Not every NBA player will have a smooth career. Some may battle injuries early on while others, may prove to be “late-bloomers.”
Throughout the course of this season, we have witnessed many NBA players who have been on their own personal road to redemption.
Some players on this list began their journey in the NBA G-League and others rose from mediocrity and proved that they were in fact, All-Star level players. It is not often that NBA players have the chance to potentially rewrite their NBA careers but, these five players have certainly turned things around during the 2017-2018 season.
5. Trey Burke, New York Knicks
A former ninth-overall pick back in 2013, Trey Burke has not had the NBA career many would have predicted for him thus far. Burke spent the first three years of his career with the Utah Jazz where he was simply mediocre. He was never terrible but, he was also never a huge star. Throughout his time in Utah, Burke’s numbers decreased each year.
During the 2016-2017 season, the young point guard played in just 57 games for the Washington Wizards where he put up less than stellar numbers. After averaging double-digit points the year before, Burke was only able to manage five points per game and saw his numbers diminish almost entirely. Soon enough, the former first-round pick found himself relegated to the NBA G-League
While playing in the NBA’s premier development league, Burke discovered a new fire inside himself. As the G-League season progressed, Burke began to play less like the player he was when he was with Washington and more like the sensational player he was during his time with the University of Michigan. Taking the G-League by storm, Burke would average 26.6 points per game in 26 games played. The 25-year old’s play put everyone on notice, including NBA scouts. This past January, the New York Knicks signed Burke and gave him the NBA shot he was longing for.
In 15 games played with the Knicks, Trey Burke has gotten better with each passing game. At first, it was hard for him to find minutes in the rotation but, when veteran point guard Jarrett Jack went down with injury, he found his chance to sign. Now sporting Allen Iverson like cornrows and arm sleeve, the 25-year old point guard is beginning to prove his doubters wrong. As of this writing, he is coming off of back-to-back 26 point games and has already notched one double-double with his new team.
Although 15 games make it too hard to tell just how good he can be, Trey Burke is suddenly starting to show flashes of the prolific point guard many thought he could be back in 2013. The road to redemption continues but, it is looking rather promising thus far.
4. DeMarre Carroll: Brooklyn Nets
During the summer of 2015, DeMarre Carroll was one of the most highly touted free agents. He was coming off an outstanding season as a member of the Atlanta Hawks where he averaged 12.6 points along with, 4.7 rebounds per game. During that magical season in Atlanta where the team would finish 60-22, Carroll developed into one of the best three-and-d players in the NBA. He always drew a tough defensive assignment and was tasked with guarding LeBron James during the Hawks Playoff run. For his effort, the man who became known as “Junkyard Dog 2.0” signed a lucrative four-year deal with the Toronto Raptors.
In Toronto, Caroll was projected for big things. However, much like some of the players on this list, he failed to deliver. There were some nights where Carroll showed flashes of the star he was in Atlanta and others, where he was nowhere to be seen. In his defense, Carroll did spend a lot of time injured and unable to play as a member of the Raptors but, he was being paid to play. Carroll played just 22 games in his first year with Toronto and 72 in his second. When the Raptors decided to undergo a “culture reset” this past summer they cut ties with one of the most hyped signings in their franchises history and traded him to the Brooklyn Nets.
At first glance, this deal seemed like one that was just being made so that the Nets could obtain a draft pick. Carroll has fit in nicely with Brooklyn. In 55 games played this season, the 31-year-old has been a starter in all of them. Also, Carroll has gone from averaging 8 points per game to 13 points, a more respectable number for a player of his age.
Carroll may never be the player he was in Atlanta, and his time in Brooklyn has been the best he has played since 2015. He is a mentor for young talent, is healthy and, has become so well-liked around the organization that the team opted to keep him at the trade deadline rather than acquire a surplus of Draft picks. The Brooklyn Nets likely will not be competing for a championship anytime soon but, they appear to have given the DeMarre Carroll a new lease on his NBA life. Watching a player fall so far from where he once was is never enjoyable so Brooklyn, give yourselves a pat on the pack for potentially fixing DeMarre Carroll.
3. Kris Dunn: Chicago Bulls
When drafted fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2016, big things were expected out of Kris Dunn. After a less than stellar rookie year, Dunn quickly fell short from the expectations thrust upon and find himself falling down the pecking order in Minnesota. Before he was even drafted, the question arose about Dunn’s shot. Many wondered if he would be able to score the ball at a professional level. While Dunn remained a strong force on the defensive side of the game, on the offensive end, he was a nonfactor.
The young point guard seemed out of place while trying to run an offense and also struggled to score. Averaging only 3.8 points along with just 2.4 assists per game, Dunn quickly found himself quickly being overtaken by Ricky Rubio, the man he was supposed to surpass in the rotation. Giving the reins of the Timberwolves offensive system to Dunn did not work out at all. Which is why, when the team acquired All-Star Jimmy Butler they sent Kris Dunn back in the package to the Chicago Bulls.
A fresh change of scenery has done wonders for the now 23-year olds career. Whether it is the fact that he has a full NBA season under his belt, more confidence, or the fact that the Bulls have gone all in on developing their young players, something has changed in the former Providence standout.
Dunn went from averaging 3 points and 2 assists over 78 games to 13 points and 6 assists in just 48 games. Another interesting statistic to point out is that Dunn is taking almost nine more shots per game this year in comparison to last year. This would indicate that he is more comfortable and confident shooting the ball and driving to the rim.
The chance to hit the “reset button” early on has been a massive help for Kris Dunn. Although he may only be in his second NBA season, he is looking more-and-more like the franchise point guard he was supposed to be in Minnesota. As the Chicago Bulls continue to develop their young players, Dunn should get a big opportunity to continue to develop into an even better player.
2. Dwight Howard: Charlotte Hornets
Dwight Howard was once one of the best players in the NBA. As a member of the Orlando Magic, Howard’s mix of athleticism and sheer dominance took the NBA by storm. Over his well documented 13 year career, the man dubbed Superman has averaged over 20 points and over 10 rebounds per game in four different seasons. During his 8 year run as a member of the Magic Howard was also an All-Star 6 times and won Defensive Player of the Year honors three times. In 2012, Howard would take his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers which, would change the course of his career forever.
When Dwight Howard signed with the Lakers, he was supposed to be the final member of a Lakers big three that included Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. But, with Nash struggling with injuries and Howard and Bryant having a rocky relationship, the Lakers big three did not pan out the way it was supposed to. Although Howard was named in fact named an All-Star in his lone season as a member of the Lakers, he seemed to be in his own head too much and struggled with injuries.
After the bright lights of Los Angeles, Howard spent three mediocre years in Houston and one season playing for his hometown Atlanta Hawks. While Howard did manage to continue to average a career double-double per game, he was far removed from the high-flying, rim protecting superstar he once was.
This past summer, Howard signed with the Charlotte Hornets. Whatever Howard did over the offseason paid off. The 13 year veteran has finally rediscovered himself in the NBA and for the first time in years, seems to be legitimately having fun playing the game he has loved for so long. Howard’s rekindled love for basketball has shown on the court. He is averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds per game and has managed to stay healthy. For a young Hornets team with Playoff aspirations, Howard has become a key contributor.
As of this writing, Howard has grabbed 20 or more rebounds in a game four times and has scored 20 or more points on a handful of occasions. Much like DeMarre Carroll, Howard has been able to stay healthy and has found himself in the perfect situation to revitalize his career. At 32 years of age, Howard ranks fifth in total double-doubles on the year and has made improvements to his free throw shooting which, has helped him become a dominant force once again.
1. Victor Oladipo: Indiana Pacers
When Victor Oladipo was traded to the Indiana Pacers as part of the Paul George Deal, he was not supposed to be this good. After spending three years in Orlando as a member of the Magic, the former second overall pick was supposed to help lead the Thunder out of the Kevin Durant Era. Although Oladipo was a fine addition to the Thunder roster when the opportunity arose to acquire Paul George Oklahoma City did hesitate. At first glance, many people criticized the Pacers for only acquiring Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis (who also could be on this list) but, as the 2017-2018 season began, Victor Oladipo silenced all the critics.
What many forget is that Oladipo actually played college basketball in Indiana. Being traded to the Pacers was a homecoming of sorts for the former first-round pick. Playing in a familiar environment has likely contributed to the 25-year-olds career renaissance. As of this writing, Oladipo is currently averaging 24.2 points, 4.2 assists and, 5.4 rebounds per game.
After five years in the NBA, Oladipo is finally playing at the level many expected him to when he first came into the league. When the Pacers traded Paul George, it was expected that they were going to begin to rebuild but, due to Oladipo’s stellar play, the Pacers currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference.
For his efforts on the year thus far, Oladipo was also recently named an All-Star for the first time in his young career. His shot looks better, his decision making looks better and, he seems to be more mature and really thriving in his role as a leader for the Pacers. Come June when the NBA Awards are announced do not be surprised if Oladipo wins Most Improved Player honors. It is not often that a player can go from an impact starter to a true franchise centerpiece in just over a year.