Which players deserve all of those NBA millions?

by Mark Sweeney | 5/24/02 5:00am

Top Five Overrated NBA Players

1) Vince Carter

The stats don't lie. When Carter underwent season-ending surgery in mid-March, the Raptors stood at 30-38, a horrific disappointment for a team that many thought would make a serious run at the Eastern Conference championship. When Carter started showing up in street clothes to the games, the Raptors played with a rejuvenated sense of pride and emotion, finishing the regular season on a 12-2 tear to earn a playoff berth.

Carter, as the undisputed franchise player, must show more toughness and leadership to ascend into the upper echelon of NBA stars. He can't blame a lack of a supporting cast -- just look at how well Toronto did without him. Joke of the season: Carter getting the most votes for the All-Star game.

2) Chris Webber

Sure, the Kings owned the best record in the league over the 2001-2002 campaign, and sure, Webber averaged a double-double for the year. But, as amazingly talented as Webber is, his career has not lived up to match his ability. Remember the debacles in Washington and Golden State? Remember the illegal timeout in the NCAA finals?

So Webber finally hit pay dirt in Sac-town, and the upstart Kings rolled into last year's playoffs with a chance to topple the defending champion Lakers. It was too bad that Webber had already started fading faster than a Greg Norman drive on Masters Sunday. Foremost on Webber's mind was where he was going to play the following year -- Sacramento was not at the top of that list -- and his performance in the series' final game (8 for 25 from the field with six turnovers) left much to be desired.

While C-Webb has continued to put up big numbers this postseason -- though anyone could score on the Mavs' soft D -- Webber seems to be a lock during any big game to get himself into foul trouble. Also, his iffy late-game free-throw shooting, subpar defense and rebounding, frequent lapses of concentration and contentedness to settle for a mid-range jumper instead of driving to the basket are major areas of concern come crunch time.

3)Allan Houston

This is more an issue of being overpaid rather than overrated. Houston is a great jump shooter, but he's not too much more than that. His game resembles that of a Glen Rice or Steve Smith; great players, yes, but not legitimate franchise players. While Houston has the ability to light it up on a given night, he is not worth anywhere near what the Knickerbockers are paying him. The proof is in the sour pudding that was the Knicks' dismal season.

4)Scottie Pippen

There isn't much middle ground for a fan's opinion on Pippen -- either one thinks he is legitimately one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history or all he did was ride a certain former teammate's coattail to six titles. I side with the latter judgment. Yes, Pippen has always been a solid offensive performer who played a highly effective point-forward position with the Bulls, and he has always been a standout defensive player.

In his days with the Rockets, however, Pippen proved that he is by no means a player that can take a team on his back and lead them to the Promised Land. Now in the veritable madhouse that is Portland, Pippen has never stood out or emerged as a true leader with a team that is desperate need of a calming presence.

All-time best Pippen moment: when he refused to go out on the court for the last play of a game because the play was designed for teammate Toni Kukoc -- who went on to hit the game-winning shot -- instead of him. Way to take one for the team, Scottie.

5)Anthony Mason

While Mason has never been touted as a star, his arrival in Milwaukee this year was met with high expectations. The Bucks thought they had found the final piece to their puzzle -- a tough, veteran inside presence to complement their Big Three of Cassell, Allen and Robinson. This notion could not have been farther from the truth.

Mason's less-than-stellar play combined with frequent post-game outbursts criticizing his teammates dealt a fatal blow to Milwaukee's playoff hopes.

Top 5 Underrated NBA Players

1)Robert Horry

How clutch is this guy come playoff time? Horry has proven time and time again that he is a player you want on your team in the postseason. A member of four NBA Championship-winning squads (Houston in 1994 and 1995, L.A. Lakers in 2000 and 2001), Horry can always be counted on for solid defense, heady veteran play, scrappy work on the boards and timely shooting.

This postseason, Horry has averaged 9 points and 7.5 rebounds, both of which markedly best his regular season averages. Standing at 6' 10", Horry's versatility for a player his size allows him to defend such power forwards as Chris Webber while also having the ability to stretch the defense with his solid long-range shooting. While no spring chicken at the age of 31, Horry has already had some huge performances this postseason, including a 20-rebound performance versus the Kings and a pair of game-winning shots to finish off Portland and San Antonio.

Kobe Bryant, as a player who was not only named after a steak but also someone who knows a bit about clutch play, said this about Horry's late-game shooting, "It's cash. He's done it so many times, it's cash." Cash indeed.

2)Baron Davis

Davis is rapidly becoming one of the premier players in the NBA. Just look at how he has carried the Hornets -- a small-market team with minimal fan support -- to the second round of the playoffs, a feat made doubly impressive by the fact that Jamal Mashburn has been unavailable recently due to a lingering sickness.

Davis led the Bumblebees in scoring, assists, steals and three-point percentage on the season and has become their undisputed on-court leader. Over the course of the first-round series versus the Magic, Davis averaged nearly a triple-double " 27.5 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. All of this from a player in only his third year in the pros.

3)Andre Miller

Another outstanding, up-and-coming point guard who gets virtually no publicity since he is stuck on a terrible team. Even with a sub-par supporting cast in Cleveland, Miller managed to pace the league in assists with 10.9 per game, in addition to leading the Cavs in steals and tallying 16.5 points a game. Another impressive stat line from a third-year pro.

4)Nate McMillan, Seattle Supersonics coach

Even more so than the Nets' Byron Scott and the Pistons' Rick Carlisle, McMillan had the most impressive coaching season this year. Aside from Gary Payton, McMillan had minimal talent to work with, especially in comparison to the other teams in the cutthroat Western Conference.

Nonetheless, McMillan appeased the often-temperamental Payton and coaxed strong years out of such relative unknowns as Brent Barry, Rashard Lewis and Vladimir Radmanovic to snag the seventh seed in the West.

5)Keon Clark

Earlier I mentioned how well the Raptors performed in the absence of Vince Carter. How did this happen? A main component for Toronto's miraculous turnaround was the gritty frontcourt play of Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams and especially Keon Clark.

Clark, a rangy player who can play both the four and five slots, added some key toughness and hustle around the basket for the Raptors. He ended up leading Toronto in blocks and field goal percentage on the campaign while also averaging 11.7 points and 7.4 boards per contest.