5 NBA Starters Who Should Be Riding Pine
You know the underachieving high-potential player or washed-up veteran on your favorite team? Every team in the NBA has a guy like that, and most teams are unfortunate enough to have one in their starting roster—perhaps even several of them.
No, the perfect roster does not exist in the NBA. Even with all 30 teams doing their best to create a replica “Dream Team,” no single team has achieved it.
It’s difficult to compare levels of awfulness, but it sure is fun. After comparing every starting roster and position, I’ve found the five starting players that should truly be guarding the Gatorade cooler—whether it’s because they’re just terrible or because their replacement is absolutely more deserving of the starting job.
Note: All stats are accurate as of Sunday morning (Nov. 25).
No, Carlos Boozer isn’t a bad player. So why does Chicago hold him with such disdain? It could be that he just makes a terrific scapegoat, sure. Or better yet, it could be that he truly is not deserving of holding the starting job in Chicago.
Here are the facts: In a system that pushes defense and is currently in dire need a consistent scorer, Carlos Boozer has provided a weak, lazy defensive presence. (As it turns out, 0.30 blocks per game is not acceptable for a big man), and he has been anything but consistent.
So far this season, he has finished four games with less than 10 points. Those were against the Hornets and Ryan Anderson, the Thunder and Serge Ibaka, the injury-ravaged Minnesota Timberwolves and the Trail Blazers and LaMarcus Aldridge. Despite the fact that Aldridge and Ibaka are defensive monsters, the inconsistency further goes to show that Boozer isn't exactly superstar material.
For the season, he’s averaged 14 points (PPG) and 9.8 rebounds per game (RPG). Not completely terrible until you factor his backup, Taj Gibson, into the equation—the same Taj Gibson who just re-signed with the Bulls for a big-time contract (four years, up to $38 million).
Not only did Gibson sign a starter's contract, but he’s been playing at a starter's level—especially in head coach Tom Thibodeau’s system.
Gibson is a defensive beast off the bench with 1.6 blocks per game (BPG), crashes the boards for 4.5 RPG and has polished his offensive game over the past three seasons to the point that Boozer wouldn’t be missed on the stat sheet if Gibson were to start.
It doesn’t look good for Boozer in Chicago. His days of being an All-Star in Utah are long gone, and his massive contract is making it difficult for the team to overlook his obvious issues within the system.
Alright, let’s get something straight: Aaron Brooks is not a bad player. The reason that he is on this list is that he simply is not the best option for the Sacramento Kings.
He has averaged relatively solid numbers this season, with 8.0 PPG and 2.0 APG in 21.4 minutes per game. He’s also been lights out from behind the three-point line, averaging a fantastic 42.9 percent from behind the arc. So why shouldn’t he be starting?
It all comes back to the guys on the bench behind him. Second-year guard Isaiah Thomas (not related to the legendary Isiah Thomas) has had nearly identical stats, with 8.5 PPG and 2.0 APG in 20.4 minutes per game.
Thomas was the last pick of the 2011 NBA draft, and he has been proving every team in the NBA wrong ever since. Often compared to Nate Robinson of the Chicago Bulls, Thomas is a big-time offensive weapon for the Kings.
Behind both Brooks and Thomas is Jimmer Fredette. Largely thought to be a bust after being drafted No. 10 overall in the 2011 draft, Fredette is slowly becoming more and more of a threat for the Kings. This season in a paltry 9.4 MPG, he’s been impressive with 6.3 PPG on 45 percent three-point shooting.
Seeing as how the Kings are a young team in the process of rebuilding, having a point guard for the future is vital. While Aaron Brooks isn’t a bad player, he’s also not a great one. Both Thomas and Fredette are high-potential players, though, and could very well be future franchise cornerstones.
While Jason Maxiell isn’t an awful player, rookie Andre Drummond could be a great player.
Before we check Drummond out, though, we’ll go over Maxiell. In the first couple weeks of the season, Maxiell has been playing at career-high levels. Putting up 9.1 PPG and 6.2 RPG can by no means be called weak or ineffective, it's just very mediocre.
His scoring and rebounding is the best that it has been in his seven-year career, he’s playing defense, shooting well—but he also really won’t get any better than this.
On the other hand, Andre Drummond is just getting started. After being drafted ninth overall in the 2012 draft, Drummond has been a tremendous force for the otherwise sappy Pistons. He’s playing limited minutes, but he has been putting up 6.8 PPG and 5.2 RPG.
Coming into the NBA as a rookie, teams were a bit hesitant about Drummond. He obviously needed to work on his unpolished and somewhat inconsistent offensive game, but his athleticism and future potential as a big man made him worth a lottery pick.
It’s paid off so far in Detroit. He’s been huge for the struggling Pistons, with his defense and overall production causing headaches for opposing teams.
He still has areas in his game that he needs to work on, though. Notably, his free-throw shooting of 42.9 needs a lot of work.
For an aging team looking for reasons to win, Drummond is providing a hope for the future. Jason Maxiell isn’t that player, solid as he may be.
Malcolm Lee should not be starting for the Minnesota Timberwolves. I’m not just saying that based on his shabby performance so far this season, I’m saying that based on the fact that two out of the three players on the depth chart ahead of him were injured within the first two weeks of the season.
But here we are, with Malcolm Lee having started five games so far this year. With Brandon Roy out at least one month and Chase Budinger four months away from returning, it’s not looking as though we’re going to see change anytime soon.
As far as Lee’s stats go, he has averaged 3.6 PPG and 1.3 APG so far this season. Perhaps his most telling stat is the fact that he has shot 15.4 percent from three-point territory.
He does have his strengths. For one, he’s a freakishly athletic player. He has the speed and power to make moves to get past his defender, but his crippling lack of offensive aggressiveness makes him virtually ineffective.
He’s also a great defender. That’s actually the only reason that the Wolves even start him, because he’s their best defensive guard until Ricky Rubio comes back.
Even with his lack of offense, the chief reason that Lee should not be starting is because of his teammate, Russian rookie Alexey Shved.
Shved came to the Timberwolves as an undrafted free agent over the offseason, and he has been lighting up opposing defenses with style so far this season. Even in limited minutes coming off the bench, Shved has been very offensively minded, scoring 9.6 PPG so far this season to go along with 4.1 APG.
In Malcolm Lee’s defense, he was never intended to be the starter. Time will tell if he continues to start, but as is the case with most of the players on this list, Lee is best utilized as a role player off the bench.
For the most part, the Oklahoma City Thunder have it all figured out. They have their superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, their sturdy bench with Kevin Martin and their defensive stopper in Serge Ibaka. What they do not have, however, is a starting center that’s actually capable of taking their team anywhere.
Enter Kendrick Perkins. It’s not that Perkins is entirely useless, he’s just a terrible center starting on one of the most elite teams in the NBA.
This season, he’s averaging 4.1 PPG and grabbing 4.7 RPG. It goes without saying that those are bad numbers, and he is on a team that hopes to make another run at the Finals this season.
The argument is made that he makes up for his lack of productivity with his defense and presence under the basket, but players that can do that are a dime-a-dozen.
In fact, the Thunder have another guy like that in Hasheem Thabeet. In very limited minutes coming off the bench behind Perkins, Thabeet has averaged 3.2 PPG and 3.1 RPG.
Per 48 minutes, Thabeet would be averaging 13.1 PPG as opposed to Perkins' 7.6 PPG. He also offers a true shot-blocking threat. Imagine him paired with Ibaka.
He has his drawbacks, though. After being taken No. 2 in the 2009 NBA draft, Thabeet still has yet to prove his worth in the NBA; he's been on four different teams and has been sent down to the D-League.
He may never be an elite center on any team, but Thabeet has taken steps toward proving that he wasn't a bust.
Another player that could be effective in taking over for Perkins is Nick Collison. In 18.9 MPG, Collison has been a solid player off the bench for the Thunder. He's only averaging 5.3 PPG and 3.5 RPG, but his hustle play and chemistry with the rest of the team makes him indispensable.
He is also much more offensive minded than Perkins, which would help balance the otherwise defensive-minded big men of the Thunder.
Frankly, Perkins should be a bench player. It’s going to hurt the Thunder when their big man can’t make a difference in an important game, which is why the Thunder need to utilize Thabeet or Collison.