The current media landscape of modern society makes fans susceptible to narratives pushed by media companies. Ratings are down, meaning fewer and fewer fans are watching the product on the hardwood. Instead, fans gain their perceptions of players around what they see in the boxscore and online. The issue is what companies push and what’s shown in the boxscore doesn’t tell the whole story. In this series, I will highlight the most overrated players on each team throughout the NBA in my quest to help educate the modern fan.
This article will start the series by highlighting the most overrated players on the six Eastern Conference teams who have clinched the playoffs.
My Overrated Formula: “Media Hype” + “Fan Hype” + “Overarching Narrative of What That Player Is” / “Actual Performance on the Court.”
Atlanta Hawks: Trae Young
The first player I mention will garner a fair amount of controversy, but I’m not writing this to make friends. Trae Young is an embodiment of the modern NBA, and for that, I understand why he has the appeal that he offers. That is the same reason he’s become one of the more overrated stars in the league.
Young’s playstyle is a scoring-first point guard who can dictate the pace of his game with his sudden quickness and crafty shot creation. Although he doesn’t show it off nearly enough, he is a fantastic passer and has the ceiling of an all-time playmaker. Potential aside, the current baggage Young carries when being the focal point of a team is too much for me to overlook.
The twenty-two-year-old is 5th in the NBA in usage rate, and if not for the recent emergence of Bogdon Bogdanovic over the last six weeks, I’d bet he would be within the top-three of the statistic. That means Young is in the top percentile for having the ball in his hands in the league, and that hurts more than it helps the Hawks.
There’s a narrative surrounding him that he’s amongst the best three-point snipers in the league, but that’s just far from the case. On over six attempts a game, Young is shooting a measly thirty-four percent from beyond the arc. On shots over twenty feet in general, he’s shooting just thirty-five percent on over four hundred attempts.
Besides that, he has improved the last few weeks as he’s trying to be a more efficient offensive player. He’s focusing on getting more shots near the basket and getting to the free-throw line as it is. But all things concerned, at this point in his career, he is a ball stopper. He has the ball too much, and the team, in general, performs better when Bogdonavic is leading the offense.
Then on the defensive end, Young is a total disaster. In defensive box plus-minus; and defensive rating Young has been in the bottom 10 of the league every season since he was drafted in 2019. His lack of effort is appalling, and he’s a liability on that end every time he’s on the course.
Young is a rising star in the league; there is no debating that. The issue is some think he is shining brighter than he is at this point in his career.
Brooklyn Nets: Blake Griffin
Of all teams I researched, the Nets were one of the hardest for me to determine who their most overrated player was. They ooze with star power, and when they’re firing on all cylinders, it’s hard to imagine they’re not in the forefront of the title picture. Unfortunately for Blake Griffin, he was the only answer that made sense.
When Griffin joined Brooklyn, the basketball media machine overrated the acquisition way too much. It was as if Detroit Griffin never existed, and these casual fans thought he was the same guy jumping over the hood of a Kia.
I actually like some of what Blake does as well. He provides good length on defense and leads the league in charges taken per game. His effort is never in question, and Gotham gave him some of his athleticism back. Even then, I don’t think he’s trusted to play in the team’s crunch time lineup. He’s not the best option to be their undersized 5 and, I don’t like his spacing enough for him to play at the 4.
What Griffin is now is a decent bench option that can give you around 15 minutes per game. That is a far cry from the All-NBA caliber player he was in his prime. No one, including Nets coach Steve Nash, should expect anything more than decent role player production out of him.
Miami Heat: Tyler Herro
Listen, I don’t want to have to say this either; I’m a huge fan of Tyler Herro. The passion he plays with is amongst the best in the league, and he has this swagger to him that is so infectious. He’s genuinely one of my favorite players in the league, but he’s grossly overhyped.
It didn’t start that way for Herro, not at all. Playing well in a large market like Miami is bound to propel a player into stardom, but that’s not what happened to Herro before COVID. He was playing so well and quietly one of the more impressive rookies in the NBA.
Once the bubble started, Herro’s stock boomed like DogeCoin. He became an instant sensation and was thrust into one of the best young players in the league conversation. Herro was one of the main reasons the Heat made the finals, playing exceptional in the Eastern Conference Final against the Boston Celtics.
The wheels started to fall off in last year’s NBA Finals, where Herro earned the distinction of having the worst +/- in the history of the Finals. Then heading into the season, many painted him as the started point guard of the team. He wasn’t able to reach for that brass ring and instead fell right on his face.
Both his free throw percentage and three-point percentage fell off, and he increased his turnovers per game. His total box plus-minus is 145th in the league, and he’s one of the worst forty worst defenders in the NBA out of those qualified. His potential is still very high, and I have faith that he will turn it around. The issue is he was crowned too soon and still has vast room to go before he becomes the player many, like myself, believe he can be.
Milwaukee Bucks: Khris Middleton
Khris Middleton is objectively not rated that highly nowadays. Most people understand that he is a low-end option two or high-end option three on an NBA team. The reason he’s here is that if you asked the average NBA fan who the second-best player on the Bucks was, Middleton would be the popular answer. This season that hasn’t been the case.
Jrue Holiday has outperformed Middleton and has cemented himself as Giannis’ Robin. Holiday is the one matching up against other teams’ best permitter players and excelling when doing so. Middleton ranks behind Holiday in win shares, total box score, and value over replacement.
This selection is more in line with how under the radar Jrue Holiday’s contributions have been this season, more so than Middleton’s contributions to the team. It’s clear to me the days of Khris being the second-best player on a contending team are over. He has embraced his role being the third-best player on this squad, and if he continues to do so throughout the playoffs, the Bucks have a great chance at reaching the NBA Finals.
New York Knicks: RJ Barrett
This is another selection that feels a bit harsh. RJ Barrett is just twenty years old and is assigned to be the face of one of the most storied franchises in American sports. Furthermore, he improved from his rookie to sophomore campaigns, unlike Tyler Herro.
I’m only deeming him overrated because he has more room to grow than the New York media makes it out to seem. It’s not his fault the city is trying to make him something he’s not, but it’s scary how bad his advanced stats are, twenty years old or not.
The most startling number is that Barrett ranks 194th in value over replacement, which is a stat that measures how good a player is in regards to an average backup player. That shows that Barrett is graded as a high-end 7th option on a team. I think most would agree last year’s third pick of the draft should be playing a little higher than that mark.
For a team predicated on their defensive prowess like the Knicks, Barrett is not particularly good on that side of the floor. He has a negative defensive box-plus minus and struggles with defensive rotations.
He’s so young, and it’s not fair to confuse what he is now with the player he can be in the future. I’m not comfortable with him and Derrick Rose fighting to be the Knicks’ second-option in a playoff series. RJ Barrett is another guy that needs more time before generating the hype that he can one day achieve.
Philadelphia 76ers: Seth Curry
Seth Curry is a guy most can’t help but root for. His path to the league was far more treacherous than that of his brothers, and he’s carved out a viable role for him the last few years. Even so, his contributions to the best team in the East haven’t lived up to expectations.
The 76ers had an offensive identity crisis under Brett Brown. It was archaic and clunky, which meant I never took them seriously, regardless of what record they possessed. The one time during his tenure where it had life was when the team has JJ Reddick as its three-point sniper. Even though Brown departed, the core of his roster has remained in place. The addition of Curry was supposed to take this team to the next level offensively.
The offense has gotten better, but that’s in large part to Joel Embiid’s first-team All-NBA campaign and the resurgence of Tobias Harris. Curry is shooting the lights out from three buts struggling to get the consistent offense and is only averaging 12 points per game. For a player recieving paychecks for his scoring prowess, he shouldn’t have a lower offensive win share than T.J McConnell.
He’s also continued the trend of being a defensive liability, ranking in the lower quarter of the NBA in defensive box plus-minus. It seems like he hasn’t found his fitting on the offense, which could be a problem come playoff time. In a seven-game series, Philly will expect Curry to play much better than he did in the regular season, which I’m not sure will happen. He is a good player, but not the X-factor I think so many thought he could be.