Andrew Bynum, John Wall and 6 NBA Players Who Must Elevate Their Games
The world is full of wasted talent. The world is full of "almost had it" and "if I had just." What the world is not full of are people who were and are successful at the craft they choose not the career they settled for.
This list is comprised of players who have left cards on the table instead of playing their hand. These players have the talent to be All-Stars but instead have been all right. Making matters worse, the teams these players play for are in dire need of them to shine.
These former first-round selections have fallen short of their team's expectations and have not capitalized on the talent bestowed upon them. Well, it is time to pay the costs for being the anointed boss and this group will soon find out that their propensity to fall short will cost them dearly.
Contracts will be up for some and reputations will preside all. They will be left with nothing more than memories and a jaded sense of reality.
Sadly, the time has now come for these players to display the franchise-altering greatness that led these teams to entrust them with riches fit for a king.
6) Brandon Jennings, “Mr. Inconsistency”
Compared to A.I early in his career, the dynamic guard has resembled more Dana Barros. His scoring is inconsistent and his overall game is flashy with little substance.
The talent is there for Jennings to be a perennial All-Star, the choice is his.
The explosive miniature guard has a knack for getting buckets but has been consistent at being inconsistent. In 150 career games, the mercurial guard has scored over 20 points a total of 39 times.
Reconfirming his lack of consistency was the 14 times he managed to break the 20-point threshold on back-to-back occasions.
Jennings shoots a full six percent higher at home (.409 percent) than he does on the road (.349 percent). It is imperative that Jennings improve on these numbers if he is ever to reach an All-Star game or have a significant impact on a Bucks season.
The scoring guard has a career average of 15.9 points per night, which is respectable. However, all other facets of the game are where he has managed to underperform convincingly.
Jennings’ paltry 5.3 assists per night are unacceptable for a player of his caliber. Seven games of 10 or more assists in his career is tragic and considering he has extreme playmaking ability, it borders on downright selfish.
The Bucks guard is one of the few players who has a proven track record of mental toughness, stemming for his days playing overseas as a minor. In fact, Jennings has persevered through extreme off-court circumstances to be successful. The Compton, CA native played his high school ball in Virginia at the breeding ground known as Oak Hill Academy.
There is no doubt Jennings has the love for the game, but there is doubt if he has the focus.
5) Andrea Bargnani, “Mr. Inconsequential”
Since the Toronto Raptors selected Andrea Bargnani No. 1 overall in the 2006 NBA Draft, he has produced well in a non-winning, game-altering kind of way. Each year the “Italian Stallion” has been in the league, his scoring average has gone up, from 11.6 points per his rookie season to 21.4 last season.
That type of production usually is accompanied by wins and fame. Unless the wins are nonexistent or the player is in NBA purgatory, which is exactly where A.B. lies.
The seven-footer has made a career out of doing very little to impact games and the Raptors have suffered mightily for his lack of impact. When a team drafts a player first overall, there are certain expectations that follow. Bargnani has not delivered on most if not all of those expectations.
A team would expect to be at the very least competing for a division crown, that would be a negative. The team would expect to have at least more than one winning season, negative again.
To say Bargnani is a one-dimensional player is stating the obvious, but just how one-dimensional is gut-wrenching if you are a Toronto Raptors fan. The seven-footer is not a basketball player, he is a shooter who plays basketball.
For his career, Bargnani has over 150 more turnovers than assists. His lack of playmaking ability is tough to fathom for a number one pick, but his rebounding can also be described as unfortunate.
Kyle Lowry, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon and Evan Turner all averaged the same or more rebounds per game than the “Stallion." This statistic is crazy considering all are shooting guards.
A.B. is a legitimate seven-footer who cannot exert himself in the paint. The shooter is basically a walking conundrum for the Raptors. He is to slow to defend or dominate the guard and his game is to sensitive and passive for power forward duty.
So Toronto is stuck in between too good for a high lottery selection and too bad for the playoffs limbo. Sadly, Bargnani embodies those struggles.
Until Bargnani takes over a game with his heart as well as his talent, the game a Canadian invented will remain in America’s hands.
4) John Wall, “Mr. Excuses”
John Wall should not have been the first overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft. Wall was not a difference-maker while attending the University of Kentucky and will have virtually no impact on the Washington Wizards.
Now pundits and fans alike have more excuses than a virgin on prom night for why Wall has underachieved thus far.
The bottom line is he has not gotten it done and frankly there is a franchise waiting on him. Reservations aside, there is hope Wall will have that impact the club envisioned when selecting him.
The former Wildcat has an infectious personality that can at times inspire teammates. His game is built on penetration and, well, penetration. He was fifth in the league among point guards with at-the-rim shot attempts with 5.3 per game.
However, therein lies the problem. The explosive guard is similar to a Ferrari and is just as one-dimensional. The North Carolina native is a speed demon who has proven to be incapable or unwilling to slow down.
Wall’s lack of impact on the game was never more evident than in the wins department. The Wizards actually had a worse record with Wall (23-59) than the year before without (26-56).
The point guard is not to blame for all of the Wizards shortcomings, however he is responsible for most of them.
Wall started out his rookie campaign well, but the more games he played, the more he was exposed. From the months of December to March, he averaged 8.2 assists and 3.7 turnovers in that 60-game window.
His turnover rate of 3.8 a game was second in the league, but it was these months
where the Washington was epically horrific. In the 60-game stretch, the Wizards had losing streaks of eight, seven (twice) and six games all the while winning back-to-back games once.
Before the Wizards can ever reach the level of respectability they seek, Wall must elevate his game.
He must make the simple plays as well as the spectacular plays. He must make the pass that leads to the assist, not just the assist.
Wall has to control the game with his instincts in conjunction with his preparation.
The Wizards point must lower his turnovers and possession-wasting plays. This includes dribbling the air out of the ball and quick shots that you can get any time in the shot clock.
Lastly, Wall must invest his talents and mind into the game.
3) Tyreke Evans, “Mr. Get It Together”
Something smells afoul in Sac-Town and it is not the cows. When the Sacramento Kings drafted Tyreke Evans out the University of Memphis, people were split down the middle on him. Some thought he would be a star and some thought he would be a dud.
Now entering his third season, Evans has both impressed and disappointed with his play. After his first year in the league, Evans appeared destined for perennial All-Star status. He won Rookie of the Year honors and scored over 20 points a night.
Since that season, Evans has regressed mightily.
Last season, the Kings point struggled with injuries and off-the-court issues. The Pennsylvania native played in only 57 of a possible 82 games. The guard game suffered as well as his numbers last season. Evans' points per game dropped from 20.1 a night to 17.8 a night. It became obvious in watching him play that he was not the same player.
A lack of confidence and focus became evident as Evans looked completely out of sorts last season. There were only three games of 10 or more assists and only 13 games of 50 percent or better shooting. If the guard is not moving the ball, he should be getting buckets and winning games with his scoring.
Unfortunately that was not the case. The Kings were 0-4 in games that Evans scored 30 or more points.
When a team drafts a player No. 4 overall, it is apparent they expect game- and season-altering plays out of that player. Evans has not delivered. He, like most participants on this list, has not found that balance of translating individual success into team success.
If he is incapable of doing that, the Kings and Evans will both continue to be afterthoughts in the NBA world.
2) Al Jefferson, “Mr. Piss or Get off the Pot”
Al Jefferson has gotten general managers and coaches fired by his failure to reach his potential. His underachieving talent has gotten teammates traded and Boston, Minnesota and Utah through an emotional roller coaster.
The most disappointing thing about Jefferson is that the talent and production is there, at times. It feels as if he is cognizant of what is expected of him and gives you a little taste to wet your beak before he takes it away.
The center is paid at a presidential level but performs at a congressional level. He has accepted the position of general but has yet to lead his army to a victorious battle.
Jefferson has built a career off teetering on greatness, only to stop short.
This has to be the season he blossoms, or his career will be on the brink of expiration. Jefferson's contract is set to expire after the 2012-13 season and if he plans on getting remotely close to the dollars he has been receiving, he must make an impact now.
Unlike the other players on this list, Jefferson’s game is fairly complete. Yes, Jazz fans would like to see him shoot better from the field (49.6 percent) and he should be a more dominant rebounder (9.7 per), but he is statistically an accomplished player.
It is the moments of greatness that he has disappeared in. It is the eight games the Jazz lost by six points or less that A.J. must assert himself in.
Those are the games that get you in the playoffs and separate the occasional All-Star reserves from the habitual All-Star starters.
1) Andrew Bynum, “Mr. Unknown”
Andrew Bynum is nice, at least we think. Word on the street is Bynum is a top-five center in the league, but the streets are not always a reliable source.
The truth is no one knows what type of player A.B. is and after 338 NBA games, that is unacceptable.
For every Los Angeles Lakers fan who says Bynum has talent, there are a litany of people who are quick to point out his career averages of 10 points and seven rebounds. For every Bynum supporter who screams he is a force in the middle, there is a Bynum detractor who says in seven seasons the Laker center has never started a full 82-game slate.
As the Jersey native appears poised and primed to fly this season, no one should be surprised if something happens that derail his pending enshrinement into Springfield. Simply because no one knows who Andrew “no middle name” Bynum is as a basketball player, and this late in his career that is crazy.
Health has been a concern, but so has talent to be honest. Let's face it: fluid and angelic on the court Bynum is not. He is more of a lumberer and plower. His game does not consist of soft hands and beautiful drop steps. It consists of bobbled passes and brute force.
He is a better rebounder and defender than scorer and instinctive force.
Yet that works. On a team full of loafers and nonchalant players, Bynum is the exact opposite. He cares and will stop at nothing to prove his passion. His ill-advised but understood shiver 'bow to Jose Barea was Bynum’s pride getting the best of him.
Now he must find a way to get Kobe Bryant’s troops to follow his lead. The only way to obtain that type of blind loyalty is to show and prove you are more than anyone knows. A.B. must focus on his best attributes, which are rebounding and toughness.
He must have streaks of 20-plus rebound performances and not just 20-rebound games. He must announce his presence in the middle each quarter, not just each game.
It is now time for Bynum to consistent force in the league instead of a frequent visitor to the almost-there club.