Breaking Down 7 Former NBA Lottery Picks Who Need Fresh Starts
Being a lottery pick in the NBA draft can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, a spot in the Top 14 ensures a higher starting salary and usually portends more playing time to develop as a rookie.
On the other hand, those taken earlier in the draft are typically subjected to greater pressure and scrutiny from coaches, teammates, front office personnel and fans alike.
Some have the requisite talent and mental approach to survive, if not thrive, amidst those conditions.
And some, well, aren't so lucky. Such problems are particularly common among those prospects who don't deserve to go so early, but for whom teams "reach" anyway.
Not that the weight of expectations is at all reserved for those taken higher than their talent would recommend. It's hardly unusual for much-ballyhooed ballers to also find their surroundings decidedly less than comfortable and to suffer on the court as a result.
That inevitably makes a change of scenery a smart idea for those who struggle with the conditions over which they had no control, as is the case with these seven former lottery losers.
It wasn't all that long ago that Jimmer Fredette was a national sports sensation, grabbing headlines and filling the statsheet at BYU on the way to becoming National Player of the Year.
Fredette's exploits helped to make him the 10th pick in a decidedly weak 2011 draft, and he soon after was traded to the Sacramento Kings. He also was left to rot on the bench of a troubled team replete with knuckleheads and coaching woes.
What a difference a year makes.
Now entering just his second NBA season, Fredette is already fending off suggestions that he was/is/will be a bust of a pick. Not out of the blue, of course—the purported sharpshooter connected on just 38.6 percent of his attempts from the floor as a rookie.
The emergence of Isaiah Thomas (the 60th pick in 2011) and the signing of Aaron Brooks only served to highlight the writing that already adorned the walls inside the Cow Palace: Jimmer isn't needed in Sacramento and should take his talents elsewhere.
Of course, he's not a free agent, so he doesn't have the freedom to do so. However, according to Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio, the Oklahoma City Thunder may be amenable to lending Fredette a helping hand—for their own sake, first and foremost.
The Thunder could certainly use the outside shooting off the bench, while Fredette, for his part, could flourish as a three-point specialist in an organization that's given many a newcomer a warm welcome so far.
Fredette's hardly the only King who could use a new castle.
Tyreke Evans already has proven he's no bust, but he may have taken his talents as far as they'll go in Sacramento. Evans' level of play has declined considerably since his debut season in which he averaged 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists on the way to earning Rookie of the Year honors.
Injuries, poor conditioning, selfish play and off-the-court follies have come to dominate the narrative of 'Reke's career.
Not that a powerful, 6'6" swingman who can score, pass and handle the ball with equal acuity (and is only 22 years old) doesn't still have plenty of value to more than a handful of franchises, the Kings included.
Evans will be a restricted free agent next summer, which makes the upcoming season that much more crucial for the John Calipari product. In essence, he'll be playing for what he likely hopes will be a max contract, such as the ones afforded to Roy Hibbert, Eric Gordon and Brook Lopez in July.
But will Evans garner such a hefty paycheck? And if he does, will it be from the Kings?
Better yet, would staying in Sacramento even be the best thing for his career?
If the downward trajectory of Evans' career is any indication, the answer to that last question (if not all three) would seem to be a resounding no.
Wesley Johnson won't have to wait until he hits free agency for a second chance at basketball success. The Minnesota Timberwolves granted him as much when they shipped him to the Phoenix Suns in a deal that landed Robin Lopez with the New Orleans Hornets.
Indeed, it was a complicated deal involving middling talent.
In any case, Johnson was nothing if not disappointing during his two-year tenure in the Twin Cities. The fourth pick in the 2010 draft failed to hit even 40 percent of his shots from the floor (or 70 percent from the free-throw line) after entering the league as an athletic, sharpshooting swingman out of Syracuse.
The Wolves essentially replaced him with Chase Budinger this summer, who's had better luck hitting the broad side of a barn (so far).
Not all is lost for Johnson, though. He's set to join a Suns squad in rebuilding mode, with whom he'll be free of any discernible expectations for the time being. If he can recalibrate his shooting stroke and regain his confidence in Phoenix, he may yet forge a productive career for himself in the NBA.
Wesley Johnson will be joined in Phoenix by a fellow draft disappointment in search of redemption—Michael Beasley.
For all of his shortcomings so far, Beasley—the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft behind Derrick Rose (and ahead of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Roy Hibbert, among others)—picked up a three-year, $18 million deal with the Suns this summer.
Frankly, Beasley's been plenty productive enough to earn his current keep. He's averaged 15.6 points and 5.1 rebounds for his career, with his best numbers coming as a starter in Years 2 and 3 of his still-young career. Baggage aside, Beasley's a skilled, 6'9" forward who can get to the rim as easily as he can drain jumpers from deep.
In Phoenix, he'll have yet another opportunity to prove that he can be a star on the court without letting his issues off of it get in the way.
Speaking of once-promising T-Wolves, Anthony Randolph will suit up for his fourth NBA franchise in five seasons when he takes the floor with the Denver Nuggets this fall.
Like so many picks-gone-bust before him, Randolph can be seen as the victim of preexisting biases against young players and guys without well-defined positions.
The slender, 6'10" forward out of LSU can do a little bit of everything on the basketball court, and a lot of everything when given the chance to shine.
Which he's yet to find.
Randolph began his pro career under the iron-fisted reign of Don Nelson with the Warriors, played sparingly during a short stint with the Knicks and later wound up buried on Minnesota's depth chart. He's been plenty productive when afforded minutes (see: 2009-10, 2011 with the Wolves) and, at 23, is hardly a lost cause.
Whether Randolph finds his new situation with the Denver Nuggets any more accommodating remains to be seen. At the very least, he'll have a chance to strut his stuff on a team whose up-and-down style suits his particular talents, with only Kenneth Faried to block him on the depth chart at power forward.
At best, Randolph will play his way into a bigger role and, come the summer of 2014, reap the rewards that come with finally getting that ever-elusive shot.
Brandon Roy is no draft bust—he made that much clear by following up his Rookie of the Year campaign with three straight All-Star appearances shortly thereafter.
Yet, Roy still has plenty to prove after watching his knees go to waste with the Portland Trail Blazers and will try to do so where so many on this list have failed: Minnesota.
Roy signed a two-year deal with the Timberwolves this summer, thereby officially signaling his return from a seemingly forced retirement prior to last season. It wouldn't be entirely unfair to suggest that Portland's notoriously troublesome training staff had something to do with the decline of Roy's playing career, though not intentionally.
Whether Minnesota's doctors and trainers are any better remains to be seen. That being said, Roy will have every opportunity to show that he can be something more than a shell of his former self, assuming international rookie Alexey Shved and 2011 second-rounder Malcolm Lee don't outplay him in training camp.
And if Roy can average double-figures in scoring and stay healthy for a full season, then the change of venue to the Land of 10,000 Lakes—back to the team that originally drafted him in 2006—will have been well worth it.
Of course, no disparagement of Portland's medical personnel would be complete without at least mentioning Greg Oden.
If sports kinesiologist Zig Ziegler is to be believed, Oden's chronic knee problems are the result not of bad luck, but rather of poor preparation, care and oversight by those charged with his care, at least in part.
Talent was never an issue with Oden. He played well for the Blazers when he was healthy, averaging 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds through his first 82 games. Unfortunately, Oden never had much of an opportunity to play, much less develop his game, on account of his legs betraying him so frequently.
Nonetheless, Oden is still seven feet tall and will be until further notice. More importantly, people his size are a rare commodity in this world, especially ones who can simultaneously walk and chew gum on a basketball court.
Oden can do that, on top of blocking shots and rebounding.
As he recently told David Hughes of The Tribune-Star in Terre Haute, Ind., Oden doesn't expect to play at all this upcoming season, during which he plans to let his body heal, get himself back into playing shape and prepare for a triumphant comeback in 2013-14.
Though, if Oden feels well enough to start his comeback sooner, he's left the door ajar to do just that.
Whatever the case ultimately may be, the basketball world wishes Oden the best of luck in his recovery and that he'll find his new digs (wherever they may be) to be more physically forgiving than those in Portland where he was previously confined.
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