What does it really mean to label NBA players as overrated? They’re world-class athletes. We must apply relativity to this exercise. Whether it’s lacking skill level on one or both ends of the court, mercurial personality histrionics, or a struggle to stay available, these 10 bigger-name pro basketballers stand out as the most overrated at the dawn of the 2023-24 season.
When Zion is right, he’s a singular athletic marvel who you can’t take your eyes off of. Actually underrated as an off-the-dribble playmaker. Defensive upside to explore. So why is Zion one of the 10 most overrated players in the NBA? Well, he can’t stay healthy, and he’s already been rewarded with a max contract. Hasn’t lived up to that billing or anywhere close.
At 23 years young, Zion has plenty of time to turn it around. Nevertheless, he’s played only 114 of a possible 318 games. In the age of widespread NBA social media coverage, Zion is an one-man viral electric factory. We can’t quit you, Zion. Stay healthy, play your game, and boom, you’re not overrated anymore.
Some critics will say certain teams are a bunch of try-hards during the regular season, only to be exposed as fraudulent when the playoffs roll around. Thanks to Jalen Brunson’s arrival, I wouldn’t necessarily classify the Knicks that way anymore.
However, it’s undeniable that Julius Randle has crumbled in the past two postseasons. His FG%/3P% shooting splits from two seasons ago dipped from 41.8/30.8 to 29.8/33.3 when it really mattered. In the most recent NBA playoffs? From 46/34.3 to 37.4/25.8.
WOOF. Thanks to the James Harden-Philly fiasco — more on him soon! — rumor has it the Knicks are willing to package Randle and other assets to deal for Sixers superstar Joel Embiid, per the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey. Do that, like, yesterday, because you aren’t lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy with Brunson and Randle as your two best players, Knickerbockers.
Uh-oh. Another Knick. RJ Barrett hasn’t lived up to his pre-draft billing as a No. 3 overall pick. If you’re a wing player in today’s NBA, and your main shooting splits are 42.2/34.3/70.9, you better be extraordinary on defense. A la Marcus Smart. Barrett has shown that he can be great at guarding in fleeting flashes. The key is consistency.
To be clear, if Barrett fully buys into Tom Thibodeau and can make any strides as a jump shooter, the 23-year-old could do some special things. For now, I can’t help but overrate someone who’s expected to be an X-factor/strong No. 3 on a frequent playoff team.
Trae Young is so slight of frame (6-foot-1, 164 pounds) that I’m not convinced he’d be better than an average defender at his absolute peak effort. As exciting as Young can be to watch, too, for a guy who has such a high usage rate and reputation as one of the elite creators in the sport, he sure is inefficient. Young only shot 43% last season from the field, and 33.5% on treys.
Some of that has to do with the degree of difficulty many of Young’s shots are, particularly from beyond the arc. He seems like someone who can play well in spurts, but won’t hold up as the face of a title-winning team throughout a full season and a four-round playoff run.
Luka Doncic and Trae Young were drafted right after 2018 No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton and have had unquestionably better careers. Nothing about Ayton’s game stands out as exceptional. Barely a double-digit rebounder. Decent scorer, never 20 points per game in a season. Fine passer. Solid defender. No signature performances in big spots spring to mind.
You could argue the Phoenix Suns were built in such a way as to not feature Ayton prominently. He’ll be asked to do far more in Portland. If Ayton succeeds there unlike he ever has, perhaps he can shake the “overrated” label, at least from me.
Although he’s still a savvy distributor (NBA-high 10.7 assists per game in 2022-23) with an excellent basketball IQ, defense has never been Harden’s strong suit. No secret. Beyond that, his “arsenal” of drive-to-the-bucket moves — or rather, the refs’ collective refusal to blow the whistle when The Beard wildly flails his arms down the lane — has evaporated. Harden has also built a reputation as a playoff choker, quitter-on-teamer, and may do more work in nightclubs these days than on the hardwood.
What’s the latest with this 34-year-old, aging-like-milk former MVP, you ask? Shocker: he’s demanding a trade and refusing to report to the team. At this point, Harden isn’t worth the headache.
A franchise-killer and fanbase demoralizer who’s flat-out unlikeable. What a trifecta. Kyrie thinks he’s the smartest person in every room he’s in, and may often be among the stupidest. He’s whined his way out from multiple cities. Won’t win anything of consequence again. His career peaked as the Robin to LeBron James’ Batman, when he hit that huge 3-pointer over Steph Curry to complete the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 3-1 comeback in the 2016 NBA Finals against those 73-win Golden State Warriors.
What has Kyrie done since then that matters? Not much. Combine that with all his bizarre public comments on the player-media relationship, problematic home entertainment choices and, uh, “civil liberties” let’s say…it’s clear this guy ain’t it. Once he landed in Dallas in yet another trade late last season, the Mavs regressed hard to miss the playoffs entirely. Poor Luka Doncic. What looks like a dream basketball fit on paper might not mesh so well IRL.
We’ll find out pretty soon just how good Jordan Poole can be without a championship core of players flanking him. With the Warriors, Poole had a practice fight with Draymond Green, ball-hogging tendencies, lackluster defense and an awful showing in this year’s playoffs (34.1 FG%, 25.4 3P%).
Not that the Wizards have abysmal talent across the board. They just haven’t done much in recent years to merit modest excitement, much less consistent postseason aspirations. As far as overrated NBA players are concerned, though, Poole is worthy of the distinction because of how volatile his play and personality can be.
This has more to do with the Rockets’ decision to pay Dillon Brooks $86 million over four years in free agency. After watching this man melt at the feet of King James and brick darn near every shot he took in the 2023 playoffs (31.2 FG%, 23.8 3P%), what compelled Houston to acquire him?
Those who hold Brooks in higher esteem might argue he’s an “intangibles/hustle” guy who you’d “love to have” on your team, but would hate him in any other context. To me, he’d actually have to be intimidating, as opposed to Charmin-soft when someone throws his faux-hardo trash talk back in his face. The second-seeded Grizzlies and Brooks got booted from the playoffs in a 40-point, first-round loss to the Lakers in Game 6. He epitomizes everything that was wrong with that cocksure team. Good luck, young Rockets!
You can’t help but feature the longtime Jazz/current T’Wolves center as the main attraction on this list. Minnesota gave the Jazz an absurd amount of compensation (five first-round picks if you count Walker Kessler!?) in the infamous Rudy Gobert trade.
For someone who’s won three Defensive Player of the Year awards, a lot of Gobert’s strengths don’t translate to playoff basketball. Small-ball lineups that feature more athletic centers can absolutely go off. One of the Timberwolves’ other stars, big man Karl-Anthony Towns, isn’t a good fit to be on the floor with Gobert at the same time. That’s a suboptimal scenario, especially with how perimeter-oriented modern NBA offenses are.
Gobert doesn’t have a perimeter game, which limits the spacing and dynamic half-court sets/lineups the Timberwolves can run when he’s in. Hence, you can’t help but consider him overrated.