I like to think I live a pretty simple life. There are very few things that upset me. But there are certain moments where I am left to question what the future holds. Maybe you had a Lana Del Ray-inspired summer heartbreak that no amount of Drake’s Take Care spins could fix. At this point you’re probably thinking, “Why is this on a basketball website?” or “Wait, did I accidentally hit 17 Magazine instead?” Don’t worry. I had a reason.
This past year we saw some amazing performances (Carmelo, LeBron, KD, Kyrie come to mind), but we also saw some who left their coaches and GMs wondering “What Happened?” The difference between us and them, however, is I can’t see Tom Thibodeau going home and blasting “Marvin’s Room” after Carlos Boozer submits a 3-for-15 shooting night.
So which players left us the most disappointed after last season? Let’s take a look at five and what they can do to get back in our good graces this year.
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Granger disappointed last year, injury or not. From 2008-2011, Granger averaged 25, 24 and 20 points per game. He continued his drop the following season (18.7 ppg) but most attributed that to the addition of David West and the improved play of Roy Hibbert and Paul George. But did anyone, outside of Lamar Odom (no jokes needed), gone through a bigger decline the past year? Granger went from semi All-Star to possible sixth man (or maybe even role player). The former All-Star and MIP averaged 5.4 points and shot 29 percent from the field (and 20 percent from deep) in the five games he attempted to play post-injury. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on those games, but will he return to his 2009 All-Star form? Or has patellar tendinosis (a degenerative knee condition) robbed him of all his athleticism? We’re about to find out.
WHAT CAN HE DO?
First of all, he needs to get back to 100 percent health. Secondly, if Granger is the same player he once was (I have serious doubts) then suddenly the Pacers somehow got even better. If he has become only league average, he can still play a role for them, but only if he’s willing to accept the changes. If he is unwilling to fully relinquish control of the “best player” role to Paul George, he’s going to find himself without a team.
He was brought in a few years ago to battle Dwight Howard. (He is one of the few to give Howard a hard time, outside of anyone who tweets something mean at him.) But in the changing NBA landscape, Perkins is the equivalent to a dinosaur: a dying breed, a ground-bound big man unable to score outside of the paint and too slow to keep up with the faster big men of today. Perkins minutes decreased again (down to 25.1 a game) and so did his scoring, rebounding and blocking numbers (4.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.1 bpg). If you live in a bubble and haven’t heard, most analysts have been calling for the Thunder to amnesty Perkins to open up cap space to add another scorer. So far, they haven’t pulled the trigger, but the clock is ticking on Perkins.
WHAT CAN HE DO?
Over the past few years, we have seen numerous players develop a respectable midrange game (Andy Varejao and Tim Duncan to name a few), which would allow the Thunder to play Perkins longer. He also can come into camp a few pounds lighter, allowing him to keep up with the changing style of play most teams are switching to (fast pace, lots of shots).
Bargnani has been one of the most overrated players since the Raptors drafted him first overall in 2006, hoping he would be the Italian Dirk. Simply put, last year was a disaster. With a Raptors team suddenly focused on winning and defense, Bargnani never fit in and injuries limited him to only 35 games during which he averaged only 12.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Seriously, when you’re seven-feet, you should grab at least five rebounds a game. Even Eddy Curry did that. He shot under 40 percent from the field and by the end of the year, it almost felt like Toronto management was offering Drake tickets to whichever team took him off their hands. (Two Drake references in one column? Yes NWTS is that good.)
WHAT CAN HE DO?
Well, like the next player on the list, Bargnani might improve simply due to a lesser role on his new team. Playing for the Knicks, he should come off the bench (or play next to Chandler, who can cover his considerable defensive woes) and should benefit from playing with better players. If Bargnani can come anywhere near the level of play he had in 2010 (when he averaged a career-high 21.6 points a night), the Knicks might have found a capable scorer to take the load off of ‘Melo.
Joe Johnson is one of my favorite players, and having to put him on this list breaks my heart. He’s been in decline ever since he signed back in Atlanta. (Six years, $119 million is too much for anyone outside of LeBron, KD and Kobe of old) He was brought to Brooklyn to be the number two option to Deron Williams, and he hasn’t performed anywhere close to justifying making over $21 million this year. He’s clearly a step slower, and his scoring dropped again, down to 16.3 points a night on 43 percent shooting.
WHAT CAN HE DO?
Well out of everyone on this list besides Michael Beasley, he has arguably the best team now. With Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce joining the team (among others), J.J. will be asked to do a lot less If he’s more efficient, pulls a “Kobe” (meaning, learn to mask your lack of athleticism by developing other areas of your game… namely the part where you post up every guard) and comes to camp motivated to prove he can still play, he should move off this list. Come on Joe, do it for me.
Lin gets this spot as a product of the highly-publicized Linsanity craze that hit the NBA by storm these past few years. Lin is a solid player, but he is nowhere near the level of player his stretch with the Knicks first indicated (where he took over the starting job, put up crazy stats and went 7-0 in his first seven games). Lin eventually came down to earth and we saw the same things we are seeing now. He can only go one way. He’s turnover prone, and he doesn’t have elite athleticism and/or outstanding shooting ability. Who does Lin remind you of? Will he ever be a star? Probably not, but Lin can still carve a niche for himself in Houston as a volume shooter. (He may lose the starting job to Patrick Beverley.)
WHAT CAN HE DO?
For a number of reasons, he reminds me of Tim Tebow. They both are flawed players whose energy and heart brought them to near superhero status for a short period. Over the course of the season, their weaknesses begin to show more and more. They wouldn’t admit it, but the Rockets probably wish they didn’t offer Lin such a fat, backloaded contract now that Howard has arrived. Lin needs to turn the ball over less to stay in the rotation in Houston.