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12 NBA Players Who Make Teams Instantly Better

Fadeaway World

Fadeaway World

Great basketball players are known not just for what they’re capable of doing, but what they’re capable of bringing out of their teammates and how far they can take a given franchise upon their arrivals.

Nobody’s able to win on their own but having a leader with great basketball IQ can really turn a franchise around. For instance, the Dallas Mavericks who won the Championship weren’t the most talented or young team, but they were really close to each other and knew how to properly play together.

Over the course of history, a handful of players have been able to develop that kind of leadership and make teammates not only look up for them but also bring out the best of their game. Today, we’ll talk about those 12 players that made their teams instantly better.

12. Elgin Baylor

Elgin Baylor is often forgotten, but truth to be told, he’s one of the best players in NBA history and was considered to be the greatest Laker ever before Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, even though he was never able to put the cherry on top of the sundae with a Championship.

Moreover, the Minneapolis Lakers got Baylor out of college with the 1st overall pick, following one of the worst seasons in franchise history and a 19-53 record, with George Mikan retiring a couple of seasons ago. Baylor finished the season with 25-15-4 en route to the ROY, leading the team to the Finals where they lost against Boston. On a side note, it’s been said that had the Lakers passed on Baylor, the team would’ve had to file for bankruptcy, and NBA history would never been the same.

11. Jason Kidd

It took a lot of time for Jason Kidd to win an NBA Championship, but even so, he was one of the most vocal leaders and heartfelt presences wherever he set his feet on, being one of the most dominant two-way point guards to ever play the game, a walking triple-double and a dime and steals machine.

The 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks were one of the worst teams in NBA history, finishing with an 11-71 record. Furthermore, the next season wasn’t much better, with the team piling up 20, 16 and 17 game losing streaks at one point en route to a 13-69 record. Enter Kidd, the Co-ROY who led the league in triple-doubles during his rookie season and led them to 23 more victories than the prior campaign. He also helped the Suns win 16 more games, and then led the Nets to the Finals.

10. Moses Malone

Moses Malone was so good that he was one of the first players to make it to the pros straight out of high school when the ABA offered him a contract. Still, after he had established himself as one of the league’s most dominant rebounders, the Rockets pretty much let him walk away to the Philadelphia 76ers, as they thought they were overpaying him.

So, the reigning MVP joined the Sixers, improving an already impressive roster that also featured Julius Erving, in order to have somebody that was capable of containing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had torched them in the Finals the prior campaign. At the end of the season, the Sixers would match up against the Lakers again but would go on to sweep them thanks to Moses’ presence down low.

9. Steve Nash

Maybe Steve Nash didn’t strike as the kind of guy that would go on to become one of the best point guards in the history of the game at first sight, but truth to be told, he completely changed the way the position was played at the time and grew to be one of the most influential players of his generation.

Nash brought the most out of Dirk Nowitzki but the team wasn’t able to retain him as the Suns made him a huge offer to bring him back on board after trading him away a couple of years earlier. The Canadian standout would go on to lead Phoenix to 33 more wins than the prior campaign, creating a team that would dominate the West but not be able to win the Chip.

8. Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain was pretty much a circus freak. He was so freakingly physically gifted at the time, that the league actually had to change a lot of rules in order to make it fairer for everybody that was trying to contain him. Needless to say, nobody was ever able of accomplishing that almost impossible task.

Chamberlain broke accountless amounts of records throughout his entire basketball career, and he instantly made the Philadelphia Warriors a better team, as the Warriors hadn’t even made the playoffs the year they Drafted him but went on to win 17 more games amid his arrival. On a side note, he won the ROY, MVP and ASG MVP on that very same season.

7. Larry Bird

Larry Bird always drew a lot of criticism, with his haters stating that he was slow and unathletic, but he managed to shush them on a nightly basis every time he had to dress in green and white, being considered by much as the greatest small forward in the history of the game before LeBron James’ surge.

When Larry Legend first came around, the Boston Celtics were coming off a miserable season with a 29-53 record, but his arrival will take them all the way to the best record in the NBA with a 61-21 campaign, winning the ROY, making the ASG and leading the team to the Eastern Conference Finals.

6. John Stockton

John Stockton was pretty much a late bloomer and it took him a lot of time before he had the chance to establish himself as the Utah Jazz’ primary ball handler, but once he took flight, he instantly became one of the most influential pure point guards this game has ever seen, having a huge impact on both ends of the hardwood.

Before Stockton was able to grab onto the team’s starting point guard spot, the Jazz had only won 44 games that season, with him barely playing 22 minutes a night. However, during the 1987-88 campaign, he led the team with as much as 13.8 dimes and 3 steals per game, and would eventually take the team to back-to-back NBA Finals.

5. David Robinson

David Robinson was one of the most dominant two-way big men in the game throughout his entire career, a guy that could completely dominate both sides of the glass, find the open guy, swat 5 shots and run the court, and he was the first building block of the long-tenured San Antonio Spurs project that’s still working up to this date.

Before Robinson’s arrival to the team, the San Antonio Spurs had recorded a horrid 21-61 season, which entitled them of the 1987 1st overall pick. Robinson would go on to have an immediate impact, leading the team to a 56-26 record and leading them to the 2nd round of the playoffs.

4. Bill Russell

Bill Russell is considered to be the most dominant player in NBA history, not because of how skilled he was, but because of the instant impact he had for the Boston Celtics, winning 11 Championships in 13 seasons en route of leading them to the becoming the winningest franchise in the history of the game.

Russell led his high school and college win back-to-back Championships, so you know he was capable of bringing the best out of everybody around him. Also, his presence was instantly felt by the Boston Celtics, as his defense and dominance in the glass led them to the Finals to go on and beat the St. Louis Hawks, the very same team that was entitled of the Draft pick the Celtics used to get him.

3. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson is known for being the best point guard in the history of the game, and even though he accomplished more things than most of the players to ever set foot on an NBA hardwood, it’s pretty crazy to think how far he could’ve gotten if he hadn't retired due to his controversial HIV diagnosis.

Magic made an instant impact for the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging 18-7-7 en route to making the All-Star on his very rookie season, not to mention the fact that the team actually won 23 more games than the previous campaign, finally making the Finals. Also, he started game 6 at center while stepping up for an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and eventually led the Lakers to the Chip.

2. Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan was a product of a Spurs’ losing season following a David Robinson injury, as he winds up being the 1st overall pick of his Draft. Landing Duncan was a complete turnaround for the San Antonio Spurs, as the Big Fundamental would go on to become the greatest player in franchise history and the lone guy beside Gregg Popovich to be a part of all 5 Championships.

Duncan’s work ethic, silent leadership and attitude really left a blueprint on the Spurs culture, and his arrival completely turned around a franchise that had just won 20 out of 82 games, leading them to the 5th seed in the West and a 56-26 record. Even though Robinson was back from injury, a 36 game improvement says a lot.

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1. LeBron James

LeBron James is the best example of a player that can make a team instantly better, not only because of his presence but also because pretty much every single player in the world wants to team up with him and the franchise who lands him winds up creating a super team out of the blue. Everybody knows playing with James is an easy ride to the Finals, as he’s shown by making 8 straight trips to the ultimate stage.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had pretty much tanked in order to get James, but the fact that he took a roster full of role players to the Finals just some seasons after entering the league talks a lot about his ability to lead a franchise. He would go on to create one of the most dominant teams in Miami and then go back to Cleveland where he would take an awful roster to the Finals all by himself after Kyrie left the team.