In light of the race for this year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), we take a look at the league’s 20 most overrated players.
Since the 1955 – 56 season, the NBA has given the MVP award out on an annual basis. For 24 years, the award was decided on by a vote of NBA players and since then is decided upon by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the U.S and Canada, each of whom casts a vote for first to fifth place selections. Although it’s fun to forecast each season’s winner, we decided to flip the situation on its head and round up 20 of the most overrated players currently playing in the NBA. Sure, they might post decent stats and carry their team to a few victories, but is their contract and brand overvalued? Find out what we think below.
20. Shaun Livingston, PG/SG (Brooklyn Nets)
Since the beginning of the new year, Tthe Brooklyn Nets have become one of the most successful teams. A lot of credit for this turnaround is given to Livingston. Inserting the two-guard into the starting lineup was a genius move by rookie head coach Jason Kidd. As a result, teams will get in line this summer to sign the versatile guard to a multi-year contract – which is a mistake. Livingston is a great addition to the Nets lineup, however, signing him to a multi-million deal next summer exaggerates his influence on the success of the Nets. Without a well-balanced roster and a clearly defined role, the often-injured Livingston might not be able to replicate his performance on another team.
19. Derrick Favors, PF/C (Utah Jazz)
If you look back at his career, Favors belongs into the category of “breakouts that never happened.” Fresh off signing a new $45 million deal that kicks in this summer, Favors wasn’t able to leverage his increased playing time on a Utah Jazz roster that is short on talent. His stats this season of 12.9 PPG and 8.7 rebounds is just a slight improvement from last season. At his position, Derrick Favors is one of the most overrated players, shown by his new contract.
18. Jeff Teague, PG (Atlanta Hawks)
Like Favors, Teague is in a new contract situation worth $32 million. While his statistics improved drastically, his influence on the field as a floor general didn’t. The new system, implemented by head coach Mike Budenholzer, benefits point guards (just like in San Antonio, his former team). Teague, however, wasn’t able to accelerate enough as a point guard to not be shopped during the trade deadline last February. Teams need point guards to be successful these days, but Jeff Teague with this type of salary might not be the option for the revamped Atlanta Hawks, which are in a downward spiral since the All Star break.
17. Jared Dudley, SF (Los Angeles Clippers)
During his Phoenix days, advanced metrics guys had a huge crush on Jared Dudley who was one of the most efficient players in his position. The Clippers hoped to get a perimeter shooter and defender on the wing position and so traded for him during the off-season. His statistics, however, fell to a marginally 7.2 PPG while his 3-point shot is less effective with just .357 percent this year. LA is over the cap and still have a hole at the small forward position after Dudley didn’t pan out the way they hoped.
16. Jeff Green, SF (Boston Celtics)
Every time a team bottoms out and looks to rebuild, players have a chance to shine and take a leading role. Jeff Green, with his salary of over $8 million this year, was destined to take his game to the next level. While he is posting his best scoring average of his career with 16.8 PPG, his true shooting went down. Even more, he didn’t develop into the fringe all star the Celtics had forecasted. His influence on the game didn’t increase and Green has a lot of moments where he disappears during games. Internally, Boston was hoping to package him in a deal for another talent. No team, however, traded for the small forward as he didn’t show enough progress after the departure of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
15. Dion Waiters, SG (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Waiters is a head case which makes him hard to evaluate. Experts say the former Syracuse Orangemen could thrive in a different role on another team. While Waiters is still young and needs time to mature, certain character traits might prohibit his development into a great shooting guard. His attitude on and off the field is concerning to the Cleveland Cavaliers and could put Waiters into the same category as the likes of J.R. Smith or Isaiah Rider, both of whom never flourished thanks of their personalities. Acquiring Dion Waiters is a big gamble for any team that doesn’t have a healthy and strong locker room culture.
14. O.J. Mayo, SG (Milwaukee Bucks)
After a strong season in Dallas, the former USC Trojan cashed in by signing a three-year, $24 million deal with Milwaukee. Despite becoming a leader of the team, Mayo became a flaming bag of disaster for the Bucks, who are currently the worst team in the NBA. In a recent interview with his former teammate Rudy Gay, the Sacramento King expressed concerns about Mayo’s shape. O.J. checked out of the season several months ago after an estranged relationship with head coach Larry Drew, quickly leading to Mayo’s contract becoming one of the worst in the league.
13. JaVale McGee, C (Denver Nuggets)
Apart from being the star of the very popular Shaqtin’ a Fool, McGee suffered a season-ending injury early in the season that buried Brian Shaw’s game plan with him. The new head coach of the Denver Nuggets envisioned McGee as the center piece of a new defense, influenced by the Indiana Pacers and their usage of Roy Hibbert. McGee, however, has issues with staying on the court because of numerous mistakes (which cause him to be a recurring protagonist on Shaqtin’ a Fool) or foul trouble. His athleticism fools people into believing he is a talent on the center position. The truth though is that JaVale might never reach his potential, nor justify his contract of over $10 million per year.
12. Harrison Barnes, SF (Golden State Warriors)
Barnes was the star of last year’s NBA playoffs. By the time the rookie was inserted into the starting lineup for the injured David Lee, he became instrumental to the surprising run of the Golden State Warriors. With the arrival of Andre Iguodala, people feared for the further development of the former UNC Tar Heel, who was relegated to the role of sixth man. Indeed, Barnes’ performance regressed and even with multiple injuries of Iguodala during the season, the small forward was never able to develop any rhythm, although he receives more playing time and takes more shots. Questions have been raised if Barnes was a fluke in last year’s playoff series versus San Antonio. The truth lies somewhere in between. For now though, it looks like the Warriors have to rely on others during their push for the playoffs.
11. J.R. Smith, SG (New York Knicks)
No other player has regressed as much over the last year as J.R. Smith. After earning the award of Sixth Man of the Year, Smith received a new contract by the Knicks, who saw the guard as the second scorer behind Carmelo Anthony. The disastrous season of the Knicks and the inconsistency in Smith’s play, coupled to the multiple DNP-CD’s (Did not play, Coach’s decision) makes him a massive liability and the face of the Knicks’ demise. His contract isn’t as bad as people say, his value, on the other hand, dropped massively because of his antics and unwillingness to become more professional. Smith can indeed be a contributor, but his team and overrate his abilities to lead a team.
10. Rudy Gay, SF (Sacramento Kings)
Rudy Gay gets paid like an all star and superstar. Unfortunately, he never developed into either. Gay is playing on his third team in 14 months and seems to be one of those players a reason lists like this exist. Gay can be a big time scorer in stretches, but his inconsistency and lack of leadership prohibits him from becoming elite. Once Gay’s contract of $18 million is up, people might be able to reevaluate him again. Until then, he is an inefficient volume shooter who never proved that he can lead a team into the playoffs.
9. Luol Deng, SF (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Throughout his career, Luol Deng ripped his heart out for the Chicago Bulls. He did what his coaches asked of him and developed into one of the best “3-and-D” players in the league. Despite his merits and reputation, the Bulls traded the veteran to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Deng and Chicago negotiated about a new contract but never reached common ground because Deng requested more than the offered $10 million per year. With his contract running out this summer, Deng will have several suitors who are willing to pay a steep price (looking at you Lakers). And while Deng is definitely a piece to a championship team, his asking price might be way over his actual value, at least compared to other younger players in his position.
8. Kyle Lowry, PG (Toronto Raptors)
After the departure of Rudy Gay, Lowry led his Toronto Raptors to one of the best records since the new year. The feisty point guard is posting exceptional numbers which earned him several suitors throughout the course of the NBA trade deadline. With Lowry’s contract set to expire this season, teams will be foolish enough to overpay the former Villanova Wildcat by a mile. The Knicks tried to acquire Lowry this season and nearly agreed to a package that included young players and draft picks. As with Teague, teams are searching for a starting point guard. Lowry’s price tag will be way too high though if you look at his career statistics.
7. Goran Dragic, PG (Phoenix Suns)
The new poster-boy of all overrated-lists. (Or just on mine, but still.) At the beginning of the season, Goran Dragic was a big stay-away for me in terms of point guards. Quick and a good shooter, his contract and his weakness on the defensive side of the game made the Slovenian the most unattractive starting point guard not named Raymond Felton. Dragic countered with a great season for the Phoenix Suns. He was in the all star discussion and continues to amaze experts with his play. However, we should be careful with point guards and coach tandems in their first year. Jeff Hornacek is instrumental in Dragic’s growth – I just don’t buy that he will show consistency. Dragic might even change teams this year because somebody will give a Godfather-like offer to the Suns. A big mistake.
6. Lance Stephenson, SG (Indiana Pacers)
Like Dragic, Stephenson was a member of the all star snub team. The former Coney Island star transformed into one of the most important players for the first-place Indiana Pacers. He became a playmaker and shot taker for the Pacers. Unfortunately, his contract is up and teams might mortgage their arenas to acquire Stephenson. Here’s the thing though: nobody knows if “Born ready” regresses back once he leaves Indiana and the lap of Larry Bird, who was instrumental in Lance becoming the player he is. Sometimes it’s all about the environment; every team that hopes Stephenson will be a franchise piece might end up with another head case and un-tradable contract next year.
5. Deron Williams, PG (Brooklyn Nets)
Deron Williams’ career as a member of the Nets is marked by a huge $100 million contract and a lot to be desired. D-Will still profits from the old days where the point guard was on the same level as Chris Paul. Several years later, Williams suffers from multiple ankle injuries and a season that didn’t pan out the way his fans had hoped. While Brooklyn became better the longer the season got, Williams never reached the top of his game. He basically is a 15-points and 6-assists guy now but nowhere near the player he was. Sources say that Brooklyn even tried to trade Williams this season. And while he has become better in March, there are still big question marks if Williams is at all the player who can lead a team to the finals.
4. Roy Hibbert, C (Indiana Pacers)
Next to Paul George, Roy Hibbert is the face of the improved Indiana Pacers, who emerged as a championship contender. Despite their recent struggles, the Pacers still own the best record in the east, thanks to a very strong first half of the season. Hibbert emerged early as a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
After the all star break though, Hibbert’s performance fell off a cliff. Compared to Joakim Noah or Dwight Howard, Hibbert is nowhere near the production of his positional rivals. Inconsistency and disappearing acts shaped Hibbert’s game during the last month, which made him fall behind in the race for best defender. His game, even when on top, is less influential than Noah’s in Chicago and a matchup with the Bull in the playoffs might end badly for the former Georgetown Hoya.
3. LaMarcus Aldridge, PF (Portland Trail Blazers)
Aldridge is having the best season of his career, leading the Trail Blazers to a great record while being selected to play in the All Star Game last February. Despite his performance throughout this season, it’s not justified to name Aldridge in the same sentence as Durant, James, Paul or Harden. Aldridge hasn’t proven he is able to shoulder the load and lead a team deep into the playoffs. Come 2015, he will be a free agent and teams will try to give him a max-deal – which would be a big mistake if you compare the power forward to Blake Griffin or Kevin Love. Aldridge’s sample-size of excellence is simply too small (as of now) to put him in the MVP conversation, something people generously did this year.
2. Carmelo Anthony, SF (New York Knicks)
Melo probably has had the best season of his career individually. He showed the will to compete every single night despite the horrendous season of his New York Knicks. With his choice to become a free agent this summer, questions arise how much he can be blamed for this year, especially with the chance to sign a 5-year, $129 million deal with the Knicks. Is Melo worth it? A LeBron would be, a Durant as well. Both would have been able to post a better record with this Knicks team than Anthony. His ability to lead a team has to be questioned and should be a concern for Phil Jackson, the new Team President.
1. Kyrie Irving, PG (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Irving’s brand and his reputation is bigger than his game – at least right now. The Cavaliers once again will miss the playoffs despite an improved roster and all the freedom in the world for Kyrie to lead. His game hasn’t improved, his defense is terrible and the fact that he isn’t overly excited about Cleveland as much as he is excited to build his brand speaks for itself. Irving has the skills to be one of the best point guards in the league. As long as he doesn’t change his mindset and approach towards the game and his responsibilities, he remains on top of this list as the most overrated player in the NBA.
Written by Robert Jerzy for Highsnobiety.com
- Photography: Mark Runyon of BasketballSchedule.net