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Monday, October 3, 2011
#NBArank 61-100: Overrated/underrated

ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network

Andrea Bargnani
Here's something you don't see every day: Toronto big man Andrea Bargnani in a defensive stance.

Last week, #NBArank marched into the top 100 players -- 71-80, 81-90 and 91-100. Today, we unveil 61-70. Which players are ranked too low or too high in the top 100 so far? Which players will eventually rise the highest or fall the fastest? Our writers takes a closer look.

1. Which player 61-100 is the most overrated by #NBArank?


Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Jose Juan Barea (No. 82). Effective as a change of pace off the bench, he doesn't belong ranked among average starters. He's a low-efficiency scorer and a poor defender, and his size makes improving either difficult. If he played for any other team besides the Mavs, he wouldn't sniff the top 150.

Brendan Jackson, Celtics Hub: Anderson Varejao (No. 85). Varejao is the epitome of hustle, grit and hard work. That said, he played only 31 games last season and has averaged just shy of 60 games a season for his career. I would love to have Jao on my team, but his inability to stay on the court makes 85 seem a little high for me.

Colin McGowan, Cavs: The Blog: How valuable is a player when he defends his counterpart with roughly the same alacrity as a sack of potatoes? I suppose we should ask Raptors fans. They openly loathe Andrea Bargnani (No. 81), who turns to an immobile glut of starch when called upon to defend. He is also 7 feet tall and somehow shot 44.8 percent from the field last season.

Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: Andrei Kirilenko (No. 90). The Jazz forward fits into the poster boy column of the NBA lockout's cast of characters for being another role player who was paid max-contract dollars. Although he remains an adept contributor on offense and defense, his passion for the game has never matched his skill level.

Daniel Nowell, Magic Basketball: Andrea Bargnani attempts almost exactly as many 3s per game as shots at the rim and tries even more from 16-23 feet. That adds up to a 7-footer with a true shooting percentage lower than the league average. It seems as though he's ranked this high mostly because Toronto is still mistaken about how much it should feature him.


2. Which player 61-100 is the most underrated by #NBArank?


Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Anderson Varejao. His season-ending injury took him out of the spotlight, but he showed early in the season that his play in previous seasons wasn't totally dependent on LeBron James. As long as he's healed, he should be one of the NBA's top defenders.

Brendan Jackson, Celtics Hub: Andre Miller (No. 89). The fact that Raymond Felton is ranked nine spots ahead of him is a crime against basketball. Miller will turn 35 next season, yet he is still right around his career averages in terms of points, assists and field goal percentage. He might not stay productive for much longer, but, at this point, Miller deserves better.

Colin McGowan, Cavs: The Blog: When he was botching barely contested layups in Boston, I never thought I would argue that Tony Allen (No. 72) is underrated, but he's the pivotal glue guy on a very good Memphis team. Without his defensive versatility, the Griz wouldn't have pushed the Thunder to seven games this past spring.

Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: JaVale McGee (No. 99). Despite being the originator of the most ludicrous planking incident in the history of the (thankfully) short-lived fad, the 23-year-old has potential to be the second-best all-around center in the Eastern Conference after Dwight Howard as early as next season. Big men are always at a premium in the NBA. General managers would covet McGee over plenty of guards and wings ranked above him in the 61-100 group.

Daniel Nowell, Magic Basketball: Maybe this is a copout, given that you can't exactly say his accomplishments to date merit being higher, but there are not 80 players I'd rather have than DeMarcus Cousins (No. 82). That said, I think Ty Lawson and Kyle Lowry could both be top-40 or top-50 players if they saw more court time and slightly longer leashes.


3. Which player 61-100 will eventually rise highest?


Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: DeMarcus Cousins. He's ranked too high right now, overrated because of his potential. Like nearly every young big man, he turns the ball over too much and takes too many bad shots. But unlike the run-of-the-mill developing center, he has the size and tools to become dominant.

Brendan Jackson, Celtics Hub: DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins had an up-and-down rookie season that left his career hard to predict. Regardless of temperament, when the NBA does resume, Cousins will be older, and presumably wiser, and will have at least a season of NBA service under his belt. With that size and skill, he should be set to make a meteoric rise.

Colin McGowan, Cavs: The Blog: We often look for flashes of brilliance from young players. Jrue Holiday (No. 83) isn't the type to intermittently recalibrate our radars with a 40-point or 15-assist game, but he's smart, athletic and adaptable. On a decent Philadelphia team with loads of athletes and moving parts, he has played a variety of roles -- playmaker, spot shooter, defensive stopper. Plus, he's only 21.

Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: DeMarcus Cousins. He wasn't the first player to come into the league with a bad attitude, and he certainly won't be the last, so don't let his personality skew how you view his potential. It wasn't that long ago that Rasheed Wallace was a four-time All-Star and a key member of a title-winning Detroit Pistons team after all.

Daniel Nowell, Magic Basketball: Don't want to be a broken record, but DeMarcus Cousins is the only player in the 61-100 range who could really break the top 15 or be a bona fide star someday. I'm not positive he'll get there, but there isn't anyone else in this range with his unfair combination of size and talent.


4. Which player 61-100 will fall fastest?


Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Marcus Camby (No. 74). He outsmarts plenty of players, but athleticism still fuels his dirty-work game. Let's not overthink this, though. He's 37, and his production dipped last season. Players like that don't get any better, and they often get much, much worse.

Brendan Jackson, Celtics Hub: Grant Hill (No. 67). Hill has defied a lot of things in his NBA career: injuries, trades, having played for Duke. Can he really add age to that list? Some say he already has by still being able to play at a high level at 38, but he turns 39 on Wednesday. If there is no 2011-12 season, will Hill even suit up again?

Colin McGowan, Cavs: The Blog: Chauncey Billups really slipped last season -- a PER of 18.7 and his highest turnover percentage (15.3 percent) since 1999-2000 -- but people didn't pay attention because of the Carmelo Trade fanfare and because Billups was the heart and soul of a championship team, like, half a decade ago. Mr. Big Shot will become a perilously overconfident role player sooner rather than later.

Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: Shane Battier (No. 98). There's no questioning his ability to help teams win with his defense and outside shooting after 10 years in the league and four accomplished years at Duke, but the 33-year-old's window is closing fast. Now a free agent, Battier would be best served joining a contender as a role player rather than signing on somewhere as a consistent starter.

Daniel Nowell, Magic Basketball: Metta World Peace (No. 97) has always relied on being extremely quick for his defensive end body. As he slows down more, I think his mediocre recent production will be just the tip of the iceberg if he's asked to do too much. Also, Grant Hill is, like, 50, so he might decide to retire and just collect Social Security.


5. The top 60 player whose #NBArank you are most curious about is …


Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: Russell Westbrook. He became the villain of last season's playoffs, but he's hardly the first young player to shoot too much. That's just part of the growing pains for a developing team, and hopefully Westbrook won't be judged too harshly based on a small sample of games just because they happened to be on national television.

Brendan Jackson, Celtics Hub: Paul Pierce. Being a Celtics aficionado, I am fascinated to find out where Pierce lands. Pierce is consistently underrated and is coming up on the twilight of his career. Did the voters see the overmatched Pierce in the Miami series or the Pierce who had the best shooting season of his career in 2010-11?

Colin McGowan, Cavs: The Blog: My morbid sense of curiosity wonders where Chris Bosh will land. While he was posting prodigious numbers in Toronto on a team no one watched, we assumed he was the second- or third-best PF in the league. After a season in the spotlight, we've discovered he's a face-up player on offense and doesn't rebound like a 6-11 guy should.

Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: Chris Bosh. After he was thoroughly scrutinized by the red-hot media glare the Miami Heat attracted last season, Bosh proved to be more of a third wheel than a third musketeer along with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. James and Wade will surely land in the top 10, if not the top five, of our rankings. Bosh could easily be 40 spots below them.

Daniel Nowell, Magic Basketball: I'll be curious to see exactly where Chris Paul is valued. He's the league's best point guard, I believe, by a wide margin, but the recent crop of young athletes at the position and his being stuck in New Orleans have made him the most undervalued elite player. Lower than No. 5 would be too low, but not surprising.