Like all other professional leagues in the US, the NBA has a landscape that is always changing. We see players come and go all the time, be it via trade or free agency. There are also the guys who come in through the draft, who are the most common newcomers to the league. Nevertheless, what many fans usually forget is that there is an entire market of great players outside of the NBA. No, we are not talking about the guys who are trying to play their way into the league via the G-League. No, we are talking about the countless professionals who play overseas. And if you are one of those people who think that just because the guy went overseas he doesn’t have what it takes to play in the NBA, just remember that players like Luis Scola were successful, even if they did not come into the NBA until they were in their late 20s and were already established overseas.
This is one of the reasons why we think NBA franchises sometimes make the mistake of going with what the fans would like most and bet everything they have on the young players who come in through the draft even though you never know how good or bad one of these guys could be. Sometimes, it is just best to get rid of a young player who is never going to be great and put some of your money on a guy who is already established as a professional and could help you right away.
16 Give Up: Brandon Ingram
We truly have a hard time understanding why anyone in the Lakers organization ever thought that their future would be inherently tied to Brandon Ingram. Yes, this is a kid who came into the NBA when he was just 19 years old. His 6’9” 190-pound frame means that he has a lot to grow and a lot of athletic potential to play in the NBA.
He could be a good wing defender, and he could certainly help a team that needs a role player here and there. However, to think that this guy could lead a franchise is just ridiculous.
The interesting thing here is that the people who would bring out the torches and pitchforks at us saying he is great, are either diehard Lakers fans who don’t watch games or people who cheer for other teams and only see Ingram in highlights. This kid is not nearly as good on offense as was advertised. But the real problem with him is that he is a complete liability defensively. This is a guy who is guarding small forwards, who are usually smaller than him, and he only averaged 0.7 blocks per game during this regular season. But perhaps the craziest thing here is to realize that he was drafted before Jaylen Brown.
15 New Chance: Anthony Randolph
Believe it or not, there are a ton of talented guys playing overseas. Some of them were even very good players at the NBA level. The first example we could find was Anthony Randolph, who played in the NBA for six seasons before deciding to take his career overseas. This guy is a 6’10” athletic power forward who could help a lot of teams in the NBA if given a chance. The thing here is that he loves the life he has playing for Real Madrid. First, he got to play in a system where he fits perfectly as he became a stretch-four in Europe.
He's a big man who can shoot from the outside and spread the floor. It only happens that he would be a perfect fit for the NBA today.
While playing for Madrid last season, Randolph shot better than 36 percent from beyond the three-point line. Randolph will also be the first to say that he was immature while he played in the NBA and that his tenure overseas has been very helpful to his growth. This guy is also still only 28-years-old, which means he could go back to the NBA and be a reliable option for years to come.
14 Give Up: D’Angelo Russell
You know exactly where we are going with this. D’Angelo Russell is a 22-year-old point guard who could play as a shooting guard as well. For better or for worse, he is a good player on the offensive end of the floor. His shot usually falls, and for a guy who attempted almost six three-pointers a game last season, a 32 percent hit ratio is not that bad. Yes, he might not be the best guard on defense, but he is not such a liability that we would condemn him for that alone. The problem with Russell is that he has proven to be not well liked by a locker room.
The incident that solidified him as such a hindrance for a locker room was when he ratted out his teammate Nick Young in a video. This was really a Hollywood drama situation in which Young was bragging about his um, off-court achievements, and Russell decided to tape his teammate. Yes, no one is saying Nick Young was in the right. As a matter of fact, it was probably a good thing that his relationship with Iggy ended since he was comfortable enough to brag to his friends about his escapades. Nevertheless, Russell leaked the video, and that is as far as a breach of trust you will ever hear in a locker room.
13 New Chance: Andray Blatche
This time we will move up the age line and talk about Andray Blatche. This guy was arguably one of the most talented players to come out of the second round of an NBA Draft. Blatche was the 49th overall pick in the 2005 draft and really played his way up the pecking order in Washington, as he played seven seasons with the Wizards.
To anyone who thinks this guy was not good enough to play in the NBA, it doesn’t hurt to remind everyone that the only season in which he was a full-fledged starter, he averaged 16.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
Those are solid numbers for a big man who came out of the second round. Nevertheless, something happened to his career that pretty much ended his chance at the NBA level. He went to play for the Nets. Oh yeah, it's hard to find a franchise that can destroy a player like Brooklyn does.
After a couple of years with the Nets, Blatche decided it was in his best interest to try his luck overseas. As fate would have it, he went to play in China, and also became a naturalized Filipino, playing for the national team
You can imagine that the level is not the same as the NBA, but the numbers he put up there were still impressive. Just in his first season, he averaged 31.1 points and 14.6 rebounds per game.
12 Give Up: Dante Exum
At just 22 years old, Dante Exum is another one of those guys who came into the NBA very early. He was just 19 years old when the Utah Jazz drafted him with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. That is very early for someone to be thrown into a league as competitive as the NBA. That is unless that person is someone like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, who were able to perform at a high level right out of high school. In the case of Exum, he did get a lot of playing time in Utah as a rookie. He started half of the 82 games for the Jazz in that season and played all of the other ones coming off the bench. In total, he averaged 22 minutes per game. In that time, Dante scored an average of 4.8 points a night and had 2.4 assists. Those are not the kind of numbers you would expect from a top-five pick who is playing more than 20 minutes.
Unfortunately, while most people would expect someone like that to improve because he was very young in his rookie season, Exum went the other way around. He lost most of his playing time and had to deal with a bunch of injuries. Now that he has returned, he has been just okay for the Jazz. He is quick, and he can get to the rim, but his inability to shoot from three doesn’t inspire much confidence in his future.
11 New Chance: Jimmer Fredette
You can’t really blame a guy for going overseas to make some money if he is never really given a chance in the NBA. Jimmer Fredette was arguably one of the most electrifying college basketball players we have seen in the last decade. Watching this kid play for BYU was out of this world. People who are delighted to watch Trae Young play these days have no idea what was like watching Jimmer in the tournament. This guy was a winner, and no one would say otherwise until he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and sent to the Sacramento Kings with the 10th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.
Let’s put it all in numbers. During his senior season at BYU, Jimmer averaged 28.9 points per game while shooting better than 39 percent from three-point range. Crazy, right? The problem was that he never really got a chance to have some continuity in the NBA as he barely had minutes to play, and couldn't make the move from college shooting guard to pro point guard. However, once he went to play in China, things went a little bit differently than they did in the NBA. He finally got his minutes and the freedom to shoot as well. The result was him averaging 37.6 points per game through 41 games last season.
10 Give Up: Mario Hezonja
Since we were just talking about a young guy who was a number five overall pick whose team should give up on him, we thought it would be a perfect addition to put the other number five overall pick we had on our list to follow his act. From Australia to Croatia, we shift from Dante Exum to Mario Hezonja. The NBA has seen a lot of international guys come in and make an impact right away for their teams. Hezonja is someone who many people thought would be on top of that list. He was an electrifying talent who got a lot of attention from the Internet crowd because of his highlight dunks. Nevertheless, that never really translated well to the NBA game.
It turns out that cool dunks will only get you so far in a league as competitive as this one. That is especially true now that the game is mostly played from the perimeter.
Hezonja has played three entire seasons with the Orlando Magic, and this latest one was full of career highs – 9.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. Still, that's not the kind of production you want from a third-year man who is playing more than 20 minutes.
9 New Chance: Jan Vesely
A lot of the times, when international players come into the NBA Draft, fans only get to see the highlights of what they did overseas. And these are usually impressive since these are highlights of an 18 or a 19-year-old kid playing against grown men and playing really well most of the time. That was the case with Jan Vesely when he suddenly appeared to the world and was drafted number six overall by the Washington Wizards in 2011. In the videos, what we could see was the athletic freak that Vesely was. We didn’t get to see that he could not shoot a three-pointer to save his life, or that he was too skinny to compete with grown NBA centers without the option of shooting from outside. We say that because we have skinny guys like Kristaps Porzingis, who can make up for their lack of weight with their ability to shoot the ball and take the other big guys away from the paint.
As you can imagine, his tenure in the NBA did not last long, and Vesely said goodbye to America after only three seasons. Nevertheless, he has developed and grown as both a person and a player. This kid became one of the most reliable players in Europe and even helped his team to a European title last season.
8 Give Up: Emmanuel Mudiay
Hailing from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the seventh pick of the 2015 NBA Draft was a guy in whom the Denver Nuggets put a lot of faith. Emmanuel Mudiay came into the NBA at just 19 years old and was instantly thrust into a starting role for Denver. They thought this guy could make an impact from the get-go, but it turns out he still needed some time to develop to the NBA game. Don’t get us wrong, his numbers as a rookie were impressive at 12.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. But with that inexperience also came an average of 3.2 turnovers a night, which can be pretty damning for a point guard.
While he improved in taking care of the ball, it became clear for the Nuggets that if they wanted to go back to being a contender and making playoff runs, they would need to find another guy to take over the point for them.
And so, they did. Mudiay had to play a bench role until he was finally traded to the New York Knicks. Since he is an incredibly athletic player, it is hard to claim that Mudiay will never have a place as a starter in the NBA, but that sure is how things look today as he played 22 games with the Knicks and only averaged 8.8 points and 3.9 assists per night.
7 New Chance: DeJuan Blair
One thing you have to love about the NBA is that you get to meet many characters you would not believe existed unless you saw them with your own eyes. DeJuan Blair was one of those guys. A second-round pick out of the University of Pittsburgh, this guy immediately became the story of the NBA after being drafted by the San Antonio Spurs and becoming a vital part of Gregg Popovich’s rotation from the get-go. Blair was a wonder to watch. He was a 6’7” power forward who also played center and somehow still managed to pull 6.4 rebounds a game in just 18 minutes on the court as a rookie. Yes, just imagine how big the guys he was being guarded by or guarding on defense were.
Even more impressive was the situation with his knees. Not that we or most of the fans know exactly what this means, but according to the doctors, after two surgeries during his high school days, Blair was left without any anterior crucial ligaments in his knees. And since we always hear about guys getting sidelined because they injured whatever kind of ligaments they have on their knees, it is beyond our comprehension how this guy managed to play at a high level without some. He played the last season in Argentina, but hopefully, he will be picked up by some NBA team this summer because, at 29 years old, he still has gas in the tank.
6 Give Up: Buddy Hield
This is a guy we feel bad for because he fell into a place that wasn’t quite right for him as a rookie. Unlike a lot of the other guys on this list, Buddy Hield was already experienced at 23 years old when he entered the NBA. The problem for him was that he didn’t get to play the way he used to in college when he was drafted by New Orleans. This guy is a volume shooter, and when you have a superstar like Anthony Davis on the roster, it is hard to get a lot of shots up. Ultimately, he was traded to the Sacramento Kings, and things improved a bit. With the Kings, he has shot more than five three-pointers a night and has been hitting them consistently with his shooting percentage from beyond the arc hovering around 43 percent in Sacramento.
After reading that, you might be wondering why the heck we decided to put Hield on this list. We did that because it seems like he will be one of those guys who have to be happy with being a role player for the rest of their careers. He is a good basketball player, but Hield is not the kind of guy you would want to build your franchise around.
5 New Chance: Andrea Bargnani
Sometimes moves just don’t work out. That was exactly what happened when the Toronto Raptors decided to draft Andrea Bargnani with the number one pick of the 2006 NBA Draft. In their defense, that year was not a great one for draftees as it was a rather weak draft class in terms of superstar talent. There is not one guy you can say would literally change your franchise in that entire draft, aside from Brandon Roy, who ultimately had to call it quits early because of an injury. The other big names on that draft were guys like Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rajon Rondo. They were all good players, but none that would make us say that the Raptors committed a crime by drafting Bargnani number one.
It is clear that they were looking for a big guy who could stretch the floor. That means that the Raptors were already thinking ahead of their time more than a decade ago.
For better or for worse, Bargnani was as advertised and he had some very good seasons with Toronto.
The best one was 2010-11, in which he averaged 21.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He managed to stay in the NBA for 10 seasons before going back to Europe. Now, he is still the same player as before, and he can still shoot the ball, as he shot better than 47 percent from three in the Spanish league last season.
4 Give Up: Markelle Fultz
This one is harsh. It might be a little early for us to call Markelle Fultz a bust, but that's certainly how things looked during his first season in the NBA. Yes, the guy had to deal with injuries and everything, but what mostly became apparent was that it doesn’t seem like he has the mental fortitude to play in the NBA. Let’s just put this all in perspective. This is a guy who came out from the University of Washington as the undisputed number one overall pick. In college, he was about as reliable shooting the ball as players came. As a freshman in Washington, he averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game. Yeah, all of that as a freshman. Not to mention that he was shooting better than 47 percent from the field as well as better than 41 percent from three-point range. Nobody can take those numbers away, but as soon as he arrived in the NBA, the questions started to follow this guy.
Many of you will remember there was even a point during the season in which everyone thought that his shot was broken and it could never be fixed. At 19 years old, he still has a lot of time to prove us wrong, but the first glimpses of Fultz were not what the 76ers were expecting.
3 New Chance: Anthony Bennett
Here is where things get a little tricky. Yes, we could confidently say that the Raptors did not commit any crime when they drafted Bargnani number one overall in 2006. However, the same cannot be said about the Cleveland Cavaliers when they drafted Anthony Bennett number one in 2013. That was arguably the biggest mistake in recent draft history. And it might only come short of the Michael Jordan draft in terms of overlooking someone since it really does seem like one of the guys who came out of that draft could become one of the greatest players of all time. Yes, we are talking about Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak was taken number 15 in that draft. How crazy does that sound today?
But he is not the only guy Bennett was taken ahead of, as other current and probably future All-Stars Victor Oladipo, C.J. McCollum, Rudy Gobert, and Steven Adams were also in that draft class.
Now, while we still believe he did not get drafted where he should, that doesn’t mean Bennett should not have a place in the NBA.
The guy is a good basketball player, but he never got a chance to prove it in the NBA as he was instantly labeled a bust. He was good while he played in the G-League and at 25 years old, he could still improve a lot.
2 Give Up: Stanley Johnson
The Detroit Pistons are a weird franchise. After they won their titles and had those legendary battles against the San Antonio Spurs in the past decade, the Pistons went downhill and became one of those franchises that didn’t really matter most of the time. Most notably, they made a trade for Blake Griffin before the deadline this season, hoping that he would be the spark to take them to the playoffs. Everyone saw how that turned out. Regardless of specifics, we mentioned the franchise troubles because they certainly seem to affect the guys whom the Pistons draft.
One of these guys was Stanley Johnson. A 6’7” forward out of Arizona, this kid seemed like he would be the next great wing player for the Pistons after he had a solid rookie season coming off the bench. Nevertheless, his production never really changed as he kept averaging roughly the same numbers over these past three seasons. Worst of all is that he did not improve his shooting at all and his percentages kept going down. Last season he shot a terrible 28 percent from three. While it shouldn’t be hard for the Pistons to get someone to bite on a trade for this guy, it is tough to face the fact that he was drafted before guys like Devin Booker and Myles Turner.
1 New Chance: Josh Smith
Say what you will about the guy, but Josh Smith was fun to watch in the NBA. From his electrifying dunking skills to his improved jump shot, this is a guy who worked very hard to become a good NBA player. After all, you don’t earn a starting spot in a team like the Atlanta Hawks for nine consecutive seasons without being a good contributor. Yes, his highest scoring season was 2011-12 in which he averaged 18.8 points per game, but that is not where Smith used to earn his money. This guy is an impressive defensive presence for a team to have both on the perimeter and down low. Just so you can have an example, during his career in the NBA, he has averages of 1.2 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. Yes, this is a small forward averaging almost 2 blocks per game for his career. You have to respect numbers like that.
What many people would start saying here is that he is probably very old by now since he has 13 NBA seasons under his belt. However, people forget that this guy came into the league when he was only 19-years-old. Smith is still only 32, and he could help a lot of teams in this upcoming season.