After four previous entries, today brings the end of Basketball Insiders’ “Odd Men Out” series. For those of you that haven’t followed along all week, we’ve looked at players from each division that don’t appear to be part of their team’s future plans. Whether they’re about to be pushed out by fast-developing prospects or the franchise is headed in a new direction, there are plenty that may be on the outside looking in come October.
If you need to catch up, here’s your last chance: Spencer Davies tackled the Central, Matt John handled the Southwest, Lang Greene snagged the Southeast and Shane Rhodes dug into the Northwest. Naturally, that means our series will finish up here with the Atlantic Division.
From Jayson Tatum to Ben Simmons and every talented phenom in between, much of the division boasts up-and-comers wise beyond their age. With potential centerpieces cropping up all over the place, here are five players that might be in trouble in 2017-18.
Boston Celtics — Guerschon Yabusele
Its been nearly a year since this writer posited that Guerschon Yabusele could be a secret weapon for the Celtics. Granted, this was before Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis emerged as the perfect fit for head coach Brad Stevens’ schemes — but outside of a few viral moments, it was a tough NBA debut for Yabusele. The affectionately nicknamed Dancing Bear averaged just 2.4 points and 1.6 rebounds over a paltry 33 games in 2017-18, and it’ll only get tougher from here.
At the very least, Yabusele will start the new campaign behind Tatum, Theis and Marcus Morris, with an explosive rookie, Robert Williams, waiting in the wings. Given that Gordon Hayward — who played all of five minutes last season — can grab the lion’s share of minutes at small forward, Tatum will spend the majority of his time at the four. Even if Williams doesn’t leapfrog Yabusele, minutes will certainly be hard to come by for a team with Finals aspirations.
Brooklyn Nets — Spencer Dinwiddie
This entry comes with an obvious caveat: Spencer Dinwiddie is really good at basketball. Still, he can’t possibly be the Nets’ point guard of the future, right?
Following an early injury to Jeremy Lin last season — and then his subsequent trade this summer — Brooklyn has all but avoided that three-headed logjam since Dinwiddie’s meteoric come up. But with just one year left before unrestricted free agency, it remains to be seen where Dinwiddie lays in the franchise’s long-term plans. While Dinwiddie was a well-deserved finalist for Most Improved Player in 2017-18, officially crossing over from G-League standout to an NBA-worthy asset, the Nets are also committed to a slew of other youngsters — a long list that includes D’Angelo Russell.
As the roster’s only completely healthy point guard, Dinwiddie blossomed in Brooklyn’s fast-paced offense, tallying 12.6 points, 6.6 assists and 1.8 three-pointers in 28.8 minutes per game. So, in any case, Dinwiddie will be highly sought-after next offseason and a return may not make sense for either side. Since general manager Sean Marks took over in 2016, the Nets have peered toward 2019 as the first opportunity to own both draft picks and ample cap space once again. Tying up a large amount of that money for Dinwiddie to presumably continue backing up Russell seems to fall outside both parties’ interests.
On top of that, the Nets added Shabazz Napier to the rotation in July — a player that’s far too good to simply be a third point guard. Make no mistake: Dinwiddie will play a ton in 2018-19, but there’s some potential for a midseason split if the Nets feel comfortable moving ahead with Russell.
Philadelphia 76ers — Jerryd Bayless
A true veteran, Jerryd Bayless has traveled well over his 10-year career but he now finds himself in a difficult situation for the budding 76ers. Prior to the NBA Draft, back when the franchise was still courting LeBron James, Philadelphia tried to move Bayless, but no deal was executed. In recent weeks, a Kyle Korver-Bayless swap was allegedly discussed (and quickly shot down) with the re-tuned Cleveland Cavaliers — however, things have become quiet again.
Even with Zhaire Smith’s unfortunate Jones fracture, there just isn’t room for Bayless moving forward as Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, T.J. McConnell and Landry Shamet are all likely ahead of him going into training camp. Whether via an eventual buyout or trade, it seems increasingly doubtful that Bayless will remain in red, white and blue.
Although the sample size is small, Bayless averaged 7.9 points on 1.4 three-pointers per game in 2017-18, so there may be some life left in this solid professional career.
New York Knicks — Joakim Noah
It’s been a couple of incredibly long years for Joakim Noah — and still, even after hiring a new head coach, there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Noah, a former Defensive Player of the Year winner, has spent much of his two seasons with the Knicks either injured, suspended or banished. Upset over reduced playing time, Noah got into an altercation with former head coach Jeff Hornacek last January and all but disappeared completely. Through seven contests, Noah, 33, had averaged just 1.7 points and two rebounds in 5.7 minutes per game.
With David Fizdale’s summer arrival, there were fleeting hopes that a potential reunion was on the cards — but, alas, those plans lasted shortly as well. As of today, if the Knicks can’t trade Noah — who is under contract for a staggering $19.3 million in 2019-20 — before training camp, they’ll reportedly stretch the once-dominant center. In the case of an absolute miracle, Noah would be still stuck behind Enes Kanter and Mitchell Robinson — but the worse case scenario, which is far more reasonable at this point, is that the former defensive centerpiece has played his last NBA minute.
New York Knicks — Courtney Lee
On the other hand, Courtney Lee has continued chugging along drama-free, but he’s now officially the guy blocking the next perceived franchise cornerstone. If the frenzied reaction to summer league was any indication, the New York faithful are more than ready to embrace recent draftee Kevin Knox. Particularly so in a campaign that won’t see Kristaps Porzingis until Christmas at the earliest, Lee’s role as a 30-plus minute scorer may soon come to a close.
Lee will be 33 years old by opening night and the Knicks will probably feature as one of the NBA’s worst without Porzingis in tow. If the Knicks continue their soft rebuild, they’d be smart to hand the reins to their developing talent — Mario Hezonja, Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay alongside Knox — and stick any remaining veterans in secondary roles before long. Like Noah, Lee is under contract with New York until 2019-20, albeit at a far more palatable $12.7 million in the final year.
Of course, basketball is an ever-changing sport and things can flip at a moment’s notice, so these scenarios may look different come April. But for now, from here, there are some difficult situations to conquer in the Atlantic Division. Between Yabusele getting further buried, Bayless becoming superfluous, Brooklyn attempting to decipher their point guard of the future and two Knicks caught on the wrong side of 30, these are five intriguing storylines to watch out east.
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