By: Louis Prejean
To make it into the NBA is one thing, but to find a role is a completely different monster. Every player comes into a new season better than what they were the year prior. With over 400 players in the NBA each season, it is easy for analysts and fans to overlook some of the players that are achieving success. These players flying under the radar are called “underrated”. So, as these players improve throughout the years, people start taking notice of their talents. This may lead to overspending during free agency because not every team can sign marquee players, like a LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.
Now we see several players that were once “underrated” getting huge pay days. Teams are handing out premature, expensive contracts to acquire talent they did not have. Now, these players are not completely proven and to hand out ten million dollars per year to them might hurt the team in the long run. Only time will tell if these players are truly overpaid, but for now these are the players that went from underrated to overpaid.
Omer Asik was selected in the second round of the 2008 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. He traded two days after the draft to the Chicago Bulls where he played his expected role as a backup center to Joakim Noah. In his first two season with the Bulls, Asik averaged 2.9 points per game, 4.4 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game in 13.2 minutes. The stats do not jump off of the page, but team started noticing Asik was capable of being a starting caliber center with his rim protection and rebounding skills.
Looking for a new start, Omer Asik signed as a free agent with the Houston Rockets and found himself as the starting center throughout the 2012-13 season. He posted averages of 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in 30 minutes of action. These were impressive numbers for a once backup center with minimal playing time. More and more teams became aware of Asik’s play. They became interested in what he could offer and the Pelicans needed a center to pair up with Anthony Davis. The Rockets would go on to trade Omer Asik after they realized he did not fit with Dwight Howard in Houston. The Pelicans received Asik from Houston and found a partner for their promising power forward.
So why is he overpaid?
A 29 year-old center with no offensive skill set and below-average free throw shooter that only defends does not deserve a contract of five years, 60 million dollars. That is 12 million dollars per year. Big bodies are not hard to find in basketball. Asik allowed opposing players to shoot 51% at the rim last season and fell towards the middle in defensive win shares. Also, Asik is battling lingering back spasms and will miss time to begin the season. The Pelicans needed big man to help Anthony Davis on the defensive end, but they may have overpaid to retain him.
Wesley Matthews is an undrafted free agent that signed with the Utah Jazz back in 2009. Matthews has always been overlooked as a basketball player, but has proven to be a great three point shooter and defender. After his 2009 campaign with the Utah Jazz, Matthews thought he found a home with the Trail Blazers and continued to be underrated for his two-way talents. He played five seasons with Portland in the shadow of either LaMarcus Aldridge or Damian Lillard. Wesley Matthews averaged 15.4 points, 1.2 steals, and shot nearly 40 percent from the perimeter in his tenure with Portland.
It was not until Wesley Matthews ruptured his achilles for people to notice how important he was to the success of the team. The Trail Blazers began to fall apart and lost their starting shooting guard who complimented Damian Lillard in the backcourt. The Trail Blazers let Matthews walk this offseason. He signed a four year, 70 million dollar contract with the Dallas Mavericks.
So why is he overpaid?
Wesley Matthews proved to everyone he can play a vital role on a playoff team. However, the Dallas Mavericks are paying Matthews like he can be the leader for them, but that is not what he is. Ultimately, Matthews is an above-average shooting guard, but not a leader for a team looking to return to the NBA postseason. Another reason he is overpaid at a little over 17 millions dollars per year is the achilles injury he suffered just last season. Matthews is expected to return around Christmas time and the biggest worry is if he will be the same player. Not many players come back the same after an achilles injury. Wesley Matthews is getting paid like an elite player, but has not shown to be worth the contract given. Hopefully he can return to the same playing level after his injury.
Reggie Jackson was perhaps the most underrated player in the offseason, but came out the most overpaid after signing with the Detroit Pistons. The contract is valued at five years, 80 million dollars.
Reggie Jackson was drafted in 2011 by the Oklahoma City Thunder as the 24th overall pick. Jackson did not receive a lot of playing time in his first two seasons with the Thunder and did not perform all that well. However, Reggie Jackson started to find his groove in his third season. He averaged 13.1 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game after only averaging 5.3 points, 1.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds the previous season. Jackson started to feel like a starting point guard and got tired of playing second fiddle in Oklahoma City. The Thunder would then trade Jackson to the Detroit Pistons last season. Not a lot of people were talking about how good he would be in a starting role, but looked impressive in Detroit. Jackson averaged over 17 points and 9 assists per game.
So why is he overpaid?
Not a lot of teams were willing to break the bank for Reggie Jackson and the Detroit Pistons could have easily signed him for 8-12 million dollars per year. Instead, he will get paid 16 million dollars per year. Also, the Pistons still have a solid point guard in Brandon Jennings and no one knows how well they will play together in the backcourt. Another downfall of Jackson’s game is turnovers. He averaged 3.5 turnovers per game playing for the Pistons last season. More knocks on his game is that he does not thrive in the half court and does not look to pass first. With talents such as Andre Drummond and auspicious rookie Stanley Johnson, Reggie Jackson needs to prove he is worth the contract.
The 25 year-old first round draft pick for the New York Knicks in the 2011 NBA draft has always faced injuries, but now has a four-year, 40 million dollar contract. Playing for the Knicks in his first three seasons as a pro, Shumpert was always known as an excellent defender. He could pretty much guard anyone that was in front of him. Iman Shumpert is one of the rare players in today’s offensive-driven league that can impact the game from the defensive side of the ball. Then, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and played meaningful minutes for them in their championship run.
So why is he overpaid?
First off, Iman Shumpert has not never played a full season as a professional. Out of a possible 492 games in his career, he has only played 302. If you want to put that in a percentage then Shumpert has only played in 61% of possible games in his first six seasons. He has not proven to be reliable night in and night out. Second, Shumpert has never averaged over ten points per game in a season. For his career, he has averaged 7.7 points per game on only 40% shooting from the field. To play a player ten million dollars a year for that kind of offensive production seems a little odd. Iman Shumpert is also below average in Player Efficiency Rating. The league average for PER is 15.0 and Shumpert comes in at 10.7 for his career. Injuries have been a problem and that is the reason for his inconsistent play throughout out his career. Nothing has changed coming into the 2015-16 season. Shumpert has a wrist injury and is expected to miss 12-14 weeks. Shumpert will have to come back strong for the Cavaliers to show everyone that is deserves to make ten million dollars per year.
Which Player Will Prove to be Overpaid?
Out of the players listed above, the player most likely to prove he is the most overpaid is Omer Asik. The center for the New Orleans Pelicans is battling injuries and seems to be struggling finding his way down in the south. Also, Alvin Gentry has already stated that he wants to play at a faster pace. Omer Asik may not be able to find minutes as the Pelicans will be looking to go small with their line-ups. Battling injuries and a new offensive philosophy will expose Omer Asik as the most overpaid player at 12 million dollars per year.
Which Player Can Prove His Worth?
Reggie Jackson has put up impressive numbers playing for the Detroit Pistons. In 27 games as the starter for Detroit he averaged 17.6 points per game and 9.2 assists. Jackson needs to find a way to be a little more efficient and cut down on the turnovers. Detroit also has a couple of weapons surrounding the point guard in Andre Drummond, Caldwell-Pope, and Stanley Johnson. Reggie Jackson is the most likely candidate to live up to his contract out of the players listed above.