus back to the guys who make their money on the court.
Bill Simmons has his annual NBA Trade Value List, and Forbes has their overpaid list, so I thought I would start my own annual list. Not to be outdone, and because no column of mine would be complete if it wasn’t at least a couple of thousand words, instead of just one list, I’m going to have three. The 5 most overrated players, the 5 most underrated players and the 5 players who should break out next season.
The parameters I gave myself is that the player had to be healthy for most of the season, and there had to be one Raptor on each list. Now, obviously these lists are not conclusive of anything and are only solely my opinion, so I expect lots of people to tell me I’m wrong.
Of course, there were plenty of omissions and no list would be complete without talking about some of the big ones. Part one is my All Overrated team, so here were my biggest overrated omissions, in no particular order:
Carmelo Anthony: Anthony was the leagues leading scorer and the best player on a team that won 54 games, good for second in the Eastern Conference, and lead New York to the second round for the first time since Patrick Ewing wore a Knicks jersey. So why would he be overrated? Because for a franchise player, he doesn’t make his teammates better, he’s a poor defender, and he’s not the most adaptable offensive player.
Brandon Jennings: When Jennings came into the NBA, he averaged 25 ppg, shooting .479 and dishing out 5.5 apg in his first eleven games, highlighted by a 55 point game against Golden State in just his 7th game. Since then, his shooting percentage plummeted. In four years, he’s got a career shooting percentage of under 40% but it hasn’t stopped him launching more than 15 shots per game. His decision-making, which was a question mark before he was drafted, hasn’t improved much, and his defense seems to have gotten worse. And many predict he could get as much as $12 million as a free agent this summer?
Dion Waiters: Waiters was one of those draft prospects that jumped up the in the mock drafts after the college season had ended, which is always a bit of a red flag for me. He was the second leading scorer among rookies, this year, and made the All Rookie first team. He also barely shot 40% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc. And he took 13.4 shots to get to his 14.7 ppg.
J.R. Smith/Jamal Crawford: Both are high volume scorers who can score in bunches, and when they’re on they’re two of the best “bad shot makers” in the league. They finished one and two in 6th man of the year voting, and were big reasons why their teams had home court advantage in the playoffs. They’re also absolutely horrible defenders, can kill the offense when they aren’t hitting, and become bigger and bigger liabilities the deeper their teams get in the playoffs.
Dwight Howard: Howard is a three time Defensive Player of the Year winner who lead Orlando to the Finals four years ago. On the downside, he hasn’t been healthy in two years, still looks awkward most of the time on offense, and shot less than 50% from the line the last two years. If you need more evidence of why he’s overrated, read Bill Simmons’ recent article about him.
In just his third season, Griffin has made the All Star game three times, has made the All NBA second team the last two years and is one of the most exciting players in the game and a regular on ESPN Sports Center highlights. And he’s a career 20-10 player and sees the floor well enough to dish out 3.7 assists per game last season.
Unfortunately, he came into the league with poor defensive instincts and he’s still a poor defender, which Memphis took full advantage of in knocking the Clippers out in the first round. He’s also can’t hit a shot when he steps out of the paint and how exactly has his rebounding gone from 12.1, in his rookie season, to 8.3 last year?
If you’re paying Griffin the money he’s making, you’d hope he’d have at least one elite skills beyond being able to dunk on just about anyone. He’s not a bad offensive player, despite his shortcomings, but you can’t give him the ball and expect him to score. And with his defense as bad as it is, he should be a lot better on the offensive end.
I just don’t know how far the Clippers can go in the playoffs with Griffin. And instead of apparently being weary of Chris Paul’s presence, he should be thanking his lucky stars to have him on the team because I don’t think the Clippers are a playoff team without Paul, with or without Griffin.
I know what some of you must be saying. Didn’t Westbrook show his value to the Thunder when he got injured and Oklahoma looked nothing like the team that won a Western Conference best 60 games, losing in five games to Memphis in the second round?
Yes and no.
Westbrook is definitely an integral part of the Thunder team and especially to their offense. But that’s, in large part, to head coach, Scott Brooks, “designing” an offense that is so dependant on his ability to create havoc on opposing defenses.
Westbrook’s biggest problem, other than his sometimes horrible defense, is his often brutal decision making. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this year’s playoffs, it’s how important decision making is to going far in the playoffs.
I still maintain that Houston traded the wrong player when they traded James Harden, and I really think they would be in a better position if they had traded Westbrook for a big man who can score in the post.
I put these two together not because they play similar games (they don’t) but because they both have the same weakness that can kill their team.
Both guys are double double machines and can score twenty points before half time. They’re also hard workers and popular among teammates. But their defense is so bad it makes Andrea Bargnani look like Marc Gasol.
While On/Off Court stats are not the best indicator of really anything, it is interesting to note that Utah’s opponents had an Offensive Rating of +9.8 when he was on the floor as compared to when he was off.
And David Lee’s opponents actually shot much better at the rim than average when he was trying to protect it.
And, unfortunately, you need a good defensive front line to go far in the playoffs, even in today’s NBA, which means it’s difficult to contend with guys like this on your team.
Golden State would never trade the popular Lee, but maybe they should. An Jefferson will be an in demand free agent this summer, but I would think twice about signing him to the money he’ll be asking.
Lillard was the runaway Rookie of the Year, leading all rookies in scoring and assists per game. He was relentless on the offensive end and displayed a confidence seen by few rookies.
That said, Portland only won 33 games despite Lillard running a team featuring LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum. And Lillard’s defense is BEYOND horrible. In fact, a team featuring him and David Lee would create a defensive singularity so powerful that there would be a real danger of creating a black hole that would destroy the solar system in the blink of an eye. Obviously this is something David Stern and Adam Silver need to keep an eye on.
In a lot of ways, Lillard reminds me of Damon Stoudamire. Stoudamire was the perfect point guard for a bad team because he could dominate the ball and do anything he wanted with it. But as his teams got better, his value declined because he simply wasn’t good enough to dominate the ball on a good team, and he didn’t really have the role player skills to compliment the stars on the team.
The Rookie of the Year award is interesting, because it’s often not given to the best eventual player. Stoudamire’s draft also featured Kevin Garnett, Antonio McDyess, Michael Finley and Rasheed Wallace, each on an All Star and Garnett an MVP, but it was Stoudamire that won the Rookie of the Year award.
To be honest, I’m not even sure when Gay is even overrated, anymore. Especially with how Memphis scored more efficiently and defended better after they traded him away.
But there are still a lot of people, including a lot of NBA players, who seem to think that Gay is the player Bryan Colangelo tried to sell to Raptor fans and not the inefficient offensive player who hasn’t improved since his rookie season, six years ago.
Memphis gambled, when they offered Gay a max contract before he could even test the market as a restricted free agent (a similar mistake Colangelo made with both Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan). They assumed he would fulfill the potential he had when he was drafted and become the elite player he certainly had the skills to become.
And now he’s the Raptor’s problem.
There are some that argue that money shouldn’t matter when rating a player, but it does. If Rudy Gay were making half the money he is (which would be more in line with what he’s actually worth), then he would be still be a Memphis Grizzly and people would be talking about how good a third option he is for them, instead of whether or not the next GM will be able to trade him and his massive contract.
Next up, the All Underrated team….