The NBA has gifted us with some of the most insane ball handlers in the world. At times it’s felt like we were watching streetball with insane dribbling skills of greats like Allen Iverson and Jason Williams. For every show stopping play The Answer and White Chocolate made that inspired countless kids to learn the game comes an equally said attempt at dribbling that makes us want to stay as far away from a ball as possible. It’s the NBA, the greatest professional basketball league in the world, which means we should expect nothing but the best. Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. Take Sam Dekker’s horrifying intro to the NBA in just the fifth game of the 2016-17 season, tripping over himself and bouncing the ball off his face on a breakaway.
No matter how elite the talent pool is in the NBA, it seems there will always be more than a handful of “athletes” who manage to slip through the cracks despite looking like they’ve never dribbled a ball in their life. Whether it’s because a player made it for an entirely different skillset, be it rebounding or defense, there are certain athlete who all too often make us question, “How did that guy make the team?” Here is a list of the 15 players who leave us with our face in our palms, shaking our heads, wondering if the NBA is trolling us every time they dribble the ball.
16 Michael Carter-Williams
How could Michael Carter-Williams be one of the worst dribblers in the NBA? He looks like a talented young point guard with a number of highlights. False. Well, not really. MCW definitely makes some memorable plays and flaunts some impressive handles from time to time, but at a ridiculously high cost.
Three games into just the fourth year of his NBA career, MCW has already racked up 659 turnovers. That is sheer insanity. Let’s add up some other random categories to see how that compares to his production in other areas on the court. 216 offensive rebounds + 323 steals + 116 blocks = 655 (random) total.
So while, Carter-Williams has managed an impressive 32.4 minutes per game, he’s apparently used that time to create more turnovers than anything else. It’s a safe bet to say Carter-Williams’ biggest contribution to his team is keeping the seat warm on the bench.
15 Ben Gordon
Anyone that’s ended up with a brutal nickname that sticks, even if it’s in a small group, gives some very telling insight. Ben Gordon, or “Bad Game Ben,” is about as telling of a name as one can be given.
Gordon was a pretty good point guard over his 11-year career. Unfortunately for Chicago fans, in his first five years with the Bulls, Gordon treated his role as if he was one of the greatest, which he totally… totally wasn’t. Gordon absolutely loved his role as the “star” of the Bulls, and Chicago was forced to deal with it until Derrick Rose’s contributions finally pushed Gordon out.
Gordon would usually dribble away seconds on the clock, hogging the ball on nearly every possession as if it was what he was actually asked to do. Sometimes there would be a nice crossover on one player, but he would inevitably run into a second defender, or third, or just end up losing the ball to the same guy he crossed up in the first place, because he wouldn’t pass. Safe to say that when the Bulls “lost” Ben Gordon, it wasn’t really much of a loss.
14 Josh Smith
Josh Smith is the type of player who makes his entire team bite their nails the moment he grabs a rebound, because they all know there’s a 50/50 shot they’re going to try and go coast to coast with it. As far as power forwards go, Smith is actually a pretty good ball handler… sometimes. Smith is the definition of a streaky player, so as impressive as he looks with the rock in his hand for one night (or even a few), he’s going to come out full blast making up for his lack of turnovers.
Smith’s “never back down” attitude made him so great for his entire nine-year career in Atlanta. That was also what landed him in the hot seat so often, especially in his last few NBA years before going to play overseas in China. Smith carried a brash attitude that made him so feared, but it also got him in trouble way too often. Whenever he bounced a ball out of bounds, or traveled, or double dribbled he would try and make up for his mistake on the same play. That would usually end up just costing his team another (or an extra few) turnover, but at least it would only happen about 82 games a season!
13 Greg Oden
Okay, so we have a relatively small sample size with Greg Oden due to his sad children’s story of a leg known as “The Little Surgically Repaired Knee That Couldn’t.” Oden only saw court time in 105 games during his time in the NBA, but all of the evidence stacked up against Oden as a horrendous dribbler can be found in any highlight of him ever.
Even in Oden’s “flashy” highlights, if you claim you saw the big man put the ball on the ground more than once in a play, you’re a liar. That’s not to say Oden wouldn’t have possibly become one of the greatest centers to ever play the game – he likely would have – but that’s because of his shot blocking, rebounding, and ability to find the rim. By “ability to find the rim” I mean Oden’s enormous body fighting for position in the paint to throw down an alley-oop or putback dunk.
Still not convinced he’s that bad? Maybe Greg Oden can convince you with his own words. “Look at it this way. If a guy can dribble, I say he’s better than me. I can’t dribble that well…” Checkmate.
12 Jordan Farmar
Jordan Farmar played five of his ten years in the NBA as a member of the Lakers. The only way to really put this (politely and honestly) is that a team can only pay for so many star-caliber players to make up a roster – Farmar was definitely not one of them.
There’s a reason why Kobe Bryant had the ball in his hand for so much of his career. Of course, he was one of the greatest players for as long as he played in the league, but on a micro level, some of the players that surrounded Kobe simply weren’t that good.
Farmar was so ineffective running the point that Shannon Brown took over his role. Remember the remarkable career of Shannon Brown? No? Well, that speaks worlds about the type of dribbler Farmar was, a point guard whose coaches didn’t even want to handle the ball.
11 Wally Szczerbiak
Apologies in advance, Celtics fans. Wally Szczerbiak is the first of many to rep Boston for the worst reason. Wally was actually a pretty good player, especially with the Minnesota Timberwolves where he spent most of his professional career, even earning an All-Star appearance in 2002.
One thing is for sure, Wally did not earn that All-Star for his dribbling abilities. If he touches the ball in a game, there are two options of what will happen next: pass or shoot. That may sound obvious, but that’s a “pass or shoot” in the most literal sense. Wally is NOT going to even attempt a dribble. He’s either going to jack up an immediate three, or not have the opportunity to shoot from where he’s currently standing and get rid of it ASAP.
Wally was a great player whose greatest asset may have been his self-awareness that he’s a terrible dribbler. Go ahead and watch his highlights. He’ll max out at two dribbles, and that is not hyperbole.
10 Tony Allen
Tony Allen has made a name for himself in the NBA as “The Grindfather.” As one would expect, that nickname is for his incredible work ethic, not his finesse or grace. Allen is something of an enigma in the NBA – he’s a guard who continues to have a job year after year for nothing other than his defensive abilities. Allen is a shooting guard that can’t shoot. The 6-4 guard only even plays as a two guard, because he can’t be trusted to run an offense in the first place.
It’s really quite incredible – what makes Allen one of the scariest players to go up against on one end of the floor is what makes him so terrible on the other end. Allen has incredible vision, reading the dribble and coming up with so many steals by breaking down his opponent’s patterns and catching them on their next move before it happens. Yet, when the ball ends up in his hands, you can guarantee Allen is going to hang onto it as long as possible, dribbling with no rhyme or reason, desperately trying to figure out what to do until it’s too late.
9 Avery Bradley
Talking about Avery Bradley and Tony Allen, especially back to back, feels like explaining the same person, but being nice and using a pseudonym this time. There are a few very, very slight differences between the two longtime Celtics. One, Bradley is still with the C’s. Two, he has actually managed to improve his shooting and dribbling abilities (at least, somewhat).
AB, now in his seventh year with the Celtics, finally looks like he’s capable of shooting from beyond the free throw line, and he has even flashed the ability to dribble recently (though it’s still a heart stopper whenever he tries). No doubt, it’s been a long road to even reach the designation of an okay ball handler.
After four years as the Celtics “point guard,” they finally wised up on how to use AB and realized that such a bad dribbler should probably stay as far away from ball duties as possible, making him a “shooting guard.” Bradley makes a strong case for “strictly defensive” going before some players’ official positions.
8 Eddie House
Yikes, Eddie House makes it four players in a row with atrocious handles to have worn a Celtics jersey at some point in their NBA career. House played as a career backup guard, switching between shooting and point guard, but playing primarily at the point.
For a player who made a career as a reserve, playing point guard means an entirely different thing than “playing point guard.” It usually involves one of two roles: the defensive role (see Allen or Bradley), which is an easy cross off the list, or the sharp shooter (see Szczerbiak and subtract 6 or 7 inches).
Eddie House is a point guard that never had to run the point… thankfully. Even in the years that he was given the PG title, it was really nothing more than a formality, because he has never had a teammate or coach that trusted him enough to be anything more than a spot up shooter.
7 Luther Head
Luther Head was a pretty good player that just couldn’t translate his game to the NBA. Head was only able to last in the league for five seasons before falling to the D-League and eventually going overseas to play. One major problem the University of Illinois product couldn’t overcome was his poor dribbling. Even entering his senior year of college, Head’s subpar handles summed up why his professional career in the States was so short-lived.
“Luther is just too carefree with the basketball, especially in the back court and in the open court. He dribbles the ball high on his body even when defended closely, and was known to dribble right into traps. Luckily for Luther, Dee and Deron are on the Illinois roster and he is not often required to be a point guard in these situations…”
Even when he was only playing NCAA college ball, it was a sigh of relief that Luther had two other future NBA point guards in Deron Williams and Dee Brown, so that he – a senior at the time of that quote who would be first-round draft pick in a year – wouldn’t have to dribble the ball. Yikes.
6 Shaquille O’Neal
The only thing Lakers fans could do when Shaquille O’Neal touched the ball was pray that he wouldn’t put the ball to the floor. Overall, Shaq was actually a remarkably agile center. At 7-1 the Shaq Diesel would leave the other team in a state of confusion when he would randomly decide that he was going to snag a rebound and lead his team on a fast break. The most shocking part is that, at times, it would somehow actually work. That’s when things would get dangerous. The moment Shaq gets away with a fancy move, he thought he owned the floor. Before you know it, Shaq forgets he’s not the point guard and gives up the ball on ridiculous plays: a dribble off the foot, a spin move that’s not even close to successful, or simply go straight at the defender and come up empty handed.
4 DeAndre Jordan
The only thing worse than DeAndre Jordan’s free throw shot is his dribbling, which speaks more to how pathetic his handles are than anything. When a guy shoots below 40% from the free throw line through half of his NBA career (four times… so far) there’s a serious problem.
Once again, this is a case of a fantastic defensive player that gives his team no other option but to occasionally be forced to use him on offense. The Clippers have been forced to endure Jordan’s awful dribbling, as his defense is just good to pass up.
Even though Jordan’s turnover ratio per game doesn’t look too bad, it’s simply because his team is aware enough to never give him the ball. The only time Jordan will have touch the ball on the offensive end is if he’s above the rim for an alley-oop, on a fast break… jumping for an alley-oop, or getting an offensive rebound in which case will look like the equivalent of an alley-oop.
3 Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard is “that guy” on the court. That guy who you can even find at a pickup game of basketball anywhere in the world, where there’s one player who’s just way larger and more jacked than everyone else trying to play. He’s by and far more athletic than every other person and there will be a whole bunch of swatted shots and rebounds no one else should even bother going for, but he has one weakness – himself.
When Howard has to do something offensively other than a tip slam or dunk from directly beneath the rim, he will dribble it off his shoe. He will be “that guy” who is such a star that he’ll dribble it off his shoe then look around quizzically (with that classic Dwight sarcastically confused/upset look) like it was someone else’s fault. By the end of this year, Howard will likely be close to 3,000 turnovers over his NBA career, as he’s averaged an astounding 3.0 turnovers a game, including seven straight seasons of at least three TOs.
2 Kendrick Perkins
Oh geeze, another Celtic. If Kendrick Perkins could be described in two words, it wouldn’t be “hard work” or “true grit” or any garbage like that. When people think Perk, they think, “zero footwork,” the two go hand in hand.
Perk is seriously an immediate liability when the ball touches his hand. Role players are a necessity for any successful basketball team, and Perk was as good as it gets when it comes to that type of player. In other words, as long as he’s setting a pick, boxing his man out, or handing the ball to a teammate after a rebound, everything is all good. The moment he does anything more than that, like dribble, things quickly take a turn for the worse. Simply put, Perk is more of a strong and tall guy rather than a talented athlete.
Watching Perk show off his handles is like spotting Bigfoot out in the wild – your memory is probably spotty, because it was a while ago so it could’ve been something else entirely, or you’re simply fabricating a story.
1 Hamed Haddadi
It’s really not fair to hate on Hamed Haddadi for his utter lack of handles, but the 7-2 Iranian center was as bad as it gets when it comes to dribbling. When you look at Haddadi’s turnovers per game, they don’t look that bad at all, but as we learned from the rest of this list, numbers don’t always tell the full story.
In five seasons (almost entirely with the Grizzlies), Haddadi floated at around 0.5 turnovers per game until his final season when that average rose to 1.0. So what’s the problem? Oh, after looking at his other numbers, it appear that the Grizzlies backup center for all of six minutes a game until playing just over 10 minutes in that last year.
Alright, that is definitely way worse. Haddadi essentially gave the ball up once every 10 minutes, which would have come out to five TOs per game if he could have somehow been lugged that gigantic body around for a full game. That about sums up why Haddadi only saw the court 151 times for just seven minutes a game in his short-lived career.