It’s hard to believe but the start of the NBA season is fewer than two months away. Thanks to some changes in the NBA calendar and scheduling, the regular season will start a week earlier than usual. The NBA seems to be copying the NFL’s formula of making its league a year-round sport and extending the season is a prime example of that.
As we enter the 72nd season in NBA history, it’s time to look ahead at the rosters that will take the court. Another change the NBA made is that each team will allowed two 2-way contracts that will work similar to contracts in MLB. These contracts allow players to play in both the D-League and the NBA with them receiving a base D-League salary and a prorated NBA salary depending how much time they spend with an NBA team. The salaries that two-way players make do NOT count against the salary cap; thus, they won’t be included on this list.
Teams are still filling out the bottoms of their rosters but, for the most part, the players currently under contract are the ones we’ll see suit up this fall. We’ll go roster by roster to determine who is the absolute worst player on each roster. When you are a stacked team like the Warriors, it’s quite easy to pick out who’s at the bottom of the barrel, but for other teams; you could easily pick three or four players and deem them to worst. Some of these guys are lucky to even be on a roster and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were cut at some point during the season. Here are the worst players on every NBA team.
30. Atlanta Hawks: Luke Babbitt
If there was ever such a thing as a nominal starter, it was Luke Babbitt last year with the Miami Heat. He started 55 games but averaged just 15.7 minutes per game which was the fewest for any player who started at least 50 games. Babbitt has picked up where Jason Kapono left off as a one-dimensional player whose sole reason for being in the NBA is his 3P shot. He has knocked down 40% of his 3s in three straight seasons but what happens when his shot isn’t falling? He’s always benefitted from open looks from playing with players such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, and Hassan Whiteside; but will those same open looks be there when Dewayne Dedmon gets the ball on the low block?
29. Boston Celtics: Terry Rozier
Rozier may be the best player on this list which says a lot about the construction of the Celtics’ roster. They have six rookies on their 15-man roster and the rest of the team consists of solid veterans. Thus, Rozier narrowly edged out Aron Baynes for the “worst” veteran player on the Celtics. Rozier says he expects to fill the void left by the departed Avery Bradley but he’ll need to improve on his 32% three-point shooting if he wants a bump in minutes. All Brad Stevens is looking for is one of those six rookies to emerge which would lessen the need to play Rozier.
If Rozier does indeed get benched, then that would allow him more time to dream up more disgusting sandwich combinations such as his spaghetti/ranch dressing/sugar sandwich he unveiled as a rookie.
28. Brooklyn Nets: Quincy Acy
Acy is one of the few players who can challenge James Harden for best beard in the NBA and he also had many challengers for worst player on the Nets. Spencer Dinwiddie also had strong consideration for this position but I like his name too much to put him on this list. Acy parlayed a pair of 10-day contracts into a multi-year deal so congrats to him but the fact that the Nets are his 5th team in four years tells you where his career is headed. Acy is a rugged big man who would have been an enforcer in the 1980s or 1990s but his style of play no longer fits in with today’s game. He seemed to come to terms with that after being cut by the Mavs last season as he then started to expand his range after being picked up by the Nets. He shot 43% on a limited sample size of 3Ps with Brooklyn and if he can duplicate that feat this year, then he’ll earn a promotion off this list.
Even if he does that, Acy will never live this down:
"Put me in coach! I'm ready to play!"
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) March 17, 2017
27. Charlotte Hornets: Johnny O’Bryant
JOB is lucky to still have a job in Charlotte but someone has to be Dwight Howard’s whipping boy in practice (because he sure as hell doesn’t have any during actual games). Selected five picks before Nikola Jokic in the 2014 draft, O’Bryant is entering his fourth NBA season but was still asked to play in Summer League…That’s never a good sign. Yet, the Hornets apparently liked what they saw from the big man as they guaranteed his contract afterwards. Just like Acy above him, O’Bryant is trying to reinvent his game as a stretch big man. On a side notes, Dwight Howard also says he’s trying to expand his game and plans on shooting more 3Ps next season.
26. Chicago Bulls: Denzel Valentine
In 2016 Denzel Valentine was the AP College Player of the Year while at Michigan State. In 2017 he’s already in the running for the worst AP Player of the Year in NBA history – Trey Burke look out! Valentine was no gift to the Bulls last season as his NBA career started with an ankle injury and ended with him appearing on Shaqtin’ A-Fool.
Billed as someone who could play either backcourt position, Valentine neither displayed the playmaking ability nor 3P shooting that made him so successful in college. Even after Rajon Rondo’s season-ending injury in the playoffs, Valentine still couldn’t get off the bench as players like Isaiah Canaan and Jerian Grant received more playing time. There’s still time, but Valentine is shaping up to being one of those players who could end up on a list titled “Best College Players Who Flamed Out In The NBA.”
25. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jose Calderon
Calderon has gone from being cut by the Lakers to possibly being the backup point guard on the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions…’Merica. At one point Calderon was one of the most underrated point guards in the game while with the Raptors but he’s now on his 7th team in six years. His trademark efficiency is now a thing of the past and was a terrible defender at 26 so you can only imagine what he’s now like at 36. For anyone thinking that LeBron James is the real General Manager of the Cavs, Calderon’s signing should refute that as LeBron wouldn’t have signed off on bringing Calderon in.
24. Dallas Mavericks: Josh McRoberts
Josh McBob was the number one player in his high school class and looked like the second coming of Andrei Kirilenko in his time at Duke. But he’s struggled with injuries ever since joining the NBA and has played in just 81 games over the last three seasons combined. Remember when McRoberts was the Heat’s big free agent signing in the summer of 2014 that was supposed to keep LeBron in Miami? Yea, that didn’t quite work out for Miami in multiple ways.
This summer he was traded to Dallas for a player who may not even make Miami’s final roster; thus, McRoberts is nothing more than an expiring contract at this point. He has some playmaking skills and can offer rim protection…or rather, I should say he had. His body is breaking down and if he, Dirk Nowitzki, and Mark Cuban had a race; McBob would likely finish third.
23. Denver Nuggets: Emmanuel Mudiay
The seventh overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Emmanuel Mudiay is, statistically, the worst active player in the NBA. He infamously skipped college in order to play overseas for a year, and if he isn’t careful, he could end up back overseas by his mid-20s. Last year Mudiay was benched for a guy that many didn’t even realize was still in the NBA in 35-year-old Jameer Nelson. The Nuggets are ready to make a playoff push but unless Mudiay made dramatic improvements this summer; he doesn’t fit into the team’s plans for the 2017-18 season.
If Jamal Murray proves he can be a starting point guard, then I expect the Nuggets to move Mudiay for something like a 2020 second round pick. A change of scenery may do him good as he can’t possibly be any worse of a player in a different uniform.
22. Detroit Pistons: Stanley Johnson
Nicknamed the Stanimal, Johnson was billed as a Ron Artest-like player coming out of Arizona but he’s looked like the 2017 version of Metta World Peace than the 2009 version that was an NBA champion. He regressed so much in his second NBA season that the Pistons had to use another lottery pick on a wing in Duke’s Luke Kennard. Johnson was the third-worst shooter in the league last year based on his true shooting percentage which account for 2Ps, 3Ps, and FTs. Like Artest, Johnson always brings it defensively but his horrid play on the offensive end outweighs his contributions on the defensive end. At 21, he still has time to develop into a productive rotation player but Stan Van Gundy, who doubles as President of Basketball Operations, has to be kicking himself for taking the Stanimal over Devin Booker in the 2015 draft.
21. Golden State Warriors: Nick Young
It was a tough pick between two former Wizards: Nick Young and JaVale McGee but the rat-tailed center got the edge because he proved he can be a contributor on a championship team. Young hasn’t played a playoff game in six seasons and is more known for his knucklehead behavior more so than anything he does on the court. Nick Young is not young and is 32 years old now; in fact, last year he was the third-oldest starting SG in the NBA. Yet, he still acts like a teenager and seems to enjoy hanging out with them as well. Young actually had the best-shooting season of his career last season but it seems to have come at the expense of all of his other stats.
20. Houston Rockets: Bobby Brown
Even in the NBA who you know is sometimes more important than your actual abilities and Brown can thank some important friendships for his roster spot with Houston. Brown was a high school teammate of Trevor Ariza and was even in Ariza’s summer wedding. Brown also played in New Orleans with Chris Paul and played in the Drew League alongside James Harden. Brown has parlayed those three friendships into a contract with Houston despite being a 33-year-old undersized point guard. He spent six years and his entire prime playing overseas but now he’s expected to be the backup point guard on a team with championship aspirations? He must be one of those great, and I do mean great, locker room guys for him to latch on with Houston with nothing more than some important friendships on his resume.
19. Indiana Pacers: Joseph Young
Mighty Joe Young was one of the worst Walt Disney films ever made and the Pacers’ Joe Young is the worst player on perhaps the worst team in the NBA. It’s fair to wonder if Young will even make it out of preseason without being cut as his biggest supporter now plays for OKC. Young is cousins with Paul George and the Pacers have no reason to appease George by keeping his kin around. Indiana thought they found a gem in the second round of the 2015 draft in Young as he led the Summer League in scoring at 22.5 PPG. Since then, he’s only reached 10 points in a game six times in his two NBA seasons. Even more damning is the fact that the Pacers thought that Lance Stephenson would be more of a help than Young would be as they signed him off the street last year rather than give Young more minutes. If Young is cut, it wouldn’t surprise me if OKC signed him because, after all, George is in his contract year with the Thunder.
18. Los Angeles Clippers: Austin Rivers
Rivers has made strides in each season but it’s still fair to wonder if he would even have a job in the NBA were his dad not the coach. Austin has said before that he and Doc didn’t have much of a father-son relationship while he was growing up so maybe this is Doc’s way of making up for those missed Little League games. Both Rivers also deserve blame for Chris Paul wanting out of Los Angeles as Paul began to resent Austin because Doc handled him with kid gloves. Doc would yell at the other Clippers whenever they made a mistake but wouldn’t do the same to his son when he messed up (which was quite often). Austin called those rumors BS:
These false rumors are comedy…so fictional it's actually amusing! People will say or do anything to get attention. A lot ?? out there
— Austin Rivers (@AustinRivers25) June 28, 2017
Chris Paul left $50 MILLION on the table by choosing Houston over re-signing with the Clippers. He did that for a reason and, despite Austin’s claims, HE is likely the reason why Paul wanted out of LA.
17. Los Angeles Lakers: Tyler Ennis
Ennis may have set a record as a rookie as he was traded after playing just 8 games with the Suns and despite being a top-20 pick. Since then he’s been a journeyman who has been traded three times in the last two years. He was acquired by the Lakers last season for Marcelo Huertas and re-signed with the team this offseason. Ennis will back up Lonzo Ball provided that one of the Lakers’ training camp invites doesn’t beat him for the job. Ennis was successful in his one year at Syracuse but has proven to be too small and unathletic to be a serviceable NBA player. He’s not going to grow or get Russell Westbrook-hops overnight so his best bet to stick in the league is to develop a three point shot.
16. Memphis Grizzlies: Chandler Parsons
By far the highest paid player on this list, Parsons will have conned the NBA out of over $126 million by the time his contract ends in 2020. He was in the 2011 draft class that also produced Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie Irving; but Parsons has already earned more money than all of those players. His knees are essentially bone-on-bone at this point and his number of games played has decreased in four straight seasons. When healthy, Parsons is a point forward who is underrated defensively. But he hasn’t been healthy in years and his play showed that last season. After posting a 7.7 PER in 34 games this Grizzlies shut him down for the rest of the season.
He says he is now “pain-free” which is an echo from the three previous offseasons. He has the talent to elevate himself off this list but with all of the money he’s already earned, does he still have the motivation to play?
15. Miami Heat: Rodney McGruder
McGruder is an extremely poor man’s version of OKC’s Andre Roberson. He’s on the floor because of his defense and…well, only his defense. Of the 125 players who played at least 1900 minutes last season, no one averaged fewer than the 6.4 PPG that Rodney Mac averaged. He is a 3-and-D player who is missing the 3 and the only way that McGruder will see 25 minutes in a game like he averaged last year is if Miami is either up by 30 or down by 30. At 26, McGruder is unlikely to improve much despite being a rookie last year so what you see is what you get. With Miami expected to make a playoff push this year, McGruder will likely take a back seat to the Heat’s more accomplished (and better) guards such as Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, and Dion Waiters.
14. Milwaukee Bucks: Spencer Hawes
The 7’1” manbun is the tallest American player in the NBA unless someone signs Roy Hibbert’s corpse this year (Hawes and Hibbert were actually traded for each other last season). Hawes looked like the second coming of Vlade Divac early in his career but he’s nothing more than a stiff these days. He smartly picked up his $6 million option this offseason as there was no way in hell that any team was going to offer him more than the veteran’s minimum. Hawes had more than twice as many 3P attempts as dunks last year as his game is moving farther and farther away from the basket and he wasn’t particularly efficient in shooting 3Ps. There’s a good chance that Hawes gets traded again around the trade deadline but not because someone wants his talent; they just want his expiring contract.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nemanja Bjelica
Who? Bjelica has actually languished on the Wolves’ bench for two seasons and is billed as a stretch-4 but connected on just 32% of his 3P attempts last year. Nicknamed Professor Big Shots, Bjelica’s shot attempts may be few and far between with the recent additions to Minnesota’s frontcourt. That’s a shame because the Wolves could actually use some outside shooting from a big man as Gorgui Dieng and Taj Gibson don’t provide any range. It’s always somewhat notable when big-time international players fail to make a dent in the NBA as Bjelica was the Euroleague MVP in 2015 before coming to the NBA.
12. New Orleans Pelicans: Omer Asik
Asik’s agent is the real MVP for landing his client a $44 million contract from the Pelicans in 2015. Just over the last two years alone, Asik has earned over $56,000 for every point he has scored. In 19 games as a starter last year Asik put up sterling averages of 3.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG which are numbers that a 400-pound Shaq could surpass right now. Asik didn’t play a minute after New Orleans acquired DeMarcus Cousins at the trade deadline and, if you haven’t noticed, Boogie is still with the Pelicans. Prepare for a season’s worth of DNP-CDs for Asik and I doubt his former Chicago coach, Tom Thibodeau, would even have a need for him were he to be cut.
11. New York Knicks: Ron Baker
The Knicks re-signed Hot Boy Ron Baker to a two-year, $9 million extension this summer which prompted me to ask, “Who were they competing with?” As an undrafted rookie last year, Baker made the league minimum and he didn’t exactly have a Linsanity-type impact in MSG. The Knicks could have had Baker for the league minimum again this year but this is another example of the Knicks being the Knicks. Baker was a winner in college and a great mid-major player, but I don’t see any discernible skills that would make him an effective NBA player. He shot lower on 2Ps than Kyle Korver shot on 3Ps and he brings nothing defensively.
Only the Knicks would think that a guy who was sent down to the D-League six times last year would be worthy of a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. No wonder Carmelo is willing to waive his no-trade clause and take a pay cut in order to leave his home-freaking-town!
10. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kyle Singler
Worst player on the Thunder? Definitely. Worst hair in the NBA? Probably. Worst Dukie? Possibly. Singler barely saw the court last year and things aren’t likely to change any time soon. Singler was a serviceable player in Detroit and could space the floor but his shot has completely abandoned him since joining the Thunder. He’s shot 30% from three-point lands in three seasons in Oklahoma City and is nothing more than dead weight at this point. Things have gotten so bad that the Thunder are considering using the stretch provision to rid themselves of the last two years of his contract. That means that OKC would rather have Singler’s contract count against their payroll for the next seven years rather than pay him for the remaining two years of his deal.
9. Orlando Magic: Mario Hezonja
Super Mario has been a super beast since being taken fifth overall in 2015. He was billed as someone who could potentially win both the 3P contest and the dunk contest but he can’t even win meaningful minutes for one of the league’s worst teams. Only Wesley Johnson and fellow 2015 draft bust, Stanley Johnson, posted worst true shooting percentages among forwards last season. It’s also not a good sign for Hezonja’s outlook that the two big offseason additions for Orlando were forwards in Jonathan Isaac and Johnathon Simmons. Playing for Frank Vogel, Hezonja could always earn minutes by playing hard-nosed defense but he’s a sieve on that end of the court. Hezonja flashed too much in Europe for the NBA to completely give up on him and he’s still just 22; but a change of scenery would likely be in his best interest.
8. Philadelphia 76ers: Jahlil Okafor
As the number three overall pick in the 2015 draft, Okafor is the highest-drafted player on this list. After averaging 17.5 PPG and 7.0 RPG as a rookie; Okafor has dropped to the third-team center for Philly. The Sixers have been trying to trade him for two years but no one wants a center straight out of 1996. He would be best-served hitting up Al Jefferson, who has a similar game, and learning from Professor Al on how to stick in the NBA with an old-man post-up game.
Okafor is a black hole on offense as every time he touches the ball down low the possession either ends with a shot attempt (by him) or a turnover. Did Coach K not teach how to pass out of the post? Joel Embiid, Amir Johnson, and even Richaun Holmes are likely to see more minutes this year than Okafor who is playing himself out of the league.
7. Phoenix Suns: Brandon Knight
I hate to kick a man while he’s down but I’m about to add insult to injury for Knight. He tore his ACL during the summer and is expected to miss the entire season; however, he would have made this list even if he was healthy. That comes as a bit of a surprise to me as Knight averaged 17 points per game and 5 assists per game three straight years prior to this past season. But, he’s been the odd Wildcat out in Phoenix as Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Tyler Ulis have seized his minutes. I have a feeling that the rest of Knight’s career is going to mirror that of the player he was once traded for, Brandon Jennings. After a torn ACL by Jennings in 2015 he was never the same player, became an NBA journeyman for the next two seasons, and recently signed in China.
6. Portland Trail Blazers: Meyers Leonard
Portland fans are surely on board with this selection as even though they were getting swept off the court by the Warriors in the playoffs, the Blazers’ faithful still took time to boo Leonard every time he touched the ball. Leonard is a stretch-5 whose outside shot is inconsistent and he had the worst shooting percentage of any seven-footer last season. Leonard hasn’t really packed on the muscle as expected since being drafted five years ago and can easily be overpowered on the defensive end. The Blazers appear to be ready to pull the plug on the Leonard experiment as they drafted two big men in the first round in this year’s draft. If only they could find someone to take the remaining $31.6 million on his contract…
5. Sacramento Kings: Georgios Papagiannis
Despite his surname being Papagiannis, Georgios is not the father of the Greek Freak. Papagiannis didn’t see much court time last year but he fell victim of the roster construction of the Kings who have five rookies, a couple of proven veterans, and some unproven youngsters. The Kings’ worst player came down between he and Malachi Richardson and both players appeared in just 22 games last year. But since Papagiannis was a first round pick, more was expected of him and he didn’t make any impact.
His potential is one of the reasons the Kings traded away DeMarcus Cousins so lots is expected of the big man. He proved to be an adept defender and shot-blocker as a rookie but was a turnover machine on the offensive end. Playing with Zach Randolph should help smooth out Papagiannis’ offensive game provided that he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of all of the other Kings’ bigs.
4. San Antonio Spurs: Joffrey Lauvergne
Lauvergne was one of the few free agents that the Spurs signed this season so they obviously see something in him that no one else does. The best-case scenario for King Joffrey is that he becomes an Aron Baynes clone for the Spurs but Lauvergne doesn’t offer the same rim protection that the now-Celtic does. Lauvergne is a good passer for a big man but he is inefficient from everywhere on the court with his shot. He is trying to make himself a 3P shooter but after knocking down just 29% on 167 attempts, Popovich may put an end to that during training camp. But even with all of those negatives, the Spurs will probably find some way to turn Lauvergne into a mini Pau Gasol because they have the best player developmental staff in the NBA.
3. Toronto Raptors: Bruno Caboclo
Fran Fraschilla infamously said that Caboclo is “2 years away from being 2 years away” when he was drafted in 2014. That means that as Caboclo is still one more year away from being a meaningful contributor to the Raptors. He’s in the last year of his contract so he has to show something this season and that something has to be in the NBA and not the D-League. Caboclo was drafted 3 years ago but he’s played just 23 more games than Markelle Fultz has played who was drafted in 2017. Caboclo has been assigned to the D-League more times than I care to count and there’s no easy path to minutes after the Raptors signed C.J. Miles and drafted OG Anunoby in the first round.
2. Utah Jazz: Alec Burks
It was a difficult offseason for the Utah Jazz, as they lost their star player in Gordon Hayward in free agency to Boston. But don’t worry Jazz fans, you still have Alec Burks! In all seriousness, injuries and inconsistent play (probably because he’s spent so much time hurt) have caused Burks to decline in recent years. He was demoted towards the end of last season, so much to the point that he didn’t even appear in any of Utah’s 11 playoff games. Burks has two years left on his deal at $11 million per year and it seems that money is being wasted right now, when the Jazz could have used it to sign an impact player to replace Hayward. You wonder what the Jazz will expect of him going forward.
1. Washington Wizards: Mike Scott
When we last heard of Mike Scott, he had felony drug charges dismissed against him after being cut by the Suns. He has surfaced in DC which is not too far from where he grew up in Virginia. At his best Scott is a stretch-4 but at his worst is anything he does, or rather doesn’t do, defensively. Despite standing 6’8” Scott has fewer blocks in his career than Isaiah Thomas who is about a foot shorter. Scott doesn’t have much interest venturing inside the 3P line on either offense or defense as nearly 50% of his shots last season were 3P attempts. John Wall wanted Paul George in DC but instead he got another player with two first names and one not nearly as good.
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