Overrated? Lebron James, G/F, Cavs -- Even if James averages 20 ppg, 6 rpg and 6 apg, there will be someone out there disappointed. This isn't a knock on his talent or work ethic. Both are stellar. But the expectations are just out of control. There's only one Michael Jordan. And as a string of posers will (Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse, Grant Hill) will tell you -- it's no fun playing in his shadow.
Underrated? Dwyane Wade, G, Heat -- You hear a lot about Carmelo Anthony and James as rookie of the year candidates, but don't count out Wade. He'll play a big role on the Heat this year. His length and athleticism in the backcourt will turn a lot of heads, especially if the Heat start winning some basketball games.
Overrated? Steve Francis, Rockets -- Rudy Tomjanovich let Francis do whatever he wanted and he's put up terrific numbers in Houston the past few years. That's about to change. New head coach Jeff Van Gundy wants to turn the Rockets into an inside, out team, which means that Francis isn't going to try to take his man off the dribble every time down the court. My guess is his numbers will slip and there will be some serious pouting on the bench.
Underrated? Tony Parker, Spurs -- He's 21 years old, already has a championship ring and takes an extraordinary amount of abuse. I'm not sure that Parker is a Top 5 point guard in the league, but he does what coach Gregg Popovich asks him to do and it works. My guess is that if he were to move to a team that ran the floor more, he'd put up sensational numbers. If he's improved this much in his first two years in the league, what's he going to look like when he's 25?
Overrated? Latrell Sprewell, T-Wolves -- Spree is an obsession. His numbers the past few years and the Knicks' pitiful record suggest that he peaked about three years ago. Everyone is talking about how the Wolves are now one of the three most dangerous teams in the West. But considering that four of their five starters (Spree, Sam Cassell, Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Olowokandi) could've made the overrated list -- it's tough to untangle the hype from the reality. Spree's absence at media day should give Flip Saunders a nice taste of what he's in for this year.
Underrated? Ray Allen, Sonics -- He's always been overshadowed by a teammate or a coach in Milwaukee. Allen really shined the last 30 games of the season in Seattle. We learned that he's a better passer and better defender than we ever thought and he proved that he can be a leader. If he can stay healthy, expect a huge year from Allen this season.
Overrated? Jalen Rose, Bulls -- The days of Rose jacking up 20 to 25 shots a game are over. This year coach Bill Cartwright is going to give the ball to his young players and ask them to lead. For all of Rose's offensive fire power, he couldn't lead the Bulls to the locker room.
Underrated? Al Harrington, Pacers -- He's been up and down and stunk in the playoffs -- but Harrington is a lot better than people give him credit for. If the Pacers' rotation becomes set, and coach Rick Carlisle doesn't play favorites and sits him in favor of Austin Croshere, Harrington is a guy who can drop 20 points and grab 10 boards on any given night.
Overrated? Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Hawks -- His numbers are great but his lack of playoff appearances is alarming. Rahim is the guy who seems destined to always put up good numbers on a bad team. The problem is a lack of leadership. He's been on several teams with a chance at being decent, but has never taken over the way his talent suggests he should.
Underrated? Elton Brand, Clippers -- I know this is hypocritical. Brand's a playoff virgin as well and puts up great numbers on bad teams. The difference? Brand's teams have never had a shot at being good. Despite that, he comes to play every night, never complains and remains one of the few sure things in this league. If he ever were to make it to a good team, he'd put up the same numbers and would be looking at a championship.
Overrated? Just about everyone in the league -- Let me make a bold plea to David Stern. After Shaq retires, can we just go ahead and abolish the center position? He should make it illegal for anyone to draft a player 6-11 or taller who doesn't know how to score, rebound or block shots. That would rid us of about 75 percent of the stiffs in the league.
Underrated? Rasho Nesterovic, Spurs -- He quietly improved his game each year in Minnesota. Playing next to Tim Duncan should really open things up for Nesterovic in the high post. He's looking at a career year in San Antonio this season.
Juwan Howard, F, Magic -- Howard went from being the most overrated player in the NBA to the most underrated in the course of two years. Take away his enormous contract for a second and Howard has steadily produced (for bad teams) his entire career. In Orlando, he'll be the No. 2 option behind Tracy McGrady. Will he finally get to show what he can do in the playoffs?