The NBA is a business and it can be harsh and unforgiving at times. If a player shows promise, they often have a limited amount of time to capitalize on their opportunity before being written-off by fans and team executives as a "bust" or "washed-up." For some of these players, they are completely forgotten about and essentially banished from the league and forced overseas if they want to continue playing professional basketball. But for a select few, all it takes is a change of scenery in the sense of a new team to re-energize their career.
For players who have already experienced NBA success, it can be dangerous to switch teams and risk falling out of favor with a new coach, players, or even fans. Players who switch teams commonly put more pressure on themselves to play well and can end up sinking in the quicksand that is their career even faster. Whether it be injuries, age, or just simply bad decisions, it is difficult to rally a career once it has entered a downward trajectory. But it is possible, as evidenced by the players on this list who were able to re-energize their careers.
To keep things tidy, this list is only comprised of current NBA players. Also, it's important to remember that the NBA is always changing and some of the players found on this list could switch their respective sides (from falling of to re-energizing their careers) in the blink of an eye. As fans, it's simply our job to sit back and watch the drama unfold. Enjoy.
16 Fell Off: Tyreke Evans - New Orleans Pelicans
In 2009, Tyreke Evans took the league by storm as a large (6'6") point guard with an ability to affect the game in many different ways. Evans was so impressive that he was named the NBA Rookie of the Year. It appeared that Sacramento Kings had found their future leader and face of their franchise in Evans, but he was eventually dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans for journeyman Greivis Vasquez.
In his first few seasons with the Pelicans, Evans remained a solid contributor but never took the next step in becoming an NBA superstar. Injuries eventually derailed any progress that Evans was making and ultimately forced him to miss all but 25 games in 2015-16. By early 2016-17, Evans had become an afterthought among NBA fans. Ironically, Evans was recently traded back to the Kings as a throw-in piece of the highly discussed DeMarcus Cousins trade. Maybe Evans can regain his mojo after being reunited with his original team.
15 Re-born: Eric Gordon - Houston Rockets
Originally drafted #7 overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2008 NBA draft, Eric Gordon was expected to be a game-changer in the league. Gordon's offensive skills were evident when he averaged over 16 points per game (ppg) in his rookie season. In 2010, Gordon upped that average to over 22 ppg. The following offseason, Gordon was signed by the New Orleans Pelicans where he had a relatively uneventful and injury marred five seasons.
In 2016, Gordon signed with the Houston Rockets with very little notoriety surrounding the signing. He was no longer a star in the NBA and many wondered how he adjust to coming off the bench for the first time in his career. Well Gordon has responded by putting his name in the running for the 6th Man of the Year award by averaging 17 ppg off the bench. He still flashes the ability to score in bunches and affect the game like he did back when he was a budding superstar. Watch for Gordon to play a pivotal role in his first post-season of his career.
14 Fell Off: Brandon Jennings - Detroit Pistons
Brandon Jennings was famous for his decision to play overseas after graduating high school instead of in the NCAA (although factoring in that decision was the news he was academically ineligible at the University of Arizona where he had committed). After joining the Milwaukee Bucks in 2009, Jennings immediately made an impact by averaging 16 points and 6 assists per game and being named to the NBA All Rookie First-team.
Jennings enjoyed sustained success with the Bucks for four seasons before becoming a member of the Detroit Pistons. While Jennings remained a viable offensive option for the Pistons, he began dealing with injuries that drained his explosiveness. Since 2015, Jennings has only started 18 games for a combination of the Pistons, Orlando Magic, and New York Knicks. Jennings just recently signed with the Washington Wizards in hopes of a final opportunity to revive his career.
13 Re-born: Jamal Crawford - Los Angeles Clippers
It's hard to imagine Jamal Crawford as anything but a 6th-man off the bench nowadays. It feels like that has been his role since the beginning of his career, but that's not the case. Crawford was an explosive starter for the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, and Golden State Warriors earlier in his career. In fact, Crawford averaged 21 ppg and nearly 40 minutes per night in 2007-08 with the Knicks. It appeared that his career was progressing well until he signed with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2011.
His lone season with the Trail Blazers saw his scoring average dip dramatically and was also his worst shooting year (by percentage) since his rookie campaign. Many thought Crawford's age was catching up to him. Luckily, the Clippers gave Crawford another shot and he has shined ever since. Crawford is a key piece to the Clippers championship hopes as he consistently provides scoring off the bench. He has won two 6th-Man of the Year awards in his four full seasons in Los Angeles.
12 Fell Off: Al Jefferson - Indiana Pacers
After a slow start to his career, Al Jefferson became a beast in 2007-08 while with the Minnesota Timberwolves. In that season he averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds per game, and followed it up by averaging 23 and 11 in the 2008-09 season. Jefferson continued to show his prowess for scoring around the paint in stints with the Utah Jazz and Charlotte Hornets, although his final year with the Hornets was limited because of injuries.
Jefferson now plays for the Indiana Pacers and is inexplicably only receiving an average of 15 minutes per game. It is still impressive that Jefferson has been able to average 8 ppg given the minute restrictions he faces in Indiana. Maybe Jefferson can still be a household name if he signs somewhere else next season, but as of now Jefferson has fallen off quickly.
11 Re-born: Lou Williams - Lakers/Rockets
With the ability to score in bunches, Lou Williams has always been a player that teams love to have and hate to play against. Although he has never been a full-time starter in the NBA, Williams has been able to average double-digits in points per game each of the last ten seasons. Williams became a bit of a forgotten commodity during his stint with the Toronto Raptors in 2014-15, but has since regained his statute.
In fact, this season Lou Williams has taken the league by storm again. Williams averaged over 18 ppg for the Lakers in the first half of the season and became on of the hottest trade targets at this years trade deadline. Ultimately the Lakeshow traded him to the Rockets (like the Rockets need more offensive firepower anyway) and he has continued to light up opposing defenses. Williams definitely recharged his career in Los Angeles and now looks to flourish in the postseason with Houston.
10 Fell Off: Roy Hibbert - Los Angeles Lakers
Roy Hibbert became a household name during his tenure with the Indiana Pacers due to his ability to rebound, block shots, and put up big numbers during the Pacers' post-season runs (except in 2014). His ability to affect the game with his size and strength helped him earn two All-Star selections in 2012 and 2014. While Hibbert was being considered one of the great up and coming centers in the NBA, it was clear his welcome had run out in Indiana so they traded him to the Lakers.
It's still unclear whether Hibbert's was simply benefiting from the Indiana system or whether aliens from Moron Mountain stole his talent (shout out to Space Jam). Whatever it was, it became very evident that he was no longer an all-star caliber center after leaving the Pacers. Hibbert averaged a lowly 6 points and 5 rebounds in his only season with the Lakers. He has continued similarly poor production with the Hornets this year and was recently traded to the Nuggets for journeyman Miles Plumlee. Hibbert has certainly fallen from NBA all-star to NBA wannabe.
9 Re-born: Dion Waiters - OKC Thunder
In averaging close to 15 ppg in his rookie season, it was clear that Dion Waiters had a natural ability to put the ball in the hoop. Although he was inconsistent at times during his tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers, many continued to believe that he was a star waiting to fully breakout. Oklahoma City thought that exact thing when they traded for Waiters in 2014, hoping that he would be the final piece they needed to make a championship run.
Turns out that Waiters regressed in his time with the Thunder and never fully looked comfortable being the third scoring option behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It was clear that the Waiters experiment had failed when the Thunder decided to move on from him this last offseason. Waiters joined the Miami Heat and has finally been given a chance to be a full-time starter. He has responded well by averaging 16 ppg and 4 assists, while providing clutch shots down the stretch. Waiter's future is again bright and he looks to do big things with the Heat.
8 Fell Off: Joakim Noah - New York Knicks
Can you believe that only three years ago, Joakim Noah was an all-star and an All-NBA First Team player? Noah was a big time piece for the Chicago Bulls during their seven straight post-season appearances from 2008-2015. In 2014, Noah averaged 13 points, 11 rebounds, and over 5 assists per game. Those numbers are astounding for a players of his size and that plays with his tenacity.
Although Noah was struck with injuries that limited his 2015-16 season to just two starts, the Knicks showed no hesitation in signing Noah to a massive four-year, $72 million contract this past offseason. Unfortunately that move has backfired as it appears that Noah's game has completely fallen off a cliff. In 46 starts for the Knicks, Noah is averaging only 5 points and 8 rebounds per game. This fall-off will only continue to get magnified if Noah continues to play poorly under the bright lights of the Big Apple.
7 Re-Born: Marcus Morris - Detroit Pistons
The much maligned Morris twins were paired together in 2012 when the Phoenix Suns acquired Marcus Morris from the Houston Rockets. While playing side by side with his brother Markieff Morris, Marcus began to show serious potential as a stretch-wing player who can catch fire on offense. Sadly, the Morris twins found themselves in off-the-court drama in Phoenix (assault charges) and in constant verbal tirades aimed at the Phoenix Suns front office.
The yapping and bad-mouthing by Marcus forced the Suns to trade him to Detroit in 2015, much to the chagrin of his twin Markieff. The Pistons immediately named Marcus their starting small-forward and he quickly looked re-energized on the court. He has averaged close to 15 points and 5 rebounds per game over the past two seasons and has just recently began to look dominate during stretches of games. For example, Marcus scored 37 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists in a win against the Portland Trail Blazers. He certainly looks hungry to prove Phoenix management and fans wrong.
6 Fell Off: Brandon Knight - Phoenix Suns
Speaking of the Phoenix Suns, they currently have a player that they felt would become an important piece in rebuilding the franchise but has instead been a huge disappointment. That player is Brandon Knight. Knight was considered a future all-star during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks. In 2013-14, Knight was an all-star snub and finished the season averaging 18 points and 5 assists per game.
The Suns traded for Brandon Knight at the trade deadline of the 2014-15 season and he performed relatively well before getting injured for the season. After the season, the Suns signed Knight to a 5-year, $70 million contract in hopes that he and Eric Bledsoe would form a formidable back-court duo for years to come. Unfortunately for Knight, he was outplayed by budding superstar Devin Booker and has been stuck to the bench for most of this season. Essentially Knight is being paid $13 million to watch each game from a court-side seat.
5 Re-born: Michael Beasley - Houston Rockets
Micheal Beasley was viewed as an extremely unique talent coming out of Kansas State. The Miami Heat drafted Beasley #2 overall and watched him showcase his sometimes effortless scoring ability for two seasons before trading him the Timberwolves in order to clear up cap space to sign Chris Bosh and form the infamous "Big-3." In his first season in Minnesota, Beasley averaged a very impressive 20 ppg and appeared to be entering his NBA prime.
Two seasons later, Beasley would sign with the Phoenix Suns but would be released after his first year due to off-the-court issues. Soon after that, Beasley signed-up to play in China because no NBA team desired his services anymore. Beasley bounced between the NBA and China for the next few seasons before joining the Rockets in 2015. With the Rockets, Beasley showed he can still be a reliable scorer off the bench and appears to have gained a second chance at extending his NBA career. Beasley ranks high on this list because he was completely written-off many times and has continued to re-energize himself over the past few seasons. We'll see how his current tenure with the Bucks ends.
4 Fell Off: Joe Johnson - Utah Jazz
It took a few seasons before Joe Johnson's NBA career really took off, but once he joined the Atlanta Hawks in 2005, there was no stopping him. Johnson averaged nearly 20 ppg in each his of seven seasons with the Hawks and his play earned him a massive payday in 2010 (six-years, $124 million). Johnson was later involved in a major trade with the Brooklyn Nets in 2012 and continued to play at a high level for the Nets before being released in 2015 and finishing the rest of that season with the Miami Heat.
Johnson had started every single game he had played in from 2005 to 2016. But in this past offseason, Johnson signed with the Utah Jazz and has been mainly relegated to coming off the bench for the young and talented Jazz team. So far this season, Johnson is only playing about 20 minutes per game and averaging a hapless 8 ppg. To his credit, Johnson appears to have acknowledged his fall from NBA stardom and accepted his role as a leader for the young Jazz core. It was a good run while it lasted, Joe.
3 Re-born: Shaun Livingston - Golden State Warriors
Way back in 2004, Shaun Livingston was drafted #4 overall straight out of high school by the Los Angeles Clippers. Livingston was viewed as a can't miss prospect with a super high ceiling. During his third season, Livingston was averaging 9 points and 5 assists per game while showing great improvement in his understanding of the NBA game. Sadly, the steady progression of his career was derailed by a gruesome injury that completely tore up all the ligaments in his knee.
After missing the entire 2007-08 season, Livingston remarkably was healthy enough to attempt a comeback. He bounced around the league for years and played for eight different teams before signing with the Golden State Warriors in 2014. Since signing with the Warriors, Livingston has proven to be a very reliable and valuable piece off the bench and was especially vital during their championship run in 2014-15. The amount of set-backs and rehab that Livingston must have gone through to continue his dream of playing in the NBA is amazing and well-deserving of the #2 spot on this list.
2 Fell Off: Andrew Bynum - Philadelphia 76ers
Drafted as the heir apparent to Shaquille O'Neal is no easy task, especially not when you are the youngest player ever drafted into the NBA. Andrew Bynum knows this reality all too well after he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2005 and quickly rose to stardom with the famous franchise. Bynum provided the Lakers with a big, athletic center that helped Kobe Bryant and his supporting staff to two NBA Championships. In 2012, Bynum posted a career high of 18 points and 12 rebounds per game.
Shockingly, the Lakers decided to trade their young-star center to Philly in order to acquire superstar Dwight Howard from Orlando in a four-team deal. Things were never the same for Bynum after leaving the Lakers. His skills regressed and his attitude for the game began to go downhill. In 2013, Bynum averaged only 8 points and 5 rebounds per game. It was clear that Bynum's knees were failing him and he could no longer sustain for an entire NBA season. His health failed him and led to a major fall-off from what was once a very promising NBA career.
1 Re-Born: Isaiah Thomas - Boston Celtics
This one is too easy. Although Isaiah Thomas showed his elite scoring ability early on in his career, both the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns failed to unleash Thomas and allow him to be the face of the franchise. The Suns signed him in 2014 but then had him serve as a backup to Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, thus underutilizing the talent that Thomas possesses.
After Thomas was traded to the Boston Celtics in 2014-15, he quickly showed his offensive firepower and forced head coach Brad Stevens to make him the starting point guard. Since becoming the starter, IT3 has elevated his level into superstar territories and is now one of the front-runners for the MVP award in 2016-17. This mighty mouse point-guard who was often overlooked is now averaging nearly 30 ppg. Needless to say, Thomas has completely re-energized his career in Boston.