As NBA free agency and the summer league comes to a close, organizations either have great reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead or fearful of the beatings they may be dealt with the 2017-18 season.  Unfortunately for most, the possibility of usurping either Golden State in the West or Cleveland in the East is unlikely, but that won’t stop teams from attempting to disrupt a fourth year anniversary for the two powerhouses.

Surely the optimism for most teams that aren’t already contenders, lies in the hands of the young talent they may have assembled or are currently grooming.   Ideally, those young players are on their way to contributing towards perennial deep playoff runs and NBA titles, but for now, they are proving that they can play well(or really well) at the highest level.  On the other hand, deep regret likely dwells in the franchises that must pay the consequences of placing faith in players who simply haven’t panned out.  The fall from grace for those particular players reminds fans of the NBA how quickly careers can change, regardless of past greatness.

This reality is what makes the NBA so fascinating year in and year out, though perhaps to a lesser extent for fans of organizations who feel it might be a good idea to trade their promising young star for the unknown.  Fortunately, that has only been an issue for one team…within the last month.

Nevertheless, TheSportster is here to bring you 8 NBA Players Who Are Falling Fast And 7 Rising Stars.

15. Falling: Joakim Noah (C)

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Joakim Noah was once known as a defensive machine whose work ethic was praised for being so seemingly unmatched.  Those days are numbered, if not completely over, with Noah’s play over the last couple of years.  The former 2013-14 defensive player of the year winner played a combined 142 games over the last 246 and has taken a nose dive when it comes to his on-court production.  His free throw percentage, rebound numbers, blocks, and assists are all at career-lows, and the Knicks are shaking at an apparent whiff in free agency.  Injuries have seemed to really slow down the big man, as his body has begun to break down and possibly even have an effect on him mentally, with a nearly 17% drop off in free throw percentage over the past two seasons.

14. Rising: Nikola Jokic (C)

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Jokic may be the fastest rising player that NBA fans may not know much about.  The 6’11” Serbian showed tremendous progress in 2016, increasing his numbers in points per game, blocks, assists, field goal percentage, rebounds, free throw percentage and more.  Aside from the fact that Jokic put his scoring ability on display from all points of the court this past season,  as a passer(who is a center), he was nearly unparalleled.  Only Al Horford averaged more assists at 5.0 a game, and Horford played roughly four more minutes per game than Jokic did.  Don’t be surprised if you see Jokic continue to establish himself as a great young player in this league for years to come.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have Paul Millsap as a fellow big man helping you out.

13. Falling: Brandon Jennings (G)

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Jennings may never have been a consistent all-star even if he stayed in his early Milwaukee form through the prime of his career. Heck, he probably wouldn’t have won a scoring title, but from where he was then to where he is now….it’s a bit unexpected. Maybe unexpected isn’t a strong enough word, maybe baffling would be better suited towards Brandon Jennings’ current situation, because the man scored 55 points in his seventh NBA game, and looked destined to be great. Maybe the move from Milwaukee to Detroit sealed his regrettable future. After those days, at the prime age of 27, Jennings played a backup role in New York and Washington, both of which resulted in relatively low production levels. It all is somewhat astonishing because Jennings was once an NBA all-star with untapped potential and a potent scoring ability. However, it seems as if it just wasn’t meant to be for Brandon Jennings, as the chances of him starting at point guard in the NBA again seem slim.

12. Rising: Gary Harris (G)

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

As we just covered his Nuggets teammate Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris is perhaps the most underrated and unknown young player in the NBA.  As a shooting guard out of Michigan State, Harris showed flashes of brilliance last season, playing at incredible efficiency while shooting over 50% from the field and over 40% from the 3-point line.  No starting shooting guard in the entire NBA was able to shoot as efficiently as Harris(in terms of fg%) who played at least 50 games.  Harris’ scoring ability helped Denver make a run towards the playoffs last season, but they fell just short of their goal.  Regardless, Harris is seen as a major piece in the future of the Denver Nuggets, and his scoring ability appears to just be getting started.

11. Falling: Roy Hibbert (C)

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

As a former all-defensive player and two-time NBA all-star, Hibbert’s fall from the NBA’s best defensive players has been tragic.  Playing on three teams over the course of two seasons, Hibbert has lost the spark that allowed him to average at least 2.0 blocks per game in the prime of his career, and be the defensive anchor that was so vital to the team success of the Indiana Pacers in the early 2010s.  His move out west to the LA Lakers(via a trade) began his downfall, as his points per game average were nearly cut in half, and both his rebounding and defensive presence appeared to be lost.  As Hibbert’s career has taken a turn for the worse, you have to wonder if things may have ever been different had the Indiana Pacers bested the Miami Heat in their back to back Eastern Conference Finals matchups.

10. Rising: Dario Saric (F)

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As a finalist for rookie of the year in the 2016-17 NBA season, I am shocked that with all the talk about “trusting the process,” Dario’s name has rarely come up.  With injuries occurring to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons last season, Dario maintained his health and was able to exhibit his versatility as a player who can do multiple things.  In the month of March alone, he had 7 different games where he scored 20+ points and was shooting at least 50% from the field.  As scoring is only one phase of his game, “Super Dario” actually hauled in the second most rebounds on his team at 6.3 per game(excluding Embiid, who only played 31 games).  His season averages weren’t anything that would wow a normal fan, but when he can either start or come off the bench next season, with a team that is now deeper, more talented and more motivated, take note of the Croatian’s play in 2017.

9. Falling: Ty Lawson (G)

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

During the early phases of Ty Lawson’s career in Denver, it looked as if he was set up to be one of the better point guards in the league by the time he hit his prime. That scenario never came into existence, and instead, Lawson has had personal issues that have played a role in him moving to three different teams in the past three years. Having a full season with Sacramento didn’t appear to help his cause either, as he averaged 9.9 points per game in 25.1 minutes per game, dropping off from what he once was capable of. Now, with the addition of De’Aaron Fox from Kentucky, Frank Mason III from Kansas, and George Hill from the Jazz, his future hasn’t looked bleaker. Ironically for Lawson, Sacramento may be in a better position for its future than ever before, at the expense of Lawson’s future role on the team.

8. Rising: Myles Turner (C)

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The former Texas Longhorn big man has developed into perhaps the next face of the Indiana Pacers given what has occurred during this NBA offseason.  Turner became more dynamic in nearly every way after last season, perhaps most importantly by proving he already has the tools to be a true defensive anchor for years to come.  His 2.1 blocks per game ranked fifth in the league and trailed only Rudy Gobert for total blocks in the NBA.  Even with big men now transitioning to the 3-point line, Turner didn’t shy away, improving his 3-point percentage from 21% to nearly 35%.  One more aspect of Turner’s game that maybe is the greatest sign of things to come for Pacer fans, is his age.  Turner will be 22 in March of next season, so he has plenty of time to continue to become as great of a player as he can, and to help lead this Pacers franchise into its next chapter(the chapter without Paul George as their perennial All-Star).

7. Falling: Deron Williams (G)

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

If you watched the 2017 NBA Finals last month, you would notice that the Cavaliers kept playing an aged and seemingly confused guard off the bench; that man was Deron Williams.  Williams appears to have lost his way in the NBA after his 12th year in the league, failing to provide the three-time reigning Eastern Conference Champions with any real jolt of production off the bench.  His career worse 4.3 points per game average during the 2016-17 NBA playoffs ultimately culminated in a losing effort for the veteran guard out of Illinois, and time is running out for him to not only just earn a ring, but to be a contributor of any kind to an NBA organization.  If Williams can’t produce at the biggest stage and under the brightest lights at this point in his career, then perhaps it’s time for him to call it quits.

6. Rising: Zach LaVine (G)

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Zach LaVine may not have the team success next year that many players desire, but he has the tools to become a star player in Chicago.  Coming off of an excellent half of a season where LaVine averaged a career high in points per game at 18.9, LaVine will have the privilege of developing his game even further under the tutelage of former MVP Dwyane Wade.  LaVine may be an even greater apprentice to Wade than Butler was, given LaVine’s smaller frame and ability to ferociously attack the basket.  With the Bulls being as depleted as they are, LaVine can arise as a go-to player and can expand his offensive game to another level.  LaVine has two-and-a-half seasons under his belt, and the only thing that would completely halt his progress is another injury like the season ending one he had on his knee last year.

5. Falling: Al Jefferson (C)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Al Jefferson was once a big man that averaged 20 and 10 a season on three separate occasions but was never given the benefit of being called an all-star.  Whether or not that ever affected his stock in the open market is probably debatable, but it seemed as if his transition to Indiana from Charlotte last season would have finally given him a chance to play with a superstar caliber player in Paul George.  Unfortunately, success never materialized, and Jefferson’s contributions paled in comparison to his former self.  Perhaps his role as a bench player did not suit him, as he averaged the lowest points and rebounds per game since his early Boston years.  At age 32, and as a backup to the rising Myles Turner in Indiana, Jefferson appears to have lost his touch as a once high tier center in the Association.

4. Rising: Andrew Wiggins (F)

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Since entering the league, Andrew Wiggins’ scoring averages have improved by about 3 points per game, each year.  Over this past season, that has culminated in a per game average of 23.6 points per game on over 45% shooting from the field.  Enter Jimmy Butler, Jamal Crawford, and Taj Gibson, and the Timberwolves now have some pieces to transition to annual playoff contention.  Wiggins scoring number may drop in the following seasons, but with the new additions, he can get more open looks, and play a more effective role in the team’s offense.  We have seen Wiggins as the explosive slasher he is, but even as a pure 3-point shooter, Wiggins looks much improved from his 2015 season(jumping to nearly 36% from behind the arc).  Seeing Wiggins play with even better teammates and a more experienced team under Coach Thibodeau will be nothing short of exciting for Minnesota.

3. Falling: Andrew Bogut (C)

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It feels odd that Andrew Bogut has dropped so far from where he was at a year ago. At the tail end of the 2015-16 season(prior to having his season ending injury) Bogut was starting for the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals for the second consecutive year. Bogut’s numbers weren’t outstanding, but as a center for Golden State, they needn’t be anything special at all. He proved himself as a quality screener, rebounder, rim protector and passer for the league’s best team. After the injury in the Finals, however, Bogut hasn’t quite been able to recover to his form, playing in a mere 26 games for the Dallas Mavericks in 2016 prior to being traded and then cut, by the 76ers. Bogut no longer has the luxury of playing with the league’s best in Golden State, and after sustaining a broken leg with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he will be struggling for a legitimate role on an NBA team.

2. Rising: Devin Booker (G)

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever a player drops 70 points in an NBA game, people have a tendency to start paying attention to that particular player.  For this player, there’s good reason to, as Devin Booker is primed to be a future NBA all-star and contender for scoring champion year in and year out.  What Booker has already learned that many people may not like, is that in order to score a lot of points, you typically need to shoot the ball a lot.  Booker was the youngest player to average at least 18 shots a game, and in all honesty, it didn’t translate to wins.  However, that’s OK, because you need quality teammates to win games, and the Phoenix Suns are still working towards establishing a consistently solid starting five.  It’s not as if Booker didn’t average 22 points a game last season, and Booker will continue to become even more efficient in the future.  The important thing is that Devin Booker can straight up score the basketball and win his team games when they need him to, and when he gets the right teammates, people will realize how valuable of a player he can be.

1. Falling: Chandler Parsons (F)

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Whatever happened to the sharpshooting power forward out of Florida? Well, the Memphis Grizzlies probably don’t want to talk about it, or the money they gave him last offseason. The once potent three-point shooter has been struck by an injury bug that has sent his career on a downward spiral. At one point, Parsons had established himself as a rangy, 6’10” forward who could utilize both his athleticism and skill on both ends of the floor, averaging 14.1 points per game prior to last season. That total dropped to 6.2 points per game last year, as he never found his rhythm and ended up playing only 34 of 81 games. Parsons is only going to get older, and the Grizzlies won’t be doing him any favors, as they lost both Zach Randolph and Vince Carter to free agency during this NBA offseason.

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