Not every player can be the MVP, not every player can make the All-NBA teams, and not every player can make the All-Star game. For some players and teams to do well, others have to falter. Some players have breakout years, some seem to wither in the spotlight.
Side note. Not every player I mention will be at fault for his shortcomings. He may be recovering from injury, be stuck on a bad team with ineffective players around him or his skillset may not be being used to its full potential.
Whatever the reason, these players have not lived up to expectations, and so without further ado, here are my top ten more disappointing players of this NBA season.
10. Julius Randle
Another Laker who hasn’t thrived under the pressure of LA LA Land is Julius Randle, the 6 foot 9 in power forward out of Kentucky. Randle suffered a huge setback in his first NBA game, tragically breaking his leg, but rebounded well in his second season averaging a double-double (11.3 points and 10.2 rebounds). His shooting percentage was very low for a forward at 42.9% but he got a free pass due to that really being his first full season.
For a guy who was thought of as being a more athletic Zach Randolph, Randle hasn’t been able to show that this year. His efficiency is up from 42.9% to 48.7%, but his rebounds are down from 10.2 to 8.4 and his scoring has only seen a minor increase, from 11.3 to 13 a game.
Now at 22, his body should’ve developed enough so that he could resume bullying his opponents in the post and carving space for him to grab even more rebounds. These were the traits that made NBA scouts fall in love with Randle during his one season at Kentucky.
Randle still too often relies on his dominant left hand, meaning teams can just force him right to make him less effective. He also hasn’t shown much of a developed post game. As stated above, the Lakers are in a state of flux and are still looking to find that winning combination to bring Showtime back to LA. When the dust settles on Kobe’s retirement and the whole management situation, I expect Randle to bounce back next season, and bounce back hard.
9. Al Horford
Big man Al Horford was hailed as the star Boston needed to make that next step towards true title contention and on the surface its looks as though he’s done that. The Celtics are 2nd in the East and are thought to be one of the teams that would give Cleveland a real run for its money. But to me, Al Horford hasn’t been the main reason why the C’s are where they are.
That credit has to be given to Isaiah Thomas and his heroics that have brought the TD Garden crowd to its feet nearly every night.
Horford now plays alongside the hottest player in the league right now, so why isn’t he benefitting from that? He’s only averaging 14 points a game and only 6.6 rebounds. Horford is a very versatile big and he’s improved his passing to the tune of nearly 5 assists a game. But he’s just got to be more efficient from the field and grab more rebounds.
He’s shooting more than 4 percentage points lower at the rim than last year, and only 45.5% from the field in general, even though he’s playing on a better team. His teammate Avery Bradley, a 6 foot 2 in guard is averaging only 0.1 less rebounds than him. The Celtics as a team are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA allowing nearly 11 offensive boards a night and Horford is the main culprit.
Yes, the addition of Horford will have helped the Celtics become a better team, but for a guy who’s making $26.5 million this year, the man out of Florida will seriously need to up his game come to the playoffs if they want to make it to the finals.
8. Nicholas Batum
What is it with teams that made the playoffs last year, who have failed to take the next step this season? Indiana, Detroit and now Charlotte are all in the same, sinking boat.
Charlotte’s second-leading scorer Nicholas Batum once heralded as a versatile swingman who could knock down a three or two has backtracked to the point of mediocrity. He is still pulling down tidy 7 boards a night and also dishing out 5.8 assists but it’s his efficiency that is the big red flag. He’s only shooting 39.6% from the field and is only scoring 15.1 points per game.
He just hasn’t shown that veteran poise and experience which is paramount for success in the NBA. This is a big reason why Charlotte has the second worst team field-goal percentage this season at 43.7%.
Charlotte just can’t score the ball.
Kemba Walker has developed into a pure baller and is a franchise player for years to come, but if he’s to pull Charlotte, a team that has had the worst regular season of all time, out of the shadows, then either Batum has to come to play or needs to be shipped away.
7. D’Angelo Russell
It still beats me why the Lakers decided to go with D’Angelo Russell instead of Jahlil Okafor in the 2015 NBA draft. Okafor was the second best rookie last year, behind Karl-Anthony Towns. Okafor averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds for the 76ers last year. He’s a very big guy with a very impressive offensive skill set. He reminded people of a young Tim Duncan and I believe he could’ve been a perennial 20 and 10 player with the Lakers if they had chosen him.
But alas I am left to the only daydream about another big man sailing his way into the annals of Laker history. LA went with the point guard in Russell instead.
His first year in the city of Angels was so-so. He had some good games, like a 39 point barrage against Brooklyn and his general play was OK. He looked like a stereotypical high draft pick, adjusting to the huge increase in difficulty and pressure that came with being the primary ball handler for an NBA organization.
His second year, however, hasn’t been what Laker fans were looking for.
For a talented top three pick who has been given the keys to a franchise, you’d expect him to make a big jump from his rookie year to his sophomore year. Russell has had the time to learn about how basketball is played in the NBA, had a whole year to work on their game and develop physically. Russell hasn’t done this. He’s shooting worse from the field than in his first year, 40.4% down from 41% and has only marginally increased his scoring and assists from 13.2 points per game to 14.8, and from 3.3 assists to 4.8.
He just hasn’t made that jump that you’d expect someone in his position to do so. However, the Lakers a really young team and they are still figuring things out without Kobe Bryant. When the new management is settled and with another offseason to improve, look for big things to come for Mr “Ice in my veins.”
6. Allen Crabbe
You’ve got to feel for Damian Lillard. The man puts up 26.2 points a night and for the second straight year is snubbed from the All-Star game. Whether or not you think he deserves a spot over someone else is up for debate, but what isn’t is that Lillard can ball.
The Blazers have come crashing back to earth after an extraordinary run last year that saw them make the Western Conference semi-finals, despite losing four of their five starters.
This year though has been tough, as they stand 25-35 and look in real danger of watching the playoffs from their sofas instead of actually participating.
Lillard, along with C. J McCollum have been balling, though. The pair average 49.4 points a night and are real studs. The problem lies with their 2nd highest paid player, Allen Crabbe.
The Blazers inked Crabbe to a 4 year, $75 million deal last year with the hopes that Crabbe would grow enough to form a potent, sharp-shooting big three with McCollum and Lillard, and in some respect, he has. Crabbe is shooting a very tasty 43.5% from three this year, but he’s averaging exactly the same amount of points per game at 10.3.
He’s a bench player who hasn’t been given the opportunity to prove himself by getting more shorts. Maybe Portland should start him at small forward to fully utilize his floor-spacing ability, or trade him for some quality pieces.
5. Dwight Howard
Oh Dwight Howard, how did it come to this?
How did it come to pass that the game’s greatest big man is now just a third option on a half decent team in the Eastern Conference? In 2010 Dwight Howard led the league in rebounding, shot blocking and field-goal percentage. Dwight Howard was once the most opposing defensive force in the entire league. Dwight Howard was once heralded as the game’s most athletic center… EVER.
Even after leaving three teams over his career to finally play in his hometown of Atlanta, Dwight Howard just hasn’t really lived up to his nickname of “Superman.”
For someone who was a perennial All-Star, is one of the most athletic player’s we’ve ever seen, and who has trained multiple times with one of the league’s greatest centers in Hakeem Olajuwon, Howard still hasn’t developed a good offensive game.
He just has never shown the will and desire to win a championship. He’s left every organization he’s been with on bad terms. That says something about his character.
Dwight Howard may be shooting over 63% from the field and averaging 12.8 rebounds a game, but he’s still young enough to have far more of an impact on the floor than he is having right now.
4. Paul George
After tragically breaking his leg in the summer of 2014 playing for Team USA, George made a spectacular turnaround last year. PG put up 23.1 points per game, was reselected to the All-Star game and led his Pacers to near upset of Toronto, losing to them in seven games.
After many people thought his career would be derailed by his injury, George looked to be back on track. After his comeback season, PG once again appeared to be one of the best two-way players in the NBA. Journalists had high expectations of George and his Pacers to become another challenge for LeBron and Cleveland in the East. They added Jeff Teague, Miles Turner was improving and George was meant to take the next step towards becoming a top ten player in the NBA.
Sadly, this hasn’t been the case.
Instead of moving forward, George seems to have taken a step back. His points per game are down from 23.1 last year to 21.7 this year. He’s grabbing fewer rebounds, dishing out fewer assists and forcing fewer steals. Although the Pacers are 31-30 and look sure to make the postseason, they have no chance of pushing Cleveland in a playoffs series, something many journalists thought they would be able to do.
3. Reggie Jackson
Joining Andre Drummond on this list is his point guard Reggie Jackson. In 2015 when the Pistons brought Jackson over from OKC he was expected to be the franchise’s primary ball-handler for the foreseeable future, and in his first full season, he did deliver.
Alongside Drummond, Jackson averaged 18.8 points an outing and was the second best player on that Detroit team that looked set to become a force in the Eastern Conference.
Jackson’s points per game is down from 18.8 to 14.7, his shooting percentage from the field is down from 43.4% to 41.9% and his assists are down from 6.2 to 5.5. He just hasn’t managed to find his rhythm again coming back from injury and Detroit as a result has suffered.
Like I said above, this season is a write-off for the Pistons who should now look to improve their squad so that they can once again make some noise in the Eastern Conference.
2. Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond to me is the most frustrating player in today’s NBA. He has the talent and the frame of a 1st ballot Hall of Famer. He stands 6 ft 11 inches, weighs nearly 280 lbs and has the incredible athleticism for someone of his size. It’s a toss-up between him, DeMarcus Cousins and Dwight Howard for the title of NBA’s strongest player.
But even with all this talent, Drummond isn’t reaching his potential. After leading the league in rebounding last year at an astounding 14.8 a game and averaging 16.2 points, Drummond hasn’t just made any progressive, he’s actually got worse.
The year after leading his Detroit Pistons back to the playoffs for the first time in six years and gaining his first All-Star appearance, Drummond and Detroit are back in mediocrity with seemingly no direction whatsoever.
In the NBA you just have to be able to knock down free throws. They are essentially free points and if you can’t shoot them, then not only do you lose the easy points, but you are more likely to be fouled going for an easy layup. Drummond is one of the worst free throw shooters in the game at an abysmal 41.1%.
That just isn’t going to cut it.
After saying that he was going to massively improve his shooting from the charity stripe, Drummond has been all talk and no action.
Andre isn’t completely at fault though for his setback. The Pistons simply don’t have enough quality shooters on their roster for Drummond to be effective, either by posting up or in the pick and roll.
This season has been a bust for Detroit. Rumors were even circulating at the trade deadline that Andre was going to be traded. The Pistons will need to make some serious moves this offseason if they want Drummond to reach his potential and lead his team back to the playoffs.
1. Joakim Noah
Oh, the Knicks. As of now, they are definitely the most toxic franchise to play for in the Eastern Conference. Every player that heads to New York seems to regress, and Joakim Noah is no exception.
After winning the NBA’s defensive player of the year award in 2014, Noah had established himself as one of the league’s best hustlers. He did the things teams love like set good screens, be the first to any loose ball and just play with great hustle, heart and determination. It’s because of those traits that the Knicks decided to sign Noah for a $72 million deal last year. They were hoping he would bring his intensity to Madison Square Garden and that it would elevate other players to play with the same desire to win.
But that just hasn’t happened. Noah’s contract is probably the worst in the NBA right now. He’s making $17 million this season and for what? He averaged a measly 5 points a game and New York is still a joke.
Noah is playing with Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose. You’d think with that level of talent he would be able to find easy points from putbacks and lobs, but he just hasn’t been able to gather any momentum. To make matters worse he’s gone from a 73.7% free throw shooter a few years ago, to a ghastly 43.6% this year with that very unorthodox motion of his.
Noah is now out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, and Knicks fans will be praying that he will return next year with that fire, that passion and that will to win that made him such a dominant force in Chicago.
All Stats provided by Basketball Reference at 5/3/2017