The NBA is usually good at getting the best players in the game of basketball their fair share of attention and fame. Sometimes, however, players will be over-hyped for success achieved in a previous season, posting statistical marks that pass the eye test until further analyzed, and playing alongside teammates that mask their inefficiencies. Here are the NBA’s most overrated players at every position:
PG – Elfrid Payton
Elfrid Payton began to ball-out at the end of last season, or so it seemed. Over the last 20 games of the season, Payton was a near triple-double machine with 14.1 points, 8.8 assists, and 7.3 rebounds per game on 51.7% shooting. The problem? Orlando was just 7-13 in that span, and Payton played horrible defense. This season, he has gotten worse.
Payton is averaging a mediocre 11.3 points and 6.3 assists per game. While he is shooting 50.2% from the field, Payton has played atrocious defense with a defensive rating of 111. It’s no coincidence that the Magic have been 5-4 without Payton compared to 6-18 with Payton healthy. Only seven players have had the same kind of starting role as Payton (>24 games started, 500 minutes played) and performed worse (<1.1 win shares, >111 defensive rating): Garrett Temple, Andrew Wiggins, J.R. Smith, Taurean Prince, Jae Crowder, Austin Rivers, and Jarrett Jack.
SG – Nicolas Batum
Batum used to be a symbol of the underrated player. An athletic, defensive minded wing with a wide array of talents and passing ability of a point forward. Those days have passed, however, and now Batum is just a lost 29 year old wing shooting a hair above 40% (40.7) from the field for his 10.1 points per game. With 18 games and 551 minutes under his belt, it is sad to see Batum with just 0.1 offensive win shares.
The fact that Batum is owed 120 million throughout the course of his five year deal signed in the 2016 off-season through 2021 is sad. Batum is no longer even a productive player, let alone a productive 2nd star the organization thought he could be. Only seven players with Batum’s 18 games started have a lower field goal percentage, offensive rating (101), and win share total (0.7) on the season: Dennis Smith, Tyler Ulis, Dion Waiters, Garrett Temple, Lonzo Ball, Terrence Ross, and Marquese Chriss.
SF – Brandon Ingram
Brandon Ingram is improved. There is no denying that, and Ingram even has Stephen A. Smith admitting he might be wrong about Ingram. Still, Ingram is not a competent player quite yet. Ingram’s 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game are not bad, but the 44.7/34.0/67.1 FG/3P/FT shooting line needs to improve, and the fact that Ingram only has 0.1 offensive win shares in 1044 minutes in 30 games is shocking.
It is very suspicious that the Lakers are -5.0 points per 100 possessions with Ingram on the court versus +3.0 points with him off. Ingram’s box plus/minus of -1.9 also suggests Ingram is yet to be a competent starter in the league. The only other players with as bad or worse offensive and defensive ratings, less win shares, with as many games started as Ingram are Dion Waiters, Andrew Wiggins, Taurean Prince, Wesley Matthews, and Justin Holiday. This isn’t to suggest Ingram cannot one day be great, but rather that this day is a while away.
PF – Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes’ inclusion on this list might shock some. He appears to be a player doing his best to lead a struggling Mavericks team with 18.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game on 44.4% shooting. Look closer, and one finds that Barnes is closer to being the problem than the solution. Barnes has been a negative on both ends this season with a -0.9 offensive box plus/minus and a -0.8 defensive box plus/minus.
What’s most alarming and what would otherwise shine a positive lens on Barnes’ performance is how much worse Dallas is with Barnes playing. The Mavericks are -9.0 points per 100 possessions with Barnes on the court. One would expect them to become worse with Barnes off, but Dallas actually outscores their opponents by plus 10.6 points per 100 possessions. That means Barnes’ net rating is -19.6. The only other player to match Barnes poor offensive and defensive ratings and box plus/minus with over 1000 minutes played is Andrew Wiggins.
C – Jusuf Nurkic
Nurkic appeared to be the answer at center last season. Nurkic shored up a Portland defense that was one of the worst in the league towards the end of last season, and the Blazers were winning games. Now, Nurkic is one of the worst offensive players in the NBA. The 7’0″ 280 pound center from Bosnia is averaging a deceiving 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds in 27.6 minutes per game. Needless to say, Nurkic passes the eye test.
Looking deeper, however, and the flaws can be found. Nurkic is not attempting three point shots, so for him to be shooting 46.6% from the field is atrocious. Nurkic is shooting under 40% from beyond three feet from the basket, and his offensive rating of 92 is the worst among Portland’s regular rotation players. Nurkic also has -0.8 negative offensive win shares, and an offensive box plus/minus of -5.0.
Portland has actually been the 2nd best defensive team in the NBA this season, but Nurkic has been so bad offensively that the Blazers are only 23rd in offense. Only three other players this decade have had more negative offensive win shares, a lower offensive box plus/minus, and a lower offensive rating: Domantas Sabonis in 2016-17, Kendrick Perkins in 2013-14, and Tyrus Thomas in 2011-12.