Stephen Curry is without a doubt one of the top five players in the NBA today. And many people believe he would have been one of the best players in the league sooner if his career hadn’t been plagued by injuries early on. This is a kid who played more than 600 games in the NBA and only came off the bench six times. Yes, from the get-go he was an All-Star caliber player. In his rookie season with the Golden State Warriors, Curry averaged 17.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. All of that as a rookie. And we didn’t even mention that he shot better than 43 percent from beyond the arc in his first season in the NBA. Yes, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Steph Curry is one of the, if not the greatest shooter in the history of basketball.
That being said, it took him a while to get into the spotlight because he never got the supporting cast he deserved for a long time. It wasn’t until the 2014-15 season that he got the help he needed to take his team past the second round of the playoffs. And when he got that help, he immediately took them all the way to a championship. Now, since we are talking about the help he gets, what better way to describe his struggles than talk about 15 of the least talented players he ever had to play with in the NBA.
If we wanted to, we could have filled this list with a bunch of guys you never heard of. After all, all you need to do is go check out an NBA team’s roster for any given season, and you will undoubtedly find a player you didn’t even realize was in your favorite team.
Yes, the NBA is full of these mundane players, who are used to fill up rosters because they don’t eat up much cap space. And while we will talk about some guys like that who played with Steph Curry, we would also like to talk about some guys who actually got playing time alongside Steph.
The first one on our list is none other than Zaza Pachulia.
Here is where some people could come up and say that he is a guy who had a role to play and he was important for his team to win a championship, which he was since he was the guy who hurt Kawhi Leonard in a series Golden State seemed bound to lose.
Nevertheless, what we are talking about here is talent. And if anyone says that Pachulia is a talented basketball player you can pretty much laugh in their face. This guy is terrible, and the only reason he plays for the reigning champions is because he is an enforcer who is there to take a cheap shot at the other team’s best player, if need be.
When we talk about talent, you can look at it in either one of two ways. You can look at the raw talent of how much a player could improve in the game of basketball because he has the physical attributes necessary to do so, or you can look at talent in terms of skills. Here, we have the perfect example to show you what we mean. When you look at up player who is 6’11” tall and weighs 255 pounds, you see the tools necessary for someone to be a great basketball player at the NBA level. However, as much as this person might have the raw talent to develop into someone great, they might not have the skills to get the job done. That was exactly the case with Festus Ezeli.
This 28-year-old Nigerian center played all three of his seasons in the NBA for the Golden State Warriors, and he was solid for a guy who does not really have much basketball skills.
He was big, and he fought for rebounds. However, when he was asked to do anything in terms of skills, he was terrible. The best example we can give here to prove that is that his career free-throw percentage was just above 55 percent.
This is going to be one fun entry for us to talk about. Every year in the NBA there is one guy who seems like he is going to be the next big thing in the league. This is a guy who can apparently score as well as any other player, and who seems to have a bottomless well of talent. Someone who fit that bill at the beginning of his career was MarShon Brooks. In his first season playing for the New Jersey Nets, this guy seemed like he would be a solid contributor for any NBA team for years to come. He averaged 12.6 points per game as a rookie for the Nets. The problem here is that not many people watched the Nets play, so they didn’t realize that this guy needed a lot of shots to get it done. Yes, there is nothing you hate more than being deceived by a volume shooter. If you want to be a volume shooter, you have to be a relentless player like Russell Westbrook or James Harden. Let’s just say that Brooks was not that kind of guy.
After that solid first year, he quickly lost space in New Jersey and in all subsequent teams he played, which included the Warriors in 2013-14. (He did average over 20 points for the Grizzlies toward the end of the 2017-18 regular season, but take note that Memphis' season was a lost cause, and that they were playing minus Tyreke Evans and Mike Conley!)
Still talking about talent, something very common that happens is that a player might seem extremely talented when he is playing in high school or college. Unfortunately, that talent might not translate well to the NBA. That was exactly the case with Texas A&M point guard, Acie Law. If you watched this kid play in college, you would think he was the real deal. It seriously was no surprise when he got the nickname Captain Clutch for the heroics he played in several games during his college career. He played all four years at Texas A&M and finished his senior year with the solid averages of 18.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and five assists per game. Those are the kind of numbers you are looking for if you want to find a good backup point guard to play in the NBA.
The problem is that he did not adapt very well to the pro game and after four seasons in the league, Law decided to try his luck overseas.
He did well playing in Greece and won a pair of European titles with Olympiacos. The sad part here is that his career was cut short because of a knee injury in 2013, which forced him to retire.
There are guys in the NBA you need to respect. It is not easy to maintain a place in a league as competitive as this one. Just imagine the thousands of basketball players all around the world who are gunning for a spot in any NBA team. With that in mind, you have to respect a guy who played seven years in the league like Charlie Bell. This is a player you must respect because he was never the most talented guy on his team, and maybe not even close to that. Nevertheless, he was a hard worker, and that is something coaches in the NBA love. You don’t even need to look that far. In your favorite team today, you probably find a guy who can barely put the ball in the basket but maintains a place in the team because he is a hard worker and he will give his heart and soul to play defense when his number is called.
Charlie was one of those guys who never gave up. He went undrafted in 2001 and even had to play three seasons in Europe before really getting a chance of solidifying himself in the NBA. After that, he had spells with the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors before calling it a career. These days, he is an assistant coach in the G-League.
As we mentioned before, the players you barely hear about but still maintain themselves in the NBA for a long amount of time are usually guys who you have to respect just as much as you respect the All-Stars. Yes, the All-Stars are the most talented players in the world, and most of them work very hard to get where they are at. But it is hard to deny that those players already have some inherent talent and that their ceiling is much higher than the vast majority of basketball players around the world. It is perhaps more impressive to find a player whose ceiling is very close to the ground, but still through sheer hard work and dedication finds a way to maintain himself in the best league in the world. Another example we could find of someone like that who has played with Steph Curry was Devean George.
Have you even heard of this guy? Well, if you haven’t get ready for a little surprise, because he is someone who played 11 seasons in the NBA. In fact, he was also a starter for the Los Angeles Lakers during much of the 2003-04 season. It's true that he was not a great scorer, he was not a superb rebounder, nor was he good at dishing out assists. But this guy was a hard worker, and he did his part on defense when his number was called.
Nothing is as hit or miss as drafting European big men to the NBA. Yes, sometimes you can end up picking up a Kristaps Porzingis, but other times you might end up with a guy like Ognjen Kuzmic. And if you don’t know who this was, we can’t really blame you. This was a 7’1” 251-pound Bosnian center who was drafted with the 52nd overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in 2012. Yeah, we have seen good players come out of the second round, but usually what you get when you go European big man at that stage of the draft is a guy like Kuzmic.
After being drafted in 2012, he played another year overseas before making his NBA debut in 2013-14. And after his debut, his NBA career did not last long.
Kuzmic played a total of 37 games for the Warriors through the only two seasons he managed to survive in the NBA.
His averages were about as poor as you can imagine as he played 4.4 minutes per game, scored 0.9 points, and pulled in one rebound on average throughout those two seasons. After that, he went back to Europe, where he became a good player. Not a great one though.
Again, before we go into this entry, let’s just reinforce that we are talking about talent on this list. Yes, there are hard workers who grind their way through their NBA careers and even go on to play substantial roles for good teams. However, there is no denying that these guys don’t have much talent when it comes to basketball. Andris Biedrins was someone who fits that bill perfectly.
For better or for worse, he was a solid performer during the time he played in the NBA. Since he was selected 11th overall back in the 2004 Draft, Biedrins did not have to deal with the style of basketball the NBA has adopted today. Which was a good thing for him because he was a 6’11” center who was not very quick nor could he shoot. Yes, he would have been easy prey these days. Nevertheless, despite not having much talent when it comes to basketball, he was a starter for Golden State for a good six seasons. And one thing no one can take away from him is that he had an extremely good season in 2008-09 as he averaged 11.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, that was one season before they drafted Steph Curry.
When you are drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft, you should already have a solid picture in your head that you do not have a guaranteed place in the league. Guys who are drafted in the second round have to work twice as hard as the people who were drafted before them just so they can stay in the league. Your objective is not to become an All-Star or even a starter on your team. In many cases all you need to do, and you should want to do, is prove to teams that you are that one guy who could fill in a roster for the minimum wage in the NBA. There is no shame in that, you are still an NBA player.
However, the majority of players who are drafted in the second round do not go on to fulfill those roles. Most of the time, they get one or two years in the NBA until they realize that they don’t have a future in there and either decide to make a career in the G-League or try their luck overseas. After a couple of subpar seasons with the Warriors, Charles Jenkins decided it was in his best interest to play in Europe.
Remember the whole spiel we gave you about hard-working players who grind their way to stay in the NBA? Well, the paramount example of people like that has to be Anderson Varejao.
This guy is the embodiment of hard work, and much of his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers and subsequently with the Golden State Warriors was him proving to all his critics that hard work and hustle are enough to keep you in the NBA.
Because seriously, no one thinks Varejao is a very skilled player. You don’t need to go that far. If you just search his name on YouTube, you are probably going to find some videos of him air balling free throws right near the top of your queue.
Either way, he is someone who survived 13 years in the NBA, and that is something he can brag about in Brazil for as long as he lives.
Now, we talked about his mentality and how rebounding and defense kept him in the league for as many years as he has been in the NBA, but perhaps the funniest thing about Varejao and his career is how it seems like he scared titles away. After all, he switched places from Cleveland to Golden State the same season the Cavs took the title from the Dubs. No one should have that kind of bad luck.
One of the toughest situations for any professional athlete to deal with has to be the prospect of playing a sport while you are trying to get away from the shadow of your father or mother. Sometimes even if you had a famous uncle who played in the NBA, your career could turn into a nightmare just because of the comparisons you are going to suffer regardless of how good or bad you do on the basketball court. Someone who felt that first hand was Coby Karl. It didn’t matter to anyone that this kid went undrafted in 2007. No, all everyone thought about was that he was George Karl’s son. Now, while George might not have been an astounding player when he played in both the ABA and the NBA back in the 70s, he did go on to become one of the most successful basketball coaches in the history of the game. He might have never won a championship, but George is one of nine coaches in NBA history to have won 1,000 NBA games.
As players, the two of them were very similar since neither of them managed to be anything more than a role player during their careers. That being said, Coby also decided to follow in his father’s footsteps after he retired and became a coach. Today, he is the head coach of the South Bay Lakers of the G-League.
Moving to a little more recent addition to our list, Malcolm Thomas was yet another undrafted player, this time failing to get picked in 2011. This guy has a very interesting story. The year he declared for the draft and was not selected by an NBA team was the year of the latest NBA lockout. So, what did he do? He went overseas, but not exactly to a place where most NBA prospects go to when they don’t get a job in the league. He went to South Korea. Yeah, during the lockout, this guy decided to play in Korea and did pretty well as he averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, three assists per game for Mobis Phoebus. Still, the team released him in November of that same year and just a month later he signed a contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
It is almost like he was living the dream, right? Well, not exactly. Immediately after he was signed by the Lakers, he was assigned to their D-League team.
He was ultimately signed by the San Antonio Spurs in January 2012 and finally played his NBA debut. Unfortunately for him, his career didn’t go much farther than that as in four seasons in the league he played a total of 40 games.
Here is another interesting entry on our list. What can we do? Big men are just fun to talk about when it comes to guys who are not as talented as they first seem when they come into the NBA.
Ekpe Udoh had a stellar season in college playing for Baylor University after he transferred from the University of Michigan. His only season with Baylor was one in which he averaged 13.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game.
Oh yeah, we might as well tell you that he had 133 blocks in 36 games during that season. Yes, he had more blocked shots than he had offensive rebounds. Those are exactly the kind of numbers you are looking for in the draft if your goal is to get a big guy who can defend the paint. At least, that was probably what the Golden State Warriors thought when they selected this guy with the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
Depending on how you lean, you could consider that to have been a bad move by the Warriors. After all, when they picked up Udoh, there were still a few good names on the draft board like Gordon Hayward and Paul George.
Let’s think about it this way. Playing in the NBA could be like any other job. What is the one thing you have to do before you get a new job? You need to go through an interview process, right? The NBA probably has something similar to that as in the process where a scouting team will check out the skills of a free agent the team could acquire. Some guys seem to be extremely skilled in these kinds of interviews, and no one probably perfected that process as well as Dominic McGuire. Dominic is the kind of player you have probably never heard of unless you are a Washington Wizards fan and you remember him from being a starter in 2008-09. After that season, this guy became a role player and didn’t really get many chances at a starting job again, which was probably for the best since he is an average player at best. The reason we were talking about the interview process is that it really seems like this guy is good at alluring teams into signing him as a free agent since in the six seasons he played in the NBA, he played for seven different franchises. One of them, of course, was the Golden State Warriors in 2011-12.
Don’t worry, we would not finish this list without talking about good old Kwame Brown. The NBA has a history of busts being drafted number one overall, but a guy who became the premier example when people wanted to talk about the subject was Kwame. And that is kind of unfair because this is another kid who was drafted straight out of high school. Not many people agree with the NBA’s condition that a guy has to go to college or at least play overseas for a year before being drafted, but when you look at the history of guys who are taken high in the draft right out of high school, it is hard to deny that you put a lot of pressure in these young kids. Not everyone is LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, and Kwame Brown was certainly not one of them. If he had a couple of years to play in college, maybe his flaws would have been exposed, and his draft stock pulled down a little bit, which would have been in his best interest as there would’ve been less pressure on him when he arrived in the NBA.
Either way, Brown did not have the best of careers as he played 12 seasons in the NBA as the guy who should’ve been an All-Star but was never much more than a backup center. He played with Steph Curry later in his career, in the 2011-12 season.