One month of an NBA season might not be a great sample size. There’s still a whole heck of a lot of basketball to be played during the regular year.
With that said, we can take some stuff away from what’s happened thus far as a way to focus on potential trends moving forward. Thus far this season, a ton of high-profile players have proven themselves to be overrated.
From a former lottery pick in Boston finding himself lost in the fold on an otherwise dynamic team to a grizzled veteran in Cleveland that’s hit the wall, here is a look at the 10-most overrated NBA players thus far this season.
Marcus Smart, guard, Boston Celtics
Boston expected this former lottery pick to take that next step in 2017-18 after the team dealt fellow guard Avery Bradley during the summer. Through the first month of the season, that simply has not happened. Winners of 13 consecutive games heading into Thursday’s tilt with the Warriors, the Celtics have seen more from fellow youngsters Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown.
Smart is shooting at just a 28 percent clip from the field with a horrendous .341 effective field goal percentage. After improving offensively in each of his first three seasons, Smart has been absolutely brutal on that end of the court this year. Sure he adds rebounds and assists to the mix. He’s also a plus-level defender. But the guard’s inability to provide any shooting could impact Boston when it matters the most. It’s something to watch.
Ryan Anderson, forward, Houston Rockets
Houston attempted to get out from the remainder of Anderson’s four-year, $80 million contract this summer. He was dangled as trade bait for Carmelo Anthony, at which point the New York Knicks balked at the idea of picking up this contract. Now, still in Houston, Anderson is in no way living up to his contract and reputation as a long-range sniper.
He’s shooting at just a 42 percent mark from the field, including what would be a four-year low 36 percent from three-point range. A liability on defense, this early shooting slump has not done him many favors. And with other Rockets players stepping up during what has been a great start to the season, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the team move this excess baggage.
Jonas Valanciunas, center, Toronto Raptors
Much like Anderson in Houston, Valanciunas spent his summer the subject of trade rumors. It made a ton of sense considering the center earns $16 million per season and Toronto was looking to cut salary in order to get under the luxury tax heading into the season.
The issue here is that a drama-filled offseason has followed Valanciunas on to the court. With Toronto playing more small ball this year, this veteran is averaging less than 21 minutes per game. He’s also not seeing the court at crucial times. Maybe, this lack of production is Toronto’s fault. After all, the team boasts a better offensive and defensive rating when he’s on the court. Just some food for thought.
Zaza Pachulia, center, Golden State Warriors
Pachulia returning to the Warriors on a below-market deal was yet another coup for the defending champs this summer. He had a solid, albeit unspectacular first season in Oakland, averaging 6.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 18-plus minutes per game. Seen as someone that could bang with the big guys and add size, that has not necessarily worked out this season.
The 33-year-old veteran is averaging under 14 minutes of action per game, putting up less than four points in the process. This downtick in both production and playing time has coincided with young Warriors bigs stepping into more paramount roles.
In fact, it wouldn’t be a shock if rookie Jordan Bell earned some starts as the season progresses. Golden State’s defensive rating thus far this season is considerably better when Bell, not Pachulia, is on the court.
Dion Waiters, guard, Miami Heat
Fresh off remaining in Miami on a four-year, $52 million deal, it appears that Waiters has regressed back to his career mean. He might be averaging more points than he did during a career 2016-17 campaign, but it’s also coming at a less productive clip.
Waiters is shooting 80 points lower from distance than last season and boasts a negative offensive win shares, according to Pro Basketball Reference. It also doesn’t help that he’s averaging just 3.4 assists compared to 3.2 turnovers per game. For a guy that was given the big bucks to specialize on offense, this just isn’t good.
Patty Mills, guard, San Antonio Spurs
Even with Tony Parker sidelined, Mills has failed to up his game in any way. He’s averaging just 8.8 points and 3.4 assists while shooting at what would be a career-low 37 percent from the field. And as a supposed “floor general,” San Antonio turns the ball over at a higher clip with Mills running the offense. All of this comes on the heels of him signing a four-year, $49.7 million deal to remain with the team this past summer.
With Parker inching his way back and second-year guard Dejounte Murray upping his game even more from a solid rookie campaign, look for Mills’ role to decrease as the season progresses. This clearly makes him one of the most overrated NBA players right now.
Dario Saric, forward, Philadelphia 76ers
Lost in all the positives we’ve seen in Philadelphia this season, Saric has performed at a level most figured would be reserved for a top-end reserve. That’s not what the Sixers thought they had in the Croatian when he made his way to the states last season.
Thus far this year, the 23-year-old Saric is averaging just 9.8 points an 5.2 rebounds. Both numbers are down from his rookie campaign. He’s also shooting at just 39 percent from the field. With both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons starring, it’s clear Saric has taken a back seat. This is an unexpected disappointment for the Sixers.
Mike Conley, guard, Memphis Grizzlies
For a good calendar year, Conley owned the richest contract in the NBA. It wasn’t LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or Stephen Curry. It was this point guard from Memphis after he signed a five-year, $152.6 million deal back in July of 2016. Since then, Conley has represented a whole lot of meh for the Grizzlies.
Never really a high assist guy, he’s averaging a career low 4.1 per game this season. Conley is also three-plus points off his average from last season at a 38 percent mark from the field. If that wasn’t enough, his win shares is at under one on the season. For someone making $28.5 million this season, this guard is most definitely overrated.
Andrew Wiggins, forward, Minnesota Timberwolves
Even after the Wolves signed him to a max contract extension prior to the season, fans in Minnesota knew full well that Wiggins needed to up his overall game in order to become a franchise cornerstone. That simply has not happened through the first month-plus of the campaign.
Opponents have posted a .556 effective field goal percentage with Wiggins on the court this season. He’s also on pace to post a lower win shares on the defensive end of the court than we saw last season. To make matters even more bleak here, Wiggins’ point per game average is down 4.1 from a season ago.
We get it. Wiggins is still only 22 years old. He has not hit his prime yet. There’s still a lot of room for growth. But in his fourth NBA season, Wiggins has not become the all-around player Minnesota expected. It’s that simple.
Dwyane Wade, guard, Cleveland Cavaliers
No one was really looking for Wade to recreate his Miami Heat days with LeBron James when he signed with Cleveland immediately prior to the start of the season. A continuation of what we saw last season in Chicago would have sufficed.
That has not happened. Whether it’s him being a fish out of water with the Cavaliers or finally hitting that late-career wall, Wade is currently a shell of his former self. The 35-year-old future Hall of Famer is averaging career lows in minutes (22.2), points (9.0), rebounds (3.4) and assists (3.7). He’s also shooting at a personal low 41 percent from the field. That’s just ugly.