Will we ever see "Dominant Dwight" again?
In 2012, some NBA players reached heights they will never reach again.
Careers inevitably decline. It's sometimes due to injuries, sometimes due to team situations and sometimes just due to age.
The five players featured in this slideshow have all gone downhill since the end of the 2012 season for one of those three reasons or a combination of the factors.
Lakers fans will not be pleased to see that two of the big four on their team made it into this slide show, while Dallas Mavericks fans may have seen the decline of their marquee talent coming for quite some time now.
Pau is no longer better than younger brother Marc.
Pau Gasol didn't really peak in 2012, but it was the end of his extended peak and likely the end of his true prime. Gasol's averages have dipped over five points per game this season, and he's not rebounding the ball as well either.
Part of it has been his battles with injuries, but Gasol is healthy now, and it's time to see if he can shake the rust or if his body is flat out corroded. In the final three months of the 2011-12 regular season, Gasol posted 17.8 points per game and 10.9 rebounds per game.
This year, he's averaging just 12.7 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game. If he can't turn it around with a healthy Steve Nash alongside him, he never will.
Not playing with Nash has hurt the Polish Hammer.
Marcin Gortat was a huge benefactor of the "Nash effect." Playing alongside Steve Nash, things were far easier. Now, even with a decent facilitator like Goran Dragic, Gortat is learning it's much harder to score without—arguably—the best passer in NBA history feeding him the rock.
Gortat's averaged 15.4 points per game and 10 rebounds per contest last season, and this year he's posting far more modest averages of just 11.3 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Have we seen the best of The Diggler?
Dirk Nowitzki finally tasted championship success in 2011. Unfortunately, that was likely the peak of Nowitzki's career, and 2012 was the tail end of that peak.
In the last three months of the 2011-12 season, he posted averages of 23.1 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game, while knocking down 1.5 threes per night.
Nowitzki has been slow in returning to form, and in his first three games back from injury, he has failed to score in double figures while shooting 8-of-25 from the floor (32 percent).
Yes, it takes time to recover from injury, but Nowitzki is now over 34 years old. Does anyone see him returning to glory?
Al Jeff may just need a change of scenery to regain form.
Ordinarily, guys in contract years go out and have their best seasons as NBA players. That hasn't been the case with Al Jefferson.
Over the final three months of the 2011-12 season, Jefferson posted 19.5 points per game, 9.7 rebounds per game and swatted away 1.7 shots per night. This year, when he should be showcasing his talents to earn a big payday, he's averaged three less points per game and is barely blocking over a shot per night.
The Utah Jazz have Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors waiting in the wings but need Jefferson to play his best so they can receive the maximum payout in a trade should they deal him before February, as is widely expected.
Dwight hasn't shined in LA, as many thought he would.
In the last three months of the 2011-12 NBA season, before succumbing to a herniated disk in his back, Dwight Howard posted averages of 21 points per game and 13.9 rebounds per game.
He was the No. 1 option of the Orlando Magic offense, a player whose talents were built around both ends of the court.
Since having surgery to repair the herniated disk in his back, he just hasn't been the same player. It's possible to cite a changing team situation as a big culprit in Howard's decline. But a lot of it has just been a decline because his physical prowess is not what it used to be.
His former coach Stan Van Gundy had this to say:
I don't think he looks quite as explosive or as quick as he has in the past. Now, he's still above almost everyone in the league at that size athletically, but he has not totally looked like himself to me.
These words carry weight. They are coming from the man who coached Howard for his first eight seasons in the league.
This season, Howard's averages have dipped to the lowest since his third season in the NBA, leaving us to wonder if we may have seen the best of Superman.
Howard is averaging just 17.6 points per game this season and averaging the lowest rebounding average since his rookie season (11.8 this year and 10.0 in 2004-05).
Statistical Source: Basketball Monster