NBA / Mar 6, 2009 / 11:00 am

Is It Safe to Call Sebastian Telfair a Bust?

Sebastian TelfairSebastian Telfair (photo. NBA)

A couple years ago, I covered a Knicks/Celtics game at MSG, back when the Celtics still stank and the Knicks were bad and boring. One of the story lines that night was the return of Boston PG Sebastian Telfair to New York, and his head-to-head matchup with big cousin Stephon Marbury.

In just his third pro season and having just turned drinking age a few months prior, Bassy was an intriguing player at the time, still seen as a kid with a lot of time to develop into a star if he found the right situation. Throw in the NYC factor, and there were a lot more reporters and cameras at Telfair’s locker than you’d expect for a 21-year-old on a miserable team who was putting up pedestrian numbers. In short, he was still relevant.

So, what is Sebastian Telfair today? At 23, he is again the starting point guard on a miserable team and he’s putting up pedestrian numbers (8.8 ppg, 4.5 apg); only now it’s in Minnesota, far from big-market Boston. In his fifth season out of high school, it’s now safe to give Telfair’s game and his career a grown-up analysis. He’s been in the League long enough and has enough games under his belt to no longer warrant the kid gloves.

While Telfair doesn’t generate much mainstream discussion anymore — if ESPN ran another of their contests, he’d be less “Now” than Mehmet Okur — when you do bring Bassy’s name up in basketball circles, he is still a polarizing figure among those who followed him since high school.

In the Dime office yesterday, it was split into two factions:

On one side was me, saying Bassy is only a considered a “bust” because of the (too lofty) expectations put on him by the media and, as a result, the public. His jumper is still broke (35% FG, 32% 3PA this year), and he’s far from a lock-down defender, but overall, he’s really not that bad, and along the way has turned in some good games against top competition: Telfair dropped 30 points (six threes) and eight assists on Miami a couple weeks ago in a Wolves win, then a couple games later gave the Lakers 20 and five assists in a loss; he went for 20 points and eight dimes in a win over the Knicks; had 15 and six against Derrick Rose in a win; and in January put together back-to-back games against Deron Williams and Chris Paul where he averaged 13.5 points and 8.5 assists as Minnesota split a pair.

Sebastian TelfairSebastian Telfair (photo. adidas)

On the other side of the Bassy argument was basically everybody else in the office, who modified that “bust” status to “Horrific Bust,” pointing out that Telfair is already on his third team in five years, and collectively questioned whether he’d even make the roster on most NBA teams.

Truth is, even when you take away the Lottery selection and the “Next great NYC point guard” hype, Telfair is still behind in his development. Given his physical talent and court instincts, at 23 he was at least supposed to be what Derrick Rose is right now, or at least be better than Mario Chalmers.

It has been known to take some PG’s longer to “get it” than players at other positions (see: Billups, Chauncey), but even then, there’s really nothing to indicate that Bassy will ever reach an All-Star level. But I think it’s going too far to say he stinks or that he’s barely an NBA player. While it’s true that he could probably only start for 3-4 NBA teams max right now (Minnesota, Sacramento, Memphis, maybe Washington), Telfair is at least a solid #2 for a lot of teams.

I do admit I have a bias here. Because I read Ian O’Connor’s book The Jump (and its natural predecessor, Darcy Frey’s The Last Shot), because I saw Through the Fire, because I personally became familiar with the Coney Island community that raised Telfair via my work with Lincoln H.S. heir Lance Stephenson, I want Telfair to make it and become the star Brooklyn wants him to be.

I still think the best move that never happened for Telfair was back when the Blazers traded him and he didn’t end up in New Jersey. That would have been the ideal situation for the younger Telfair: learning under Jason Kidd, staying close to his NYC comfort zone, no pressure to challenge for a starting job. Kidd would be on his way out soon enough, and Bassy would have basically been in the same shoes Devin Harris was in his first half-season with the Nets; taking over the starting job in a system he’d learned from a Hall of Fame tutor, with Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson and a coach who likes to run (Lawrence Frank) all on his side.

Had that happened, Sebastian Telfair would have had a chance to live up to the hype. Because it didn’t, it’s going to take a lot for him to claw his way out of his current place, one that rests between average and irrelevant.

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  • QQ

    Final Grade: Epic FAIL.

    Seriously though, this kid was not THAT good in the first place. It is the NY media that elevated him to Lebron status and others followed suit. Those expectations crushed down on the kid’s fragile shoulders and it’s clear that he can’t handle the pressue. It’s sad to see because Bassy clearly has game, and if only he played in an environment where he isn’t expected to dazzle the crowd every single night, he could have made it.

  • the_don_mega

    is the verdict still out on this one?

  • http://www.espn.com Sho-Nuff

    A shade above average at best. Willie Burton put up a 50 spot once….once…

    Still has no “J”, not the best on ball defender and sometimes doesn’t have a clue on how to run an NBA team.

    He’s a few bad plays from joining his brother in Greece. Can’t draft 5’11” PG’s and expect big things from him.

    Reminds me of Robert Swift, Diop, and Kwame’, if seeing them play first glance and I’m no NBA scout and I tought they had no chance, how does and NBA scout get convinced otherwide. Bassy was decent, but I never saw where that transferred to and NBA guard.

  • izzy

    In the end doesnt it really come down to defense? Kids like Westbrook get a chance to really develop on the job because they bring the defense. A coach is willing to let you suffer the growing pains on offense as long as you are not a liability on the other end.

    Bassy wont be an all star even if he improved. Not in Minny anyways. The West has Deron, CP3 and Tony Parker. Those guys will be around for AT LEAST another 6-7 years in the all star game.

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    Truly a bust but not entirely his fault.

    QQ in post #1 hit the nail on the head when he said this kid wasn’t that good to begin with. I know he was great in high school and a legend in NY but that carries very little weight in The League. I think he was a product of a great publicity and the expectations of an entire city.

  • http://allthatjazzbasketball.blogspot.com/ Amar

    if he wasn’t a) PG from NY, and thus b) bereft with all the associated hype, and c) wasn’t related to another PG from NY (and the associated hype of that) Telfair . . .

    . . . would be Dee Brown (Illinois) w/o the history of being a good college player.

    seriously, there are good ballers from all over the world now, but apparently if you’re from NYC you’re automatically ‘better’. that’s just silly. but hype runs shit now. hence: telfair’s entire career.

  • Young Lebron 23

    I’m kind of suprised that bassy is a bust. He was (and still is in my opinion) a talented PG but with run-ins with the law and not finding a home, you have to put that label on him. I actually met him and he a cool dude but bassy step it up pimpin

  • http://GEE2.com Poppi GEE…doesn’t want diaper duty!

    For the hype (cover of mags) and expected to be the next great pg from NYC yes he is a bust.

    Still I wouldn’t say horrific bust. That is resereved for Steve Francis and those of that nature.

    He is playing and starting in the L and just that alone is still good. He would and will make a great back up these days, so he isn’t just trash.

    Still “IF” his and many other careers had taken a different turn he would probably be doing a whole lot better.

    Yet and still he is doing ok. Ok in the L is not that bad and there are plenty that are doing and have done even more horrid.

  • Bron42 aka Had springs before slamball

    he was overrated in high school and got caught up in the whole “NBA lookin for the next big thing” phase when they just started lookin at high school kids like lebron,Bassy,mayo, demetrius walker who was gettin hype since like 5th grade…and think about it…from bassy’s mcdonalds all american game, how many of them got big? I mean his biggest high school rival was darius washington and he barely made it to the league…epic faiiiillllll

  • Bron42 aka Had springs before slamball

    best part of bassys career was gettin caught wit a gun in his bag on the plane AND THEN sayin his girl put it there lol

  • http://www.myspace.com/beenobrown BROGDEN

    He’s only a bust because he CAN BE a STAR but he aint puttin’ the work in…well I mean he wasn’t puttin’ in work his first couple of years. It’s obvious – if he had a jumper opposing defenses respect he’d be cool. No bust. Nonnadat. He has had AMPLE time to develop his jump shot.

    He chose otherwise.
    I think he’ll be alright. He seems humbled now with his situation. He’s always progressed every year…he just does it at a really slow pace compared to his counterparts. His drive and kick is crazy. His handle is crazy. He’s been hittin’ the weight room. He doesn’t get caught with loaded pistols anymore. He’ll be alright. He’s a bust as of right now because of the hype and stuff that’s surrounded him since high school. He hasn’t lived up to that hype.

    I’ve seen gritty blacktop cats get it eventually – see FLIP and SKIP and MEL MEL

  • flavur

    All I can say is that he should have gone to college developed an idea of how to run a team and increase his jumpshot to at least 42%. It sucks that pretty much with the help of the media made himself a bust by not going to Louisville like he was initially gonna do.

  • Poppi GEE

    My comments will show up later. DIME it’s past old having to go through circles just to get comments to post.

  • Heckler…formerly ‘yallallreadyknow’

    bum juice.
    he was never EVER really shit. his hype came from his cousin steph.

    telfair could never shoot. never could run a team or anchor/start a defense with ball pressure. and he aint a leader. those are all necessary qualities of a point guard. and he’s got none of them.

    the dude just sucks and was always hype. i mean, to date, shaun livingston has had a better career!

  • SteveNash

    i’ve seen Telfair play back in HS and in some tournaments and he was nice… quick and knew how to finish… but that can only take you so far because in the league… everyone is quick!!! if he had gone to a good program that natures pg’s like Arizona or even Seton Hall he could have made a bigger impact… he went into the league believing he was a better version of his cousin

  • Heckler…formerly ‘yallallreadyknow’

    he better step it up….
    cause he is about to lose that adidas contract. and then he probably wont get another big nba contract

    seriously; portland gave him up to go with jarret jack!

  • Heckler…formerly ‘yallallreadyknow’


    didnt bassy shoot that rapper faboulous?!!?
    i heard he did after some of fab’s goons tried to rob bassy’s chain

    any truth to that rumor? that bassy tried to shoot fab in the balls? ended up missing and shot fab in the thigh? i could have sworn that how i heard the story a few yrs ago.

    dime: get off your backsides and do some follow-up reporting

  • karizmatic

    I think Telfair is a solid back up point guard. He really lacks in size and savvy to be much more than that in my opinion.

  • Lee


    Looks like it’s not only his on court shootin skills that needs work !!!

  • Kobeef


    You are wrong. Telfair does not possess the physical or mental skills to be an NBA star. Even if he worked hard at this point he just doesn’t have it.

    Telfair was over rated. Like some said, it was not his fault and you can’t blame him for taking the money (we’d all do it) but at the same time we’ve seen enough to know that he isn’t good enough to be a starter in the NBA…and may not be good enough to be in the league at all.

  • Prof. TX

    People talk about him like they talked about Stromile Swift: announcers mentioning his ‘potential’ and then one day they realize that he’s a veteran past his prime and the conversation is still about what he ‘could be.’

  • http://www.myspace.com/beenobrown BROGDEN

    “Telfair does not possess the physical or mental skills to be an NBA star”

    You’re WRONG – his capacity to be a star isn’t the aim of this topic. Is he’s a bust? That’s the question and that’s why there’s a debate…’cause all sides of the argument have a modicum of validity.

  • K Dizzle

    Y’all some hardcore haters lol

    You startin for an NBA team and improvin from year to year, it’s hard to call dude a bust. Overhyped? Hell yeah, but dude is showin flashes more frequently and the wolves were the hottest team in the l before Big Al went down. No doubt he shoulda gone to Louisville and learned some game from Ricky but he didn’t so now he’s gotta do it the hard way. Either way, he’s waaaaaay ahead of where Rafer was at the same age. Worked on his point guard skills, put work on his jumper, got a shot in Miami and now he’s a solid nba point so I don’t know how heads cally Bassy a bust cuz he a 23 yr old baller figurin out the toughest position in the game.

  • http://www.myspace.com/beenobrown BROGDEN



    Eric Lindros sucks

  • http://GEE2.com Poppi GEE…doesn’t want diaper duty!

    And they finally let it appear. Well ain’t GOD good? lol.

  • Tha Boddy “Shaqified”

    Yes he is a bust

  • jjankechu

    horrific bust? wink?

    bassy would be lucky to have even half his career.

  • doc

    He aint no bust as far as he in the league starting.But he gonna be a bust to people who thought he was gonna be CP3.I never thought that but he definitly can play.He just aint no all star.

  • Kobeef


    His capacity to be a star isn’t the topic of this debate?

    Then why did you start your first rant by saying Telfair has the capacity to be a star but he just didn’t work hard enough?

    And seriously, who uses the word “modicum” in a blog.

  • SmittySmit

    Bust…Fail…Over Hyped
    All of the above. He was never that good (Not a shooter and too small to play defense on the legit point guards in the league.) Waste of a roster spot!

  • K Dizzle

    @ post 30 check chris paul’s height and weight then say anybody’s too small

    Doc’s right. If you thought dude was the next comin of Isiah cuz you believed the hype, then he’s a bust to you. I don’t believe the hype. I don’t even think Lance Stephenson is gonna be anything special so when he comes in with Joe Johnson in Boston numbers, I won’t be sayin he’s a bust.
    Fact is Telfair is a solid point man for a 23 year old who never went to college. Not sure if there’s any other straight to the l from prep high point, but you can’t be solid and a bust, but not a shooter and too small are weak arguments

  • Reilly Ryan

    Why does everyone make fun of Memo Okur? He’s been on fire lately.

  • Adam

    If he had been a high draft pick, then maybe he would be considered a bust. Remember this guy was only the 13th pick in the draft and most superstars are top 5 selections. He was hyped up because of “Through The Fire”, but is that really Bassy’s own doing?

  • http://www.myspace.com/beenobrown BROGDEN

    @29 — i bought it up because his “hype” before he even entered the league was based off the fact that he was going to be a star. The “hype” was directly related to his “eventual bball stardom.” Since he hasn’t lived up to the hype of being a star he is arguably a bust. My contention is he’s not a bust. My assumption which I didn’t articulate very well is he should’ve never had those “star” expectations on him in the first place so that’s why i don’t really think he’s a bust.

  • http://www.myspace.com/beenobrown BROGDEN

    …by the way…if i didn’t say it already…

    Telfair CAN be a STAR.

  • Reed Ewing Frazier

    Give the dude a break all of the teams he has been on were bad and the GMs suck(but Portland and Boston GMs have step up their game lately) He was overhype out of highschool but he can step up his game to be a solid role player but allstar I doubt it.

    @ Poppi GEE Steve Francis fell off but he wasn’t a bust there is a difference.

    Knicks Up!! all the rest down!!

  • kennypayne

    rajon rondo pretty much took bassy’s starting pg spot in boston making him tradeable, probably took some of bassy’s confidence killin him in practice.

    rondo kinda became what we thought or hoped bassy would be. hangin out with jay-z when your in high school probably didn’t help his work ethic either

  • MissChick

    i see telfair in trouble with the law and bankrupt in about 10 years.

    Kid not going to college is his biggest mistake.

  • e


  • Bruce

    Don’t draft any one from this family, Starbury and Telfair, it is in the family genes. It is genetics.

  • robmo35

    Any team that thought it was going to get it’s savior in the form of the 13th pick in the draft is probably dreaming, but I can’t remember any low end lottery unproven lottery pick getting the kind of hype Telfair got. You should expect a lottery pick in his fifth year to be starting, but I would seriously have to question if he could even make the roster for most teams in the league. Had he gone to college, even for one year, the flaws in his game would have become much more apparent and he probably wouldn’t have been drafted until late first to mid second round. The New York hype machine kicked in and suddenly this high school kid is a sure fire future hall of famer. My guess is he’s out of the league in two seasons

  • Ross


    (I’m just typing this so my comment isn’t too short)

  • jay

    the problem is not that bassey is a bust..the problem is the fact he should never have been labeled a star in the first place!!! i am from the tri-state…nyc loves their point guards..he was brons boy..was on slam and si and was just overhyped..not his fault but expectations were way out of the stratophere…nuff said!

  • trips

    telfair was a bust ever since he came out of high school.

  • J

    Bassy is a bust. He’s currently a very solid backup PG. He has true PG skills, can run an offence, knows how to spread the floor and set up his teammates. His J is fairly broken, still has a difficult time finishing in traffic, but he seems suited for a run and gun type. Stats don’t say everything, his assists rate have gone down since Mike Miller decides to pass up every good shot back to telfair for a buzzer beater. Hes being more aggressive driving to the cup resulting with more turnovers. But Bassy runs the show for the TimberPups. Might not be saying much for a cellardwelling team, but watching many T-Wolves game he’s capable enough to be a poorman’s Chris Paul who’s more suited to run and gun until his Shooting % gets around in the early 40’s to mid 40’s.

  • wolves fan

    He does have some wesome night but his consitancy is garbage. He is a much better pg than Foye (when foye runs the point), pushes the pace, he has developed more game this year. his problem is that for every 20pt outing, the next night he is jacking up shots going 1-9 from the field. Wolves fans never want to see take a shot that matters.

    Now on the other hand, look at it this way. Telfair still has a job and McCants got run out of town and will be out of the league way before Telfair is.

  • Lanfeas

    Telfair actually does basically what he could do in high school: take people off the dribble and display some extreme handle. The only problem is that now he can’t only rely on his speed now and when he does take people off the dribble (which happens frequently), he ends up in a land of giant shot blockers, so he can’t finish like he was able to in HS. As such, he tries to rely more on his jumper, but we all know about that tragedy…

  • stillmatic

    Hard to not call him a bust considering all the hype he had. Then again, many were saying he would be a bust and it’s not all that surprising that he hasn’t been all that great.

    I think he’s pretty much a finished product now and any improvements made will be very slight. I don’t think college would have helped him out all that much, so he probably still made the right decision in coming out and getting that money. He really hasn’t improved since he’s been in the league and that’s just the way it is with lots of players. Some peak early and others late, he peaked early and didn’t get any better.

  • John

    to be honest I feel if he would have went to college he would have been a star and top five pick. In college he would have had whatever minutes he wanted and he would have gotten the chance to learn the game at a slower pace. the only other point guard to ever come out from highschool has been livingston and his career is basically done now (injuries of course). he was also 6-7 so that helped his development. the fact that telfair was 5-11 and with no jump shot, it made his development slow down considerably. telfair has the vision, quickness, and the extreme ball handle. one scout said, if he can develop a shot to “watch out for him, he can explode”. you can google that. players play off him making it harder for him to get assists. imagine if he had a half decent shot. people would have to play up on him, he would just beat them with ease because of his handle n quickness then get an easy dish. that’s what was expected out of him in hs. the hype was justified, his lack of a shot though just killed him. 1 year of college would have helped so much, heck even a shooting coach. idk what he will be but he could have been a star. he’s still only 23 though, everything depends on his shot which to be honest i cant tell you if it’s going to improve or not

  • Andrew

    I’ve watched a bunch of T’Wolves games this season and one thing that sticks out to me is that either he isn’t allowed to play point guard or he doesn’t know how. All he does is bring up the ball, pass it to Mike Miller or Randy Foye and run through around in a half circle and come back to the top where he might get the ball back (in which case he would wait for Mike Miller or Randy Foye to come through a few screens and hand them the ball so they can hoist up a jump shot…this after Al’s Injury obviously) and the other scenario is that his defender would leave him open at the three point line and if he’s missed a few that game, he’ll pass on that shot, or BOMBS AWAY! We already know he can’t shoot threes, let him use his handles to breakdown the defense and dish to an open team mate, and even when he does do that once in a while, his inconsistent team mates might miss.

  • Rob

    sebastian telfair sucks
    he should have gone to college
    he may be the biggest bust ever in the history of professional basketball

  • http://dimemag.com rocase

    telfair is an okay player. the potential is defidently there though no question about it. they don’t make killer documentarys on people for no reason, this kid has tremendous speed, quickness and a vision to drop dimes. i have no problem beliving he’ll be dropping dimes on dime mag, in the next 2 yrs. only this time, he’ll be in an NBA jersey on a magazine cocer. belive it.

  • true pg 15,10

    he has to develope a shot, just like lebron still has to do(yes i said it)-his inconsistency is hurting. all i have to say is, in his first few seasons his minutes were sporadic and he didn’t have any good veteran pg’s to help develope. his numbers have improved with minutes but no he is def not all star status yet. as for those who say he is a horrific bust, i bet the knicks would trade nate and duhon for him. plus, it’s hard to avg. 10 dimes a game when your dishing to mccants(brick) or foye(brick). watch his game against the knicks a few months back- if he starts playing like that consistently your looking at an all star. and that is not a bust-no bust-not yet!

  • not my name

    I think he just needs to be in a better team to show his real skill but still i think he’s still a bust. I dont wanna be hatin’ or nothing like that

  • shong69

    I am surprised that he is not doing better. He is still exceptionally quick in a league that rewards quickness.

    I root for guys like him and Stephon and Allen Iverson because they really are not as bad as people make them out. We are just waiting for guys like him to fail.

  • Emil

    Well since the average nba player is only in the league for 35 years I guess it’s safe to say that telfair is more then average becacuse he is starting his 7th year now. And didn’t he sign a 3 year deal last year? which makes it 8 years in the NBA when that contract is up?

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  • Kido

    I just want to ask one question???? How many NBA draft pick came out of high school with that size frame and under 6 feet? The fact is, he has a longer way to go that his counnterparts. He didn’t go to college, so like homeboy said, he got to learn it the hard way. He’s solid and is still developing, give him a break…the media expected too much, thats why yall say he’s a bust.

  • http://penguincheatscp.com club penguin

    i still think he could become a decent starter. If he had went to college he’de only be in his rookie or sophomore season so he still has some time to develop. The hype, pressure, and small minutes in the NBA might make it tough.