Time flies, you know that right? We're already approaching spring and the NBA Playoffs, which means those of you in the north can put your jackets and Timbs away for a bit. It also means we're going to be nostalgic like we are for all 365 days of the year and, today, we'll reminiscence about former NBA players who are still going either overseas or in the G League.
See, that's why we like the G League: it's perfect for all sides right now because it's both a minor league for rising players and a true second chance league for former NBA veterans looking to make it back into the pros. Others on this list are just trying to make it back through the overseas route.
There are some things to note for this article, so just keep them in mind.
- As of March 13, 2018, all players in this article are on their respective teams. If one is cut or promoted to an NBA team in the case of those stateside (or even signed to an NBA team), we make a note.
- No players who participate in the BIG3 league, like Greg Oden or Allen Iverson, are on this list. That goes for player-coaches and only those who are playing.
- Any player on this list has to have played in a NBA regular-season game since the 2014-15 season. With how many players are overseas, that shouldn't be a problem.
15 Overseas: Jimmer Fredette, G, Shanghai Sharks
With Stephon Marbury retiring from basketball, Jimmer Fredette is seemingly next to take over as China's star. When you score 73 points in a game and don't have any major personality issues which conflict with the country's culture or government, it's entirely possible to become the face of the nation. Marbury had issues in the United States, but seeing as he never entirely vouched for democracy in China, he was able to become embraced by the country. Through a couple years in China, the same seems to be possible for Fredette.
Though Marbury was much older when he went to China full-time, the ability to dominate opposing teams and have millions of fans cheering you on always kept him going. Fredette is still only 29, but a similar opportunity may keep him overseas for a little while longer.
14 Overseas: Brandon Bass, F, Liaoning Flying Leopards
Definitely the first of many, "wait, he's still even playing basketball?" guys on this list, Bass linked up with the Chinese Basketball Association's Liaoning Flying Leopards last August and is finishing out the season as a soon-to-be 33-years-old big man with the skill and talent of a foregone era in professional basketball.
If we may be so blunt, Bass' style of play will work overseas because of his experience and size, but we're not likely to see him return to the NBA in anything other than a summer camp tryout or G League invite.
Even strange to think about is the fact that Bass played 52 games last year with the Clippers and averaged 5.6 points per game in 11.1 minutes. Wouldn't you have thought he was out of the NBA longer?
13 North America: Shannon Brown, G, Delaware 87ers
It's been a while since Shannon Brown wore an NBA uniform, but the time for a return may be coming sooner than expected with the two-time NBA champion now getting his shot in the G League. Like we said in the intro, the G League is perfect for all sides right now because it's both a minor league for rising players and a true second chance league for former NBA veterans looking to make it back into the pros. Brown has spent the 2017-18 season with the Wisconsin Herd and the Delaware 87ers, the G League affiliates of the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadephia 76ers respectively.
Given the 76ers' injury issues in recent years, maybe we're only a J.J. Reddick injury away from seeing Brown return to the NBA. Emeka Okafor made it back!
12 Overseas: Ty Lawson, G, Shandong Golden Stars
You may not be too surprised to see Ty Lawson's name on here given the recent rumors that a team like the Washington Wizards might look to sign him away from China for the stretch run, but a fair amount of people seem to think he's retired.
After one of the quicker fall offs we've seen from a player in recent memory which wasn't attributed to injuries or mental issues (i.e. the yips), Lawson landed in China.
He has played well enough to where NBA teams headed for the postseason didn't rule him out this season.
What will most likely happen is Lawson earns either a Summer League or training camp invite, maybe from a team with some depth to spare like Cleveland, and the former lottery pick battles for a spot next year. Stranger things have happened, haven't they?
11 Overseas: C.J. Watson, G, Muratbey Uşak Sportif
This is a fairly recent one, with Watson having signed with Usak Sportif of the Turkish Super League just last month. Unlike some of the other players on this list, I just don't know what Watson has left in the tank or what would make a team consider bringing him back stateside.
Watson hasn't been a productive point guard since the 2014-15 season and hasn't played in 65 games since a 2012-13 run with the Brooklyn Nets where he impressed off the bench.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: there are way too many young point guards right now for teams to be messing around with depth and giving veteran castoffs playing time. Maybe Watson can be to Turkey what Marbury was to China!
10 North America: Damien Wilkins, G, Greensboro Swarm
If you were surprised to see Damien Wilkens suddenly return from the dead last year to earn some playing time late in the year for the Indiana Pacers, you'll probably be even more shocked to learn that at 38, he's still going in the G League for the Greensboro Swarm. Charlotte's disappointing 2017-18 season and the possibility of resting their veterans down the stretch may be enough for the team to call up Wilkens, nephew of Hall of Famer Dominique, months after the Pacers let him go.
Say what you want about the G League not being a viable alternative to college for the young kids yet, but at least old men like Damien are getting their chance to prove there's still something left in the tank. Will we see him back in the next few weeks?
9 Overseas: Sasha Vujacic, G, Auxilium (Fiat) Torino
I mean, we've been playing this game with Sasha Vujacic for the better part of the 2010s, so maybe we shouldn't be so surprised. When he left the Lakers after their NBA Finals runs, we wondered where he went before realizing he went overseas. When he came back to play for Phil Jackson's Knicks (which spearheaded some great Knicks Twitter moments as the fans slowly contemplated jumping in front of the A train), we asked where he'd been and then questioned where he was at now.
Well, now you know that Sasha Vujacic, having just turned 34, is playing for Fiat Torino in Italy. The fun part of their team's name is that while they're officially the Auxilium Torino, Fiat replaces Auxilium in the name for licensing reasons. As more and more teams put ads on their jerseys, we're only a few years away from like the New Jersey Devils being renamed the New Jersey Cockroach Museum or something.
8 North America: Anthony Bennett, F, Maine Red Claws
In the grand scheme of things, this shouldn't surprise you. Bennett will continue to get chances only because he's a former no. 1 overall pick, not because he's suddenly learned how to play basketball at the pro level or because teams think he's going to be a true gamechanger for them. I wouldn't be surprised if there are people out there who, when they see Bennett and the Maine Red Claws are coming to town, decide to go just so they can see one of the biggest busts in league history.
Because of how much the game has changed for big men, Bennett may really never see an NBA court as a starter or even a decent backup ever again.
Had the Cavaliers not made the silly choice to draft him no. 1 overall and just traded the pick for a star, no one would even care about Bennett.
7 Overseas: Sergio Rodriguez, G, CSKA Moscow
Though Sergio Rodriguez was a fine point guard last year for the Philadelphia 76ers, finally returning to the league for the first time since the 2009-10 season, the Spanish point guard signed with CSKA Moscow in the offseason and has been there ever since. Is anyone else surprised that NBA teams were talking more about signing Ty Lawson and not Sergio Rodriguez? No offense to Lawson, of course who we'll forever love for his smoking NBA Draft live stream.
Because Rodriguez was at least decent with the Sixers, maybe a team or two will come calling this summer. It'd obviously be up to Rodriguez if he wants to take a chance in the NBA for a third time, but what's stopping him? At least he's not DeAndre Jordan.
6 Overseas: Thomas Robinson, F, Khimki
Have we seen the last of Thomas Robinson in the NBA as a rotation player? Given that he's a big man who doesn't make threes, is an adequate rebounder, and only a decent scorer, the simple answer might be yes.
Because Robinson is still only 26 (soon to be 27), he'll still get plenty of opportunities overseas and potentially in the G League.
Unfortunately for all of the big men who once had a purpose and were always worth signing in NBA 2K or NBA Live, their time has changed with the league looking more at slimmer, explosive big men as opposed to the...well, big men of past. Perhaps Robinson should learn how to shoot threes this summer...
5 North America: Randy Foye, G, Windy City Bulls
At 34, Randy Foye's chances at returning to an NBA court lessen by the day...but he's also playing in the G League with a big-league team which is in the midst of an awful season. Does that mean the Bulls will randomly sign Foye to a ten-day contract to see if he has anything in the tank and to have him mentor some of their younger players? Perhaps. Do I see it happening? No, not really, if only because the Bulls front office is beyond unpredictable.
So long as Foye hits threes and stays out of trouble in the next few weeks, the veteran may be able to earn a training camp spot somewhere for next season. Either that, or he'll be on the overseas portion when someone does this article next year.
4 Overseas: Andrew Nicholson, F, Guangdong Southern Tigers
Again, I thought Nicholson was just a free agent or injured for someone like Portland or Charlotte, but he's instead playing for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in hopes of eventually returning to the NBA.
Nicholson never really showed anything special at the pro level, which hurts his case, but teams may be wiling to take more of a chance given they'd only have to give him the minimum at most and a tryout or summer camp invite won't directly hurt them.
But given that Nicholson was unmemorable for the Brooklyn Nets, which is where players are going to turn their careers around, I don't know how much we can say to defend him or pitch him to someone else. Then again, there's always the Orlando Magic...
3 Overseas: Donatas Motiejunas, C, Shandong Golden Stars
No. 1: those are a lot of ads on that uniform. No. 2: even if he's the typical big man that teams are trying to avoid having as anything other than one of the last guys on the bench, I still think there's a chance Donatas Motiejunas earns some type of tryout this summer.
What is a team like the Nets or Suns going to really lose by calling Motiejunas and his agent up and asking if he wants to go for a tryout?
But at the end of the day, the NBA is unpredictable and maybe Motiejunas will ball overseas to the point of becoming the Shaquile O'Neal of China. That whole thing about strangers things have happened is especially true in this case.
2 North America: Brandon Jennings, G, Wisconsin Herd
Jennings would not have made this list if we did this article just a few weeks back, but here he is: back in Wisconsin with the Herd and hoping to play his way back onto the Milwaukee Bucks, where he spent the first few years of his career and was a fairly dynamic scorer in the process. Though Jennings didn't look like his old self in New York or Washington last year, there may still be something left in him that a team wants to consider seeing.
The worst case is that Jennings is a distraction in the locker room and is cut. The best case is that Jennings gets called up before the season ends and helps the Bucks clinch a strong seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Fate, huh?
1 Overseas: Derrick Williams, F, Tianjin Ronggang Gold Lions
I may as well just be honest: I thought Derrick Williams was still on the Charlotte Hornets' roster, but wasn't playing because he was hurt.
Who would have realized that Williams, still somehow only 26, instead linked up with the Tianjin Gold Lions (awesome name) at the end of Dec. 2017 and is playing out the rest of this season in China?
And yet, Williams still has a pretty high chance of getting back to the NBA because of his age, the fact he's showed flashes of the player the Timberwolves once imagined he'd be, and him being a versatile big man not simply limited to playing in the paint.
At this point, I'm genuinely expecting to see that the Knicks or Magic have signed Williams just to see if he's picked up anything in his short time overseas. What do they have to lose at this point?
Update: Los Angles Lakers have signed Derrick Williams, bringing him back to the NBA.
Which of these players were you most surprised to see on this list? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below.
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