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 continue the series by highlighting the most overrated players on the four Eastern Conference teams who finished 7 though 10th in the regular season.
My Overrated Formula: “Media Hype” + “Fan Hype” + “Overarching Narrative of What That Player Is” / “Actual Performance on the Court.”
Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart
Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics. He’s the longest-tenured player on the team, and he was amongst the NBA leaders in making plays that went beyond the box score. Those days for Smart are likely over, and he has become a genuine liability when on the court.
Smart’s made his claim to fame in NBA circles for his hard-nosed defense and his willingness to never back down from an opponent, regardless of size disparity. Nowadays, guards blow right by him, and he misses defensive rotations. For a defense-first player, he ranks 81st of 179 qualified in defensive box plus-minus, which is not particularly impressive. In defensive win shares, he is 136th out of 540, which seems great, but this is also the same guy who was once in the running for defensive player of the year.
On offense, he is becoming a liability, taking over 10 field goal attempts a game and shooting under 40%. Smart has the mentality that he is a great deep threat, which hurts Boston as a whole because he is shooting 33% from deep on nearly 6 attempts per game. It’s so bad that Boston’s playmakers actively look him off when he’s wide open beyond the arc.
As great of confidence he has in himself, his lack of awareness of his abilities hurt the Celtics. People still think Smart is a good piece for this team, and the reality is, he’s far from it. I would expect for him to be traded next season and his role to diminish in the years to follow.
Charlotte Hornets: Devonte Graham
Last year, the fact that Devonte Graham won Most Improved Player was a crime. He shot under 40% from the field while being inept on the defensive side of the court and averaging nearly 3 turnovers a game. His improvement was centered around getting an opportunity on a terrible Hornets team rather than taking his game to the next level.
He’s a player that only focuses on his offense, and he is 86th in the league in offensive win shares. He is a ball stopper that struggles with playing in the flow in an NBA offense, and his aforementioned shooting stats show he is taking shots away from more deserving candidates.
Graham is rarely in the Hornets crunch time offense because he is a liability on defense, and when on offense, he is too Iso-dependent, which doesn’t flow with guys like LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier. He’s a homeless-man’s version of Jordan Clarkson, and I wouldn’t want him on a team with playoff aspirations. To me, the ceiling isn’t there either. Unless the efficiency magically improves, Graham isn’t that great of an option. Plenty of guys can score points in the NBA; it’s about how those buckets are made and what the efficiency stats are. Graham doesn’t fit the team’s trajectory, and Charlotte should look at giving him a new home.
Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner
Myles Turner is a guy that’s been consistently slated to take the next step, yet never does. It’s incredible how his stats from a holistic standpoint have been consistent the last 5 seasons. There’s just a lot I don’t like about what he does on the court.
For starters, Turner’s 3-point percentage has gone down the last few seasons despite his attempts consistently increasing. He gets far too trigger happy from deep, and he loves to do it early in the shot clock and kill offensive trips. There was this crusade for him this year when he went on a block party, trying to paint him as an elite defender. The funny part is, Sabonis and McConnel are ranked higher in defensive win shares than him, a stat which he doesn’t grade within the top 50.
In Turner’s offensive win shares he ranks 191st, which falls behind the likes of Xavier Tillman and Raul Neto. If Indiana had a viable option to take his role as a stretch big, they would be better with him in a much smaller role. He can play spark plug minutes off the bench and give great effort against backup centers. The promise has never matched up with the product and advanced statistics.
Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal
I’m expecting angry comments for this, but the numbers and my basketball IQ don’t care. Bradley Beal is just the guy that the media wants to make a bigger deal than what he actually is. He is a great player, but he isn’t in the top 15 players in the NBA conversation.
Everyone brings up how incredible of a scorer Beal is, but his offensive package is just that. His playmaking ability doesn’t exist. That’s why even though he finished second in the scoring title, he was 30th in offensive win shares. The guy he lost that scoring race to, Steph Curry, was 6th in that same statistic.
His defense is bottom 10 in the league, and a lot of the time, it looks like he isn’t even trying on that end. He routinely gets lost on defensive rotations, and he’s a massive liability because of it. Basketball goes beyond just scoring. That’s all Beal really does.
If you want to be considered one of the best players in the league, you can’t rank outside of the top 50 in total win shares. Beal isn’t actively propelling his team to win games, and that’s the story of his career. His play-style doesn’t benefit the Wizards team as a whole.
Even this season, in a weak Eastern Conference, the team finished 4 games under .500. Every team had injuries and battled issues surrounding the global pandemic, but the good teams figured it out. It seemed like even on the run Washington went on the last month or so, no one has ever taken them seriously.
Beal is too one-dimensional to continue to have the praise he has heaped upon him. He’s a guy who can put the ball in the basket, but when it comes to winning basketball games, which is the whole point of playing the game, he doesn’t stack up against the other best.