There are some that mock players like Carmelo Anthony or Tracy McGrady for their lack of playoff success and let's not look past the fact that these are two of the most prolific players of their respective eras. People often say that players are judged more on their rings than on their individual successes, but for these fifteen players, the only thing that fans know them for are either their nightly highlights or their antics on the bench as a feel good story fan favorite.
With today's NBA salary cap rules, some of the following players will find themselves in line for a gigantic pay day, regardless of how well they have performed to date or how successful their team (or previous team) has been. However we can only assume that none of the following players want to play out their NBA career without ever really having a chance to compete for the championship, despite their individual achievements and lofty paydays.
As we take a look at fifteen players who at minimum have completed at least three years in the NBA, the question for those listed below is, will this be the season that they finally break through to the post-season or will they forever be known for being on the outside looking in.
Quick Note: Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid & Kristaps Porzingis did not make the list because they've only been in the league for 2 seasons. While they do have bigger contracts, it would be unfair to include them when they don't have the longevity that other players have.
15 Zach LaVine: 2016/17 - $2.24 million
He was once a member of a young Timberwolves roster that was being primed to take over the league. That all changed this summer as Minnesota got tired of waiting and made the combo guard the main piece heading to Chicago in a trade for Jimmy Butler. Although the Bulls squeaked into the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, chances of a repeat this year looks bleak as the team appears in full rebuilding mode (despite the presence of Dwyane Wade). While he is set to make just a shade over $3 million this season, don't be surprised to see a report come out early this fall stating that the high flying combo guard is signing a deal worth $100 million. Not bad pay for only 82 games a season.
14 Gorgui Dieng: 2016/17 - $2.34 million
Drafted by the Utah Jazz with a late first round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Dieng has found himself earning more minutes and more involvement in the Timberwolves plan for the future. At 27 years old he is one of the oldest of the Timberpups squad, nevertheless he still provides the team with an inside force alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. After four years in the league, Dieng, along with his fellow Wolves have yet to play any more than 82 games in the season, something that he hopes will change this year with several new additions to the team. Just before the 2016-17 season started, Dieng was rewarded with a new contract that will see his $2 million contract jump to $14 million this coming season, the question now remains is it money well spent?
13 Elfrid Payton: 2016/17 - $2.6 million
Let's get the obvious out of the way, the Orlando Magic fourth year point guard has great hair. Unfortunately that is about all he has going for him since entering the NBA as part of the 2014 draft class. While he hasn't really had a steady cast of talent to work with, as the Magic front office appears as confused as Phil Jackson has been in New York, Payton has to continue to show improvements in his game, especially his shooting percentages. Unless the Magic point guard is taking the ball to the rack, opposing teams can pretty much sit back and dare Payton to shoot the open J, considering his FG% is only 44% for his career, he is near horrid from downtown and averages only 61% from the line. If the Magic want to return to the playoffs, Payton is a key component in making this a reality.
12 Nik Stauskas: 2016/17 - $2.99 million
He was once one of the most exciting players to watch in the NCAA when he was a member of the Michigan Wolverines. In fact, he was the focal player for the maize and blue during his two short seasons in the Big 10. Drafted by Sacramento with the 8th pick in 2014, Stauskas played sparingly for the Kings before being traded from one of the worst teams in the West to the worst team in the East (and in the league overall), the Philadelphia 76er's. While Sauce Castillo has seen an improvement in his individual stats, the addition of a number of new shooting guards and small forwards to the Sixers roster could impact the Canadian's role with the club. While "The Process" is still a work in progress and has potential for an exciting future, a playoff spot is still a long ways away.
11 Shabazz Muhammad: 2016/17 - $3.04 million
One of the most anticipated and hyped prep players in recent history, Muhammad didn't really make the splash that many thought he would when he arrived on the UCLA campus. Same can be said when he declared early for the NBA draft and became a member of the Timberwolves roster. While he struggled with his health and playing time during his first two years with the team, Muhammad has found his niche off the bench with the second unit. Currently a free agent, the Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks have all expressed interest in the combo guard/forward. If Muhammad wants the get his first taste of the playoffs, the Bucks would be his best option.
10 Kyle O'Quinn: 2016/17 - $3.91 million
It may be unfair to expect O'Quinn to have participated in the NBA Playoffs by only his fifth year in the league considering he spent his first three seasons with the rebuilding Orlando Magic and then the previous two in the albatross that has become the New York Knicks. As one of the fan favorites in the Big Apple, the former Norfolk State Spartans big man has made a living with a blue collar hustle game off of the bench. Although his stat line is minimal, there have been a number of teams pursuing O'Quinn this offseason.
9 Ben McLemore: 2016/17 - $4 million
After playing his first four seasons with the Sacramento Kings, things were looking up for the former Kansas Jayhawks shooting guard as he signed a two year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies this summer. There's just two small problems. One, the Grizzlies have stockpiled an offseason roster of at least seven guards/forwards, which means battling for playing time. The other is that the Grizzlies don't really have the same roster that has helped them to seven straight playoff appearances. Gone are pillars such as Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and even Vince Carter. Where this leaves the young Grizzlies roster is up in the air, but at least they are pointed in a better direction than the Kings.
8 Aaron Gordon: 2016/17 - $4.35 million
Two years ago he got robbed of the NBA Dunk Contest title. Last year (with a said to be injured ankle) he robbed fans of a dramatic repeat performance. Either way you look at it, chances are, Gordon wants to be known for more than highlight reel dunks. Unfortunately, playing in Orlando, it may take him a while to get to that level. After last summer's mess of free agent signings and trades that brought a logjam to the Magic's front line, this offseason appears to bring a bit more of a balanced rotation. Keep in mind that this also means that Gordon should return to his proper position as a power forward, not the experiment that landed him playing the three spot. It's been five years since the Magic have sniffed a .500 record and although they have added some quality pieces, they still finished twelve games back of a playoff spot last season.
7 Alex Len: 2016/17 - $4.8 million
Currently Len is a man without a team. Although he holds a qualifying offer from the Phoenix Suns as part of his 4 year / $15.7 million contract that he had previously inked, Len and his agent must have felt that there was high demand for a seven footer that has a career average of only 6 points and 6 rebounds per game. Considering that we are over a month into the free agent period, Len should be rushing to the Suns management with a pen in hand, ready to ink that last year of pay. While he does provide the team with a big presence in the paint and decent rebounding numbers for his minutes on the floor, if the Ukrainian big man wants any chance of seeing the playoffs, whether it be in Phoenix or elsewhere, he needs to step up his game.
6 Andrew Wiggins: 2016/17 - $6 million
Chances are shortly after you read this, Wiggins will ink a deal worth at least $150 million contract extension over the course of the next five years. Yes, you read that right, $30 million a year for a player who has yet to lead his team into the post-season despite all the hype over his talents. While he is only entering his fourth season in the league, expectations of the Canadian forward were extremely high when the Timberwolves traded Kevin Love for him. Set to make $7.5 million this coming season to close out his four year rookie contract, Wiggins is one of the cornerstones of the young Minnesota franchise that is just waiting to explode and take over the league. The problem is, it has been thirteen years for this explosion to take place.
5 Andrew Nicholson: 2016/17 - $6.08 million
Already on his fourth team in what will be his sixthseason, Nicholson's best season to date came during his rookie year with the Orlando Magic. Unfortunately for the Canadian power forward his impact on his team has slowly dwindled, regardless of which jersey he has worn. Hopes that his newest team, the Portland Trailblazers and a Western Conference zip-code would have given the Ontario native a fresh start were quickly dashed as after being traded by the Brooklyn Nets, the Blazers put the former St. Bonaventure star on the waiver wire. Unfortunately for Nicholson, a post season appearance was in his future when he was a member of the Washington Wizards at the start of last season, but a move to Brooklyn at the trade deadline quickly squashed those dreams.
4 Jordan Clarkson: 2016/17 - $12.5 million
He was once the 46th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He turned a trade from the Wizards into a contract with the Lakers. He turned multiple trips down to the D-League during his rookie year into a starting role in the LA backcourt replacing an injured Kobe Bryant. While he didn't make people forget the Mamba, his stat line of 15.8ppg, 5.0 apg and 4.2rpg during his 38 starts make people believe that Clarkson was piece of the Lakers future. During his sophomore season (aka the Kobe Retirement Tour), Clarkson was part of the starting five in every game he suited up for, resulting in an increase in most of his stats. With Bryant's contracts off the books, the Lakers threw some money at their young combo guard to the tune of 4 years/$50 million. While his stats took a slight dip last season as Clarkson became a sixth man candidate, he still remains a bright light in the Lakers quest to return to the promise land.
3 Brandon Knight: 2016/17 - $12.6 million
Although he has a shade over $37 million in his pocket after six years in the league, Knight has yet to taste a single playoff season. While he has had the fortune of being on three of the youngest teams in the league during his tenure, Knight has struggled not only to remain healthy for an entire season but most recently figure out a definitive role with his team. After leaving Detroit, Knight had to split time with a crowded Milwaukee backcourt, and despite leading the team in minutes, assists and points, found himself as part of a three team trade to Phoenix. Following a career season in 2015/16, Knight found himself coming off the bench last year, resulting in his worst output of his NBA career. While the young Suns are on the rise, it will be a few years until they can compete for a playoff spot in the West and chances are Knight will be moved even before that comes to fruition.
2 Ricky Rubio: 2016/17 - $13.4 million
For six years Rubio has been one of the most overrated and underrated point guards in the NBA. While he doesn't have the scoring ability of many of his peers, the Spanish point guard has a career average of 8.5 assists and 2.1 steals, helping the Timberwolves in other areas aside from filling the basket. Whether it was Kevin Love or Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, Rubio's job has been to set up his higher profile teammates for easy baskets. After six years of missing out on the playoffs in Minnesota, Rubio gets a fresh start next season with the Utah Jazz. After a four year post season absence, the Jazz reached the Western Conference Semi-Finals last year and appear poised to return to the playoffs again this season.
1 DeMarcus Cousins: 2016/17 - $16.9 million
Boogie has been in the league for seven years and has raked in over $62 million and has nothing to show for it other than a bunch of technical fouls, a bad rep and the ability to fill up a stat sheet. After spending six and a half years in the albatross that is Sacramento, Cousins found himself gifted with a trade to New Orleans and a chance to team up with Anthony Davis as a modern day "Twin Towers". While they finished seven games out of a playoff berth, the future looks bright for the Pelicans and with all of the shifting in the West during this offseason, don't be surprised to see Boogie dancing in the post season next year.