You Are Here > Basketball-Reference.com > BBR Blog > NBA and College Basketball Analysis

SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all Basketball-Reference content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing Basketball-Reference blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Basketball-Reference.com // Sports Reference

For more from Neil, check out his new work at BasketballProspectus.com.

40 Most Underrated & Overrated Seasons of the Decade

Posted by Neil Paine on August 6, 2009

Recently, Football Outsiders listed their 25 most underrated and overrated players of the decade (BTW, is anyone even surprised that FO favorite Bobby "Mr. 3rd Down" Engram showed up high on the former list, or that longtime whipping boy DeShaun Foster topped the latter?), and it got me to thinking about assembling a similar list for the NBA.

To me, these are players who have the largest gulf between their perceived and actual values. Actual value is easy -- we just use the ever-trusty Win Shares -- but perceived value is a bit tougher. I used to pick up the old Basketball News annuals back in the day, and they would rank players by what they called "PAR (points + assists + rebounds) per game," I suppose thinking that it was some kind of complete player ranking (which is laughable now, but hey, this was the Dark Ages of the 90s). And to me, that's the conventional wisdom in a nutshell for all but the most hardcore fans -- I mean, what did you used to look at first before the APBRmetric revolution? Typically just PPG/RPG/APG, right? And maybe if you were really ahead of your time, FG%? So I'm going to use "PAR/G" as a barometer for how the "general public" views a player. Maybe things have gotten better in recent years, but I doubt it.

Now, all we have to do is subtract each player's ranking in WS from their ranking in PAR/G (minimum 70 GP or 2000 MP), and we've got ourselves a decent metric for determining overrated/underrated-ness (positive numbers being good, and negative ones being bad, naturally). Instead of aggregating over the entire decade, though, I'm going to list below the 40 most underrated and overrated individual seasons of the Oughts, so players can and will show up multiple times on each list. Let's get to it:

Most Underrated Seasons of the 2000s:

Rank Year Name Tm Pos G Min OWS DWS WS Rk PPG APG RPG PAR/G Rk Diff
1 2008 Fabricio Oberto SAS F 82 1646 3.1 2.8 5.9 76 4.8 1.2 5.2 11.2 188 112
2 2007 Brent Barry SAS G 75 1631 4.1 2.6 6.7 47 8.5 1.8 2.1 12.4 158 111
3 2007 Dikembe Mutombo HOU C 75 1289 2.1 3.0 5.1 78 3.1 0.2 6.5 9.7 182 104
4 2004 Jeff Foster IND F 82 1961 4.3 3.7 8.0 37 6.1 0.8 7.4 14.3 135 98
5 2007 Chuck Hayes HOU F 78 1714 2.8 3.5 6.3 57 5.6 0.6 6.7 12.9 154 97
6 2003 Shawn Bradley DAL C 81 1731 3.9 3.6 7.5 41 6.7 0.7 5.9 13.2 138 97
7 2009 Matt Bonner SAS F 81 1928 3.7 2.9 6.5 51 8.2 1.0 4.8 14.0 145 94
8 2008 James Posey BOS F 74 1821 2.2 3.9 6.1 68 7.4 1.5 4.4 13.3 162 94
9 2000 Scot Pollard SAC C 76 1336 3.1 2.3 5.4 76 5.4 0.6 5.3 11.3 170 94
10 2007 Shane Battier HOU F 82 2988 4.3 4.6 8.9 23 10.1 2.1 4.1 16.4 116 93
11 2005 Fred Hoiberg MIN G 76 1272 3.8 1.3 5.1 82 5.8 1.1 2.4 9.3 175 93
12 2004 Reggie Miller IND G 80 2254 5.9 2.8 8.6 30 10.0 3.1 2.4 15.5 123 93
13 2000 Robert Horry LAL F 76 1685 2.1 3.6 5.7 68 5.7 1.6 4.8 12.0 160 92
14 2002 Scot Pollard SAC C 80 1881 3.5 3.7 7.2 44 6.4 0.7 7.1 14.1 135 91
15 2008 Chuck Hayes HOU F 79 1575 0.7 3.6 4.4 110 3.0 1.2 5.4 9.6 199 89
16 2004 Fred Hoiberg MIN G 79 1804 3.5 2.6 6.1 67 6.7 1.4 3.4 11.5 156 89
17 2009 Erick Dampier DAL C 80 1836 3.9 2.3 6.1 59 5.7 1.0 7.1 13.7 147 88
18 2002 Jon Barry DET G 82 1985 5.0 2.4 7.4 41 9.0 3.3 2.9 15.2 129 88
19 2009 Anderson Varejao CLE F 81 2306 3.2 4.6 7.7 35 8.6 1.0 7.2 16.7 122 87
20 2009 Joel Przybilla POR C 82 1952 3.1 3.2 6.3 54 5.5 0.3 8.7 14.5 140 86
21 2008 Shane Battier HOU F 80 2907 3.5 4.5 8.0 37 9.3 1.9 5.1 16.3 123 86
22 2007 Anderson Varejao CLE F 81 1932 2.6 3.9 6.5 50 6.8 0.9 6.7 14.4 135 85
23 2005 Brent Barry SAS G 81 1742 3.4 2.6 6.0 63 7.4 2.2 2.3 12.0 148 85
24 2007 Eduardo Najera DEN F 75 1658 3.1 1.9 5.1 79 6.6 0.9 4.1 11.6 162 83
25 2009 Eddie House BOS G 81 1479 2.4 2.4 4.8 90 8.5 1.1 1.9 11.6 172 82
26 2008 Kendrick Perkins BOS F 78 1912 1.8 4.3 6.1 69 6.9 1.1 6.1 14.1 151 82
27 2008 Jason Maxiell DET F 82 1768 3.2 2.7 5.9 72 7.9 0.6 5.3 13.8 154 82
28 2009 Chris Andersen DEN F 71 1460 2.6 2.9 5.5 72 6.4 0.4 6.2 13.0 153 81
29 2000 Ben Wallace ORL C 81 1951 1.8 4.0 5.9 64 4.8 0.8 8.0 13.7 145 81
30 2009 Trevor Ariza LAL F 82 1998 2.6 3.7 6.3 55 8.9 1.8 4.3 15.0 135 80
31 2003 Jon Barry DET G 80 1473 3.3 2.1 5.3 71 6.9 2.6 2.3 11.8 151 80
32 2002 Robert Horry LAL F 81 2140 3.3 3.6 7.0 47 6.8 2.9 5.9 15.6 127 80
33 2008 Ronnie Brewer UTA G 76 2088 5.4 2.4 7.8 40 12.0 1.8 2.9 16.7 119 79
34 2000 Bo Outlaw ORL F 82 2336 2.9 4.3 7.1 43 6.0 3.0 6.6 15.6 122 79
35 2008 Bruce Bowen SAS F 81 2448 0.9 3.3 4.2 116 6.0 1.1 2.9 10.0 194 78
36 2006 Bruce Bowen SAS F 82 2755 1.6 4.4 6.1 61 7.5 1.5 3.9 13.0 139 78
37 2009 Derek Fisher LAL G 82 2441 3.7 2.8 6.5 53 9.9 3.2 2.3 15.4 130 77
38 2008 Eduardo Najera DEN F 78 1664 2.3 2.2 4.4 107 5.9 1.2 4.3 11.5 184 77
39 2004 Brian Cardinal GSW F 76 1634 5.5 1.7 7.2 49 9.6 1.4 4.2 15.2 126 77
40 2009 Joakim Noah CHI C 80 1938 3.8 2.7 6.5 52 6.7 1.3 7.6 15.6 128 76

It's no surprise that many of the players on this list are defense-first guys, since they had to see significant burn to make the list, and with such unimpressive conventional numbers they had to be doing something out there to warrant the playing time (defense being the great intangible contribution that the conventional boxscore all but ignores). Almost more impressive to me, though, are the guys who post solid OWS numbers and still appear on this list -- Reggie Miller '04, Jon Barry '02, Ronnie Brewer '08, & Brian Cardinal '04, for instance. All of those guys averaged an insane number of points created per shot attempt, a fact which didn't really go noticed by many in the media. Then again, none of those four ever played at that level again (check that, the jury's actually still out on Brewer, but he declined sharply last season), confirming that players who shoot so ridiculously well invariably regress to the mean in subsequent seasons.

Most Overrated Seasons of the 2000s:

Rank Year Name Tm Pos G Min OWS DWS WS Rk PPG APG RPG PAR/G Rk Diff
1 2005 Antoine Walker TOT F 77 2955 -1.4 2.3 0.9 190 19.1 3.4 9.0 31.6 21 -169
2 2009 Baron Davis LAC G 65 2248 -0.9 1.5 0.6 201 14.9 7.7 3.7 26.3 41 -160
3 2000 Maurice Taylor LAC F 62 2227 -0.8 0.5 -0.3 200 17.1 1.6 6.5 25.2 47 -153
4 2000 Isaiah Rider ATL G 60 2084 1.2 0.4 1.6 185 19.3 3.7 4.3 27.3 34 -151
5 2009 Stephen Jackson GSW F 59 2339 1.6 0.7 2.4 161 20.7 6.5 5.1 32.3 15 -146
6 2005 Al Harrington ATL F 66 2550 0.6 1.0 1.6 178 17.5 3.2 7.0 27.7 33 -145
7 2004 Allen Iverson PHI G 48 2040 0.5 2.2 2.7 147 26.4 6.8 3.7 36.8 4 -143
8 2002 Jason Williams MEM G 65 2236 -0.6 1.5 0.9 180 14.8 8.0 3.0 25.7 44 -136
9 2006 Zach Randolph POR F 74 2545 0.4 0.8 1.2 168 18.0 1.9 8.0 28.0 34 -134
10 2009 Russell Westbrook OKC G 82 2668 -0.1 2.1 2.0 177 15.3 5.3 4.9 25.5 47 -130
11 2008 Zach Randolph NYK F 69 2244 0.9 2.0 2.9 162 17.6 2.0 10.3 30.0 32 -130
12 2003 Antoine Walker BOS F 78 3235 -1.6 4.2 2.6 148 20.1 4.8 7.2 32.1 19 -129
13 2009 Al Thornton LAC F 71 2654 0.2 1.0 1.2 192 16.8 1.5 5.2 23.5 67 -125
14 2001 Ron Mercer CHI F 61 2535 1.4 0.3 1.8 166 19.7 3.3 3.9 26.9 41 -125
15 2004 Gilbert Arenas WAS G 55 2066 1.1 1.6 2.7 149 19.6 5.0 4.6 29.2 25 -124
16 2008 Kevin Durant SEA G 80 2768 0.4 2.0 2.4 175 20.3 2.4 4.4 27.1 53 -122
17 2000 Juwan Howard WAS F 82 2909 0.5 1.3 1.9 179 14.9 3.0 5.7 23.6 57 -122
18 2000 Jason Williams SAC G 81 2760 -1.2 2.7 1.5 186 12.3 7.3 2.8 22.4 64 -122
19 2004 Jalen Rose TOT G 66 2497 -0.6 2.1 1.5 181 15.5 5.0 4.0 24.5 61 -120
20 2002 Michael Jordan WAS G 60 2092 1.2 2.0 3.2 134 22.9 5.2 5.7 33.7 15 -119
21 2000 Ron Mercer TOT F 68 2377 0.2 1.6 1.8 180 16.9 2.3 3.7 22.9 62 -118
22 2005 Chris Webber TOT F 67 2370 0.2 3.3 3.5 127 19.5 4.7 9.1 33.4 14 -113
23 2000 Lamar Odom LAC F 76 2767 1.7 1.5 3.2 142 16.6 4.2 7.8 28.6 29 -113
24 2003 Glenn Robinson ATL F 69 2591 1.0 1.9 2.9 138 20.8 3.0 6.6 30.4 26 -112
25 2000 Larry Hughes TOT G 82 2324 -0.4 2.2 1.7 183 15.0 2.5 4.3 21.7 71 -112
26 2008 Chris Kaman LAC C 56 2083 0.4 3.2 3.6 139 15.7 1.9 12.7 30.3 28 -111
27 2009 Allen Iverson TOT G 57 2093 0.9 1.8 2.7 157 17.5 5.0 3.0 25.5 48 -109
28 2003 Ricky Davis CLE G 79 3130 1.6 1.6 3.1 133 20.6 5.5 4.9 31.0 24 -109
29 2009 Spencer Hawes SAC C 77 2259 -0.4 1.2 0.8 199 11.4 1.9 7.1 20.4 93 -106
30 2008 Ricky Davis MIA G 82 2963 0.3 1.6 1.8 183 13.8 3.4 4.3 21.5 77 -106
31 2002 Latrell Sprewell NYK G 81 3326 1.1 1.7 2.8 144 19.4 3.9 3.7 27.0 38 -106
32 2004 Quentin Richardson LAC G 65 2338 2.1 0.4 2.5 156 17.2 2.1 6.4 25.8 51 -105
33 2009 Rudy Gay MEM F 79 2945 0.7 2.5 3.3 146 18.9 1.7 5.5 26.1 42 -104
34 2007 Raymond Felton CHA G 78 2832 0.2 2.1 2.3 165 14.0 7.0 3.4 24.4 62 -103
35 2001 Michael Dickerson VAN G 70 2618 1.2 0.7 1.8 165 16.3 3.3 3.3 22.9 62 -103
36 2000 Jim Jackson ATL G 79 2767 2.1 0.7 2.8 154 16.7 2.9 5.0 24.6 51 -103
37 2009 Jamal Crawford TOT G 65 2479 3.6 0.0 3.5 136 19.7 4.4 3.0 27.1 36 -100
38 2007 Desmond Mason NOK F 75 2575 -1.1 1.7 0.6 191 13.7 1.5 4.6 19.8 91 -100
39 2007 Mo Williams MIL G 68 2471 2.3 0.9 3.2 136 17.3 6.1 4.8 28.2 37 -99
40 2003 Darius Miles CLE F 67 2007 -2.8 1.4 -1.4 197 9.2 2.6 5.4 17.3 98 -99

Hey, there's our old pal Antoine Walker, holding down the #1 spot for the season in which he managed to get tons of credit simply for being better than Mark Blount... If you could sum up both lists with three words, they would be "defense" and "shooting percentage". The underrated guys excel in one if not both of those categories (areas which happen to get slept on by casual fans and sportswriters alike), while the overrateds stuff the "money stats" of PAR but play no D and/or post horrible shooting %s. Note that even the Greatest of All Time is not spared from the wrath of the overrated list, for his inefficient offensive and defensive performance during Year 1 of The Second Comeback (you'll be gratified to know, though, that he was much better the following season, his final as a pro).

The moral of the story is that PPG/APG/RPG are not everything. And if you're reading this blog, odds are you knew that a long time ago. Still, it's fun to look back at the big names of the decade that was and see who was underappreciated, and who was getting more credit than they deserved.

ShareThis

9 Responses to “40 Most Underrated & Overrated Seasons of the Decade”

  1. Jason J Says:

    The other thing this list seems to show is that being a high minute / low statistic player on the Spurs in the 2000s is going to get you a nice WS to PAR ratio. I'd be interested to see what this showed for the '90s. I have a feeling it might be riddled with non-scoring Bulls players.

  2. your favourite sun Says:

    I recall Cardinal getting a lot of props for that one season with Golden State, which is why he got overpaid as a free agent right afterwards. He's making almost $7 million for 09-10 because of that one season, so I can't really agree with it being underrated.

    Interesting to see 2009 Dampier on that first list. Usually I only hear his name when it precedes the phrase "a waste of space."

  3. Joe R Says:

    I start to doubt the whole vailidity when Matt Bonner's Win Score rating was the 51st best in the league. I just find it hard to imagine him being the fifty first player best at producing a win. It must have alot to do with the San Antonio system I'm guessing.

  4. Squall Says:

    I know this is strictly a numbers thing, but I don't recall anybody, any Mike Dumbleavy, saying Baron Davis had an excellent 1st season with the LA Clippers.

  5. will Says:

    Good analysis.

    Doesn't surprise me that a lot of those overrated players are ones who are also sometimes considered selfish and 'ballhogs' (Isiah Rider, Ricky Davis, A. Walker, Iverson).

  6. Cstein Says:

    Can someone explain this chart? What ows/dws stand for? I really want to understand this but I'm ilunfamiliar with the acronyms.

  7. David Says:

    Cstein,

    They stand for Offensive and Defensive Win shares. They're advanced metrics used to determined how valuable an individual player is to his teams outcome...The overall team ability does tend to dictate an individuals success in these statistical categories so in some ways they can be misleading, but they do give a good indicator how important each player is within their own team concept...

  8. Mike Says:

    This is flawed.

    Notice how the underrated players tend to play on good teams, while the overrated players play on bad teams.

    Wins Shares by and large depends on how many games your team wins. PER should be used instead, thus you wont have Michael Jordan on this list (who posted a good PER of 20.8 in 2002).

  9. Dave Says:

    Except Mike, PER is generated from Box score stats ... WS is a function of team success so we would expect players from good teams who don't generate lots of stats to look good by this measure.

    I do not think for a second Neil was trying to say Bowen and Barry were the reason for San Antonio winning their titles, there are other far more recognised Fundamental players to attribute that to ... but More the first list indicates people who helped their team win, ie be better disproportionately more than their production stats indicated.

    I would note, for example, that Biedrins is not on the "bad" list, nor Chris Bosh or Kevin Martin - despite playing on bad teams. Personally, I think it is a bit mean to have rookies on the Overrated list ...