Whether it’s due to age, injury, role change or coaching shift, some players are primed for a decline this season. Each season some guys, while still productive, decline a bit. Here are some situations to watch as we approach training camp:
Brandon Jennings, Point Guard, Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons invested $80 million in Reggie Jackson, which likely signals Jennings’ time with the franchise is coming to an end. Jennings has started 409 out of the 412 games he’s appeared in since entering the league. But heading into training camp it appears that the veteran guard will serve as the Pistons’ sixth man as free agency awaits in 2016. With Jennings coming off a torn Achilles and facing a role change, expect a production dip this season.
Joe Johnson, Shooting Guard, Brooklyn Nets
Johnson is in the final year of his current deal, which has been largely criticized ever since the ink dried at the signing. Heading into training camp, Johnson is slated to be the Brooklyn Nets’ go to scorer this season. While no longer a franchise player, Johnson has put together a very respectable career. However, his scoring has decreased since 2012 and at 34 years old it’s fair to question if he can shoulder the load for a clearly rebuilding Nets team.
Nick Young, Shooting Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
The past two seasons have been miserable for Lakers fans, but the presence and fun loving spirit (and production) of Young has been one of the team’s brighter spots. Young spent the summer answering to trade rumors and heading into the season he is likely heading for a role change in the nightly rotation. The Lakers spent the summer adding talent in the backcourt by signing reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams in free agency and drafting rookie D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Los Angeles will also benefit from the return of future Hall of Fame guard Kobe Bryant. The influx of new and returning bodies indicate Young’s minutes, shots and role are in for a decline.
Pau Gasol, Power Forward, Chicago Bulls
Gasol had a career resurgence of sorts in his first season with the Chicago Bulls. The veteran forward averaged 18.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 78 contests (most appearances since the 2011 campaign). However, at 35 years old and with the Bulls ushering in a new coaching staff, it remains to be seen how Gasol will be utilized this season. Gasol will undoubtedly be effective this season but we’re not completely sold he will be a nightly 20/10 threat as he was throughout the 2014-15 campaign.
Kyle Korver, Shooting Guard, Atlanta Hawks
Not many guys become an All-Star after twelve seasons in the league. Korver, 34, has found new life in his three seasons with the Atlanta Hawks and became an All-Star in 2015. But you have to wonder when Father Time will come calling. The Hawks spent the summer strengthening their shooting guard position by acquiring Tim Hardaway Jr. from New York and signing veteran Jason Richardson in free agency, possibly in preparation for a potential decline from Korver,
Manu Ginobili, Shooting Guard, San Antonio Spurs
Ginobili is winding down a Hall of Fame career and decided to return for the 2015-16 season for another shot at a championship ring. The Spurs spent the summer retooling for the future by re-signing Kawhi Leonard to a max extension and signing All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge. The team also convinced former All-Star David West to take significantly less money to pursue a title as well. With the new influx of talent, Ginobili’s minutes, production and role will be reduced as his body is preserved for the postseason.
Paul Pierce, Small Forward, Los Angeles Clippers
Pierce averaged a career low 11.9 points per game last season, but was instrumental in the Washington Wizards’ playoff run and first round upset. Now Pierce heads to Los Angeles as an elder statesmen. During his prime Pierce was a certified 20-point per game scorer, but at 37 years old the Clippers are relying more on his veteran savvy than nightly volume scoring. Pierce has never averaged less than double figures since entering the league, but with a loaded Clippers team looking for a title this could be the first.
Terrence Ross, Small Forward, Toronto Raptors
This is a big year for Ross. He is eligible for a contract extension from Toronto or he could cash in big next summer in free agency. But at this point, it’s not clear whether the Raptors believe he is part of their core for the future. Over the summer the Raptors signed small forward DeMarre Carroll to a four-year, $60 million deal, which likely relegates Ross to the bench. Part of the reason Toronto was looking to strengthen their wing position was Ross’ flame-outs in the playoffs the past two campaigns (5.7 ppg / 33 percent from the field). At times Ross appears to be on the verge of a breakthrough, but his bouts of inconsistency keeps the jury undecided on his long term potential.
Dwyane Wade, Shooting Guard, Miami HEAT
After some haggling Wade and the HEAT finally agreed to a one-year, $20 million deal this summer. Wade has been on the decline for some time, mostly due to injury, but after a year of retooling Miami now has a supporting cast that can and should be able to reduce his workload throughout the season.
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