Attaining success in the NBA is a difficult ask for any player, regardless of how talented they may be. We see players that have all the talent in the world fall short of our lofty expectations and this leaves us all wondering about the player could have accomplished for their team if things had just broken differently. Would Derrick Rose still be in Chicago if he never came down awkwardly on his knee in 2012? Would Kevin Durant still be on the Thunder if Klay Thompson didn’t turn into a super sayian in Game 6?
These thought exercises are common for NBA nuts, but it doesn’t change the simple fact that these things did happen. Rose’s career in Chicago sputtered and now he is a Knick. Durant decided the best thing for his legacy would be to head west and now he is a Warrior. These two players, along with dozens of others, will be opening the 2016-17 season wearing new uniforms. It’s the nature of professional sports. Players are constantly moving into new situations as they try to best position themselves for success in the NBA.
But what about the players that don’t move? The players that don't have the coaches' trust and toils away on the bench, or the players whose role are diminished after a flashy trade, signing or draft pick. Watching a talented player squander away his prime in a bad situation is one of the most frustrating things for fans to watch. This list aims to focus on 15 of players who deserve to be on a different team. Each player’s situation is unique, as is the reason for a change of venue.
You’ll find uber talented players that are in a bad situation, young players not getting the shot they deserve, older vets who should be on a better team and everything in between. More likely than not, most of these players will remain on their current teams, but it’s August, Team USA is still weeks away from destroying the world, so let’s have some fun with hypotheticals.
15 Lou Williams - Los Angeles Lakers
Williams is a streaky, but extremely capable bench scorer, as we saw last year when he chipped in 16 20-plus point games, including a 44 point explosion against the Thunder for a lousy Lakers team. Despite the scoring punch, Williams is a bit of a black hole on offense. He commonly hijacks offensive possessions and takes difficult shots, leading to his career field goal percentage of 41 percent. That’s not great, especially for a team of impressionable youngsters like the Lakers.
Luke Walton is expected to be bringing in more a motion heavy offense, similar to what the Warriors run. It would be easy to see Williams and his ball dominant theatrics falling out of the rotation and being relegated to a very minor role for the Lakers next year. Still, while he might fall out of favor with the Lakers, his scoring ability is very real. There is definitely a contender that could use a former 6th Man of the Year to add some oomph to a listless 2nd unit. That makes Williams a prime candidate for a new team.
14 Alex Len - Phoenix Suns
The former 5th overall pick is in a bit of rough place right now, especially after the most recent Suns draft. He watched as his team drafted Dragan Bender, an 18-year old Croatian center and trade for Marquese Chriss, a hyper-athletic forward from the University of Washington. Couple those two with Tyson Chandler and his $52 million contract and it’s easy to see Len being the low man on the totem pole when it comes to getting minutes. It’s a shame because Len is a good player, who more likely than not just needs more minutes to develop his game and become an effective starter. His career minutes per game rests at a pitiful 19.6, which simply isn’t enough for a 22-year-old center to develop and grow.
Sadly, those minutes probably won’t be coming from the Suns due to the glut of big men. Get this man to a new team so he can grow into a player that Maryland fans dreamed he’d become.
13 Patrick Patterson - Toronto Raptors
One of the more common names that pop up in trade talks, Patrick Patterson is an extremely capable power forward that’s well suited for today’s NBA. He shoots a respectable 36 percent from three and is a very useful offensive weapon for teams to employ in a small ball lineup. Patterson deserves to be a starter and for some reason isn’t given that chance in Toronto. In the 208 games he’s played for the Raps, he’s gotten the chance to start in a whopping 7. Last year, Toronto opted to give the 36-year-old Luis Scola 76 starts and allow Patterson to watch from the bench as Scola played mediocre basketball.
Sure, he still gets decent minutes and has a carved out role as a bench player but the guy deserves a chance to start and show the NBA and the country that he is more than capable of being an above average starter.
12 Otto Porter - Washington Wizards
Remember when the Wizards drafted Otto Porter 3rd in the NBA draft three years ago? You might not, because the Wizards decided to brilliantly play him a total of 319 scattered minutes across 37 games his rookie year. Then came his “breakout” in the following year’s playoff, when he averaged 33 minutes a game, threw up an average of 10 points and 8 rebounds on a tidy 37 percent from behind the arc. He had arrived! The Wizards even decided to let Paul Pierce walk to allow Porter to grow into the player they had envisioned. The following year, he played okay, while also disappearing for long stretches at a time as he was misused in Randy Wittman's offense.
The team has already said it will not extend Porter, and acquired Kelly Oubre Jr., who plays the same position. While Porter may grow in Scott Brooks' new offense, it’s hard to imagine him thriving for another coach not known to run complex offenses like he could in a more motion based offense.
11 Greg Monroe - Milwaukee Bucks
A year after signing a shiny three- year, $51 million contract, Monroe is already being shopped by the Bucks. In my opinion, the desire to trade Monroe isn’t so much claiming that he isn’t a good player but that he doesn’t fit into the Bucks plans. From the way they’ve drafted and built, the team seems committed to building a futuristic, long, defensive-oriented team that can switch all five positions. Monroe, a traditional center, simply doesn’t have that skill set. He is a bruiser that struggles in pick and roll defense, the staple of a switching defense. He actually brings a very solid offensive game, averaging 15 points and 8 boards last year.
There is no way that certain teams wouldn’t want to bring him in off the bench or have him start as a traditional center. Monroe is still a good player that simply doesn't fit with the Bucks and deserves to get a chance with the team that wants him.
10 Ben McLemore - Sacramento Kings
I’m adamant McLemore is an example of the Kings sinking their claws into a talented player and draining his will to live. McLemore, drafted 7th overall in 2013 out of Kansas, was an extremely well-regarded prospect. NBADraft.net described him as “Prototypical 2-guard with a mouth watering combination of athleticism and shooting ability,” and “A top shelf athlete with spectacular leaping ability and body control,” who had just “scratched the surface of his abilities in his one season of college ball.” He was a slam dunk!
The Kings decided to grab him, give him scattered minutes his rookie year and then draft Nik Stauskas, another shooting guard, and stunted his growth. McLemore has overcome constant coaching change and weird front office decisions and still shown flashes to why he was so highly regarded in the draft. McLemore is the classic example of a talented piece who deserves a more stable franchise.
9 Kevin Love - Cleveland Cavaliers
I think there is probably a zero chance that Kevin Love is on a different team by next summer. You just don’t break up a team that just won a championship, especially one that made history coming back from 3-1 deficit and broke Cleveland’s title drought. I do believe though, that Kevin Love is misused on the Cavaliers and would benefit from a new team where he is able to dominate the ball more. It’s easy to forget that in the 2011-12 season, Love finished 6th in MVP voting after putting up an average of 26 points and 13 rebounds. I still believe that player is still in there, but he simply doesn’t have the chance to show it.
In his four all-star years in Minnesota, Love averaged 17 shots a game. Since moving to Cleveland, his shot total plummeted to 12 a game. When the Cavaliers' big three were made, everyone talked about sacrifice and no one experienced that more than Love. He still is a great offensive player, he just doesn't get the chance to shine on his current team. If he wants to go back to throwing up MVP numbers and be regarded as one of the 15 best players in the NBA, he needs a new team.
8 Michael Carter-Williams - Milwaukee Bucks
As I mentioned in the Greg Monroe space, the Bucks seem to be building this long-armed futuristic team. Physically, MCW fits this model perfectly. He is a 6’6 PG with long arms that can easily switch onto a two guard and hold his own. Sadly, his shooting is absolutely abysmal. He is a career 41 percent shooter with a staggering 25 three point shooting percentage. For some teams, this might not be a deal breaker, but for the Bucks it’s a big problem due to the team's lack of shooting. MCW’s lack of shooting strangles the offense, as defenders sag off of him and cut under picks to limit the driving lanes.
There is a scenario though on a different team, surrounded by shooters, where the former rookie of the year could focus on attacking the basket and setting up his teammates. It’s not with this current vision of the Bucks, though.
7 Jahlil Okafor - Philadelphia 76ers
It’s not often we see a player with a post game as polished as Okafor’s right out of college. It’s also not often that we see a player that struggles so much trying to protect the rim and play defense. He allows 110 points per 100 possessions, a ghastly total that ranks ahead of only defensive luminaries Greg Smith, Robert Sacre, and Nikola Pekovic. Combine this defense with a now crowded front court consisting of Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, and Dario Saric and it’s clear Okafor needs a new home.
The best scenario for Okafor is the Enes Kanter fate, where he can become a super charged bruiser for a second unit. In this scenario, Okafor can carry an offense for stretches and his lack of defense would be concealed by the lesser players on the court trying to attack him. Not exactly the greatest fate for the 3rd overall pick, but that is a real value for a good team.
6 Kenneth Faried - Denver Nuggets
The Manimal! Despite having one of the best nicknames in all of the association, Faried’s growth has stalled in Denver. It doesn’t seem long ago that his energy and athleticism helped an under manned Nuggets team force the two-time champion Lakers to Game 7. Still, time flies in the NBA and Faried now finds himself involved in a variety of trade rumors as the Nuggets try to get out from what remains from a five-year, $60 million extension. With the emergence of Nikola Jokic, it’s hard to imagine the Nuggets keeping Faried in their future plans, hence the desire to trade him. He averaged a respectable 12 points and 8 boards last year and could still bring value for teams looking for a scoring punch of their bench. There is still value to get from a 26-year-old, who was member of Team USA and helped them win the FIBA World Cup just two years ago. It’s just not with the Nuggets, who would do well to trade Faried for more talent.
5 Brook Lopez - Brooklyn Nets
One of the better centers in the NBA has been stranded in the basketball wasteland of Brooklyn. As I’m sure you know, the Nets won’t have access to their first round pick until 2019 and are currently fielding a team devoid of talent beyond Brook Lopez. New GM Sean Marks has performed admirably since being hired last year, adding some actual NBA players to the roster, but that doesn't change the fact that a starting lineup of Lin--Hollis-Jefferson--Bogdanovich--Booker--Lopez isn’t going to win a lot of games. Lopez, who has strung together two seasons of 72 plus games, should have a lot of trade value.
Last year, he averaged 20 points and nearly 8 boards a game, which is even more impressive after you factor in that he was the only offensive threat on the floor. The Nets would be smart to see what kind of package Lopez could bring them, because they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
4 Nikola Vucevic - Orlando Magic
When Vucevic signed his 4-year, $53 million contract, it seemed as though the Magic were saying they felt the promising center could be a franchise cornerstone. Then the summer of 2016 happened a relatively sparse front court became very crowded with the additions of Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo. Biyombo’s 4-year, $72 million contract is especially vexing because it’s hard to imagine a team paying that kind of money for a backup center. This would force Vucevic to the bench, which seems like a shame for a someone who averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds last year. It’s hard to imagine Biyombo and Vucevic sharing the court either, as each lacks the necessary outside shooting to prevent strangling the spacing on the offensive side of the court. Vucevic has shot a total of 26 threes in his 5-year career, so it’s probably a unfair to ask him to push out and become a more stretchy center, so having him join a team with a need in the front court makes more sense than anything else.
3 Dirk Nowitski - Dallas Mavericks
This one will NEVER happen, and that is totally fine with me. Dirk is most likely going to a Maverick for life, which is awesome. I can’t even imagine him wearing another jersey. The dude doesn’t even really have an agent. That’s how committed he is to Mark Cuban and the city of Dallas. Still, there is something so depressing about watching one of the greatest forwards the NBA has ever seen wasting away the twilight of his career losing in the first round of the playoffs with an underwhelming team. Dirk still has a fantastic offensive game that would make any contender giddy to have. Last year, he averaged 18 points and 6 rebounds and a very solid 36 percent from three. All of this while playing more than 31 minutes a game in his 17th season. Couple that with his still unguardable fade-away shot and it’s so easy to imagine him being a fantastic crunch time scorer for one of the NBA's elites.
2 DeMarcus Cousins - Sacramento Kings
If there is one player that really needs a change of scenery, it’s Boogie. He’s long been one of basketball’s elites, averaging more than 22 points a game and 11 rebounds for the past three seasons. His post game is exquisite and it has netted him two trips to the all-star game, but has yet to translate into winning. While Boogie’s attitude certainly plays a role in the losing, it’s also inexplicable about how the Kings have failed in creating a winning culture around a talented player like him. He has had six coaches in his six-year career and his best point guard has probably been a diminished Rajon Rondo. Boogie is the kind of blockbuster talent that teams dream of having.
Couple the immense talent with two years left on a ludicrously team-friendly contract and Boogie is capable of bringing back a king’s ransom if Sacramento can play its cards right.
1 Anthony Davis - New Orleans Pelicans
There hasn’t been a failure to surround a player this immensely talented since Lebron first stint with Cleveland. The Pelicans won the lottery and were able to draft a transcendent star, a 6’10 alien that roams around the paint destroying dreams. They fell backwards into the one of the most valuable assets in sports, a franchise cornerstone on a cheap rookie deal. Davis has held his end of the bargain, averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds over his past three all-star seasons. He also signed a max-extension last year, worth $127 million over five years, which is somehow going to be massive bargain (Mike Conley just signed for $30 million more!).
The Pelicans have failed to hold up their end of the bargain and left him with a roster devoid of talent. If you removed Davis, it would have a very strong case for being the worst team in the NBA. A team that splurges on bad free agents and trades away draft picks for lousy players don’t deserve a player like Davis. Free the Brow!