Who Needs a Change of Scenery?
Which Western Conference players need a change in scenery? Shane Rhodes breaks it down.
Some players and teams just don’t mix. It doesn’t always work out, but sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders. We’ve already seen the impact it can have this season with Jusuf Nurkic, who was discontent and stopped competing for the Denver Nuggets. Since being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers (and before going out with a fractured fibula), Nurkic has played like an absolute beast, all because he was given a chance to do so in Portland.
Here are some other players in the Western Conference who could benefit from a new home.
Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns
After deciding to break up their point guard trifecta by sending Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics and Goran Dragic to the Miami HEAT, the Phoenix Suns brought in Brandon Knight to play second fiddle to rising star Eric Bledsoe. Knight, who was averaging 18 points, four rebounds and five assists for the Milwaukee Bucks at the time of the trade, seemed like a fine pickup.
Boy, are they regretting that move now.
Thomas and Dragic are currently leading their respective teams into the postseason while Knight continues to ride the bench for struggling Suns. Even now, with Bledsoe shut down for the remainder of the season, Knight remains sidelined and is subjected to watching 5-foot-10 rookie Tyler Ulis pass him on the depth chart. However, Knight is the type of guy that can make an impact when given the opportunity.
The season following the trade, Knight averaged 19 points with four rebounds and five assists in 52 games. With his move to the bench came a massive downturn in his production. And with Phoenix primed to make another top-five selection in the draft this summer, a draft loaded with point guards no less, things don’t look good for Knight’s future with the team. An offseason move a to a team in need of a lead guard, like the Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans Pelicans or New York Knicks would be a win-win for both Knight and the Suns.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets
Emmanuel Mudiay, once viewed as the point guard of the future for the Denver Nuggets, has almost completely fallen out of favor with the team. After averaging a promising 13 points, three rebounds and six assists as a 19-year-old, Mudiay’s second season has been a complete flop. While he still shows flashes, his overall numbers on the season are down and he’s appeared in a total of six games since the All-Star break. Not exactly what you want from a 20-year-old and former top ten pick.
Like Knight, Mudiay may just need a chance to contribute. He averaged 15 points, four rebounds and seven assists per 36 minutes in his first season, so the talent is there for him to make an impact. However, stuck behind 35-year-old Jameer Nelson and the Nuggets’ more recent first-round selection, Jamal Murray, Mudiay barely gets a chance to even see the floor. Like the Suns, the Nuggets should look to move Mudiay for some value, rather than letting him just rot on the bench. With his combination of age and upside, Mudiay should be a hot commodity on the offseason trade market, especially with teams in need of young guards like the 76ers.
Evan Turner, Portland Trail Blazers
Evan Turner has fallen on hard times in his first year in Portland.
After two sparkling seasons in Boston as the head of Brad Stevens’ second unit, Turner signed a four-year deal worth $70 million with the Blazers. Originally slated to play with the starters, Turner just hasn’t made the same impact in Rip City and has since been buried on the bench. His inconsistent play, paired with injury troubles and his awkward fit in the Blazers’ offense, has led him to have one of the worst seasons of his career, with averages of nine points, four rebounds and three assists. ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus (RPM) currently has him listed as the 424th best player in the league (-3.59).
Turner was the primary ball handler off the bench for Boston, a position in which he thrived. He emerged as a contender for Sixth Man of the Year with averages of 11 points, five rebounds and four assists after being written off by most of the league. However, with guys like Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and others ahead of him in regards to controlling the floor, Turner has been unable to play to his strengths all season. Turner is also terrible at shooting the three, evidenced by his 29.9 three-point percentage, which is something the Blazers like to do a lot (11th in three-point attempts). At this point, a split seems best for both sides.
Turner and the Blazers need to find a team that’s willing to take on the money he’s still owed in order to make a trade happen. But, if he’s placed into the right system, Turner could return to form and become an asset to a contender.
Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried has been in need of a new home for some time. After averaging 14 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in the 2013-2014 season, the “Manimal” has seen his numbers, along with his playing time and starting opportunities, dwindle.
As of now, Faried sits behind Wilson Chandler and Nikola Jokic for playing time at power forward or center, respectively, while the Nuggets host a glut of other, younger options at those two positions (like Juancho Hernangomez). Faried’s minutes per game are down to a career low (21.6 minutes per game) and his number of starts has decreased from 71 in 2014-15, to 63 in 2015-16, to 30 this season. His total rebounding numbers (7.8 per game) are his worst since his rookie season (7.7), while his overall play has declined from years past.
Faried can still be a force on the court, with per 36-minute averages of 16 points, 13 rebounds and a block. And at 27, he may still have time to grow as a player. Rather than stunt that growth and his future career arc, the Nuggets could probably trade Faried to a poor-rebounding team (the Celtics, Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers come to mind) for some really big value.
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
It’s been quite the ugly relationship between Ben McLemore and the Sacramento Kings. Since he was drafted 7th overall by the Kings in the 2014 draft, there just hasn’t been any stability or an environment for McLemore to develop and prove what he is capable of.
McLemore, an athletic wing, came into the league with high expectations. But, after starting 81 games and averaging 12 points, three rebounds and two assists per game his sophomore season, McLemore has seen a stark drop off in opportunity, starting 53 games last year and just 23 this year (in 56 games). And now, with the Kings set at shooting guard for the foreseeable future with recent trade acquisition Buddy Hield and fellow 2016 draft pick Malachi Richardson, it may be time for McLemore to pack it up and move on.
Still only 24 and hitting restricted free agency this offseason, McLemore, could be a nice pickup for a team like the Brooklyn Nets or New York Knicks, who don’t have much draft capital to improve their respective teams. McLemore should go out and sign somewhere and hope that the Kings don’t match. If they do, perhaps he can try and force a trade next season to a team that wants him and will play him. With the right combination of playing time and nurturing, McLemore could regain the confidence he had in college, when he averaged 16 points, five rebounds and two assists and shot nearly 50 percent from the floor at the University of Kansas.
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Although he’s missed some time due to injury this year, Chris Paul is having a typical Chris Paul season for the Los Angeles Clippers, averaging 18 points, nine assists, five rebounds and two steals. So why is he on this list?
Paul, perhaps the best point guard in the NBA, has never made it past the second round of the playoffs.
Paul has won several awards and has made a significant amount of money over the course of his career. But now, at 31-years-old, one would think another early playoff exit could lead Paul to seriously consider jumping ship to a team that can get him to the finals. The Clippers’ other personnel moves this offseason, specifically those involving Blake Griffin and J.J. Reddick, could also have an impact on Paul’s decision. Paul’s decision will likely be heavily based on how the Clippers do in the upcomimg playoffs.
A lot of players could benefit from a chance in scenery. Above are some of the most notable examples in the Western Conference. Once the postseason comes to an end, we may see some of these names quickly surface in the offseason trade market.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com
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