5 NBA Franchise Players Who Desperately Need Fresh Starts
The past two years or so have been, let's say, interesting for franchise players in the NBA. Since the start of the summer of 2010, the league has seen no fewer than 13 of its biggest stars—LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Joe Johnson, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, Andre Iguodala, Steve Nash and (to a lesser extent) Monta Ellis and Andrew Bogut—change addresses in one way or another.
That trend only figures to continue in the weeks, months and years to come, as the new collective bargaining agreement takes full effect and player movement ramps up to new levels as a result. Teams around the league will be even more eager to shed salary as they look to avoid dipping into the more punitive luxury tax.
The fact that there are so many stars who seem to be wearing out their welcomes in their respective cities only figures to add to the shuffling and reshuffling of the NBA's deck of franchise-caliber faces.
Surely, these five guys could use do-overs of one kind or another.
5. Carmelo Anthony
Let's be clear about something—Carmelo Anthony isn't going anywhere. The New York Knicks mortgaged their entire future (and then some) to team 'Melo with Amar'e Stoudemire at Madison Square Garden and aren't about to turn their back on him now.
That said, Carmelo could use a do-over in the Big Apple. His image took a beating last season as Knicks fans berated him for being a me-first ballhog. While he may not have been responsible for Jeremy Lin's ouster this summer, his mere association with the matter didn't help.
Now, 'Melo finds himself surrounded by many of the same principles from last season (i.e. Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Steve Novak, J.R. Smith) with whom he'll have to make things work. Luckily, he'll be helped in that endeavor by a slew of new faces, including Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby.
Anthony, a tremendous talent in his own right, must prove that he can be the focal point on a functional contender as soon as possible, lest he incur the wrath of the New York sports media machine and render his residence on Madison Avenue untenable.
4. Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay, it seems, has been on the trading block for years now.
But why? Gay is a borderline All-Star at small forward who can stuff the stat sheet (particularly the scoring column) and throw down more than his fair share of show-stopping dunks.
Any lingering concerns about his shoulder should've gone out the window after last season, during which he averaged 19 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals.
It'd be one thing if the Memphis Grizzlies had a capable replacement lined up on the wing, but unless anyone thinks Quincy Pondexter is the answer, then it would appear as though they don't.
The guiding issue at hand would seem to be Gay's salary—he's owed approximately $53.7 million over the next three seasons.
While that's a ton of money, it's even more onerous considering how much the Grizz will be paying Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley over that same span. Getting Gay out of town, then, is a fiscal matter for a team located in one of the NBA's smallest TV markets.
Not that dumping Rudy's contract would be at all prudent for Memphis' hopes of contending in the Western Conference. But if dollar signs prove to be Gay's undoing in the Music City, then he should have no trouble finding an opportunity to shine in an organization that's more comfortable employing another player in his pay grade.
3. Danny Granger
The last calendar year has not been particularly kind to Danny Granger. Unseemly extracurricular activities have left his reputation in tatters, while his play of late has suggested that he's already on the decline and may no longer be capable of carrying a franchise.
Assuming he ever was.
Fortunately for the Pacers (not so much for Granger), they may already have an in-house replacement in Paul George. The soon-to-be-third-year swingman out of Fresno State stepped up his game considerably last season, his first as a full-time starter, albeit while playing primarily in the back court next to Darren Collison and George Hill.
A move up to small forward would seem a natural one for the 6'8" George and could be accommodated if the Pacers opt to move the 29-year-old Granger sooner rather than later.
Perhaps a trade to the star-starved Houston Rockets, in exchange for Kevin Martin's expiring contract, would suit Indiana's desire to contend on the cheap and Granger's apparent need for friendlier climes.
2. Brandon Jennings
Figuring out where Brandon Jennings and the Milwaukee Bucks stand in relation to one another is something of a futile endeavor. Jennings has long fawned over the possibility of playing for a rich team in a big city, but now says he wants to sign an extension to stick around.
The Bucks, for their part, swapped out Andrew Bogut for Monta Ellis last spring. However, it's tough to tell if they made the move to help Jennings, if they were looking for his potential replacement or if Ellis' arrival had nothing to do with Brandon's tenure in any direct sense.
On the whole, the franchise appears to be hurdling towards a reset. Team owner Herb Kohl refused to extend the contracts of GM John Hammond and head coach Scott Skiles, which suggests that those two will be on their way out if things don't go well in Brew Town this season.
And by the looks of the roster, the Bucks would be hard-pressed to play their way past mid-April.
Should such a scenario come to pass, don't expect the new regime to hang onto Jennings, who'll be a restricted free agent come July. He's a gifted scoring guard who, with his 23rd birthday right around the corner, has plenty of ceiling left to explore.
Just not in Milwaukee, a city that's seemingly always been to small for basketball stars, especially those with Los Angeles roots.
1. Tyreke Evans
Like Jennings, Tyreke Evans is fast approaching restricted free agency.
Though not at quite the speeds he reached while driving in his purple Mercedes on Interstate 80 in Sacramento two years ago.
Speeding jokes aside (or, rather, included), it's all too clear that Evans and the Kings would be wise to part ways before long. His on-court performance has stagnated, if not declined, since he took home Rookie of the Year honors following the 2009-10 season.
Poor conditioning and a supposedly bad attitude have contributed to 'Reke's demise. To be fair, though, so too have injuries, coaching changes and the generally malignant culture that's lingered around the Kings for years now.
The team appears to have begun the process of phasing him out as well, with Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton taking over in the back court.
It's an unfortunate situation, to say the least, considering how gifted a kid Evans is and how, with his 23rd birthday coming up next week, he should only be getting better right about now.
As such, a change of scenery could be good for Evans' future. Whether that means a move to another team or simply to another city remains to be seen.