Players don’t make it to the NBA unless they were a star in high school or college. Even the guy that can’t get off the bench will torch regular people in a pick up game. That said, a lot of the time, a player who might seem like a future or present star owes their success to a front office that was able to put them in a position to excel. Whether it’s hiring a coach that can maximize a player’s strengths while minimizing their weaknesses or signing players with complimentary skill sets, even the greatest players in the NBA need some help.
That’s why, either through free agency or trade, players can really drop off when they change teams. There are certain players in the NBA right now that are earning or have earned reputations as elite players, but more often than not, these elite talents benefit greatly from their supporting cast. And if they were in a different situation, we probably wouldn’t be so quick to laud praise onto them.
Here are the 15 NBA players that would suck on a different team.
15. Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas is having an incredible year. Generously listed at 5-foot, 9-inches and the last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, Thomas is averaging 29 points this season and is killing teams in the fourth quarter, scoring more fourth quarter points than any other player in the league. And though he is having a season to remember, if Isaiah Thomas weren’t a Celtic, he wouldn’t be the feel-good story of this NBA season.
For Isaiah Thomas to score as much as he does, he needs the ball in his hands. If IT were on a different team that featured another ball dominant scorer, like Jimmy Butler or Carmelo Anthony, you have to wonder if he would have enough opportunity to show that short guys can also ball. For the sake of the Celtics’ pursuit for a 18th NBA Championship and Thomas’s own career, fans better hope Danny Ainge signs the undersized point guard to a contract extension ASAP.
14. Lucas Nogueira
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Kyle Lowry leads the Toronto Raptors in total points added, but would you believe that in second isn’t DeMar DeRozan but Lucas Nogueira?
Nogueira, also known as Bebe, is a long, quick paint protector and rim-runner. He primarily blocks shots, rebounds, catches lops and jams put-backs, making him a very useful back-up center who has already exceeded expectations after Bismack Biyombo signed in Orlando this past summer. Mind you, Noguiera only plays an average of 20.7 minutes a game on a team where almost all the offense comes from their two All-Star guards.
If Nogueira were on another team, he would either struggle to find playing time as centers aren’t in-demand as Sixers fans will tell you or he would flounder while he adjusted to his new starting role.
13. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is one of the best scorers in basketball history. The sorry state of Knicks franchise and all the trade rumors that swirl like clockwork every year may cloud the fact that he has been great since he’s arrived in New York. It may hurt the ‘Trade Carmelo Diehards’ but the Knicks are better off with Melo than they are without. And the other 29 NBA teams are certainly better off without Carmelo as he would suck in any other situation.
If Carmelo Anthony were to join another team, the trade package to get him and the subsequent cap hit would likely gut a team’s ability to assemble a competent bench. And even if a team didn’t have to dismantle itself to acquire the former Orange, Carmelo Anthony’s habit of stopping an offense to jab step until he can jack up a shot would likely bring tension and drama to a locker room filled with highly competitive men suddenly faced with changing their games to accommodate an aging star.
12. Dirk Nowitzki
There’s something wrong with you if you call yourself an NBA fan and don’t like Dirk Nowitzki. After eighteen years in the league, Dirk’s silky smooth turnaround jumper off one foot is as iconic as a Michael Jordan’s fadeaway. Dirk has recently joined the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to score at least 30,000 points in their NBA career. Of course, he would have reached that milestone a lot sooner if Dirk was playing fewer minutes and putting up his fewest point totals since his rookie year.
Dirk Nowitzki can do no wrong because he’s been with the Mavs since day-one and helped bring home the franchise’s only NBA title in 2011. On another team though, the 38-year-old German might not be so lucky. Although he’d bring invaluable leadership to any team, fans who hadn’t had the last decade or so to fall in love with Dirk might see him as a washed-up pro whose old man, post-up game was taking valuable possessions away from other players that might be the future of the team.
11. Jamal Crawford
The three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year doesn’t play like he’s over-35, but is that because he has the luxury of playing with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan?
The Clippers have one of the best starting fives in the NBA, which allows Jamal Crawford to shine when he comes off the bench to cross up opponents. If he were on a team where he was required to take on a bigger workload, it’s conceivable Crawford’s age would begin to show.
10. Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving is an elite talent, an NBA All-Star and Champion. On some nights, he breaks ankles in ways that recall old And-1 mix tapes before delivering a back-breaking bucket either by pulling up from three or an insane finish at the rim. However, there is no question that Kyrie Irving benefits from playing alongside a four-time MVP.
Before LeBron James returned to Cleveland in the summer of 2014, the Cavs were Kyrie Irving’s team and never managed to scrape enough wins together to make it into the playoffs despite the being in the weaker conference. Kyrie is a brilliant ball player but he’s yet to show fans he can lead a squad to the first-round on his own. There’s a reason why everyone remembers LeBron James’s block before they mention Kyrie’s three.
9. Malcolm Brogdon
There have only been two rookies with 500 points, 150 rebounds and 150 assists while shooting 41.7% from 3: Stephen Curry and Malcolm Brogdon.
Now, we aren’t suggesting that Malcolm Brogdon might some day be a two-time MVP, but it’s incredible that the 36th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft has emerged as the most NBA-ready prospect and could very well become the Rookie of the Year, when all’s said and done. Brogdon owes his brilliance to the Bucks’ serious lack of guard depth. With Khris Middleton injured to the begin the year, Jason Kidd only had Matthew Dellavedova, 39-year-old Jason Terry, Tony Snell and Malcolm Brogdon to use in the backcourt. Had Brogdon been picked up by another team, it’s unlikely he would have found minutes to show he’s ready for the NBA.
8. Draymond Green
Ever since Draymond Green established himself under Steve Kerr’s movement-happy offense, every team in the NBA have been trying to find their own jack of all trades big man. What team wouldn’t want a player that can handle the ball, initiate the offense, make plays, defend all five positions, score, play with an edge and a reported photographic memory?
While Draymond Green’s versatility would be a huge asset on any of the 29 other teams in the NBA, it’s hard to imagine Dray-Dray playing at an All-Star level if he didn’t have Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to connect with. If Draymond Green were a team’s primary option, they would certainly be a pain in the neck–and possibly a pain in the groin as well–to play against, but there’s no question his deficiencies as a player are covered up by sharing the floor with four All-Stars, two of which are no-brainers for the Hall of Fame.
7. Jaylen Brown
Thanks to that disastrous Nets trade from 2013 continues to pay off for the Celtics. It’s very rare for a playoff team to add a lottery prospect without embarking on a rebuild and that’s exactly what Boston did when they used the 3rd pick in the 2016 NBA Draft on Jaylen Brown.
Brown is a freakishly athletic wing whose rookie year hasn’t been all that amazing but at least he can boast that he’s on a playoff-bound team, unlike Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. Had Brown been picked by any other lottery team, he would be under a much bigger microscope and fans would be looking for an opportunity to label him a bust. But with Boston, Brown doesn’t have to worry about that yet. He can develop on a winning team and prepare for the day they turn the franchise over to him.
6. Javale McGee
Javale McGee has proven time and again that he can be a disaster on the floor. However, when you’re playing center with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, your play isn’t quite as likely to end up on Shaqtin’ a Fool every other night.
Javale McGee was all but out of the league when he signed with the Warriors right before training camp. If the Warriors decide to drop him, he’s unlikely to be picked up by another team. His basketball I.Q. has been questioned for years and he hasn’t been able to stay healthy throughout the past few years.
5. Kevin Love
NBA Champion Kevin Love appears on this list for the exact same reason his teammate Kyrie Irving did. No one can question Kevin Love’s talent as a player with elite rebounding skills, shooting range and some of the pretty outlet passes we’ve ever seen. However, life’s a lot easier in the King’s court.
Kevin Love spent six seasons in Minnesota before the team flipped him for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thad Young. In those six seasons, Love led the team in win-shares five times (the only time he didn’t was in 2012-13 where he only played 18 games due to hand injuries), but never managed to end the season with a winning record. The closest he came to leading a team to over .500 was in his final year with Minnesota, posting a 40-42 record.
Kevin Love may be an NBA Champion but he has yet to prove that he can make the playoffs as a team’s primary option, which technically means he’d suck on any other team because he’s all but guaranteed to make the Finals with LeBron and Kyrie.
4. Domantas Sabonis
Arvydas Sabonis was one of the best to ever play the game. His son, Domantas, has yet to impress in his rookie year. It must be hard to share a surname with a Hall of Famer, but OKC’s Sabonis has been perfectly average so far this season. However, that’s probably because his role on the Thunder is not much more than grab a rebound and stay the hell out of Russell Westbrook’s way.
If Sabonis were on a depleted team searching for their future like the Brooklyn Nets, he probably would draw more ire for not being a franchise savior. But as long as Oklahoma City have Russell Westbrook, there’s no reason to expect anything more from Sabonis than decent minutes behind Taj Gibson.
3. Eric Gordon
When Eric Gordon was with the Pelicans, we saw stretches of offensive brilliance, but they didn’t last long. When he signed with Houston this offseason, we had no reason to believe that he would be shootings threes and making them at a similar clip to Steph Curry.
Obviously, the presence of MVP-candidate James Harden and Mike D’Antoni’s style of play that emphasizes three-pointers definitely makes a long-range sniper’s a whole lot easier. Had Gordon signed with a team where he was expected to start and carry the offense, he probably would not be experiencing a career renaissance.
2. Otto Porter
Otto Porter has the highest effective field-goal percentage out of all the 88 NBA players who are firing more than 10 shots per game. Carmelo Anthony, Steph Curry, Zach LaVine, J.J. Redick and Nick Young are the only other players shooting over 45 on spot-up three-point attempts.
And while those are impressive stats, a closer look reveals that 80 percent of Porter’s buckets are coming off assists. He can knock down the three, he can drive and pull-up but his numbers are so good because he has Bradley Beal and John Wall to occupy opponents’ best defenders. Regardless, one team is going to offer Porter a max contract this coming offseason and we are all but guaranteed to see his efficiency drop when a team that doesn’t have the luxury of Beal and Wall to feed him the ball.
1. DeAndre Jordan
Do you ever wonder why DeAndre Jordan backed out of his contract with the Mavericks and re-signed with the Clippers? Is it because he knew that he that if he didn’t have two otherworldly passers in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to feed him lobs all night long, he would be maligned for signing an albatross contract?
DeAndre Jordan is one of the most ferocious in-game dunkers and a fearsome rim protector but he can’t create for himself. Put him on a team that’s short on playmakers and you’re in trouble. Chris Paul’s constant yammering must get annoying but at least it’s better than millions of fans thinking you’re a complete bust.
Jordan is likely to be exposed on any other team that isn’t the Clippers, the game has considerably changed in recent years with plenty of big men being able to shoot from all over the court.
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