Breaking out is supposedly hard to do, but for some of these NBA players, it was living up to the expectations afterwards that was the hard part.
Whether it’s finally living up to prior expectations, being the lone option, or simply coming out of nowhere to shine, recent NBA history has featured plenty of one-year wonders; some have made All-Star Games, some have gone on to have successful NBA careers after, and some were out of the game within a few years. From foreign big men that forgot how to shoot free throws to award winners that embraced bench roles, what has happened to some of the NBA’s top one-year wonders?
For the most part, we’ll be looking at players who have been one-year wonders since 2000 and trying to find out where they are now. Is basketball still a part of their lives, whether it be the NBA, international ball, or the BIG3 league? Have they moved into different professions that may not even be tied to sports? Are any of them in prison? If they’re on this list, then the answer is no, because incarcerated and dead players didn’t make it here.
And yes, there are some active players are on this list, though a player that had a big season in 2015-16 and was injured last year does not count. We’re trying to use fair and proper judgement here…
15. Kendall Marshall
We start out list off with Kendall Marshall, the 13th overall pick from the 2012 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns. With Goran Dragic still around, Marshall didn’t really make an impact his rookie year and was dealt to the Washington Wizards in October 2013 in the Marcin Gortat-Emeka Okafor deal…and was then waived. Linking up with the Los Angeles Lakers in December, Marshall started 45 of the final 54 games, averaging 8.0 points on .406 shooting and 8.8 assists per game…and then was waived after the season! Keep in mind, this was the year BEFORE the Lakers drafted D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick.
14. Jerome James
I’ve explained this before when roasting the Knicks for some of their terrible front office decisions, but here’s the short version: James was a decent center, but broke out in the 2005 playoffs with the Seattle Supersonics, averaging 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per night in 11 games. Pretty good! Normally, that’s worth a small raise with the hope that those major numbers on a big stage are a sign of things to come.
However, the Knicks overreacted and signed James to a five-year, $30 million contract. Given that James only played 90 games before being traded to the Bulls in February 2009, I think our trademark ‘woof’ is a fair response here. After spending some time overseas, James is now an international free agent, though his career is likely over. Is anyone else surprised he’s not playing in the BIG3?
13. Landry Fields
Don’t get us wrong, Knick fans – we really like Landry Fields and we’re not putting him on here to spite you. However, after the Knicks used the 39th overall pick on him in the 2010 NBA Draft, Fields was a feel-good story for the 2010-11 season, averaging 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds en route to being named to the All-Rookie First Team. Though Fields did play in all 66 games his sophomore season and was more or less at the same level, injuries and a move to the Raptors forced him to retire last year.
Now, Fields is working as a college scout with the San Antonio Spurs, which is a great fit for someone who is both an intellectual and understands what it’s like to be a diamond in the rough. Let’s not be surprised when, three years from now, the Spurs are winning another NBA title with a late first-rounder found by Fields.
12. Stromile Swift
Swift is another player we’ve discussed in the past and, as I’ve argued, he’s not a bust so much as he is a player that didn’t live up to the expectations that come with being the second overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft (then again, not many players from that class lived up to expectations). Swift had some solid seasons, but his 2001-02 campaign where he averaged a career-best 11.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game stand out and earn him a spot on this list.
After personal issues that included a 2011 arrest for stalking, Swift is now happily retired and out of the limelight; no BIG3, no charity appearances – just him running a small trucking company known as SS Transport (not the more popular S&S Transport) out of Louisiana.
11. Bonzi Wells
Putting Wells on this list was tough because, for all intents and purposes, he wasn’t really a one year wonder (there’s a couple of other players that are in the same boat) but he had that one year where he was so dominant that he actually fits the bill. Sports are weird; it’s almost like a band that has one hot single and though the rest of their work is decent, all you think of is that one song. For Wells, his ‘one song’ was the 2001-02 season with the Trail Blazers where he averaged 17.0 points and 6.0 assists while helping the Blazers to a playoff berth.
10. Andray Blatche
Interestingly, there’s TWO seasons we could put for Blatche here – his 2010-11 season, when he averaged 16.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game for the Washington Wizards, or his 2013-14 season with the Brooklyn Nets, where he shined as the team’s sixth man. But, we’re going to go with that 2010-11 season because, though Blatche had performed well in the past, this was the season that seemed to scream he was ready for prime time. With this also being John Wall’s rookie season, it looked like the Wizards had a dynamic duo, right?
Well, Blatche regressed heavily the next year, leading to him joining the Brooklyn Nets and helping them to two straight playoff berths. Now, Blatche is hanging out in China with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers; and, I can’t see myself being the only one in thinking he’ll be back in the states soon.
9. Bobby Simmons
Yet another former member of the Nets – though Simmons was with the team when they were in New Jersey as opposed to their current tenure in Brooklyn – Simmons is best known in basketball circles for being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2005. There are times where the player who wins will excel in one area, but Simmons seemed to do it all, averaging 16.4 points on 46 percent shooting from the field, 5.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Not bad, especially considering he was with the Clippers during the Donald Sterling days.
After bouncing around with several NBA teams at the end of his career, Simmons now owns a Chicago club known as Society and a clothing store tiled Success. If you ever find yourself in Chicago, maybe try to check one of those out.
8. Greivis Vásquez
Another Nets player? Well, both the New Jersey and Brooklyn Nets HAVE had a habit of bringing in players that have been one-year wonders – and no, Jeremy LIn is not on this list – so let’s not act too surprised. At least, let’s not act as surprised as we were in the 2012-13 when Grevis Vasquez, out of absolute nowhere, led the league in assists with 704 – that’s despite averaging only nine per game – while also averaging 13.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game with the Hornets in their final year before becoming the Pelicans.
Taking advantage of his trade value, the Hornets sent Vasquez to the Sacramento Kings as part of the Tyreke Evans deal (the one that also sent Robin Lopez to Portland); and, from then on, he’s bounced around, spending three games with the Brooklyn Nets last year before being waived. Will we see Vasquez again? Probably.
7. Andris Biedrins
Again, Biedrins was a player that had some solid seasons before his breakout year in 2008-09 – he was an absolute fantasy basketball monster the season before when he averaged 10.5 points and 9.8 rebounds for the Warriors – but he winds up on this list because of what happened after. In the 2008-09 season, Biedrins looked like an All-Star, averaging 11.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, a steal, and 1.5 blocks per night for the Warriors…and then it all fell apart; he forgot how to score, he looked absolutely lost at the free throw line, and he was out of basketball by 2014.
6. Jamaal Magloire
One more ex-Net – wait, when did Magloire play for the Nets? He was a Net in 2008? Interesting. Back on track, though – Magloire was a fine NBA center for the bulk of his carer but best shined in 2003-04 with the New Orleans Hornets, averaging 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds while making his lone All-Star Game. Again, not bad! Granted, we forget that because Magloire became a journeyman in his final years, but it was still a solid season.
After finishing his career in 2012 with the Raptors, Magloire went into coaching and was an assistant with Toronto from 2013-16; coincidentally, his first year as a coach was the first year the Raptors made the playoffs since 2007. Interesting! Now, Magloire works as a Basketball Development Consultant, but we expect him back in coaching sooner rather than later.
5. Mike James
Can a player be a one-year wonder when the stats from that one year are because they were really the only option? True, Chris Bosh was becoming a lethal force when James arrived in Toronto for the 2005-06 season, but let’s not pretend the journeyman’s 20.3 points per game average were due to a long overdue breakout. James was scoring 20 a game because he was really the only option after Chris Bosh was hurt after the All-Star Game!
We say this with all due respect to Mike James, who lasted a long time in the NBA and carved a niche for himself as a role player at the end of his career, but let’s face facts. Now, James is partaking in Ice Cube’s BIG3 league, where he’s filling the role player criteria fairly well.
4. Devin Harris
When you saw this list’s title, two names probably came to mind: Jeremy Lin and Devin Harris. Lin doesn’t make this list, but Harris does. Fair? Maybe not? Why does Harris make it? If you watched Harris’ 2008-09 season with the Nets where he nearly carried a young team to a playoff berth – Vince Carter was still around, but this was when Carter was beginning to embrace the savvy veteran mentor role – then you told yourself this kid was a star in the making. Averaging 21.3 points per game with 6.9 assists and 1.7 steals, Harris made his lone All-Star Game and had one of the greatest game-winners you’ll ever see.
Now in Harris’ defense, his 2009-10 season was not awful – the Nets were bad and he didn’t look like an All-Star, but he was competent – and the Jazz thought highly enough of him to take him in the Deron Williams deal in hopes he’d be an adequate replacement. At 34 years old, Harris is entering another season with the Dallas Mavericks as a key bench contributor.
3. Kris Humphries
No, we’re not putting Kris (Kardashian) Humphries on this list because of his 72 day marriage (*insert joke about Kris Humphries’ shooting skills*), but he winds up on this list ofr how well he played AFTER the marriage ended. Though Humphries really had his breakout season in 2010-11 with the Nets when he averaged 10.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, it was his 2011-12 season – with averages of 13.8 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per night – that take the cake here. Because of how his marriage turned out, it’s easy to forget that Humphries was a dominant force in the paint that year for the Nets.
Unfortunately, Humphries regressed the next season and has bounced around the NBA since being traded to the Celtics as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade. Currently, Humphries is with the Atlanta Hawks, where he’ll look to step up following Paul Millsap’s departure.
2. Erick Dampier
Again, not a bad player after that one breakout season, but Dampier is best known for averaging 12.3 points and 12.0 rebounds per game for the 2003-04 Golden State Warriors. Remember when the Warriors didn’t have Stephen Curry? Did you know that Dampier played for the Warriors?
If you’re a current Golden State Warriors fan, probably not…
No, we’re kidding, but Dampier was fantastic this season – and, to be fair, he was in other years too. I don’t want you to think Dampier forgot how to play basketball when he left the Warriors like Roy Hibbert did with the Pacers, but the Mississippi State alum was a solid center and did help Dallas to the 2006 NBA Finals. Speaking of Mississippi State, Dampier was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2015. Congrats!
1. Andrew Bynum
If there’s any way to best describe Andrew Bynum’s breakout year in 2011-12, I’ll let ESPN Los Angeles’ Andy Kamenetzky explain it.
“2012 was a coming-out party for the emerging star. He firmly established himself as the second-best center in the league behind Dwight Howard, and on some days, it felt reasonable to argue that he’d reached Superman’s level. There are still problem areas, such as negotiating double-teams and improved pick-and-roll defense, but on the whole, Bynum’s talent is the least of his problems.”
When you average 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, and make 56% of your shots while finally staying healthy, you deserve to be compared to Dwight Howard. Unfortunately, Bynum – traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Howard deal – missed the next season after knee injuries (and a bowling incident) and was out of the NBA by 2014.
Now, no one seems to know what’s next for the two-time NBA champion. Will he make an NBA comeback? Is he done for good? That we’re not seeing Bynum in the BIG3 may be the answer to that.
Which of these players do you think was the biggest one-year wonder? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!
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