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jayC
03-28-2006, 03:03 AM
These guys aren't living up to their hype
Insider
Hollinger
By John Hollinger
ESPN Insider
Archive

Nobody minds being called underrated. After Tuesday's column on the league's most underrated players, my in-box was full of compliments, with most following the "thank you for finally recognizing our wonderful Player X" format.

"Overrated," on the other hand, has a much different connotation. Nobody likes to be told he's overrated, and fans don't much like to hear their favorite player is overrated, either. Thus, it is with great trepidation that I undertake writing a column about the league's most overrated players. Few column ideas could provide more fertile flame bait.

Kobe Bryant
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Once upon a time, even Kobe Bryant was a bit overrated.

Nonetheless, I forge bravely ahead. But before we get started, a few ground rules. Some people see the word "overrated" and think it means I'm saying all these players stink. Nothing could be further from the truth. A lot of the players on this list actually are pretty good -- in fact two of them are legitimately great -- but that doesn't change the fact they are perceived, by most, to be better players than they really are.

For a good example, think of Kobe Bryant a few years ago. He was awesome, one of the two vital cogs on a three-time champion team. At the same time, a lot of people were comparing him to Michael Jordan, and that was patently absurd. So even though he was a great player, he was clearly overrated. In Bryant's case, that has now shifted. He's playing better than he ever has, and the hype machine has died down a little, so he's no longer an All-Overrated candidate. But I use his example to illustrate a point: Great players still can be overrated.

In fact, guys can be overrated or underrated at different points in their career. Christian Laettner, for instance, was wildly overrated coming out of college, but was probably underrated toward the end of his career. Latrell Sprewell, on the other hand, was underrated as a Warrior (before that whole P.J. thing, anyway) but overrated as a Knick.

So for the purposes of this list, let's be clear that I'm talking about guys who are overrated today, and let's be especially clear that this isn't a list from three years ago. An easy cop-out would be to make an All-Overrated list of players who were already exposed, and put guys like Antoine Walker, Maurice Taylor and Michael Olowokandi on the list. I won't be doing that.

With that said, here it goes ... the All-Overrated Team for 2005-06:

Great ... but overrated

Allen Iverson and Steve Nash
In an odd way, these two are really similar. Though they have very different games, each is able to grab fans at an emotional level. People appreciate Tim Duncan, but they love Iverson and Nash.

That's partly because they look like us -- tiny guys who look like they could be playing the lunchtime game at the Y -- while they're embarrassing the giants with their amazing skill and creativity. It's partly because each plays with such exceptional speed and reckless abandon -- cheering for them is a way of thumbing our noses at every control-freak coach who thinks there should be a huddle before every possession. It helps, too, that each is among the best at the game's two most visible feats -- Nash with passing, Iverson with scoring -- and that each player's biggest weakness, defense, tends to be the hardest for fans to identify.


Allen Iverson
Player Efficiency Rating
26.33
vs. NBA Avg.: +11.33
Iverson profile

Steve Nash
Player Efficiency Rating
23.87
vs. NBA Avg.: +8.87
Nash profile

So how can I call these guys overrated? Because their appeal to our inner basketball karma has caused us to massively overstate their impact on the game. Both are almost universally considered among the top five or so players in the league, forming last year's All-NBA first team backcourt. Nash won last year's MVP award and might win it again, while Iverson finished a close fifth a year ago and has four top-nine finishes in the voting. And as luck would have it, each has an MVP trophy that many feel should be sitting on Shaquille O'Neal's mantel.

But let's get back to that top-five thing, because there's no way either can make that claim stand up. For instance, neither has ever finished a season in the top five in the league in player efficiency rating -- not only this year, but ever. Right now Iverson is seventh and Nash is ninth, and each is having the best season of his career. Some will argue that PER underrates them, but if anything it does the opposite, because it excludes defense except steals and blocks.

How do they fall short? When we compare them to the elite players, the best of the best, each has two shortcomings. One of them is obvious: rebounding. The other, in Nash's case, is that he doesn't create nearly as many shots as his peers, even when we factor in all the assists. His usage rate is on par with Mike Bibby and Sam Cassell, and ranks 24th overall. For Iverson, the problem isn't creating shots but converting them -- he's a poor outside shooter who's a 42.1 percent career marksman.

If you still don't believe me, try this exercise. Suppose the league broke up all the teams tomorrow and did a redraft, and everybody could keep their new players for exactly one season. Who would the top picks be? Not Iverson and Nash. Even the most ardent Suns and Sixers fans would have to admit that the first six would, in some order, be LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki.

After that, Nash or Iverson might get picked, but teams would also be looking at players like Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming, Paul Pierce, Chauncey Billups and Elton Brand. It's possible that Nash wouldn't be the first Sun off the board, or even the second. And as for Iverson, Jerry Colangelo had 20 picks for Team USA and still didn't choose him.

So as great as they are, and as much as we enjoy watching them ... yes, it would seem they're overrated.

Good ... but overrated

Kenyon Martin

Kenyon Martin
Player Efficiency Rating
17.40
vs. NBA Avg.: +2.40
Martin profile
At no time was he ever worth anything close to the maximum dollars Denver gave him, let alone with three first-round draft picks thrown in. Martin's status as the second-best player on a championship contender caused many to evaluate him as a big star -- but clearly that was never the case. Though an explosive dunker, his offensive game is fairly limited, and his career best in scoring is only 16.7 points per game. Meanwhile, despite his tremendous leaping ability, he's been a very ordinary rebounder his entire career. Throw in a lack of durability -- his career best in games is 77, and he's cleared 70 only twice in six seasons -- and you have to question his star status.

Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom
Player Efficiency Rating
16.85
vs. NBA Avg.: +1.85
Odom profile
People can't stop gushing about Odom's skills whenever they talk about him, but I'm wondering whether they're kidding themselves about his ceiling. Odom is indeed a great ballhandler for his size and a decent player in other respects, as well. But I'm missing how that translates into an All-Star talent. Without a great first step or a great jump shot, Odom is always going to have company around when he's going to the basket, which is why his turnover rates are persistently high. That helps explain why Odom has been in the league for seven years and hasn't moved beyond "a pretty good forward." Don't hold your breath waiting.

Baron Davis

Baron Davis
Player Efficiency Rating
18.44
vs. NBA Avg.: +3.44
Davis profile
If you bring up the league's great point guards in a discussion, five names will come up -- Nash, Iverson, Billups, Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas. Davis should be the sixth guy in that discussion, but his love affair with the 3-point shot, lack of durability and general uncoachability have kept him from joining the group.

Yet when Davis came to Golden State and led them to a surprisingly strong finish last year, we still fell for it hook, line and sinker, and we pegged the Warriors for a playoff run. We should have known better. Davis entered the year chucking up any jumper he felt like, and before we knew it he was back on the injured list for a fourth straight season.

Davis' biggest problem is shot selection, which is strange to say about a guy who is second in the league in assists -- but nonetheless true. The guy is shooting 31.5 percent from downtown yet somehow feels the need to hoist six 3-pointers per game, and that probably explains why he's under 40 percent from the field overall for a third straight season. Meanwhile, his deteriorating relationship with coach Mike Montgomery has been a major detriment to Golden State's playoff hopes and is a leading cause of the near-anarchy in the Warriors' clubhouse.

Just plain overrated

Jamaal Magloire

Jamaal Magloire
Player Efficiency Rating
11.80
vs. NBA Avg.: -3.20
Magloire profile
People still talk about Magloire as if he's one of the better centers in basketball, but there's been little evidence of that the past two seasons. I had written off last year's lackluster performance to a finger injury that sidelined him for most of the season, but he's kept it up in Milwaukee this year. The Bucks were supposed to benefit from adding his toughness to a soft middle, but they're still a poor defensive team.

Meanwhile, Magloire has given them absolutely nothing offensively. It's not from lack of trying, either -- they've force-fed him touches every game I've seen them. Each time, Magloire tries that reverse-pivot move that hasn't fooled anyone all year and either gets the ball stolen or misses a hook shot. He does draw a lot of fouls, but because he's hitting only 53.3 percent from the line this year, that doesn't necessarily help. Overall, he's declined as much as any big man in the game.

Kyle Korver

Kyle Korver
Player Efficiency Rating
12.09
vs. NBA Avg.: -2.91
Korver profile
Korver is a fantastic shooter, and if he had any other skill that was even remotely on the same level he'd be a good player. But he doesn't. Korver can't create off the dribble to save his life, is a below-average defender and provides nothing on the boards, so he'd have to be absolutely awesome as a shooter to justify his minutes (and his contract, for that matter). But he generates only 14.3 points per 40 minutes, and even with the 3s his true shooting percentage isn't that spectacular. Overall, he looks like a 10th man disguised as a starter.

Darius Miles

Darius Miles
Player Efficiency Rating
13.27
vs. NBA Avg.: -1.63
Miles profile
We've all been enthralled by Miles since he came to the pros out of high school, and we keep waiting for him to turn the corner. It's becoming increasingly apparent that he never will, though. While Miles entices us with his leaping and ballhandling skill for his size, he's hasn't worked on his jump shot and still makes too many bad decisions. Particularly vexing is Miles' career 58.7 percent free-throw mark -- it's tough to make it as a slasher if you can't convert at the line. Throw in his inattentive defense, spats with coaches and bad knees, and the guess here is that we've already seen all we're going to get from him.

Mike Dunleavy

Mike Dunleavy
Player Efficiency Rating
12.21
vs. NBA Avg.: -2.79
Dunleavy profile
You know a player is struggling when a scout pulls you aside just to rip on him. In Dunleavy's case, that really happened to me. Dunleavy has taken a lot of grief after signing a big contract in the offseason ... but he's actually been worse than most people think.

Like Odom and Miles, the lure of Dunleavy is his ability to handle the ball for his size. But without another discernible skill and a good first step, his ballhandling is almost irrelevant. An alleged shooter coming out of college, he's hit 25.4 percent of his 3-pointers this year and is at 34.7 percent for his career. If he could get back to the level of two years ago he'd at least be OK as a sixth or seventh man, but that five-year, $44 million deal looks more absurd every day.

Eric Snow

Eric Snow
Player Efficiency Rating
8.38
vs. NBA Avg.: -6.62
Snow profile
Any time you see a Cavs game, the announcers will inevitably start talking about what a great veteran influence that Snow is and how he's still a good defender even at 33. That's all true, but they leave out one important detail: he's killing them. Good heavens, the guy was never a great offensive player, but now he's hideous.

I never thought I'd see the day when a player averaged 6.8 points per 40 minutes and kept his spot in the starting lineup the entire season -- for comparison's sake, even Ben Wallace averages 8.5. And Snow isn't accurate with his few shots, sporting a miserable 45.4 percent true shooting percentage. Basically, he can't shoot, and he can't get to the basket, either. Thus, his presence allows teams to double LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Ben Gordon

Ben Gordon
Player Efficiency Rating
13.70
vs. NBA Avg.: -1.30
Gordon profile
I'll let Scott Skiles handle this one: "Ben was a high-turnover player last year. It's something he knows he needs to work on ... It's just that the incredible fourth quarters last year took the focus off a lot of the other things.''

Right on. Gordon had a poor turnover ratio last season -- miscuing on 12.2 percent of his possessions -- and still has a fairly high one considering how rarely he drives. Plus, despite the scoring exploits, he's been a low-percentage shooter throughout his brief pro career, hitting 41.1 percent last year and 41.7 percent this year, and he rarely gets to the line. As with Korver, Gordon contributes so little in other areas that his scoring needs to be something special for him to be a good player overall, and right now it's not at that level.

T.J. Ford

T.J. Ford
Player Efficiency Rating
12.28
vs. NBA Avg.: -2.72
Butler profile
The Bucks guard got tons of good press (including some schmuck who wrote this) after he returned from a serious neck injury and got off to a fast start this season. But as the year has progressed, his limitations have become more obvious.

Ford didn't grow any while he was out, and his shot didn't improve any, and as a result he makes for a pretty weak starting point guard. His TS% of 47.4 is still very poor, and despite his passing skill he doesn't do enough in other areas to make up for it. As I pointed out in the piece on underrated players, Mo Williams has outplayed him, and they probably should swap jobs.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. His book "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06" is available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books. To e-mail him, click here.

Thespiralgoeson
03-28-2006, 03:05 AM
And rightfully so. I didn't think he was the Most Valuble Player last year and he sure as hell isn't this year.

jayC
03-28-2006, 03:06 AM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey's dominance of Phoenix was so stunning that Nets coach Lawrence Frank had trouble keeping track.

Net Value
The Nets became the first NBA team in four years to win on consecutive days against opponents who were at least 25 games above the .500 mark. The last to do so was the Spurs, with victories over the Lakers and Mavericks in March 2002.
1st game 2nd game
March '06: Nets Det, +42 Phx, +26
March '02: Spurs LAL, +28 Dal, +27
April '00: Nuggets Utah, +28 Port, +37
April '95: Suns Sea, +32 SA, +37
Since the NBA-ABA merger ('76-77)

Nenad Krstic had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and the Nets won their ninth straight game, holding the Suns to their lowest point total of the season in a 110-72 rout on Monday night.

"Midway through the third quarter, I was working on my math skills," Frank said. "I said to one of the assistants, 'We're up what?' I couldn't figure out what it was. No one could have expected this. I had to look up at the scoreboard a couple of times to make sure the math was right."

Vince Carter added 20 points for the Nets (41-28), who trimmed their magic number to clinch the Atlantic Division to five and the number to clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth to two.

The 38-point margin of victory was the biggest of the season for the Nets, whose previous best was a 28-point victory over Golden State on Dec. 18. That came during the Nets' season-high 10-game winning streak from Dec. 16 through Jan. 8.

The Suns shot a franchise-worst 26.8 percent (26-of-97). The previous worst shooting night occurred 35 years ago, when the Suns shot 29.7 percent against Atlanta on March 10, 1971.

"It was just one of those nights," the Nets' Richard Jefferson said. "It was a combination of us playing good defense and getting good looks and good shots. We were fortunate to get them on a night where they didnt hit their shots."

It was the second impressive victory in two nights for the Nets, who won at Detroit 79-74 on Sunday night.

"It was a rare opportunity in this league to take on two elite teams on back-to-back nights, playing teams with two different styles and come away with two wins," Frank said. "For them to display so much energy on two straight nights shows their mental toughness. It's definitely a credit to our team. The guys gave a great effort."

The margin of defeat was the largest of the season for the Suns (47-22), whose previous worst was a 119-90 loss to Sacramento on Jan. 17. The Suns, who entered averaging an NBA-high 108.4 points, hadn't been held below 85 this season.

Steve Nash, the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, was held scoreless for the first time all season. He played 26 minutes. Amare Stoudemire, in just his third game since returning after missing the first 66 after left knee surgery, appeared sluggish and labored in his 15 minutes. He failed to score and grabbed just two rebounds.

"I've always been a reluctant scorer," Nash said. "It's not the strangest thing in the world for me, but obviously, when you're getting 20 a game, it hurts your team. I take full responsibility for hurting us tonight. I give a lot of credit to Jason [Kidd] for his defense.

"I don't think you can blame this on one thing. We are a perimeter shooting team and you are going to have some cold nights. Give them credit. They were pretty stingy and outstanding defensively."

The Nets also got 16 points from Jefferson and 11 from Clifford Robinson.

Shawn Marion paced the Suns with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Eddie House added 15 points.

"It was stunning," Marion said. "I came out in the third quarter and I looked up and saw we were down by that much. Man, the game was over. There was nothing you could do about it."

The Nets had lost four straight against the Suns, with the last win coming Dec. 6, 2003.

The Nets took control of the game in the second quarter, going on a 16-4 run over the final 4:10 to close. Carter tossed in a 29-footer to start the run and Krstic had five in the run, giving the Nets a commanding 50-31 lead at the half.

It was the lowest scoring half of the season for the Suns, whose previous worst half was the 34 points they scored against Toronto on Nov. 22 and San Antonio on Jan. 7. The Suns were 12-of-48 for the first half, connecting on just 25 percent.

The Nets then put away the game in the early stages of the third quarter, scoring on four consecutive breakaway dunks, two of the high-flying variety by Jefferson, pushing the lead to 61-37 with 8:04 left in the period.

During the winning streak, the Nets have held their opponents to under 85 points seven times and held the opposition to under 20 points in seven of the last 12 quarters.

Game notes
Before Monday night, the Suns were 14-1 in the first half of back-to-back games this season. The Suns play in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. The game pitted the two top playmakers in the NBA over the last five seasons. Since the 2001-02 season, Nash leads all NBA players in assists with 3,494 and Kidd has 3,259. Monday night, Kidd had seven assists and Nash had only three. ... Tim Thomas, who was signed as a free agent with the Suns three weeks ago, spurning an offer from his hometown team in the process, was greeted with a chorus of boos when he entered the game. Thomas, a native of Paterson, N.J., finished the game with no points in 25 minutes.

Stevie with a big blow to MVP. He was held scoreless. Maybe the time isn't right for bringing AMare back.