Some players in the NBA make a career by doing a whole lot with very little, while other players do very little with a whole lot. For example, Reggie Evans has a very limited skillset on offense. He can’t shoot, he can’t post and his free throw percentage is at a horrendous 55.4% this year. Yet, Evans continues to find a way to make an impact on whatever team he plays on. He hustles, takes charges, annoys his opponents, and rebounds at an extremely high rate for a player that is only 6’8” and plays under the rim. Evans is one of the greatest overachievers in the NBA.
However, this is a list of the current underachievers in the NBA. These are the players in the NBA that should be much better than they are at this point in their careers. To be clear, some of these players may look like they do not belong on this list, but it is important to look behind the veil of good statistics. When a particular player has good statistics on a bad team, they may have good numbers, but they are inflated numbers. Or, just because a player has had a career year, it does not mean that he is still where he ought to be. It just means that his previous years in the NBA were lackluster, underwhelming, and that he could only go up from the bottom where he was lurking.
Regardless of what the reason is, these are the players that should be much better than they currently are based upon the talent that they have. Some are knocking on the door of superstardom with their skillset and athleticism, but have been unable to translate their game to wins, championships, and a legitimate mark in the NBA.
10 Anthony Randolph
It is uncanny how much of a DNA replica Anthony Randolph is of Anthony Davis. Both Anthony’s were dominant and offensively and defensively in college, however, their NBA careers could not be more worlds apart. Randolph is long and lanky, and he even has a very smooth left-handed stroke that can extend as far as the three-point line, yet Randolph continually finds himself at the end of the bench on nearly every team he plays for. Randolph has all the tools to do what Anthony Davis does, but up until this point in his career, he has not been able to put things together.
9 Jeremy Lin
What ever happened to Jeremy Lin? Is it the pressure? The detailed scouting report about his left hand? I’m not sure. But Linsanity was no fluke. Anyone in the NBA can have a couple of breakout games, but not the type of breakout games that Jeremy Lin had for that extent of time. However, Lin now finds himself as a back-up point guard behind Patrick Beverly because of his struggle guarding elite point guards. Lin can still shoot decently, penetrate and dish, steal the ball, and at six foot four, Lin possesses great size at the point guard position, so what has happened to Linsanity?
8 Kyrie Irving
You might be surprised to find Kyrie Irving on this list, but surrounding all the hype of Uncle Drew is a lot of games in the loss column. Also, keep in mind that he is towards the bottom of this list, not the top. Irving has decent numbers this season with averages of 20.9 ppg and 6.1 apg, but these numbers have led to more losses than wins yet again. Irving may have the best handles in the league, won the 3-point contest last year, and embarrasses his defenders on the court with frequency. Yet, for all of his mojo, he has been unable to work on the most important area of all – leadership. The Cavs went through more drama this year than a soap opera and the gossip behind Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters only testifies to the lack of leadership and cohesion on the Cavs, which ultimately falls on the shoulders of the team captain. If Kyrie cannot lead the Cavaliers to the playoffs in a very weak Eastern Conference, it is only a matter of time before criticisms about Kyrie’s game start flowing.
7 Tyreke Evans
I once sat next to Tyreke Evans at a movie theater in Downtown Los Angeles. After the movie was over, we were both walking out of the theater and it was unbelievable how long his wingspan was. His arms were so long that he could have touched the top of his kneecaps without bending over. The fact that he is 6’6”, has a long wingspan, and the handles of a point guard, is simply not fair. During his rookie season, Reke averaged 20-5-5. The sky was the limit for Chester’s finest. So, Reke remains an anomaly as to why he has been unable to replicate these numbers throughout the entire course of his career and not just when his teammates go down with injuries.
6 Jeff Green
Boston fans know all too well just how frustrating Jeff Green is to watch. One game he looks like LeBron James and the next game he looks like Travis Outlaw. Green had the best season of his career this year, but he is still far from being the player that he is capable of being. If Green is going to be playing on a bad team, he shouldn’t be averaging 16ppg, he should be averaging 26ppg. At 6’9” Green has the size and the speed to play the small forward and power forward positions. He is an athletic freak and he can shoot the ball all the way from downtown. Yet, he remains one of the most inconsistent players in the league scoring 30 points one game and 3 points the next.
5 John Henson
The human pogo stick could become a breakout player and win the Most Improved Player of the Year eventually, but as of right now, he cannot even crack the starting line-up on the worst team in the NBA. Injuries to the Bucks frontcourt has given Henson playing time out of default, but with Henson’s rebounding and shot blocking ability, he has the capacity of easily averaging 10 boards and 2.5 blocks per game. Unfortunately, even with the playing time that he has received on a very bad team, he has not been able to produce on offense or defense with consistency.
4 Eric Gordon
After Eric Gordon signed his big contract with the New Orleans Pelicans, many experts believed that he was going to be a future All-Star or at the very least a 20 ppg scorer. Two weeks ago, Gordon went down with a knee injury, but this season has been one of the healthiest seasons of his career. You cannot fault Gordon for being injury prone, but even when Gordon is on the floor, he frequently gets burned on defense and his 3-point shot has been wildly inconsistent.
3 O.J. Mayo
When O.J. Mayo first entered the league, he had star potential. He had a great name and he had a great game. His smooth jumper is still one of the best looking in the NBA. Furthermore, his handles were way above average for a shooting guard. But it appears that O.J. Mayo has just flat out given up on his career. Mayo has put on an unprecedented amount of weight this year and cannot even crack the Bucks rotation. Even head coach Rick Carlisle could not save Mayo’s career when he played for the Dallas Mavericks. If Mayo does not get back in shape this summer, he could easily become a permanent 12th man for the rest of his career.
2 Derrick Favors
After signing his $46.95 million contract, Derrick Favors has only averaged 12.9 ppg and 8.7 rpg this year. At just 22 years of age, Favors is already in his fourth year in the league and has not become the player that many thought he would be. Even on a depleted Utah Jazz team, Favors has been unable to establish himself as the face of the franchise. Yet, what is so perplexing about Favors is that he has the size, athleticism and the shot blocking ability to be a dominant center, but he remains passive on the offensive and defensive end of the court.
1 Ricky Rubio
When Ricky Rubio was playing on Spain’s Olympic Team, there was so much hype around him because he was only 18-years-old and he could keep up with the big boys from around the world. Additionally, at 6’4” Rubio possessed great size and could look over the heads of his defenders to make his Pete Maravich-like passes. However, Rubio has struggled mightily with his jumper and it has not improved since he has entered the league. Rubio continues to be a pest with his perimeter defense and steals, but unless he improves his jumper like Jason Kidd once did, he is going to have a difficult time being a leader on a championship team with his glaring weakness. Rubio is now in his third year in the league, but given all of his professional experience overseas, he should be much further along in his game than he currently is.