The NBA market is like any other with the philosophy of supply and demand but it is at a much higher level. The number of athletes that can successfully perform in the NBA are extremely low and that makes the players a hotter commodity. Star players are more pivotal in the NBA than they are in other sports for a multitude of reasons. The most exciting and successful players cause the fans to come to games and buy merchandise. Team spirit can carry a franchise in the NFL, but you need stars to be a relevant franchise in the NBA.
Stars also are the main factor in the team's literal success. Teams will need at least two superstars if they hope to contend for a NBA Championship in today’s league. Stephen Curry had Klay Thompson and Draymond Green emerge into top stars last season and that was the biggest difference in the Golden State Warriors taking the next step. The importance of stars has led to NBA players getting record contracts and becoming pivotal assets to the league. Quite frankly, it’s sweeter to be a superstar in the NBA than it is in just about any other sport right now.
The issue comes with the rise and fall of superstardom in the league. Most elite top stars remain on their perch for the majority of their career but the rest of the players will see ups and downs. Many players become less significant when they are no longer in their prime, some lose their skill set due to injury and a few just no longer have the desire after tasting success. There are plenty of NBA players currently in a bad position for various reasons and we're going to look at some of the more interesting stories. These are the top twenty NBA players whose careers currently seem to be doomed.
* Stats are correct as of February 4th, 2016.
20 Nick Young
Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young is one of the most popular role players in the NBA. Due to his outgoing personality and his relationship with rapper Iggy Azalea, Young is often in the news but it’s rarely for his basketball skills. Young has developed the nickname “Swaggy P” but it doesn’t carry over for NBA success. With the Lakers in disarray, Young hasn’t helped the cause and is averaging just 7.3 points per game on 35.8% shooting from the field this season. The poor play and ego exhibited by Young may see him fall out of the NBA and have to play in another league sooner or later.
19 Rudy Gay
If jinxes were real, Rudy Gay’s NBA career would be a walking curse. The Memphis Grizzlies went to the Western Conference Finals in 2013 after trading Gay to the Toronto Raptors. Toronto traded Gay the following season and won the Atlantic Division. Teams improve after getting rid of him and it looks like history will repeat itself once again. Gay is rumored to be on the trade block and the Sacramento Kings are looking to move him for other talent. The athletic forward should be able to help teams on paper but the results are damning and his NBA career is trending downward.
18 Eric Gordon
Eric Gordon was once viewed as a credible asset and was actually the main piece in the Los Angeles Clippers acquiring Chris Paul. The league blocked a Lakers trade that would have sent Pau Gasol to the New Orleans Pelicans franchise deeming it unfair but allowed the Clippers deal that sent Gordon and irrelevant pieces in exchange for Paul. It’s crazy to believe Gordon had such value because he’s now a forgotten man in the NBA as a borderline role player in New Orleans. Gordon has been on a decline for years and was having another below average season before suffering an injury that currently has him out of action.
The Washington Wizards road to success looked impressive with the backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal, along with the frontcourt duo of Marcin Gortat and Nene. Unfortunately, Nene has fallen off with injury issues and the overall wear and tear of years in the NBA. The Wizards are struggling to hold an Eastern Conference playoff spot this season and the lack of production from Nene is one of the major reasons why. The veteran is likely on his way out of the league very soon and only has a couple of years left. Nene has little left in the tank and his career is definitely looking towards the end right now.
16 Josh Smith
The story of Josh Smith’s career has been summed up perfectly in the last year. The Detroit Pistons cut bait with him and he signed with the Houston Rockets last season. With his typical sporadic play, Smith had a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Smith chose to leave Houston for the Los Angeles Clippers in the offseason and his run with the new team was a bust. The Clippers traded him back to Houston a couple of weeks ago and he’s hoping to rebound from the failure. Smith has talent but has never been able to get to his full potential and it looks like he never will. As a reserve, Smith is bound to mediocrity for the remainder of his career.
15 Dion Waiters
Dion Waiters was a fourth overall draft pick just a couple of seasons ago and has seen his stock fall rapidly. The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Waiters after LeBron James arrived and his style of play didn’t fit into their winning ways. Waiters was dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder and has once again struggled to find a way to fit in. The sixth man scores off the bench but has a bit of a selfish edge that harms his ability to grow into a more prominent role in the NBA. It’s hard to envision Waiters remaining in Oklahoma City for a very long time or having an important position on a winning team.
14 Jose Calderon
The New York Knicks expected to get a successful starting point guard when they traded center Tyson Chandler for Jose Calderon. The decline of Calderon in both his play and his health has hurt the Knicks with a glaring weakness at the position. Langston Galloway has outplayed him for two seasons now and that says all you need to know about Calderon’s future. If he continues to get signed by NBA teams, Calderon likely will never be placed in a starting spot again. The point guard is arguably the most important position in the NBA these days and Calderon just doesn’t have enough left.
13 Doug McDermott
The 2014 NBA Draft delivered a couple of interesting prospects but very few of them have lived up to the expectations. One of the biggest disappointments from that draft turned out to be Chicago Bulls forward Doug McDermott. Chicago expected a three-point shooting specialist but McDermott has not delivered his end of the bargain. With a larger role on the team this season due to the injury of Mike Dunleavy, McDermott is averaging just 7.8 points per game. Once Chicago gets Dunleavy back, McDermott will be forgotten and possibly off the team next season. The once hopeful sharpshooter looks bound to be another bust that loses his job in the league rather quickly.
12 David Lee
The days of David Lee being an All Star caliber power forward are over and this season has been the proof. Lee lost his starting spot on the Golden State Warriors last year to Draymond Green and it ended up being a brilliant move for the team, as they are becoming historically great. Lee was traded to the Boston Celtics in the offseason and failed to make the best of the new opportunity. The former double-double machine is now averaging just 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. In both situations of a title contender and a rebounding team looking for new stars, Lee has shown his time of being a relevant NBA star is over.
11 Lance Stephenson
The rise and fall of Lance Stephenson is one of the most bizarre stories in the NBA. Stephenson showed great improvements and value on the Indiana Pacers for a couple of years. The guard was one of the most important pieces to getting to the Eastern Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons competing strongly against the LeBron James-led Miami Heat. Stephenson decided to leave Indiana for a big contract and has completely fallen off the radar. After one brutal season with the Charlotte Hornets, Stephenson is now with the Los Angeles Clippers and barely gets any court time. There’s very little hope of Stephenson returning to form and is in for a difficult time getting a good contract when a free agent.
10 Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony cashed in for a huge contract with the New York Knicks and was expected to be the face of the franchise for a few more years. ‘Melo is already old news with rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis bringing a new style of excitement and youth to Knicks fans. Between injury issues and ineffective play, Anthony has taken a step down from his usual excellence on the offensive side of the ball. It's starting to look like Anthony is heading for a decline and is in his final few years as a big name. New York will try to build around him and Porzingis but Anthony is currently heading towards an ugly downturn.
9 Roy Hibbert
Just a few years ago, Roy Hibbert was living the dream life. The center experienced winning with the Indiana Pacers getting to the Eastern Conference Finals, all-star appearances for personal success and even had entertaining cameo appearances in the NBC sitcom, Parks & Recreation. Hibbert’s career is no longer where it was, with a big decline causing the Indiana Pacers to trade him to the Los Angeles Lakers. The big man has been horrible for the Lakers and the future of Hibbert once again becoming a star in the NBA look quite bleak. Many believe the style of play in today’s NBA is pushing the traditional big men to near extinction and Hibbert’s failure may be the perfect example.
8 Anthony Bennett
While it’s still early in his career, you can make a strong argument for Anthony Bennett being the worst draft pick in NBA history. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected him first overall in the 2013 NBA Draft but were able to overcome the mistake by trading him after LeBron James decided to sign with the team. Bennett has looked absolutely terrible in the NBA on both the Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves. Currently a member of the Toronto Raptors, Bennett is playing in the D-League and hopes to make a return to the league on his home team but his chances don’t look good. Bennett has been one of the worst players in the NBA during his short career and he has a lot of work to do to turn his story around.
7 Deron Williams
The Brooklyn Nets franchise is in disarray and that’s mostly thanks to the demise of Deron Williams. Following years of disinterest and decline, Williams reached a buyout with Brooklyn and entered a new beginning with the Dallas Mavericks this season. The point guard has delivered a couple of good moments but his overall play has been mediocre at best. Williams is averaging 13.9 points on 41.4% shooting from the field along with just 5.3 assists. This would be the lowest season average of assists per game in his career since his rookie year. Williams is failing to rejuvenate his career and is definitely looking like his time as a starting point guard is over.
6 Joakim Noah
Very few players have fallen as hard in the last couple of seasons as Joakim Noah. Following All Star appearances and being viewed as one of the best defenders in the league, Noah was a fixture in Chicago. The Bulls success was credited to Noah and Derrick Rose for being the young pieces that led the franchise from a few years of failure into playoff threats. Noah has since suffered a decline over the last two seasons and has become a hindrance on the team. Before suffering an injury that will rule him out for the remainder of the season, Noah was averaging a pathetic 4.3 points per game. This could be the end of the road for Noah as a player that can fit into a rotation of a contender.
5 Dwight Howard
Once the unanimous selection for the best center in the NBA, Dwight Howard is no longer an All Star. The Houston Rockets dismal start to the season can be attributed to a variety of reasons but Howard’s injuries and lack of dominance in the paint are among them. Howard still is a double-double machine and will play great defense once in a while but he just isn’t a dominant force like he was in his Orlando Magic days. No one is afraid to drive to the hoop when playing the Rockets. Howard is struggling offensively with just 14.4 points per game, the worst average since his rookie season. It will be surprising if he is ever an All Star or franchise superstar again.
4 Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson is arguably the most overpaid player in sports but his ridiculous contract ends after this season. The Brooklyn Nets are horrible and the former star player’s decline has helped sink the franchise. Johnson has declined from a star offensive talent into a mediocre role player. While Johnson may still serve a role as a good bench piece on a contender, his days as a relevant NBA star are over. You have to give him credit for finding a deal that cashed in for the remainder of his prime and secured him big bucks as he transitioned into his new role as a secondary option.
3 Joel Embiid
The saddest story of a current NBA player that appears to be doomed is Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers. The University of Kentucky star was selected third overall in the 2014 NBA Draft but has yet to play his first NBA game due to foot injuries. Philadelphia is hoping the young man can overcome the injuries to become a superstar that saves the franchise but it doesn’t look good. Embiid will be making his NBA in-game debut later than anticipated and may be limited following the injuries. There’s been some doubt that he will ever be able to make his return to court but even if he does, the current hardships are hard to overcome.
2 Kevin Love
Kevin Love’s run with the Cleveland Cavaliers has been terrible. In a season and a half, Love has put up some of the worst numbers of his career. The star power forward doesn’t get to utilize his offensive game as prominently in Cleveland’s offense and his defense is nonexistent. The situation is destroying his credibility as a top NBA player. Love has no other option. If he does get traded, it will likely be to a significantly lesser team and he will be viewed as a guy that couldn’t play well on a winning team. Love is either going to flop in Cleveland or become a big fish in a small pond. The situation is a lose-lose for Love.
1 Derrick Rose
The Chicago Bulls have seen a big change in just one season. Jimmy Butler has emerged as the new superstar on the team with his tremendous two-way skills. Not only is Butler the best player in Chicago but he’s stepped up as the leader of the team. Derrick Rose has completely lost the former spot he was expected to hold down for the next decade, as the former MVP has dropped off dramatically due to the brutal injuries to his knees. While he still contributes to the team, Rose has devolved from one of the biggest stars in the entire NBA into just a glorified role player. The story of Derrick Rose’s career has placed him into a position where he’ll never be a special top-tier talent again.