NBA Players in Need of a Bounce-Back Season
Whether because of injuries or other issues, here are the players most in need of a bounce-back season.
Every NBA season features breakout performers and players that fail to meet expectations. The 2016-17 season was no exception. James Harden took his game to another level once Mike D’Antoni made him the Rockets’ de facto point guard. Russell Westbrook had a monster season after Kevin Durant took his talents to the Bay Area, breaking the regular season triple-double record and dominating in clutch situations. Giannis Antetokounmpo improved in just about every facet of the game and still has plenty of room to grow.
On the flip side, there were several players who failed to play up to their usual or expected level of play this past season. Here is a list of a few players who are in most need of a bounce-back season.
- Kris Dunn, Minnesota Timberwolves
Dunn was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the fifth overall pick in the 2016 Draft and was expected to be a contributor from day one. After all, Dunn spent four years at Providence, has the physical tools to compete with NBA veterans, and showed significant improvement throughout his time in college. As a prospect, Dunn showed promise as a steady floor general, effective playmaker, developing scorer and an overall plus contributor. If nothing else, Dunn was expected to provide energetic and reliable defense in his rookie season. Unfortunately, Dunn failed to provide any sort of positive, consistent impact in his rookie season.
In 17.1 minutes per game, Dunn averaged 3.8 points, 2.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds while shooting 37.7 percent from the field and 28.8 percent from three-point range. Needless to say, Dunn was ineffective and failed to live up to anyone’s expectations for this season. Dunn was supposed to come in and make Ricky Rubio expendable. Instead, Dunn’s poor production and inconsistent play made Rubio that much more essential to the Timberwolves this past season. Tom Thibodeau may still have hope that Dunn can be his point guard of the future, but based on what we saw this season, that may just be wishful thinking.
- LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
Aldridge is still one of the most talented big men in the NBA and on a good day can be a one-man wrecking crew. The problem this past season was that too often, the best version of Aldridge was nowhere to be found. This is particularly significant since this was the first season in nearly two decades that the Spurs weren’t anchored by Tim Duncan. No one was better positioned to step up and take on a bigger load for the Spurs than Aldridge, but he failed to seize the opportunity for a variety of reasons, including injuries.
Aldridge averaged 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. Aldridge’s numbers went down almost across the board from the previous season, despite Duncan’s retirement. However, Aldridge was slowed by multiple injuries throughout the season, which partially explains the drop off in performance. Additionally, Aldridge’s defense was surprisingly good. In fact, he was one of the better rim protectors this season, which hardly anyone noticed. However, Aldridge had a rough postseason and often at times looked like a shell of the dominant offensive force we know he can be. Whether it was injuries or some other issue, Aldridge disappeared too often in the postseason and throughout the course of the regular season as well.
- Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets,
When Mudiay was drafted with the seventh overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, it was expected that he would be the Denver Nuggets’ point guard of the future. After this last season, it’s not clear that Mudiay should expect to stay in Denver for the long-term.
Mudiay went from being the clear starter to falling out of the rotation for extended stretches this season. The issue wasn’t so much his per-minute production, which was largely similar to his rookie season. Rather, Mudiay continued to struggle with the same issues that plagued him in his rookie season and failed to utilize and exploit the best parts of his game. Mudiay is a premier athlete that can do serious damage in transition, but he can be careless and indecisive with the ball and is prone to making avoidable mistakes. In addition, his jump shot isn’t where it needs to be and will need to come along quickly considering that players like Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are quickly overshadowing Mudiay which makes him increasingly expendable.
Mudiay is just 21 years old and still has a bright future ahead of him. However, he needs a bounce-back season to dispel the growing perception that he isn’t quite the player most people expected before he was drafted.
- Joakim Noah, New York Knicks
Last year, the New York Knicks signed Noah to a four-year, $72 million deal that was universally regarded as a bad deal for New York. It turns out, the deal was significantly worse than most people expected.
Amazingly, it was only a few years ago that Noah was an All-Star and won the Defensive Player of the Year award. Yet Noah has suffered through significant injuries and the kind of wear and tear that comes about after years of playing for Tom Thibodeau. Noah only managed to play in 46 games for New York this season and was generally ineffective when he was on the court. His offense was predictable and his defensive impact was at best inconsistent. It doesn’t help Noah’s case that Robin Lopez, who is younger, more affordable and by all measures a better player than Noah at this point, was traded to Chicago to make room for Noah.
Noah will have to find the fountain of youth to get anywhere close to the player he once was. However, a return to being a starting quality center or even just a useful, reliable role player is all Noah can reasonably ask for at this point. And that would be a huge step in the right direction for both Noah and the Knicks.
- Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons
Jackson missed the first 21 games of the regular season because of knee tendinitis and never truly found his footing last season. Whether it was because of lingering injuries, or some other issue, Jackson took a significant step back this last season.
Jackson’s numbers were down across the board last season, with the exception of a slight uptick in his three-point shooting percentage. Jackson struggled to facilitate Detroit’s offense, alienated his teammates with selfish play, was, at times, a sieve on defense and was seemingly outshined by backup Ish Smith. Jackson was ultimately shut down in late March, which mercifully ended his troubling 2016-17 campaign. Jackson is still young and has a promising future ahead of him. But, if he doesn’t reestablish himself next season, his stock will drop significantly across the league and he won’t command the same kind of respect on the court or value in the trade market that he did before the start of last season.
- Chandler Parsons, Memphis Grizzlies
If you ask a group of NBA fans who had the most disappointing 2016-17 NBA season, the majority of them would likely say, without hesitation, “Chandler Parsons.” To be fair to Parsons, he entered this season coming off of a knee operation to repair damaged cartilage, which came after a hybrid microfracture operation in 2015. Any operation involving cartilage in the knee comes with risks and Parsons is no exception.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, that risk came along in the form of a four-year, $94 million max contract. The Grizzlies gambled that Parsons would overcome his knee issues and would revert into the versatile forward he had been in recent seasons for the Houston Rockets and, at times, with the Dallas Mavericks. The early returns are problematic for Memphis, to say the least.
Rather than trying to break down just how far Parson’s numbers dropped off this season, we’ll simply provide a chart to reference.
(Courtesy of Basketball-Reference)
Other players have overcome significant injuries in the past, which Parsons will likely also manage to do. However, if he is unable to do so, his contract will be considered one of the absolute worst deals in recent NBA history.
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