The NBA is full of outstanding talent and potential, but not every player is able to find their calling throughout stints of their professional careers.
Whether it be the culture of the team, the way the player is used or simply their role on the squad, some players clearly fail to live up to their high expectations.
It’s certainly true that some players underachieve because of health, effort and styles of play that don’t translate well to the NBA level.
Others, however, lack productivity as a product of their environment, and their talents are seemingly washed out until changes are made to better suit their abilities.
Derrick Williams has only been in the NBA for one season, but in such a short amount of time it’s become clear that he will struggle to show off what he can do with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Part of the problem is that Williams hasn’t yet defined a true position at the professional level.
Entering the league, he tried to convince scouts that he was a small forward, but he has proven to be much more of a tweener at this point in his career. With the frame of a power forward—even if he’s a bit undersized for the post—and a 26.8 three-point percentage, he was unable to make a true transition to one or the other last year.
That being said, the Timberwolves haven’t made it easy for the 21-year-old to establish himself.
The team already has one of the league’s best power forwards in Kevin Love and has recently added Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger to create an even greater competition for minutes.
Having played just 21.5 minutes last year, it will be interesting to see how many minutes he earns with the team’s new additions.
The former No. 2 pick could use the competition as motivation, but if he can’t break out, he’ll be stuck in another unfortunate place for the 2012-13 season.
Nicolas Batum has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his four-year career, but up to this point, he hasn’t been used the right way with the Portland Trail Blazers.
In a Nate McMillan offense with Brandon Roy commanding the ball, Batum’s role has been that of a spot-up shooter left to score in the corner.
As a result, his impact has been off and on, and his production has fluctuated during the early part of his career.
Part of his inconsistencies have stemmed from the idea that his aggressiveness isn’t always what it should be, but with his role being what it has been, it’s tough to stay assertive on a daily basis.
Batum signed a big-time contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves this summer. They run a fast-paced offense with a point guard who loves to facilitate, which is almost the exact opposite of what he’s experienced in Portland thus far.
Portland ultimately matched the deal, and it has been reported by The Oregonian’s Jason Quick that the 23-year-old forward will be given more “offensive freedom” next year.
If this is the case, his game should begin to display the kind of the talent that he has. If it’s not, and he goes back to his old role stuck in the corner, expect him to remain inconsistent moving forward.
Tyreke Evans had a brilliant rookie season, but he has slowly fallen off the national scene since his numbers have declined the past two years.
While Evans clearly hasn’t lived up to the expectations he set in 2009—partially due to injuries— it doesn’t help that he’s been shuffled around the rotation inconsistently at different positions.
With the emergence of Isiah Thomas throughout parts of last year, Evans found himself playing out on the perimeter as an undersized small forward. As a good slasher and ball handler, the team has also used him in the point and shooting guard spots back and forth.
It also doesn’t help that the Sacramento Kings have a talented young big man in DeMarcus Cousins whose specialty isn’t exactly team chemistry.
Evans has worlds of potential, and he very well could break out sometime in the near future; but with the Kings seemingly a ways away from the playoffs, a change of scenery could be a big-time boost for the former Rookie of the Year.
To say that Al Horford’s talents are wasted is unfair to the production he’s displayed over the past few seasons.
That being said, he’s more of a power forward in the NBA, and the Atlanta Hawks have been putting him up against bigger competition his entire career.
At 6’10”, 250 pounds, Horford would benefit drastically from being able to bang with the bigs at the 4 position rather than the 5. He’s a great court-runner for a player his size and he has a decent mid-range jumper to spread the floor.
This isn’t to say he’s not strong, but he’s going to remain undersized as long as he plays center.
Horford was injured a majority of the 2011-12 season, and while it’s impossible to tell for sure, it’s reasonable to speculate that banging inside against bigger competition has led to more wear and tear on his body.
On a Charlotte Bobcats team that finished last season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history, you’d think that Tyrus Thomas would be able to find more minutes and a more integral role within the squad’s rotation.
Despite starting 30 games in 2012, Thomas averaged just 18.8 minutes per game.
Like most of the others on this list, Thomas hasn’t exactly lived up to his own potential.
Despite a decent jumper, the ability to finish at the rim and a great defensive presence, he is prone to making poor decisions on both ends of the floor, which hasn’t helped him earn the kind of time his talents garner.
His game needs to improve, but he’s played for the Bobcats the past two seasons, and the league’s worst team should be able to find him more minutes on a more regular basis.