NBA Players Who Desperately Need a Fresh Start with a New Team
In the NBA, even some of the most talented players in the world are often in need of a change of scenery and a fresh start with a new team.
Whether it's because the player no longer fits with the personnel around him or with the greater direction of the team, flipping a new page and starting elsewhere is sometimes the only thing that can revive a career.
We've seen it many times before. Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph was once nothing more than an overpriced, unfulfilled talent until he found a perfect situation in the right town with the right frontcourt partner.
In some cases the change has to happen through an attitude adjustment (here's looking at you, J.R. Smith) or be brought about by something like a contract year, but other times, it's as simple as wearing a new uniform and meshing with different personalities.
While the following five players are all at different points in their careers, each could use a fresh start on a new team in order to get things back on track.
The Milwaukee Bucks Trio
The Milwaukee Bucks will have a top-four pick in this year's draft and some nice young pieces to rebuild around. With new ownership in place, a total overhaul of the front office wouldn't be much of a surprise. Milwaukee, in a lot of ways, could be starting over.
That might not be ideal for Milwaukee's three biggest contracts: O.J. Mayo, Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova. The latter, in fact, has already expressed his displeasure with the whole rebuilding process. Here's what Ilyasova told Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times:
Ilyasova is arguably the Bucks’ best trading chip and several teams are believed to be interested in him. According to multiple sources, Ilyasova has expressed a desire to be traded, apparently having had his fill of the Bucks’ continual rebuilding project.
Ilyasova downplayed talk about him wanting out of Milwaukee and declined to comment on whether he or his agent, Andy Miller, had requested a trade.
Ilyasova made it clear, though, the Bucks’ revolving door policy with players has irritated him.
'The thing I’m upset about is each year, each season, we go through the same thing,” Ilyasova said. “Last year, we make the playoffs and now we start all over again. That’s really frustrating.'
With Ilyasova, Sanders and Mayo all experiencing by far the worst seasons of their careers, each could use a fresh start on a new team that has established talent and a built-in hierarchy already in place.
Mayo might be a bit of a lost cause, but there's always the hope that he figures it out and will put in maximum effort for a team actually playing for something.
Sanders, meanwhile, is still young and in the first year of his four-year extension worth $44 million, but legal trouble, outbursts and suspensions have marred his reputation. He could certainly benefit from a clean slate at this point.
Perhaps Milwaukee's big changes will provide a fresh start for each of these three players, but in reality, none of them seem to be a great fit any longer.
If you want to look at a player who just needs different personnel around him, Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe is a shining example.
Detroit's clunky, space-deprived frontcourt has been widely panned, but it sounds like the chemistry in the locker room might be as bad as it is on the floor. Here's what Greg Monroe told David Mayo of MLive.com:
Later, Monroe was asked if the Pistons had good locker-room chemistry this season, which ended Wednesday with a 112-111 loss at Oklahoma City.
'Honestly, I would say no,' he answered.
With Josh Smith on a long-term contract and Andre Drummond likely to be extended once his rookie deal is up, Monroe is the odd-man out.
After years of experiencing constant disappointment in Detroit, Monroe could really use a change of scenery and a team that will utilize his unique talent much better. Monroe is an excellent passer and rebounder, and it's not hard to see him thriving on a team that really spaced the floor and had much better off-ball movement than Detroit.
Monroe hasn't improved as much as some might have hoped, but new surroundings may be the key to unlock his immense potential. He belongs on a good team.
Although the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Dion Waiters with the hopes that he'd form the backcourt of the future with Kyrie Irving, it's been a mismatch since day one. Waiters and Irving just don't seem to mesh, as both players need the ball in their hands, and both players seem to think they should be the alpha dog.
That's led to some issues, and it's hard to say what the solution is. While you would hope that the two would grow up and work together, here's what Waiters told Tom Withers of the Associated Press about his relationship with Kyrie Irving:
"I don't hate this guy. I'm pretty sure he don't hate me. I know he don't hate me. I hope he don't hate me."
Not very reassuring, right?
If Irving and Waiters can't coexist, it might be better for Waiters to start over on a team with a clear-cut role (preferably as a sixth man) and veteran pecking order already established.
Cleveland has been a young team with players like Andrew Bynum that have undermined the authority of the coaching staff, and so perhaps Waiters just needs to start over somewhere new. That's not uncommon for players of his skill set, as most scoring sixth men usually don't really carve out their role and get comfortable until they're away from their original team.
Waiters has a lot of talent, but personnel and personality fit is very important in order for him to be at his best.
It's not very often you see a franchise big man with Brook Lopez's type of ability in need of a change of scenery, but an interesting dynamic has been created since Brooklyn has had so much success with a different style that doesn't include Lopez.
By going to a smaller, faster lineup, the Nets have improved dramatically as the year has gone on without Lopez, who is out for the season with foot surgery. Here's Zach Lowe at Grantland.com with more:
The Nets would seem to be able to fit Lopez into all of this by starting him, keeping Pierce at power forward, and using Garnett off the bench as a backup center. It’s not as if Lopez would slow down a speedy Brooklyn attack; the Nets have averaged three fewer possessions per game over this hot 15-game stretch, per NBA.com. But basketball doesn’t work that easily.
'I don’t think it’s that simple,' Jason Kidd says. 'I don’t think the team with Brook is built to be a hybrid like this. Now we are, because we have no choice. We have a structure, and Brook going out has helped us define that.'
While Lopez could conceivably come back into the fold without any issues, he might be better off playing for a team that's willing to build an offense around his scoring prowess and better accommodate him defensively.
Lopez needs to get healthy more than anything else, but this could turn into a situation where Lopez just doesn't mesh with a successful style of play.
Speaking of stylistic mismatches, perhaps no player in the league has dealt with that more than Pau Gasol under Mike D'Antoni. While Gasol's extremely high skill level has often allowed him to have success, D'Antoni's run-and-gun, three-point based attack hasn't been ideal for such a gifted post player like Gasol.
More importantly, the Lakers as a franchise just aren't in line with what Gasol should probably want out of the last few years of his career. According to Mark Medina of Inside the Lakers, Gasol had this to say on his own website:
Re-signing for the Lakers is a possibility, but I’m not sure whether to say it’s a remote one. If there’s anything or anyone who could make me stay it’s Kobe Bryant. I’d stay for him, but there’d have to be significant changes. I’ve said it many times: I want to be in a team that has a solid chance to win another tournament and where I can be an important factor in the game.
If Gasol truly wants to win a championship, there should be plenty of other teams that would give him a chance to do that and make better use of his talent.
Although he's been banged up over the last few years and has lost a step or two in the process, Gasol can still do a lot of great things on the court. A fresh start with a contender could revitalize his career completely and remind us that he's one of the best big men this era of basketball has seen.