The average career of an NBA player is only 4.8 years. This means that most players don’t even get the chance to have their career come crashing down on them, simply because they never really had a career in the first place while players who are lucky enough and talented enough to establish themselves as all-stars or solid rotation players often don’t see the end coming.
As a professional athlete, you are completely dependent on your own body, and the health of your body. There are too many stories of athletes losing their jobs because they were injury-prone. Sometimes it’s not just the injury that costs a player his job. The injury combined with another player stepping up in that absence often puts the team in a tough spot when the player is healthy again. A great example of that happened in Atlanta when Jeff Teague was injured and Dennis Schroeder stepped into the role. The Hawks were forced to part ways with Teague because they felt they had a better option in his replacement.
Another thing that can derail a career is being a specialty player. If you are able to do one single thing better than anyone, coaches and opponents will stop at nothing to stop whatever it is that you do so well. We all remember Mahmoud Abdul Rauf; he was the original Steph Curry, but ultimately he was forced into positions he was uncomfortable playing and his career sputtered.
With that said, let’s jump into the 15 current players who will have their careers come crashing down soon.
15. Chandler Parsons
Parsons had some good, even great seasons when he was paired with James Harden and Dwight Howard. During his final season in Houston, he reached career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. After that season, Parsons entered free agency wherein the Dallas Mavericks offered him $46 million for three years. The Rockets refused to match the offer, so Chandler landed in Dallas.
Since he signed with the Mavericks, his production has not been up to what he produced with the Rockets. He is now with the Memphis Grizzlies trying to stay healthy enough to be part of that team. The injury bug has seemed to hit Parsons over the past few seasons, and some wonder if he lost some enthusiasm for the grind since receiving the max contract from Dallas.
14. Mike Conley
During this past offseason, there was a moment when Mike Conley was the highest paid basketball player of all time. He has since been passed by several other players, but the fact remains he’s still among the highest. Conley has been a high quality point guard, especially on the defensive end of the floor, for years. What worries me about him now is that since he got paid, his game may begin to slide a bit — whether it’s from the pressure of expectations, or what I believe is more likely, the decline of his teammates.
Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol are two aging big men. The supporting cast around those two and Conley is pretty much nonexistent. As Randolph and Gasol continue to fade, the expectations on Conley will increase and his talents will not be enough to carry a team single-handedly.
13. Joel Embiid
Embiid has been doomed from the start of his career. He missed the first two seasons of his career due to a variety of injuries, and this season, he has been on a strict 20 minute per game restriction. In those 20 minutes, he has shown some potential and even gives the Sixers hope that they may be on the right track, finally.
However, when you watch Joel play, he looks like a baby deer — very fragile and tender. If he is able to stay healthy, he could become a pretty good pro, but if we learned anything from the past, it is that seven-footers can’t stay healthy once injured — Yao Ming, Greg Oden, Andrew Bynum, the list goes on and on. Joel Embiid will likely be another name to put on that sad list.
12. Nick Young
“Swaggy P” has been living it up in Hollywood since 2013. He has played alongside Kobe Bryant, and he was there to see Kobe drop 50 in his final game. But now the Lakers are moving in a different direction, and they appear to be improving faster than many thought they could. It is no secret that Young and DeAngelo Russell are not the closest of pals anymore, and with Russell appearing to be the future in L.A. he may just want to rid the locker room of the old guard.
Once the Lakers decide to part ways with Young, he will have to try finding a job as a 31-year-old, notoriously immature, one-dimensional player. I hate to say it because Swaggy P is one of the more entertaining players, but the writing is on the wall and he will likely be seen at the end of a bench somewhere like Milwaukee soon.
11. Victor Oladipo
There really is nothing wrong with Oladipo’s game. It is more the circumstance that dictates the future of his career. In October, Victor signed a four-year extension with the OKC Thunder. The Thunder are of course Russell Westbrook’s team. For the Thunder to win a championship, which they vow is their goal, they will need more than Westbrook and Oladipo to provide offense.
The Thunder will be actively looking for other scoring options as the season progresses and during next year’s insane free agent class. When they are able to find better options, they will certainly go after them and Oladipo could find himself fighting for minutes before too long. Unfortunately, that might prove to be the beginning of the end for Oladipo, who may soon learn what it feels like to have a career come crashing down on him.
10. Paul Millsap
Turning 32 in February, Millsap is already on the wrong side of his career. Having spent his prime years with the Hawks, Millsap really has nothing to show for it to this point. The Hawks have all but given the keys to the team to Millsap now, and with the flawed roster they have, Millsap will not be able to carry that ship.
He is now paired with Dwight Howard, which could hurt his career more than people think. Howard, if healthy, is a major space clogger for what Millsap likes to do. As Kyle Korver continues to decline, the Hawks will be looking to the paint for point production and with Howard dominating the space, it will be hard for Paul to find his rhythm from game to game.
9. Marc Gasol
Already the least athletic team in the NBA, the Memphis Grizzlies are now faced with the aging of its best player. Marc Gasol is about to be 32 years old. The thing about Gasol that makes him different than most 32-year-olds is that he has played professionally since he was 17. On top of that, he plays with the Spanish National Team every offseason, which means his legs are much older than 32.
Memphis has already been addressing the age and athleticism issue they have by moving Zach Randolph to the sixth man role. With Randolph coming off the bench, Gasol will be left alone to handle the paint, which could present a problem in the next year or two. The only thing Marc has going for him at this point is that he is Pau Gasol’s brother and maybe he can ask for some advice on how to prolong his career gracefully.
8. Harrison Barnes
Another young player who recently received a max contract without being a max skill player, Barnes was a very nice complimentary piece for the Golden State Warriors over the past few seasons. Like all championship teams do, the Warriors were forced to part ways with some of the pieces, and in this case, it was Harrison.
Barnes signed with the Dallas Mavericks this past offseason for a whopping $94 million over four years. Barnes joined an aging, middle-of-the-road Mavericks team, and since his arrival, the team has been the worst in the Western Conference. Barnes will receive his money, but his career will now be relegated to meaningless games, in which the only objective is to stuff the stat sheet. This marks the beginning of the end.
7. Tony Parker
Parker is a first ballot Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest point guards of his generation. However, his career is seemingly finished. It seems as if it was just last year when parker was leading the Spurs to incredible regulars seasons and deep playoff runs… oh, because it was.
One year ago, the Spurs were ousted from the playoffs after six tough games with the OKC Thunder. They set a franchise record with 67 wins, finishing second to only the Golden State Warriors last season as well, and Tony Parker was a major part of their success. This season, Parker is having his second worst points and assists per game totals, the worst since his rookie season. As the season progresses, it appears Patty Mills is receiving a bigger bulk of the point guard minutes and Parker is taking a more reserved role. It will come as no surprise to see Parker embrace this role, however, as he has always been a class act throughout his career.
6. Dwight Howard
“Superman,” as he dubbed himself back in Orlando, Dwight Howard has actually been pretty resilient during his career. There was more than one time when most people believed Howard’s injuries would sideline him for good, but somehow he came out on the other side.
Now Howard is back home in Atlanta. When healthy, there are few big men as dominant as D12 can be, but the problem is keeping him healthy. Now in his 12th season, and at the age of 31, Howard is likely going to see injury problems become much harder to overcome. It is unfortunate to see, but it happens to all the great big men throughout the years. Howard should be remembered more for his dominance on the court, and for the fact that he brought a pathetic Orlando Magic team to an NBA finals appearance at the age of 24.
5. LaMarcus Aldridge
As one of the most underrated big men in the NBA, it pains me to have to put Aldridge on this list, but it is too obvious that the end is near for me to not include him.
Aldridge was the man in Portland, and with Brandon Roy, and then Damian Lillard, Aldridge always had an offensive guard to help him. Now with the Spurs, Aldridge is without the play-making guard on whom he had always relied. The Spurs do have Kawhi Leonard who is a sensational player, but he is not the same type of creator as Roy or Lillard. At 31 years old already, Aldridge doesn’t have many prime seasons left, if any, and without the proper supporting cast, his career could become lost in the shuffle.
4. Isaiah Thomas
The diminutive Boston point man made his first All-Star game last season and he deserved it. Thomas lit the league on fire last season. He was a one-man wrecking crew on most nights. He was able to maneuver his little body into places and positions nobody in the league could, since maybe Nate Robinson.
The funny thing is that Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas have more in common than you may think. Both are from the Seattle area, both played collegiate for Lorenzo Romar at Washington, and both have had similar career paths. Isaiah doesn’t have to look further than Nate to see his future as well. Robinson was on top of the league one day, and the next day, he was trying out for the Seattle Seahawks football team because he couldn’t find a job in the NBA. I hope I am wrong, but Isaiah is going to be figured out and if he loses a step, he can forget about it.
3. DeMar DeRozan
DeMar has one of the oddest games in the current NBA. He relies incredibly heavily on his mid-range and long-range two-point shot. He is what analytics experts are trying to eliminate from the game.
DeRozan has, to this point, proven the “experts” wrong. He has been one of the league’s most efficient and effective scorers over the past few seasons. But, once defenses eliminate his sweet spot and force him to step back or step in, he could find himself in some trouble. He is a terrible three-point shooter, and his slash game has shown flashes, but it is a little too inconsistent to be relied upon. He is one of the leaders of the Toronto Raptors, so the team’s future rests on his shoulders, and if Toronto has proven anything, it is that their weight is too heavy for any shoulders, let alone the narrow shoulders of a mid-range shooter.
2. Carmelo Anthony
One of the old men of the league now, Melo has been at it since 2003. His game has evolved as he has gotten up in age, and he has continually found ways to put the ball in the basket. Coming into this season, the Knicks were hopeful that Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah could return to their old selves after returning from injuries. That plan has not worked out as well as they hoped thus far. Plan B was that maybe Melo and Kristaps Porzingis would step up and carry the team, but that too has not happened.
It has become clear that Carmelo’s body is aging a little faster than some of his contemporaries, like LeBron and Chris Paul. In the coming seasons, we can expect to see less and less of Melo on the highlight reels. Maybe he will join LeBron in Cleveland when his contract is up, in hopes of capturing a chance to win a ring.
1. Steph Curry
Steph Curry was the guy that sucker punched the league while nobody was looking. He came in as a little skinny kid with an attitude and a mean jumper. He was overlooked because those types come and go every season, but Curry was different. Nobody had EVER shot the way Steph did. He caught the league by surprise and fine-tuned his game to the point where the league couldn’t catch up.
Well, a few years have now passed since Steph broke out and took the NBA hostage — a few years for Gregg Popovich to devise a plan to stop him. A few years for LeBron James to realize his league was slipping from his fingertips just as he got a hold of it.
In those few years, the elite and true gods of the game have regained their footing, and along the way, everyone else followed. Steph Curry is on his way to becoming just a really good jump shooter again. His rise to power was lighting quick, just like his jump shot, but the fall from grace could happen just as quickly.