Top 15 NBA Players Whose Careers Were Ruined By Bad Coaching

The NBA, for all intents and purposes, is a crapshoot for players when it comes down to which environment they will be placed in. They can’t choose where they want to be drafted or which coach they want to play for during the start of their career and this in turn can lead to years of wasted prime down the drain. When great coaches seek out great players, those few fortunate enough to be placed in such a great situation thrive, like with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson or with Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich. Some unfortunate souls however, aren’t so lucky and are forced to watch their peers dominate while their talent wastes away with coaches who cannot help them reach their full potential. To be successful in the NBA you need a superstar and a great coach, not one or the other. While other factors also contribute to why a great player may not be successful, such as teammates, general managers, attitude or leadership, you have to wonder where some of these players would have been if placed in the right situation. There is a argument to be made that some players on this list are coach killers or immature, but there have been great coaches throughout NBA history who have been able to get the most out of talented lose cannons. Phil Jackson was a master at meshing personalities together, putting Dennis Rodman and Metta World Peace in a position to succeed despite both having a couple of screws lose. Stephen Jackson and J.R. Smith, two infamous personalities, both have championship rings due to coaches putting them in the right situation.

15 Emeka Okafor

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The second overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft was also fresh off of a NCAA Tournament Championship win with the UCONN Huskies when he entered the league and looked ready to contribute right away for the Charlotte Bobcats. Okafor won Rookie of the Year his first year in the association putting up an impressive 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. That first year would end up being Okafor’s best as the big man ended up having problems with upper management and the coaching staff, who questioned Okafor's fire, during the final season of his five-year career with the Bobcats. His first three years in the league were spent with head coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who had a combined 77-169 record during that time span. To say weather or not Okafor would have been great with better coaching is up for debate, but the Center did have three different coaches his first five years in the league and after just one season with Larry Brown, Okafor was shipped off to the New Orleans Hornets for Tyson Chandler.

14 Eric "Sleepy" Floyd

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An All-Star back in 1987, Eric 'Sleepy" Floyd carved out a nice career for himself, scoring 12,260 career points. Floyd also had one of the most memorable playoff experiences of all-time as he erupted for 51 points and 10 assists against the soon-to-be World Champion Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the 1987 Western Conference Semifinals. Floyd was coached by his fair share of good coaches during his career but his prime was wasted at the hands of one of the worst coaches of all-time, Johnny Bach. Floyd spent three seasons under Bach, seasons during which he posted a career-high in points per game 19.5 and field goal percentage at .506. The season immediately after Bach was fired, Floyd was named an all-star under George Karl and lead his team to the playoffs for the first time in his career. Floyd would later be traded to Houston the following season, playing for three different head coaches where his teams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, from 1988-1991.

13 Baron Davis

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“Boom Dizzle” electrified fans with his scoring, passing, and dunking ability and was a two-time NBA All-Star with the Hornets franchise. Davis also saw ten different head coaches during his NBA career which included the likes of Mike Montgomery, Tim Floyd, Paul Silas, Byron Scott (twice), Vinny Del Negro, Mike Dunleavy to name a few. Davis enjoyed the most success during his time with Don Nelson, who is first on the all-time wins list for head coaches. Davis, Nelson, and the “We Believe” 2007 Golden State Warriors knocked off the number one seed Dallas Mavericks, eventually losing in the second round to the Utah Jazz. Davis left a lot on the table in terms of what he was capable of and that might not have been the case with some coaching consistency throughout his career.

12 Stephon Marbury

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“Starbury” was a tough guard to handle during his prime and the two-time NBA All-Star had six seasons of averaging over 20 points per game. He also had thirteen different head coaches throughout his thirteen year NBA career and kept getting traded right as his teams were starting to get good. The Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, and Phoenix Suns all won 50-plus games the year after they traded Stephon Marbury. He ended up winning a championship in 2007-2008 with the Boston Celtics, appearing in only 23 games and averaging 3.8 points per game. Marbury went on to have a successful career in the Chinese Basketball Association but was never able to find a permanent home in the NBA and his legacy left a lot to be desired.

11 Elton Brand

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A number one overall pick back in 2000 by the Chicago Bulls, Elton Brand had high hopes of becoming a perennial superstar, deemed a do-it-all power forward who could abuse opposing bigs on the block. But the Bulls were fresh off a Michael Jordan hangover and teamed the rookie up with head coach Tim Floyd, who went a combined 32-132 during Brand’s two years with the franchise. Brand was then shipped off to the Los Angeles Clippers (another rebuilding franchise) where after a season and a half under Alvin Gentry the Clippers hired Mike Dunleavy, a head coach most famous for his success in the 1990s with the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trailblazers. Dunleavy wasn’t the worst hire in the world but he was considered washed up by the time he coached the Clippers and went a combined 215-326 during his seven seasons with the team, five of those with the two time All-Star Brand as the star player.

10 Gilbert Arenas

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As a three time NBA All-Star for the Washington Wizards, Gilbert Arenas got the nickname “The Hibachi” by being one of the hottest scoring guards in the NBA during his prime, averaging 29.3 points per game during the 2005-2006 season. The head coach for five full seasons during Arenas’ eight seasons in Washington was Eddie Jordan, who went a combined 197-224 during his Wizard’s coaching career. Considering the team had two other All-Stars in Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, this was an underachieving team with an underachieving coach. The Wizards did make the 2005 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals, where they were swept by the Miami Heat, but you have to wonder where Arenas’ career would have ended up had he been with a better coach.

9 John Wall

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John Wall has had an excellent start off to his career, as the number one overall pick in the 2010 draft has lived up to the hype making three All-Star appearances thus far. He also turns 27 next September and spent five seasons under head coach Randy Wittman, who infamously could not figure out which was the proper way to hold a clipboard. Wall is now playing under Scott Brooks, another coach who has seemed to do less with the amount of talent given, and the team has been hovering around .500 for the majority of the 2016-2017 NBA season. The beginning of his career has already been ruined due to lack of coaching and if he doesn’t find a good coach soon, he will end up much higher on this list.

8 Mitch Richmond

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As a Hall of Fame player, Mitch Richmond was on the short list of great NBA shooting guards to play in the '90s in the shadow of Michael Jordan, along with guys like Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, and Steve Smith. After experiencing success with the “RUN TMC” Golden State Warriors, Richmond was traded to the Sacramento Kings where he would become a six-time NBA All-Star during his seven seasons in Sacramento. Only problem was his head coach during the time was Garry St. Jean who was fired 67 games into his fifth season with the Kings after going 159-236 during his tenure, the majority of which with Richmond on the floor. Richmond would later win a championship with the 2002 Los Angeles Lakers during his last season in the NBA playing very limited minutes.

7 Bernard King

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A four-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA selection and Hall of Famer who averaged 22.5 points per game in his career, Bernard King is considered one of the best scorers to ever lace them up. He also played for five teams in his career, never spending more than four seasons in one spot. During his prime, King spent three seasons playing for the New York Knicks and head coach Hubie Brown before sustaining a knee injury that would linger for the rest of his career. Brown had a record of 142-202 during his tenure with the Knicks. After recovering from his knee injury, King would than sign with the Washington Bullets during the 1987-1988 season where he would play under Wes Unseld for four seasons, another legendary bad coach to make an appearance on this list. The only full-time head coach King ever played for with a career win percentage above .500 was Chuck Daly, coming during his last NBA season in which King only played in 32 games, averaging 7.0 points per game.

6 DeMarcus Cousins

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“Boogie” DeMarcus Cousins may be the most tragic case of good player/failed coaching yet, and he’s only 26 years old. The two-time NBA All-Star (soon to be three-time) has had a remarkable six head coaches during his first seven seasons in the league, having three walk in and out of the door during the 2014-2015 season. Cousins has been known to be a hot head and sometimes controversial, but it would be nice to see what that level of talent could do with some stability on the sidelines. “Boogie” has yet to come close to even sniffing playoff basketball and the combined coaching record for the Kings since Cousins entered the league was an abysmal 164-312 coming into the 2016-2017 NBA season. It is still early in Cousins' career and if he can be traded his legacy may be salvaged, but as of now it has been a large disappointment.

5 Tracy McGrady

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Now Tracey McGrady has had a number of good head coaches he’s played for during his career including Doc Rivers, Jeff Van Gundy, and Rick Adelman. The seven-time All-NBA player has also had his fair share of sub-par players that surrounded him during his NBA career, not the coach’s fault. So why is McGrady on the list? Two words, Toronto Raptors. During his first three years in the league the Raptors head coach Butch Carter did not utilize the young small forward properly, causing him to bolt to the Orlando Magic and robbing NBA fans of a Vince Carter/Tracy McGrady cousin dynasty. McGrady was too good of a player to be fighting for minutes and his poor view of the organization also set him on a path of mediocre teams that he would never recover from, leaving Raptor fans wondering what could have been. “T-Mac” would go on to have one of the best scoring seasons in recent memory with the Magic, averaging 32.1 points per game during the 2002-2003 season but he never made it past the first round when healthy.

4 Vince Carter

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During a portion of Vince Carter’s early career success, people were starting to claim there was a race to be the next Michael Jordan, between himself and Kobe Bryant. But Vince Carter didn’t have Phil Jackson like Kobe and Jordan; he had Sam Mitchell and Lawrence Frank. The eight time All-Star is quiet possibly the best dunker of all-time and that unfortunately is the only legacy he has left for NBA fans as his teams did not pile up wins the way Kobe’s and Michael’s teams did. Carter did experience some success under head coach Lenny Wilkens, who is second all-time in wins, as the two were able to take the Toronto Raptors to the second round of the 2001 NBA Playoffs, eventually losing to Allen Iverson’s Philadelphia 76ers. After the departure of Wilkens, Carter spent his next six seasons playing under Kevin O’Neill, Sam Mitchell, and Lawrence Frank who combined for a record 266-308 in years in which Carter played for their team. Carter has been able to contribute to several playoff teams since, but only as a role player.

3 Carmelo Anthony

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To say Melo’s career was ruined by coaching may be a bit harsh, as he did play under head coach George Karl for almost a full six seasons and the pair made the 2009 Western Conference Finals together. But it’s what transpired after his time with Karl and the Denver Nuggets that puts the nine-time NBA All-Star on this list. Since the blockbuster trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks halfway through the 2010-2011 NBA season, Melo has played under a coaching carousel in New York with five head coaches calling the shots for the Knicks in seven seasons and only one 50-plus win season to show for it. The 32 year-old Anthony, once destined to compete against LeBron James for championships, has no rings and his prime is unfortunately approaching its end.

2 Adrian Dantley

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The Hall of Famer and six-time NBA All-Star played for three different head coaches during his Rookie of the Year campaign for the Buffalo Braves during the 1976-1977 NBA season. Dantley was then traded a number of times prior to great coaches arriving to each franchise he left, as he missed out on Pat Riley’s Los Angeles Lakers, Jerry Sloan’s Utah Jazz, and played only two and a half seasons under Chuck Daly’s Detroit Pistons. The Detroit Pistons would go on to win back-to-back championships without Dantley, who was traded to the Dallas Mavericks to play under head coach John Macleod. Dantley spent the bulk of his prime with the Utah Jazz under head coaches Tom Nissalke and Frank Layden, who went a combined 235-339 during Dantley’s seven seasons in a Jazz uniform.

1 Pete Maravich

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“Pistol Pete” Maravich was one of the most flashiest and fun-to-watch NBA players of all-time who had a verity of tricks up his sleeve on the basketball court. The five-time NBA All-Star and Hall of Famer also played for a team with a winning record only once during his eleven-year career, not counting his final season playing for the Boston Celtics in which Maravich only played in 26 games. In his two All-Star years with the Atlanta Hawks, Maravich’s head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons went 81-83, despite having all-star Lou Hudson and Hall Of Famer Walt Bellamy out there on the floor with “Pistol Pete.” During his three All-Star seasons for the New Orleans Jazz, Maravich was coached by Elgin Baylor who went 86-134 with no playoff appearances.


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