With the recent change of scenery of Rajon Rondo from the Boston Celtics to the Dallas Mavericks, the landscape of the NBA continues to change week after week, and it continues to make the already dense Western Conference even denser. Rondo, of course, was drafted a Celtic and wanted to retire a Celtic. However, the Celtics had other plans, which in hindsight benefited the 28-year-old Rondo more than he might realize.
Even though the Celtics are only two and a half games out of the playoffs in the watered down Eastern Conference, they clearly had no intentions of making the playoffs, otherwise, they wouldn’t have traded their best player. What they should have done is add another quality player next to Rondo, but the Celtics don’t want to remain in the mushy middle. They want to be in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference and that can only happen by trading for more pieces.
The good news for Rondo is that he is a major piece on a title contending team that desperately needed a point guard with his basketball acumen. The owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, has always been an aggressive player when it comes to mixing it up during the middle of the season, but he is not the only owner that is willing to wheel and deal during the young NBA season.
Stan Van Gundy, who is not only the head coach of the Detroit Pistons but also the general manager of the Pistons, waived his disgruntled small forward/power forward, Josh Smith, this past week. Smith is owed another $26 million, which does not even include this year’s salary. This is the reason why the Pistons had such a hard time trading away Smith. Therefore, the Pistons had no choice but to waive Smith, which led him to being on the market for 10 cents to the dollar. Now, Smith is on the Houston Rockets and there is no doubt that you will see a different type of Smith in Houston.
Much like Rondo and Smith, the following list of players desperately need a change of scenery. Sometimes it’s because they just need change, other times it is because they need a new offense to run to properly utilize their talents, or it is simply because they need to play with other veterans that can help maturate them.
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15 Luol Deng – Miami Heat
Deng has moved from the freezing temperatures of Chicago and Cleveland to the warmer temperatures of South Beach, however it has not done much for his game. Deng was supposed to have been a steal with his $10 million per year contract, but he has not done much to justify even that contract this year. This year, Deng is only averaging 14.7 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game. He is only 29-years-old, but it looks as though his prime may now be behind him instead of before him.
14 Andrew Wiggins – Minnesota Timberwolves
It is still too early to say what Wiggins’s career will look like, but the explosive athlete is now on a team that has had a losing culture for quite some time. This does mean that Wiggins will get plenty of playing time, but this also means that he may develop a lot of bad habits along the way, which is never good for an impressionable rookie. The expectations were high for this year’s number one draft pick, but so far he is only averaging 12.8 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game.
13 Jeremy Lin – Los Angeles Lakers
Are the days of Linsanity over? Jeremy has now gone from New York to Houston to Los Angeles, and he has not been able to rekindle the fire that was once ablaze in New York. However, when you are playing with a shooting guard that shoots 100 times per game, it has a way of stunting the offense. Lin still has game, but he needs a coach and system like that of Mike D’Antoni’s to properly utilize him the right way. This year, Lin is only averaging 10.5 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, and 4.7 assists per game, in what has been a relatively disappointing season.
12 Brook Lopez – Brooklyn Nets
Shaq once labeled him the best center in the game, but Lopez hasn’t been healthy enough to earn that title as of late. Yes, he averaged 20.7 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game last year, but he only played 17 games. This year, Lopez has already matched that total, but is only averaging 14.3 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game. Furthermore, the Nets are falling lower in the playoff race in the lowly Eastern Conference.
11 Tim Hardaway Jr. – New York Knicks
Tim Hardaway Jr. is one of the better shooters in the NBA and is trying to make a name for himself. Unfortunately, he plays for the New York Knicks who play one of the ugliest offenses in the league. If Hardaway actually played with a postman that could command a double team, he could easily become the next Danny Green. However, without a legitimate post presence in New York, Hardaway is always forced to create his own shot off the dribble.
10 Lance Stephenson – Charlotte Hornets
The Lance Stephenson experiment has failed. On paper, the acquisition of Lance made total sense for the Hornets, however, in reality, it has been a disaster. Last year, Lance averaged 13.8 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, and 4.6 assists per game. This year, he is averaging 10.2 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game, and 4.8 assists per game. The reason for the dip in numbers is because Lance is now playing with a ball dominant point guard in Kemba Walker. In order for Lance to be affective, he needs to be on a team where he can dominate the ball on the perimeter and create.
9 Michael Carter-Williams – Philadelphia Sixers
Last year’s Rookie of the Year, got off to a slow start this year with some nagging injuries, but he is still averaging 15.6 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game, and 7.4 assists per game. MCW is one of the most complete players in the game. His 3-point shot is still speculative, but that is something that he can work on. The good thing about the Sixers is that he gets a ton of playing time, but the bad thing is that he has also developed a lot of poor habits from playing with players that are still very green. If MCW played with veterans that he could learn from, those bad habits could easily be fixed.
8 Markieff Morris – Phoenix Suns
Morris is quickly emerging as one of the best combo-forwards in the game today. This year he is averaging 14.9 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game, and is making 0.7 three-pointers per game. He can really do it all. And most importantly, he is not a defensive liability with his 0.6 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. However, Morris’ potential is limited by the depth of the Suns, who play nearly 10 players per game. If he played with guards that were more pass oriented, he could really explode as a potential All-Star, at least in the East.
7 Gorgui Dieng – Minnesota Timberwolves
Dieng burst onto the seen last year after Nikola Pekovic went down for the season. Last year, the rookie averaged a double-double with 4.8 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game. This year, he is back on the bench, but he is still averaging 9.3 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game. If Dieng actually got some playing time, he could develop into one of the best centers in the league. Combine that with his 1.6 blocks per game that he is averaging this year, and Dieng could become one of the best shot blockers in the league... if he got over 30 minutes per game.
6 Kenneth Faried – Denver Nuggets
After winning the gold medal this past summer in the World Championship Games, Faried was signed to a hefty contract by the Denver Nuggets. However, head coach Brian Shaw has been unable to unleash the Manimal the way that Coach K was able to this past summer. Last year, Faried averaged 13.7 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game, but this year he is averaging 11.8 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game. Faried is a handful when he is utilized the right way, but he has been held on a leash by his own team this year. Given the right situation, he could be the same player that he was this past summer.
5 Arron Afflalo – Denver Nuggets
Afflalo continues to remain one of the most underrated shooting guards in the league. He is one of the most complete two-way players in the game today, but his value has always been diminished because he has played for losing teams. However, on the right team, his value and skills would be a whole lot more appreciated if he was playing for a winner. Last year, he averaged 18.2 points per game, but this year he is only averaging 14.4 points per game. Like Boris Diaw, Arron Afflalo is one of those players that needs to be in the right situation to fully be appreciated.
4 Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers
There is a 99% chance that Kobe will retire a Laker, but how long will he put up with the losing? Does Kobe want to be remembered as a player that could score, but could not lead his team into the playoffs or does he want to be remembered as a winner? Judging by the way that the current Lakers roster is set up, they have no shot at making the playoffs this year and unless they are able to attract a major free agent player next year, the Lakers will face yet another losing season. And someone as competitive as Kobe may find that a bit hard to tolerate.
3 Deron Williams – Brooklyn Nets
Deron has gotten the reputation of being a cancerous and injury prone player. He was disgruntled in Utah and the management there essentially fired legendary coach Jerry Sloan for Deron. However, Deron wanted to play on a bigger stage. But the big stage in Brooklyn has proved to be too much for Deron. He was actually much better in Utah than he ever was in Brooklyn. This year, Deron is only averaging 15.0 points per game and 6.6 assists per game, which pale in comparison to the days he was averaging 20 and 10 in Utah.
2 Goran Dragic - Phoenix Suns
The arrival of Isaiah Thomas has really limited Dragic from doing what he was able to do last season. Last season, Dragic had a breakout year when he averaged 20.3 points per game, 5.9 assists per game, and 3.2 rebounds per game. However, this year, Dragic is averaging 16.6 points per game, 4.1 assists per game, and 3.2 rebounds per game. Clearly, Dragic is not comfortable playing with IT and the only reason his numbers aren’t lower than they are right now is because IT missed about six games where Dragic was able to inflate his numbers.
1 Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks
Melo’s numbers have taken a big drop this year with a new head coach and the Triangle Offense that does not favor his style of play. Last year, Melo averaged 27.4 points per game. This year, he is averaging 24.1 points per game. The hope was that a pass first point guard like Jose Calderon would help alleviate Melo from having to work so hard getting his shot off, but Melo has struggled mightily in the Triangle this year. And now, he is “out” with a sore left knee, which may lead him to shutting it down for a long duration of time.
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