Welcome to the second installment of Basketball Insiders’ “Odd Men Out” series. For those of you who haven’t been following this week, Basketball Insiders is looking at players from each division that don’t appear to be part of their team’s future plans.
Spencer Davies covered the Central Division on Monday, and today, we will be focusing on the Southwest.
All five teams in the Southwest Division will be aiming for a playoff spot this year, meaning that rebuilding won’t be in the cards for any of them. Still, there are quite a few players in the division that, as of now, may not be relied on much either this season or going forward. Their diminished roles could either lead to an incoming trade or a permanent seat on the bench.
The following players meet that criteria.
Chandler Parsons – Memphis Grizzlies
Hey, remember this guy? It wasn’t too long ago that Chandler Parsons was a very valuable player in the NBA. In fact, his skillset when fully healthy would be a great fit with the Grizzlies. Unfortunately, his ongoing knee problems have made him currently nothing more than arguably the NBA’s worst contract.
In his two seasons so far in Grind City, Parsons has played in only 70 games total, which is not a good look since they’ve paid him 45 million dollars total so far. What’s worse is that judging by the moves they made, Memphis seems to have little confidence that Parsons will return to his old form. The team added Kyle Anderson, Garrett Temple, and Omri Casspi, all of whom will make it hard for Parsons to find playing time.
With the little value he has now, there’s not much that Memphis can do with Parsons. They could trade him for an equally bad contract, or they could attach a first or two to get him off the books, but their most realistic option is to swallow his contract whole.
Ryan Anderson – Houston Rockets
Ryan Anderson was once a terrific fit in Mike D’Antoni’s system because of his three-point shooting. Sadly, his defensive shortcomings and lack of versatility have made him a liability for Houston when the stakes are high.
Anderson’s role drastically shrunk as the playoffs came around, as his minutes went from 26 in the regular season to eight, demonstrating the Rockets’ distrust. With all they lost this summer, Anderson could see more minutes, but after adding Carmelo Anthony, that seems unlikely. He has proven himself productive, but at this point, Anderson may not be more than expensive deadweight to Houston when you consider the bar they are setting for themselves.
That being said, Anderson’s contract could help Houston find their Trevor Ariza replacement. Rumor has it that Kent Bazemore is interested in joining them. Bazemore, though also overpaid, would fit much better than Ryno does. That’s just one of the options that the Rockets could look at to move Anderson.
Pau Gasol – San Antonio Spurs
For several years now, Pau Gasol has beaten the odds. When folks thought he was declining as he was on his way out of L.A., he bounced back in Chicago. When folks questioned his fit in San Antonio, he refined other areas of his game to acclimate himself.
Gasol’s durability will further cement him as one of the best bigs of his generation, but that doesn’t change that he will be 38 years old coming into this season. The Spurs will be aiming at another deep playoff run this year, so one can’t help but wonder how much Gasol has left in the tank.
Father Time is and always will be undefeated. Gasol is playing in a league that has evolved a lot since his heyday as a Laker. His age combined with a league that plays faster will make it harder for the Spurs to play him no matter how much they are paying him. Gasol doesn’t have much left to prove, but the Spurs may wind up regretting giving him that big extension last summer.
If they don’t already.
Nene Hilario – Houston Rockets
Like Ryan Anderson, Nene at first proved to be a pretty solid fit with how Mike D’Antoni ran things in Houston. Nene was spectacular at running the pick and roll with Harden and gave the team great energy in the frontcourt. Also, like Anderson, Nene fell out of the rotation the following season once the playoffs started.
The Rockets tried to preserve Nene during the regular season, but it didn’t lead to much since Nene proved to be unplayable against the Warriors. Perhaps Nene can bounce back, but at 35, the odds are slim especially if the Rockets hope to get another shot at the Warriors.
Nene’s age and injury problems may force the Rockets to search for a new backup for Clint Capela. Since Nene’s contract is cheap, that may not be difficult.
Alexis Ajinca -New Orleans Pelicans
Another one of those, “He’s still in the league?” players. Once upon a time, Alexis Ajinca was a productive backup big in New Orleans, but the injuries have piled up for him over the past few years, culminated by him missing last season entirely.
It’s hard to see where Ajinca fits in New Orleans now. They have a talented trio in the frontcourt, featuring Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle, so it’s hard to see him getting minutes in the rotation. Reports say that the Pelicans have signed Jahlil Okafor as well. If he makes the team, Ajinca’s future in the Big Easy will be put in even more doubt.
New Orleans will find any boost to keep Anthony Davis happy, so with the crowded frontcourt, Ajinca will probably be best used as an expiring contract to trade for another rotation player who could help them return to the playoffs.
As you can see, the primary reason why I believe these guys may not stay with their current teams is that they are overpaid, they don’t have much to offer or both. For all we know, these five guys may wind up being important cogs to their teams’ success. If they are, all the better for the Southwest division!
Stay tuned for Basketball Insiders’ later installments of “Odd Men Out” coming out this week!
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