Basketball is a team game and five players have to work together on both ends of the court to be successful in a league as intensely competitive as the National Basketball Association. Watch a team like the Golden State Warriors and you’ll see what basketball is supposed to be, a game of ball movement and a genuine affinity for teammates.
However, they're probably the exception more than the rule in today’s NBA. Some players are simply no fun to play with and can sink a team faster than Billy King. Surely, you’ve experienced playing with people like this in high school, at your local YMCA or even during college intramural.
Players can possess a variety of negative attributes; the player that never passes, the guy that shoots over and over again despite a flurry of bricks and air balls and the guy that refuses to play defense and is always leaking out for the outlet pass, feigning disbelief when his man keeps on scoring.
Basketball can be a real bummer to play if you’ve got a bad teammate and this applies to the pro game as well. Early-life entitlement, large contracts and bad advice can create an NBA player that nobody wants to share the court with. Here are 15 NBA players that nobody wants to play with:
15 Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson is not a star player, but it seems as though thinks that he is. You can’t blame Jackson in the sense that the Pistons paid him like a star, but his performance doesn’t seem to match how good he thinks he is.
The Detroit guard is not even the most famous athlete with the name “Reggie Jackson.” The Boston College product fashions himself a top-notch player in the league, evidenced by his hoisting nearly 16 shots per game last season. He’s a shoot-first point guard that belongs more in the era of Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury than in today’s age where we value ball movement. Jackson’s teammates must grow tired of him consistently pounding the ball, especially on a Stan Van Gundy team that essentially just wants to move the rock and chuck threes. Jackson’s old teammates in Oklahoma City certainly did not enjoy his play or attitude, as they have conveyed since his departure.
14 Michael Carter-Williams
Just a few years ago, it looked like Michael Carter-Williams was the steal of the 2013 NBA Draft. The Sixers handed him the keys to their team in his rookie season and he rode that freedom all the way to Rookie of the Year honors.
Dig deeper though and you’ll find that his Rookie of the Year season was wildly inefficient. Carter-Williams shot just north of 40% from the field that season and shot less than 27% from three-point range.
One of the problems with the Sixers plan to bottom out was that it left the roster incredibly young, which resulted in players developing bad habits without the presence of veterans. Carter-Williams definitely had loads of potential when he entered the NBA, but he was not groomed out all that well. He received too much leash during that first year in Philly and the bad habits he developed have been really difficult to break till this very day. There is a reason he was traded to Milwaukee the following year.
His 2014-15 stint with the Bucks included a three-point shooting mark under 15%, and he took more than one per game. Imagine the feeling his teammates had, and still have, every time he pulls up from distance.
13 Austin Rivers
If you had a teammate that seemed to think he was a lot better than he was, it would probably get to you a little bit, right? Sure, that’s natural. Well, what if that teammate’s dad was the coach and that coach played his son more than he probably deserved? Sounds like little league or pee wee football, doesn’t it?
Well, unfortunately for Clippers players, that is the reality of their professional career right now. Austin Rivers was a huge bust for the New Orleans Pelicans after they used a lottery pick on him in the 2012 NBA Draft. The team shipped him to the Celtics, who were planning on sending him to the D-League before his father (Doc Rivers, head coach and GM of the Clippers) swooped in to save his son from such embarrassment and traded for him. Since then, Doc has done nothing but play him, play him and play him, despite Austin’s best efforts to remain one of the worst players in the league.
12 Josh Smith
Josh Smith was once a very good player, but he did not age like a fine wine. He aged like whatever ages the opposite of a fine wine. Back in his Atlanta Hawks days, Smith was a shot-blocking, hard-dunking, highlight reel waiting to happen every time he stepped onto the court.
Sometime during his stint with the Hawks, he stopped trying to be a small forward and accepted that he was a power forward all of a sudden. That made him a real threat on the court. However, after leaving Atlanta, Smith seemed to revert to his old ways, fashioning himself as a shooter which he certainly was not. Just look at Smith’s numbers from his time with Houston last season. The former Oak Hill Academy star barely cracked the 27% mark from beyond the arc while attempting nearly four threes per game. There is nothing worse for a teammate than watching a guy chuck threes as he bricks them over and over again. There is no better example of nobody wanting to play with Josh Smith than the fact that he’s not even on an NBA roster right now, despite him being just 30 years old.
11 Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans was once a big-time high school prospect. He looked like a man among boys from a physical standpoint during his single season at Memphis and surely the Sacramento Kings thought they had a star on their hands when they used the fourth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft on him.
Evans took over control of the Sacramento offense during his first season on his way to a scoring average of more than 20 PPG and Rookie of the Year honors. That all sounds great, but if you actually watched Evans play, you knew that he had just one play in his arsenal which was to put his head down and barrel into the lane hoping for the best. His physical prowess got him further than most with this strategy, but it quickly alienated teammates who wanted to touch the ball every now and then.
Evans has not changed his game much over the years, which was a reason the Kings let him walk via free agency after his rookie contract expired and it doesn’t help his cause that he’s averaged two three-point attempts per game for his career while shooting less than 29% from distance.
10 Michael Beasley
If you remember the lead-up to the 2008 NBA Draft, then you’ll recall that there was a debate regarding who should be the number one pick. The Chicago Bulls sat there with the top selection, having to choose between Kansas State’s Michael Beasley and Memphis’ Derrick Rose. Obviously the Bulls went with Rose, who had a marvelous start to his career before being derailed by injuries. Beasley went number two to Miami, who seemed happy to scoop up the National Player of the Year.
Beasley was a monster in college and many thought his success would translate to the pro level. What a lot of people probably did not know is that Beasley didn’t want to work very hard. His talent got him to the NBA, but it couldn’t get him to the top of the league. He seems lackadaisical when on the court, which sent him all the way to China last year. He’s back in the NBA now, but don’t expect him to become the heart and soul of a locker room any time soon.
9 J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith was headed to North Carolina before he shot the lights out at the McDonald’s game in 2004. That thrust him into the NBA Draft conversation and he was ultimately selected by Denver in the first round.
It probably would have been better for Smith to have gone to college, as he could have learned to become a complete basketball player instead of a mediocre kind of guy. We’re talking about a shooting guard with incredible gifts here, yet he’s little more than a gunner in the NBA. Smith has shot less than 43% from the floor and less than 38% from deep for his career, yet his reputation as an elite shooter persists. Smith’s best season from distance was in 2007-08 when he nailed 40.3% of his threes. Kyle Korver shot 49.2% two years ago; that’s an elite shooter.
“I’d rather take a contested shot than an open shot any day,” Smith actually said once. Enough said.
8 Deron Williams
Not only does nobody want to play with Deron Williams, but nobody wants to coach him either. We’re talking about a guy that was such a nightmare that he made the longest-tenured coach in the league quit. That’s what happened with Jerry Sloan when Williams was with the Utah Jazz. Sloan just quit and he’s never been back to an NBA sideline since.
The saddest thing about Deron Williams was the fact that he was actually really good at one time. There were once real debates about whether he or Chris Paul was better when the two point guards were young. Those debates would seem ludicrous now, the kind of argument you might have with the Zach Galifianakis’ character from The Hangover. Williams seemed to lose interest in basketball once he got paid. The Nets gave him a massive contract and he’s been a shell of his former self ever since. There’s nothing like playing with a high-paid guy that doesn’t seem to give a damn.
7 Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is an excellent offensive talent. He’s probably the best one-on-one player in the league or at least he was in the conversation with Kobe Bryant in his prime. Just one problem; a basketball team has five players.
Anthony has been labelled a ball hog for years and while the Melo hate has probably gone a bit too far at times, the shoe does fit. In a sense, you can’t really blame Carmelo for shooting so much, as he’s got a good chance to score when he catches the ball at certain spots on the floor. However, this makes your teammates lose interest and drift during games. This is why Anthony has never been a part of a great team and, at this point, it’s hard to see him being an integral part of an NBA Championship squad. We're quite certain Derrick Rose will learn how hard Melo is to play with this season.
6 Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade was one of the best players in the league during his prime. However, his prime ended years ago. Wade still seems to fashion himself a Superstar, but he definitely doesn’t measure up to that distinction with his play any longer.
Wade was never a good shooter from deep range and he’s always depended on his athleticism. That is not a recipe for a player that will age well in the NBA. Most people realize that Wade is not a top-player anymore, though Dwyane Wade may not be one of those skeptics.
He took 16 shots per game last season, compared to 18.8 the year he won his first championship. He can’t get to the line anymore and instead of becoming a better three-point shooter, he’s actually getting worse and taking less, further limiting his effectiveness. The guy shot worse than 16% from three point range last year.
Wade is now the kind of aging star that will wave off teammates and say “I got this” before clanking a potential game-winner.
5 Dwight Howard
Do you remember when Dwight Howard was one of the most popular players in the NBA? Probably not, because it seems like ages ago and some kind of a dream. Howard was once a high-flying big man that donned a cape for his famous Superman dunk in the Slam Dunk Contest, but it was all downhill from there.
Howard got Stan Van Gundy fired in Orlando before forcing his way out of town. After getting what he wanted, being traded to a big market in Los Angeles, his tenure with the Lakers was downright terrible. He played poorly (which was partially due to injury) and seemed genuinely disinterested in basketball that season. Kobe Bryant expressed his dislike for Howard, saying that he tried to show Dwight how to win a championship, but the big man didn’t want to deal with the challenge. So Howard skipped town for Houston, where he clashed with fellow star James Harden. Howard has now moved on to Atlanta. Think his teammates are excited?
4 DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins could probably be in the coversation for one of the best centers in the league, as he’s that talented. Physically he’s a load to handle down low, but he’s got agility and skills that few men of his size can produce.
On talent alone, he should be first or second team All-NBA every season. However, Cousins feels his time is better spent sulking, earning technical fouls and hating on his coaches. On the court, Cousins’ game suffers because of his attitude and it doesn’t take much to draw his ire, though, in fairness, he's dialed it down recently. Once he feels slighted in any way, he stops playing defense and starts hoisting outside shots. While he’s actually a good shooter for a player of his size, he doesn’t belong beyond the arc hoisting transition threes simply because he’s in a bad mood. But Cousins doesn’t really know any better and that’s not his fault. Like a bad parent, the Sacramento Kings organization has done nothing but support their "immature" star, which can’t sit well with other players on the team.
3 James Harden
James Harden is an offensive maven. The guy plays different than anyone else in the league. He’s as crafty as they come and he does a ton for the Rockets on offensive side of the game.
However, like Carmelo Anthony, his ball-dominant ways tend to alienate teammates on the court. Harden just keeps pounding the ball, giving defenders those "herky-jerky" moves until he gets to the rim, earns a foul or pops a step-back jumper. The rest of the Rockets just clear out and stand there with their hands out, despite the fact that they know they’re probably not getting the ball.
Harden averaged more than seven assists per game last season, but don’t confuse him with Chris Paul. The most maddening thing about Harden is his aversion to defense. There are several YouTube clips of Harden showcasing mental lapses, matador defense or just a general apathy on that end of the floor. His incredulous attitude after a mistake, acting like it was someone else’s fault can’t endear him to the other players on the floor.
2 Russell Westbrook
2016-17 is going to be one heck of a year for Russell Westbrook. He may break the shots attempted record for a single season. Kevin Durant’s highly-publicized departure from Oklahoma City has left Westbrook as the Thunder’s lone star. However, this is not the first time that we’ve seen the UCLA product without Durant.
The 2016-17 season could very well be a repeat of the end of the 2014-15 campaign. Back then, Durant was sidelined and OKC was on the cusp of making the playoffs. Westbrook channeled his inner Allen Iverson in those contests, scoring a ton of points but also attempting an insane amount of shots. Westbrook logged some triple-doubles and put up gaudy numbers, but the Thunder lost a lot of those games and ultimately missed the playoffs.
The OKC defense really suffered down the stretch and part of the reason was Westbrook’s selfish play beat the effort out of his teammates. Former teammate Serge Ibaka even went as far as to say that it’s hard to just stand there in the corner waiting for a pass and not touch the ball for eight minutes straight. Message received.
1 D’Angelo Russell
This one takes the cake. D’Angelo Russell can get a little shot-happy, but on the court he’s not really difficult to play with. However, it’s off the court where the youngster has made his mark.
Russell’s rookie campaign was going pretty well in 2015-16 before he ruined the engagement of a teammate. The former Buckeye apparently used his phone to film a video of fellow Laker Nick Young talking about cheating on his fiancée, rapper Iggy Azalea. The video eventually found its way to the world wide web. Russell said he didn’t post it, but that just sounds like someone claiming their Twitter account was hacked after saying something stupid.
Azalea dumped Young and the Los Angeles lock room was thrust into a huge rift. You can’t really blame the team for hating on Russell. Even if he didn’t intend to post the video, what was the point of filming it in the first place? Russell is going to find it hard to earn the trust of any old or new teammates for quite a while.