Every NBA player is a fantastic basketball player. Obviously, you don’t get one of the 500 or so spots in the world’s best basketball league without a whole lot of skills. However, there are some misconceptions about how certain players rank compared to their peers within the league.
Last week, we focused on five players who are underrated by the general public. This week, we will look at five guys who aren’t quite as good as many would have you believe.
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
Fans and pundits need to get rid of the bias they have toward big scorers playing for big-market franchises. Kuzma averaged a solid 18.7 points in 33.1 minutes per game last season. However, we need to remember that his true-shooting percentage (54.6) was below the league average (56.0), and he didn’t rebound, pass or defend particularly well.
Take Kuzma’s NBA 2K20 video game rating, for example. He is ranked an 84, which is tied for 47th in the NBA. Danilo Gallinari of the Oklahoma City Thunder is one rating point below him, at an 83. This is despite Gallinari playing fewer minutes but still scoring more points, grabbing more rebounds, dishing more assists and getting more steals on a per-game basis than Kuzma last season. Gallinari’s true-shooting percentage (63.3) was way better than Kuzma’s as he topped the Lakers forward in field-goal percentage, three-point percentage and free-throw percentage.
Kuzma is an explosive scorer but his shooting efficiency and all-around game are worse than people realize.
Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas Mavericks
My main piece of evidence on Porzingis’ overrated status is the Mavericks’ projected win total with the top U.S. sportbooks. With virtually all bookmakers, Dallas is projected to win 40.5 games this season in a very deep Western Conference after winning just 33 contests in 2019-20.
That’s a big jump for a squad that is bringing back a very similar core from last season, outside of Porzingis.
The 7’3” big man is known for his nimble feet, but he’s coming off an ACL tear. While he has an excellent combination of outside shooting and rim protection abilities, he’s also a very weak rebounder who doesn’t pass or see the floor very well when the defense focuses on him. His shot selection can be frustrating.
Overall, Porzingis still has star potential despite the injury. However, between the fact that he is returning from injury and that he has some glaring weaknesses, I think he’s overrated.
D’Angelo Russell, Golden State Warriors
It’s still a little bit mystifying to me that Russell was an All-Star in 2018-19. Sure, it was the best season of his four-year career and he was only a replacement to Victor Oladipo, but it was still a weird choice.
Russell is a talented outside scorer who does well at drawing the defense with his ball-handling and shooting ability. He’s also a strong playmaker, and he averaged seven assists per game in 2018-19.
In my opinion, Russell’s lack of explosiveness and strength really messes with his impact, though. While he has good height for a guard at 6’5”, he almost never gets to the rim on offense because his defenders are often quicker or stronger and can keep him away. On defense, Russell provides very little resistance because of his lack of lateral quickness and physicality.
DeAndre Jordan, Brooklyn Nets
Some people know this already, but Jordan is not a good defender anymore. He was an All-Defensive Team member in 2015 and 2016, but his impact on that end has dropped significantly due to both effort and the aging process that has caused his leaping ability to decline.
Still, though, he is seen by many as one of the upper-tier centers in the game, because he keeps averaging double-doubles. The Nets threw a four-year, $40 million contract at him this summer despite already having a promising young center (Jarrett Allen) and Jordan being a declining 11-year vet.
Jordan still has some value, but his skill set is very limited right now. He is basically just a rebounder and finisher of lobs and putbacks.
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
To be clear, I’m still high on Tatum’s future. He is still very young and has already stepped up in some big moments. He is a pretty good defender, especially for someone who is still just 21 years old.
What he has shown so far, though, is not worthy of the hype he’s gotten. Tatum averaged 15.7 points, 6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game last year on a below-average true-shooting percentage of 54.7. His shot selection was quite poor, as he often settled for long two-point shots off the dribble early in the shot clock.
Tatum’s three-point shooting regressed a bit last season and that was despite him getting a lot of open looks due to the Celtics’ talented offensive players.
Many people think of Tatum as someone who will be an All-Star next year and a superstar in the future. I think he very well could be those things, but he definitely has some skills to improve (ball-handling and passing) and some mental adjustments to make (defensive intensity and shot selection).