It's really, really difficult to win a championship in the NBA, especially given the layout of the NBA over the past decade. There have only been a handful of teams that have even had the opportunity to play in the NBA finals over the past decade and it has slimmed to only two teams over the past four seasons alone. As we enjoy the Golden State Warriors vs. the LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Part IV, it's easy to forget about all of the other great NBA players out there right now that remain ringless. Moreover, many of the greatest players in NBA history have finished their NBA careers without a championship to their name. For hall-of-famers like Steve Nash and Karl Malone, the fact that they never won a ring remains the biggest blemish on their otherwise spotless NBA resumes.
On the flipside of that, there are some really, really bad players that have NBA rings due to the teams they happened to play for being very good. While these bench players do play a role in a championship by pushing the starters at practice and creating a sense of brotherhood and family in the locker room, they are not the reasons why they own some championship hardware. LeBron James made it to his his eighth straight NBA Finals this season and he has won three. There are a lot of players from those championship teams that owe a lot of thanks to King James for providing them with a ring and championship credibility, despite their lack of helping him obtain it. This list specifically looks at players form those three championship teams and picks out the worst ones and looks at where they are now.
20 Matthew Dellavedova
For some reason many NBA fans fell in love with Matthew Dellavedova during the Cavaliers playoff run in 2014-2015. Maybe it was his hard-nosed, all-out effort style of play or maybe the fact that he was trying so hard to fill in for the injured Kyrie Irving that postseason that it gave him the underdog storyline? Regardless of the reasoning, the hype surrounding Dellavedova was unworthy and misguided because in reality, he was not that great of a player for the Cavaliers. In the Cavaliers championship run in 2015-2016, Dellavedova played only 12 minutes per game and it seemed like his entire role in those 12 minutes was to be annoying and try to get the other team's best players to fight him and get suspended.
Because of all the undeserved buzz surrounding Delly, he was able to cash in during the big pay day summer of 2016. Not sure how many of you realize this, but Dellavedova signed a four-year, $38 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks that summer that was fully guaranteed. So no matter how bad Delly would end up doing with the Bucks, he was guaranteed to make at least $38 million over the next four years. What were the Bucks thinking? Not surprisingly, Dellavedova has seen his minutes decrease each of the last two seasons and he averaged a whopping 4 points per game for the Bucks last year. Can this guy just go play in the Aussie league already?
19 Dexter Pittman
It was a short-lived career for Pittman in the NBA, but thanks to LeBron James, he managed to earn an NBA championship ring during his four-year NBA stint. Pittman is a classic big man in the sense that he is not much of a skill player and instead relies on his size, toughness, and muscle to be effective on the court. Although Pittman was never a real contributor for the Miami Heat during his time there, he did manage to leave his mark on the Heat's way to their championship title in 2012. During the semi-finals against the Indiana Pacers, Pittman took on the role of "goon" for the Heat and dropped a devestating elbow into the head of annoying Pacers guard Lance Stephenson. Pittman was called for a flagrant foul and was suspended for three games.
Pittman was traded away from the Heat shortly after receiving his 2012 championship ring. He spent limited time with Memphis Grizzlies in 2013 and the Atlanta Hawks in 2014 before realizing he was better off taking his game overseas.
Fortunately for Pittman, he has experienced success out of the NBA and is still playing in the Japanese professional league. Pittman currently plays for the Toyama Grouses and is apparently one of their best players. Hopefully Pittman plays a more sophisticated style of ball nowadays, but he'll always have a little bit of goon in him.
18 James Jones
To his credit, James Jones was actually a fine player back in his prime. He was a classic three and D type player that was never flashy or really noticeable out on the court except for when he would heat up from downtown. For his career, Jones shot over 40% from behind the three point line which is a strong number and indicates he was a consistent deep threat throughout his career. But Jones was older when first teamed up with LeBron in Miami. He played a role in both of the Miami championship wins but it was very minor as he averaged only 2 points in 2012 and 5 points in 2013. He followed LeBron to Cleveland as well and was still there when the Cavaliers won the 2016 championship.
So by following LeBron to Miami and then to Cleveland, Jones appeared in seven straight NBA Finals and was practically gifted three championship rings by King James. After retiring following the 2016 championship, Jones announced that he was going to be taking an executive position with the Phoenix Suns as the Vice President of Basketball Operations. Jones is highly regarded by players and executives throughout the NBA and is on track to be a future general manager at some point. He brings a large network for the Suns and some have even speculated the Suns as a dark horse option to land LeBron this offseason because of his close connections with Jones. It's unlikely, but it could happen.
17 Timofey Mozgov
The Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Timofey Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets in 2015 in exchange for two future first round picks, hoping that Mozgov would provide the Cavaliers with a true big man presence. While Mozgov had shown potential upside in Denver, including a game in which he compiled a remarkable 23 points and 29 rebounds, he never truly panned out the way Cleveland hoped for. In fact, in the 2015-16 championship season, Mozgov was reduced to a seldom used bench role and he averaged only six minutes per game during the playoff run. Not exactly the kind of production the Cavaliers were expecting when they gave up those two future first round selections. Those selections, more so than Mozgov's actual play in Cleveland, are what land the big Russian on this list.
Cleveland decided to cut their losses on Mozgov after the 2015-16 season and allowed him to enter free agency.
Remarkably, the Los Angeles Lakers signed Mozgov to a massive four-year, $64 million contract. It was an unforgivable move by the Lakers front office until the even more idiotic Brooklyn Nets agreed to take Mozgov and D'Angelo Russell in a trade for Brook Lopez and the rights to Kyle Kuzma. So the Nets not only received the terrible Mozgov, they also are now on the hook for his contract for the next two seasons, while Kuzma looks to be a future star for the Lakers. To summarize, Mozgov ruins franchises one at a time.
16 Juwan Howard
During his college years, Juwan Howard became a household name as a member of the "Fab Five" at the University of Michigan. The Fab Five included other big names like Jalen Rose and Chris Webber and represented the most talented group of freshman players in college history. After being the 5th pick in the 1994 NBA Draft, Howard went on to have a solid, yet unspectacular, 19-year NBA career. It was his final two seasons, however, which were some of the more memorable for Howard because he won the NBA championship in both of those years with the Miami Heat. Granted, he didn't really do much to help win those titles, but he was at least there and provided a veteran voice of leadership to go along with his 2 points per game average.
Howard retired after the 2013 championship season but stayed with the Heat organization as an assistant coach to Erik Spoelstra. To this day, Howard remains an assistant coach for the Miami Heat and is well respected for his efforts around the basketball universe. This respect is reflected in the rumors that Howard is considered a head coaching candidate and will be interviewing with the Detroit Pistons about their vacant head coaching position. Although Howard wasn't a great player during his time in Miami, he used that time as a way to develop his coaching abilities and it could pay out in a big way if he gets the Pistons lead job.
15 Norris Cole
Whatever happened to Norris Cole after those championship seasons in Miami? Many thought he was going to become a steady starting point guard in the NBA given his play in those seasons, but it turns out he was just another player riding the coattails of King James. Unfortunately for Miami, Cole never did develop into that starting caliber point guard and was only with the Heat until 2015, when he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a three-team trade that brought star Goran Dragic to Miami. He filled in admirably during his time with the Pelicans but later found himself bouncing between the Chinese Basketball Association and the NBA.
Nowadays Cole is still keeping his hoop dreams alive, but now he is playing in the EuroLeague for Maccabi Tel Aviv. In his first season with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Cole has started three games and is averaging just over 12 points per game. His athleticism and NBA pedigree is something EuroLeague teams covet so it wouldn't be surprising to see Cole stick with Maccabi Tel Aviv or at least bounce around the EuroLeague for a few seasons. His NBA days, however, are assuredly over, but at least he can always say that he is a two-time NBA Champion.
14 Iman Shumpert
Iman Shumpert is like J.R. Smith-lite in the fact that he's not quite as good as Smith and not quite as dumb on the court as Smith, yet their games are fairly similar. They both like to take bad shots at improper times of the game, but both can also come through with clutch shots on any given night as well. During the Cavaliers' championship season in 2015-2016, Shumpert averaged about 24 minutes per game and scored a steady 6 points per game.
His defense and athleticism were helpful when paired with LeBron, but ultimately Shumpert was traded to the Sacramento Kings at the 2017-18 trade deadline.
After being traded to the Kings, Shumpert never appeared in another game all season. This was partially because the Kings were in tank mode and wanted to give more time to their younger players to help their development, but the Kings are essentially paying Shumpert to sit on their bench each night. Despite being nothing more than a role-player, Shumpert's contract provides him with an $11 million player option for the 2018-2019 season and you can bet that he will pick up that option this off-season as he would make nowhere near that amount on the open market. The Kings are going to have to pay Shumpert a lot of money next season whether they like it or not, so they might as well play him, right?
13 Mike Miller
It sounds mean to say but Mike Miller was just a poor man's version of Kyle Korver toward the end of his NBA career. Both filled similar roles for LeBron championship teams in that they were the slow, older three point shooter that was a liability on defense. With Mike Miller it created a match-up nightmare for Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra because although he would love to have Miller's three point shooting ability in the game, it was often over-powered by his inability to guard the opposition. The same thing happens with Korver nowadays, except that Korver has proven to be a much better shooter than Miller over the course of his career.
Surprisingly, Miller continued to play until the 2016-17 season and had hopes of making one more return this past season but was unable to find a suitor. Instead, Miller is now making the leap into the coaching side of the game as a newly appointed assistant coach for the University of Memphis. He was hand selected by new Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway, who appears set on adding a lot of NBA experience to his collegiate coaching staff. Although this will be both Penny's and Miller's first years as a collegiate level coach, they could easily surprise you as a new era coaching powerhouse duo.
12 Chris Andersen
What an interesting career Chris "Birdman"Andersen had in the NBA. After dropping out of high school and going undrafted out of junior college, Birdman bounced around the international circuit and NBA D-League for several years before finally landing a shot with the Denver Nuggets. In fact, Birdman was the first ever NBA D-League player to get called up to the NBA (good trivia question). Once he made the NBA, he became a bit of a living legend for his dunks and jumping ability for his height. This legend got put to bed though after he missed 8 straight dunks in the NBA All-Star Weekend dunk contest in 2004. Andersen then was kicked out of the NBA as a result of his drug usage in 2006 and finally came back in 2008.
Andersen joined the Miami Heat in 2012-13 and played fine during the team's run to their second straight NBA championship. He was far from fantastic, but he provided solid defense and rebounding. Still, when it came to the playoffs, this big man disappeared and only played about 15 minutes per game. It was a far cry from the once promising prospect he was in his early years, but it was still good to see him bounce back from his old ways all the way to an NBA Championship. Anderson is now a part of Ice Cube's Big3 League and looks to again wreak havoc on opponents.
11 Jarvis Varnado
While most of the players on this list were all good to decent players in their NBA careers before joining teams with LeBron James, Jarvis Varnado was never a good NBA player. Varnado really hit the lottery when he signed a 10-day contract with the Miami Heat in 2013 and was eventually signed to a contract for the rest of the season. Interestingly enough, Varnado actually finished that year as a member of the Miami Heat's D-league team but because he had played in 8 games in the regular season, he was awarded a championship ring after the Heat won the title that year. He was waived the following season.
Since then, Varnado has jumped from team to team spanning the D-league, NBA, and all around the globe.
This past season he found himself playing for Basket Zaragoza of the Liga ACB in Spain.
Hopefully he is experiencing more success overseas than he ever did in the NBA as Varnado's career NBA stats are quite underwhelming: 3 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 block per game in 37 career games. But, Varnado can always say that he is an NBA Champion which guys like Steve Nash, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley can never say. So good for you Mr. Varnado, whoever you are.
10 Joel Anthony
Congrats to #joelanthony on winning the South American Champions League. Proud of how he stays humble, focused and ALWAYS prepared to do what HE needs to do to help his TEAM! That is a true measure of a Champion and he stays winning. All you young ballers need to follow in them footsteps. It’s one thing to go far playing in this game but another to a sustain a career! #noIinteam #trophyboy #hardwork #champion #canadianlegend #watchandlearn
Sometimes bad players make huge impacts and that is the case with Joel Anthony. This guy was not a great NBA player but he played his role well by being big, blocking shots, and protecting the rim. In the Heat's first championship season, Anthony even started 51 games and averaged 3.4 points and 3.9 rebounds. Granted he was only playing about 21 minutes per game despite being a starter, so it's not like he was getting a lot of crunch time minutes down the stretch. Plus he only made one start in his playoff career with the Heat, but he did his part by just getting out of LeBron James' way and not screwing it up like others on this list.
Anthony was able to carve out a relatively long NBA career, as he remained in the league until 2017. This past season was his first playing overseas as he joined San Lorenzo's team in the Liga Nacional de Basquetball in Argentina. At 35 years old, Anthony doesn't have much longer to play at a respectable level so it's commendable to see him keep playing the sport he loves late into his career. Although it's arguable that Anthony helped the Heat win their two titles, it's more likely that he was just another pawn in King James' game and is lucky to have two championship rings.
9 Ronny Turiaf
One of the most fun players to watch back in the mid 2000s was Ronny Turiaf, thanks to his high energy motor and goofy facial expressions. This guy was definitely more hilarious than he was talented and even he knew it. Turiaf had some decent years in the NBA, but his best game was well passed him by the time he joined the Miami Heat in 2011. Luckily for him, he was joining a team that consisted of the Big 3 of LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, and was well on their way to winning a championship, with or without him. Turiaf somehow was able to carve out about 10 minutes per game in the playoff run so he can at least say he did something, but he only averaged 1.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in those 10 minutes. Turiaf can thank LeBron for his ring, just like everybody else on this list.
Although it is rumored that Turiaf is trying to play basketball again internationally this year, it appears more likely that he is travelling a lot and loving his life. Turiaf appears to be a public speaker and could be a great one because of his outgoing personality and ability to win people over. Every city that Turiaf played for in the NBA, he became a fan favorite so it's easy to see why people would gravitate towards him. Hopefully Turiaf can become involved with the NBA again at some point because we could use more of his bench reactions.
8 Shane Battier
Poor Shane Battier. He really doesn't deserve to be on this list but he is just such an easy target that it was impossible to pass him up. Battier was always a very average NBA player offensively, but prided himself on always matching up defensively against the opposing teams best scorer. This led to many embarrassing and frustrating highlight videos where Kobe Bryant just abused Battier and hit shots right in his face despite Battier's solid defense. This same average play was exactly what Battier provided for the Heat during their two championship winning seasons. The funniest thing about Battier, however, is just how average of a person he looked out on the court. Great person though.
It really shouldn't surprise anybody that Battier has taken a front office position since retiring.
His official position is the director of basketball development and analytics for the Miami Heat. Battier was always such a smart guy that he was destined to fill an important role for an NBA franchise at some point. It's good to see him back with his old teammate Juwan Howard as part of the front-office team for the Heat. He will be an important piece in the development of many future Heat players so you can expect them to be very sound fundamentally after Battier works with them.
7 Eddy Curry
When Eddy Curry was drafted with the #4 overall pick in 2001, many people expected him to be one of the next great big men in the NBA. He showed that he had a strong skill set for several seasons in the mid-2000s while with the New York Knicks, including a season in which he averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds per game. This big bodied center was a massive human, but his problem was he just kept getting bigger and bigger. His weight issues led to a three-year hiatus from the NBA starting in 2009, but he looked to be in decent shape when joined the Miami Heat in 2011-12. While he may have been in better shape, it was clear that Curry had lost the skills that once made him a tantalizing prospect.
Curry only played in 14 games for the Heat that season and logged zero minutes in the playoffs in which the Heat won the finals. Still it was a great move by Curry to rejoin the NBA with the Heat and be awarded a NBA Championship ring all thanks to LeBron and the Big-3. Since retiring, Curry has stayed fairly low key despite dealing with some shocking issues like the murder of his ex-girlfriend (no Curry didn't do it) and reported financial issues. Despite being out of the spotlight for many years, it was recently announced that Curry will be taking part in Ice Cube's Big3 league this coming season. Hopefully he is in better shape during this comeback.
6 Mario Chalmers
Out of all the players on this list, Chalmers was probably one of the one most responsible for helping bring two championships to Miami. Chalmers hit numerous clutch shots throughout his playoff career and provided the Heat with a steady hand at point guard whenever LeBron or Wade wanted to give the ball off. Does Chalmers deserve to be on this list with these players? Probably not, but he's being grouped in within them because he was just another guy on those teams that nobody really remembers doing much outside of a few big games. The Big-3 in Miami needed two other starters and Chalmers just so happened to be one of them. His career averages show that he is nothing more than an average backup outside of the LeBron led lineups that he was always featured in.
Chalmers was good enough, however, to remain in the NBA for a few more seasons barring his health concerns. He finished 2017-18 with the Memphis Grizzlies and averaged 7 points per game while helping fill the void left by starting point guard Mike Conley. Chalmers' contract is up though so he will be a free agent starting July 1st and will be seeking a new team most likely. One team that should at least inquire is the Cleveland Cavaliers in case LeBron comes back for another season, as they will need some cheap role-players. Chalmers already knows how to play with the King so he would be an inexpensive and reliable option.
5 Dahntay Jones
First of all, does anybody else get thrown off when they see the spelling of Dahntay? It just doesn't look right, does it? Irrelevant name rant aside, Dahntay Jones' NBA career also just doesn't look right on paper. How did a guy who averaged 3.2 points and only 8 minutes per game throughout his nine-year NBA career have a championship ring, and yet there are some Hall of Fame players that don't? Just shows how cruel of a game the NBA can be at times. It also shows how lucky Jones was to get signed by the Cavaliers with only a few weeks left in the 2016 NBA season. So Jones joined right before the playoffs were to begin and the Cavaliers then went on to win their first and only NBA Championship. Coincidence? Yes, absolutely, as Jones had no effect on Cleveland getting their title.
Since leaving the NBA in 2017, Jones has held several roles including just recently becoming a financial advisor for student athletes around the world. His press release for his advisor position with Blueprint is actually quite comical (as seen above) as he states that "Jones' dominated the sport for over 14 seasons and received the highest honor, an NBA World Championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016." He should add that he was also LeBron's personal rebounder and water boy too. That's harsh, but is still more realistic than "dominated the sport." Jones is a good guy and will do good work through his advisor position so wish him the best of luck.
4 Jordan McRae
During his collegiate years at the University of Tennessee, Jordan McRae was actually a pretty decent prospect. He has great NBA size at 6'6" for a shooting guard and he could stretch the floor with his three point accuracy. But his talent never developed into NBA quality and he only played three professional seasons in the league and one of those was only a 10-game stint with the Phoenix Suns in 2015-16. Well I guess those 10 games showed enough to get the Cleveland Cavaliers interested as he signed with the Cavs the following season. McRae actually went on to start a few games for Cleveland but was ultimately relegated to bench duty during the playoffs. He was cut by the Cavaliers shortly before the 2016-17 playoffs, however.
After being cut by the Cavaliers, the 27-year-old McRae immediately joined the EuroLeague as a member of Baskonia.
Baskonia is a professional team based out of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. The best case scenario for McRae is that he gets another shot this off-season to prove his ability for an NBA team and plays well enough to earn a full year contract. It's tough for players to go to weaker overseas league and then improve enough to make an impact on an NBA roster, but hey if P.J. Tucker could do it then why can't Jordan McRae? Still, McRae is an NBA Champion... so at least he's got that going for him.
3 Mo Williams
Coach #MarkGottfried has selected his assistant coaches for the coming year: #MoWilliams, #JimHarrick & #JeffDunlap #CSUN #CalStateNorthridge #Northridge #California #CaliforniaStateUniversityNorthridge #SanFernandoValley #NCAA #NCAABasketball #CollegeHoops #Basketball #BasketballFans #Sports #SportsFans
For his career, it wouldn't be fair to call Mo Williams a bad player because for a while he was actually very good, evidenced by his All-Star appearance in 2009 during his first stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although Williams bounced around the league for most of his career, he returned to Cleveland in 2015 in order to again help LeBron try and bring a championship to Cleveland. During the regular season, Williams played an important role by filling in for the injured Kyrie Irving at the beginning of the year, but he eventually saw his role diminish over the course of the season. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Williams was essentially a bench body that provided no use to the Cavaliers in their championship run. He's another veteran that was practically gifted a ring by LeBron (and Kyrie Irving) in 2016.
The following season, the Cavaliers traded Williams with Mike Dunleavy, Jr. to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for sharp shooting Kyle Korver. Williams never played again and effectively announced his retirement in 2018, when he took an assistant coaching position for the Cal State Northridge men's basketball team. This coming season will be his first as a coach and if all goes well, it's possible that Williams attempts to jump back in to the NBA as an assistant coach at some point in the next couple of seasons. Maybe he can take Tyronn Lue's job?
2 Sasha Kaun
Who? Exactly. Who the heck is Sasha Kaun and what is he doing with an NBA Championship ring? Well Kaun was a former EuroLeague player who was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft (yes, it was so long ago that they were still the Supersonics instead of the OKC Thunder). But Kaun continued to play basketball in Europe for over eight years after he was drafted and finally came to the NBA in 2015-2016 when he was signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. In total, this 6'11", 260-pound Russian played in 25 NBA games and averaged less than a point in his NBA career. Yet those 25 games came for the Cavaliers during their championship run so Kaun got himself a Championship ring. It was his only NBA season so he will never know what it's like to not be a champion in the NBA. Crazy, right?
I'm not going to lie, I have no idea what Kaun is doing these days. My guess is he is just a family man who is probably living back in Moscow, but nothing comes up on him through various internet sources. He's just this living legend who won an NBA Championship in his only NBA season and is never to be heard from again. Well if he ever does want to try and go two for two on NBA championships, the Philadelphia 76ers own his rights. Maybe the now 33-year-old Sasha Kaun is the final piece of "the process," eh?
1 J.R. Smith
At first it was difficult to put J.R. Smith on this list because he played a key role in bringing Cleveland it's first championship in 2016, but after seeing him forget the score in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals it would be reprehensible to not include him here. Smith was once a strong scoring guard when he was with the Knicks and Nuggets, but he has filled more of a spot-up three point shooting role since becoming a member of the Cavaliers. Smith can be a good defender when he actually wants to be, but his lackadaisical style of play has to be extremely frustrating for Cavs fans around the globe.
As of right now, Smith is still a member of the Cavaliers and is scheduled to make $15 million per year on his contract through the 2019-20 season. It's really hard to fathom the Cavaliers paying a guy who dribbled out the clock of a tied NBA finals game because he didn't have the awareness to realize the game was tied another $15 million next season. It's possible that he returns depending on what happens with LeBron James this off-season, but Smith's contract is absolutely going to be a headache for the Cavs heading into next season. Best case scenario is that Smith retires and decides to play in China again to avoid some of the harsh limelight he is being put in after his Finals debacle.