Let's just start with an admission. This is a stupid article to write. There's a good chance one or more of these players will have a great season and make me look foolish. That said, we're fans of the odds around here. If I think there's an 80% chance each of these players has a subpar season, I can know that means there's a good chance at least one of them does well. And as anyone that's played a board game can tell you, sometimes unlikely things can happen repeatedly. Like when Jay keeps getting ore and brick with his threes, but your eights and sixes never get rolled! Anyway, here are eight players (and an honorable mention) for players I think are likely to get more hype for the upcoming season than they deserve.
Honorable Mention (Kinda #9): Paul George
Years ago Paul George looked like an up and coming star. In 2013-2014 he played great, the Pacers won the East and fell to the Heat in the Conference Finals. But then Paul George got injured and didn't play the next season. And since then he hasn't looked the same. He's been played in small ball schemes where he's played below average, and this last season played average for a small forward. He's not a bad player, but he's not a star player anymore.
The reason he isn't higher on this list is that he wound up in the one situation I see as a win for the team that acquired him. The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Victor Oladipo, who would have been a good complementary player next to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But then Kevin Durant didn't re-sign, and the Thunder foolishly gave Oladipo a four-year eighty-five million dollar deal! Getting out of that contract for OKC was huge, and the "end game" scenarios for Paul George in OKC are as follows:
- Paul George leaves in the offseason, but OKC still improves this season and gets out of a horrible deal.
- Paul George stays, and if he stays, it probably means he convinced Russell Westbrook to stay.
In either case the Thunder win, which helps Paul George stay a footnote on this list instead of a top slot (which I would have expected earlier in the offseason)
#8: Joel Embiid
Let's recap - despite the hype last season, our take was that Joel Embiid was a below average boxscore player last season. However, he did play very well right before he was shut down for the season with injury. Also, his defensive numbers are quite good (but nowhere close enough to make up for his turnovers and personal fouls) That said, Joel's problem is the same problem he's had his entire career: his health. In three NBA seasons, Embiid has played a total of thirty-one games. He's never cracked thirty minutes in a game. And while he has shown flashes of greatness, there are still major flaws in his play. Is this the season he stays healthy and matures? Maybe, but I'm not super optimistic about it. (I will say this entry is the one I'm most scared of.)
Check out my post on Embiid's hype last season.
#7: Lonzo Ball
First, I'm fully on team Ball. I think he was the best player in the draft. And I've been enjoying the very fickle media reaction to him. First, he didn't have a good workout and had family issues. Then he had a bad summer league game, then he looked great! The reason he's on this list is simple, he's a rookie. And while rookies do on occasion have great seasons, it's not the norm. And what's more, the Lakers roster is still pretty bad. Admittedly they're in a better spot than they were a year ago, but until Ball gets older and the Lakers get a few more pieces, I wouldn't expect much out of him or the Lakers.
#6 Paul Millsap
Once Millsap was a good player and helped several team to decent playoff runs. Of course, that was before he was in his thirties. Millsap's numbers have been on the decline the past few seasons. What's more, the Nuggets acquired him despite already having multiple above average bigs in Jokic, Faried, and Plumlee. Millsap is going to cost the Nuggets 1/3 of their cap space for the next three years! Many are excited to see him play next to Jokic. However, the Nuggets didn't need a player like Millsap, and I had hoped the hype surrounding him this offseason would put him on another team. No such luck.
Check out Paul Millsap's career numbers.
#5: Ben Simmons
Last year's number one pick and "vindication for the process" in the 76ers is an interesting case. Like Lonzo Ball, we agree his college numbers look great. Of course, just like Lonzo, he's a rookie, and I get to repeat myself: rookies don't typically perform well. Tack on the fact that he's been out injured for a season and is on a relatively green team, and I'm not expecting a ton out of Simmons.
#4 Markelle Fultz
Seeing a theme yet? Another rookie, and the highest one on the list for me. While Fultz's college numbers weren't horrible, they weren't amazing. The fact that his team had a losing record should have been a clue. Given that he wasn't just the top pick in the draft, but that the 76ers paid extra for him, expectations are high. Of course, the only position the 76ers are good at currently is point guard with T.J. McConnell! Minutes to Fultz probably hurt the 76ers, and I expect it to take time for him to develop. The 76ers are getting plenty of opportunities to make me look silly though.
Come back for more content on Markelle Fultz this NBA season!
#3 Kristaps Porzingis
Kristaps went from getting booed when he was drafted to overhyped after a hot month during his rookie season. Our numbers say Porzingis isn't good. The key problem is that the skill people think he has -- scoring -- is actually subpar. Despite "having an outside shot", Porzingis shoots below average from three. In fact, the only stat that Porzingis is better than the average big at is blocks. And I do agree the numbers do seem to indicate Porzingis is good at defense. That said, there's no way it compensates for him being below average at every other skill. We did talk to Art Rondeau recently, and he thinks Porzingis could make a few minor tweaks to improve. He is still young, but currently the hype doesn't match his trajectory.
#2 Carmelo Anthony
Another name on the Knicks makes the list! Melo has always been overrated. In his prime he was a good player with an above average offense. That said, he's now reasonably into his thirties, and coming off one of his worst seasons. It's unlikely he goes to a team that he doesn't expect to sign his next contract, which won't be cheap. If a team like the Rockets used him to dump a bad contract (like Ryan Anderson) and then let him walk, it wouldn't be so bad. But I fully expect whichever team ends up with Melo to lose at least $100 million in salary over the next 4-5 seasons. I can't wait!
#1 Kyrie Irving
I recently dubbed Kyrie Irving: "Kobe's successor." Namely, he's a good guard that has benefited from playing next to the best player in the league to multiple NBA Finals. Kyrie has been a good, not great player. And he has looked weaker since his injury in the 2015 NBA playoffs. At his peak Kyrie has been a potent scorer, but not at the level of the elite players. As a point guard, his ball handling skills are pretty middling. Also, some claim his defense is weak. That said, since it was rumored he wanted out, many think he'll be an extra star to some team. While I'll accept he'll likely be an above average player next season, I can't imagine the combination of his contract and whatever assets it takes to acquire him will be worth it.
Check out Kyrie Irving's numbers last season. I randomly decided to put them next to LeBron James' numbers.
That's our list! Did I leave any names off? Any names that are just plain silly to be on the list? Let us know if the comments, and we'll see you next time.