If you have been around sports for a long time you know that the sophomore year of a player is a crucial one in terms of development. More often than not, the second year leap is juxtaposed with the success of one player. On the other side, there is what the sports world calls the “sophomore slump,” or simply the struggles a player faces in their second year; better scouting reports, motivation to improve, and a bunch of other small factors play largely in terms of struggling in year number two.
While the myth of sophomore slumps has been debated for years now, it is no secret that there are players in the past who have disappointed a lot in terms of sophomore success. Whether it was because of injuries, decrease of minutes, or other off-court issues, players still have a tendency to follow up in their promising rookie year.
For this article we will focus on the struggles. We look at players who seemingly had success grabbed by the throat in their rookie year but failing to capitalize on a strong foundation and ultimately declining in their sophomore year. Today we look at one-year wonder NBA players who flopped in their second season.
20 Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans is probably the first name that popped into your mind when talking about failing to capitalize on a strong rookie year. As a rookie, Evans joined elite company in Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James as the only rookies to average 20 points per game, five rebounds per game, and five assists per game.
While Evans still had good years that followed, he certainly did not live up to the hype he built during his first year with the Sacramento Kings. In his sophomore year, his scoring and efficiency both took a dip with DeMarcus Cousins coming on board. He did average close to 20 points last year for the Grizzlies, but those were largely misleading numbers as he was playing for a tanking team without any depth at the guard positions following Mike Conley's injury.
19 Michael Carter-Williams
Michael Carter-Williams had arguably the greatest debut in NBA history. Putting up a near quadruple-double against the defending champions Miami Heat was a sight to see back in 2013.
MCW then won Rookie of the Year but so far, that was his greatest accomplishment as a pro. Carter-Williams’ scoring average has dropped each year he has been in the league, but his decline started in his second year when he got traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. The trade exposed Carter-Williams’ weaknesses and his inability to hit jumpers was critical in the Bucks’ loss in the playoffs.
18 Jordan Clarkson
During the 2014-15 season, Jordan Clarkson was a surprisingly good second round pick. Clarkson made the All-Rookie Team, averaging almost 12 points per game on good efficiency for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The following year Clarkson had a jump in scoring, but it came at the expense of efficiency. In fact, most of Clarkson’s advanced stats followed suit as they all were down compared to his rookie year. On paper, JC had a good improved sophomore year but in reality, it was mostly because of more minutes, more shots, and overall a bigger role in their offense.
17 Willy Hernangomez
If you are not familiar with Willy Hernangomez, he is a big center that has a knack for rebounding the basketball. In his first year, Hernangomez made the All-Rookie Team, averaging 8.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, certainly impressive for a young center playing for a big market in New York.
The following year proved to be a tough adjustment as Willy faced the reality of the NBA, as he was traded to the Charlotte Hornets. In the entirety of his sophomore year, Willy only averaged 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, certainly a disappointing follow-up to a promising rookie year.
16 Langston Galloway
Langston Galloway was a part of the same rookie team Jordan Clarkson was in. In his rookie year, Galloway showed a lot of promise on both ends of the floor as he averaged 11.8 points per game and 1.2 steals per game. Galloway looked like he knew how to play under the bright lights of New York and it was exciting to see what he would turn out into.
As a sophomore, however, Galloway saw a dip in every single statistical category. The points, rebounds, and assists especially took a hit with the decrease of minutes he was playing.
15 Emeka Okafor
Emeka Okafor was drafted in 2005 as a defensive-minded center. He was viewed as a game-changer on the other end of the court and he certainly lived up to expectations as Okafor won Rookie of the Year over Dwight Howard in 2006.
The following year, Okafor seemingly got worse offensively as his scoring and offensive advanced stats showed how poor of a player he was on the offensive side of things.
Okafor had a good long career, but his biggest accomplishment was the fact that he won Rookie of the Year over future Hall of Famer Dwight Howard.
14 Adam Morrison
The hype for Adam Morrison back then was insane, looking back in hindsight. Morrison was compared by many to Larry Bird, as he had a silky smooth jumper and a knack for scoring the basketball. Morrison had a good rookie year, averaging 11.8 points per game for the then-Charlotte Bobcats.
During the off-season of Morrison’s sophomore year, he went down with a serious knee injury that sidelined him for the entire 2007-08 season. As it is, Morrison never got a chance to follow up on his rookie year and although he was inefficient back then, he did show promise as a scorer, or at least a catch-and-shoot player coming off screens.
13 Landry Fields
Back in 2010-11, Landry Fields made a name for himself as a key part of the New York Knicks’ future. Fields was named to the All-Rookie team due to his ability to guard and score the basketball, and while he was only 22-years-old at the time, people deemed him worthy to carry the Knicks for the foreseeable future.
The follow-up on the hyped rookie year was somewhat disappointing, as Fields regressed in both the boxscore and the advanced stats column.
As of the moment, Fields is out of the NBA due to a nerve injury he sustained in his right hand.
12 Omri Casspi
While Tyreke Evans was tearing the league up in his rookie year, Omri Casspi was along by his sides as the deadly shooter playing off of Evans' drives. The rookie combination brought in a new ray of hope in the city of Sacramento, as you had a potential all-around superstar in Evans and a future sharpshooter in Casspi.
Ultimately, Casspi’s inability to do anything else on the court proved to be the bane of his existence. In Casspi’s sophomore year he saw a drop in scoring and efficiency, slowing down the hype that was started a year prior.
11 Jorge Garbajosa
Jorge Garbajosa was a 29-year-old rookie for the Toronto Raptors during the 2006-07 season. Garbajosa was a power forward that showed potential as a stretch four for the Raptors, hitting 66 threes in his rookie year. In fact, the Spaniard tied with LaMarcus Aldridge as they both made the All-Rookie Team in 2007.
The following year would eventually be Garbajosa’s last year in the NBA, as he only averaged 3.1 points per game on a poor 32 percent from the field in only seven games.
From All-Rookie Team to out of the league, Garbajosa certainly had quite the fall in the NBA.
10 Emmanuel Mudiay
The 2015-2016 rookie class had quite the hype in terms of fire power. Emmanuel Mudiay, Devin Booker, Kristaps Porzingis, Nikola Jokic, Karl Anthony-Towns to name a few, were seen as the future of the NBA in their respective positions. Mudiay, in particular, was hyped as the next John Wall because of his athleticism and passing abilities.
In year two, Mudiay saw his points and assists fall as the Denver Nuggets focused their offense more towards young center Nikola Jokic and combo guard Jamal Murray, who turned out to have more promise than Mudiay. Even to this day, Mudiay’s best year came in his rookie year.
9 Alexey Shved
It is not farfetched to say that we have never seen any player that plays the same style as Alexey Shved. Shved is a long shooting guard who can hit jumpers from anywhere on the court while maintaining a playmaking skill that manifests with his drop-dead gorgeous passes.
In his rookie year, the Russian shooting guard turned a lot of heads with his unique playstyle. Unfortunately, those heads quickly turned back as Shved’s playstyle proved it cannot be sustained for 82 games a year.
8 Jahlil Okafor
Once upon a time, people believed the big men were back in the NBA because of Karl Anthony-Towns and Jahlil Okafor. The latter proved graceful post moves had a place in the modern NBA as Okafor made the All-Rookie Team in 2016.
One year later, Okafor was getting benched because of his selfish play style and his “me first” mentality when it comes to offense. Not to mention, Okafor was abysmal on the defensive end, giving up layups and generally not showing any form of commitment to get better. Forget the injuries – even if he stayed healthy, Okafor likely wouldn't have kept up the momentum from his solid rookie season.
7 Marquese Chriss
Marquese Chriss is a freak of an athlete at 6’9". Combine his athleticism with a good-looking stroke and you get a rare breed when it comes to the power forward spot.
Chriss had a good rookie year. While the class itself was somewhat lacking, Chriss made the second rookie team and if you check his per-36 numbers across the board, they paint a good picture of what Chriss was in his rookie year and what he still can turn into.
Unfortunately for the Phoenix Suns, Chriss came into his second year out of shape. This, in turn, led to limited minutes and poor numbers in his sophomore year.
6 Jonny Flynn
Jonny Flynn is notorious these days for being the point guard taken before Stephen Curry back in 2009. Flynn was a solid point guard especially on the offensive end, as his play was enough to earn him a spot on the rookie team. Yes, he was indeed good.
Unfortunately for Flynn, a hip injury derailed his career big-time. As a result of the injury, Flynn is now nothing more than a punchline to the same joke for five years and counting.
If not for the injury, Flynn could have potentially become a good solid starting point guard for a handful of teams in the league today.
5 Richard Dumas
A throwback to the '90s, Richard Dumas was a small forward for the Phoenix Suns in the early days of Charles Barkley's time with the team. Dumas was seen as the future of the Suns after an impressive rookie year in which he averaged over 15 points per game and had a prominent role in the playoffs where the Suns made the Finals.
But alas, after all the promise in the world, Dumas was suspended in his second playing year when his off-court issues caught up with him. After a promising rookie year, Dumas only played in three total seasons in the NBA.
4 Marshon Brooks
Marshon Brooks can easily be classified as a scoring guard. Brooks played point and shooting guard in his rookie year where he averaged 12.6 points per game, at the time it came out of nowhere since Brooks was never highly touted prior to the 2011-12 season.
What followed was a major drop in minutes and, of course, production. Brooks’ scoring average never reached double digits until the 2017-18 season, where he only played for seven no-bearing, late-season games in total for the Memphis Grizzlies.
3 Josh Jackson
It might sound way too early to put Josh Jackson in this list since he is still playing his sophomore year, but it has not looked pretty. During his rookie year, Jackson averaged 13.1 points per game and was the go-to guy for the Phoenix Suns in the latter half of the season; Jackson also displayed good defensive instincts for a rookie.
This year, however, Jackson has lost most of his minutes in favor of Mikal Bridges, who provides almost identical value on the court while being a better shooter, which is something that is needed in today’s NBA.
2 Shane Battier
A fun little trivia for newer NBA fans; Shane Battier was in contention for the number one overall pick back in 2001. Of course, in the end, Battier went sixth to the Vancouver Grizzlies and Kwame Brown went number one to the Washington Wizards.
Battier was regarded highly back then because of his ability to guard and shoot at his size. Battier impressed in his rookie year averaging 14.4 points per game and shooting 37.3 percent from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, this was by far Battier’s best year as far as individual play goes, as he had never averaged close to 14.4 ever in his 13-year career, and instead focused on being the consummate 3-and-D glue guy.
1 Ernie DiGregorio
Ernie DiGregorio is not a household name as he played in the early-to-late '70s, which was considered the dark era in NBA history. DiGregorio won Rookie of the Year in 1974 averaging 15.2 points and 8.2 assists per game while leading the league in free throw shooting at 90.2 percent.
DiGregorio never lived up to his rookie hype as he followed up with 7.8 points and 4.9 assists per game in 1975. Winning Rookie of the Year usually meant a long career, but DiGregorio only played five years in the NBA, mostly due to the unpredictability of the era that made it such a dark time for the NBA in general, as mentioned above. Much like how championship teams could fall to the wayside just a season or two later, a superstar one season could turn into a journeyman the next back in those days.
If you are looking for positives, DiGregorio was inducted in the Italian basketball Hall of Fame.