The biggest group of anti-superstars ever assembled were haphazardly thrown together one fateful season five years ago. The group was led by the only coach to ever win an NBA championship and NCAA championship, and a general manager who is considered one of the best five point guards to ever play the game.
Nine members of that team were chosen in the top 18 of an NBA draft. Seven were lottery picks, six were picked in the top eight and four were taken in the top four. The payroll was $124 million.
This team was the 2005-06 New York Knicks. They finished 23-59.
No NBA team has ever seen so much on-paper potential turn out to be such a catastrophic disaster, because no NBA team has ever had such a large collection of anti-superstars.
The anti-superstar, as that team masterfully demonstrated, is a player who has the look, talent and salary of a superstar and has achieved some sort of personal success professionally. Despite the success, the player does not play up to his superstar potential due to a variety of on and off-court excuses, not including injury. Can you really fault Yao for his body fighting against him? No. Can you really fault Vince Carter for not trying in his last season in Toronto? Of course.
Here are the NBA's 10 biggest anti-superstars in alphabetical order.
A little harsh to put Arenas on this list because he was hurt for most of the past four years, but he barely makes it for a moronic suspension last season and his mind-blowing, awful play this season.
Arenas signed a six-year, $111 million contract with the Washington Wizards after the 2007-08 season. He only played 55 more games over the next three seasons for Washington due to injuries and a suspension that came as a result of carrying unlicensed firearms in the Verizon Center locker room, which came to light after an argument with teammate Javaris Crittenton in December 2009.
Arenas also made a "sacrifice" to Nick Young, feigning injury so his younger teammate could get some more playing time in a 2010 exhibition game. Ultimately, his antics led to a trade to Orlando, where he is averaging 7.7 points and 21.4 minutes per game off the bench.
During a two-season stretch from 2005-2007, Arenas averaged over 28 points per game. He made the All-NBA Second Team in 2007. Now, he's a substitute.
Andrea Bargnani, the first overall pick of the 2006 NBA draft, averages 21.8 points per game, up from 17.2 last year. His current scoring average is superstar-esque, but he is regressing as an all-around player in his age-25 season.
Bargnani's field-goal and three-point shooting percentages are down, as are his rebounding and blocking numbers. He is 83rd in PER and 54th in EWA (estimated wins added) and still carries around a reputation as a horrible defender.
Also, no 7'0", 250-pound center should ever be averaging just 5.2 rebounds per game. Bargnani's propensity to play an inside-outside offensive game hinders his ability to grab offensive boards (1.1 per game), yet he averages just 4.1 defensive boards a night.
The Raptors are the second-least efficient team on defense in the NBA, and Bargnani is a big reason why.
Vince Carter is the poster child of an NBA generation drafted in the mid-to-late 1990's that had unquestioned and indomitable physical skills, but never lived up to its potential.
He was one of many superstars said to be the next Michael Jordan by media members and fans who have an unhealthy obsession of finding the next Michael Jordan. But Carter's heart and desire near the end of his Toronto campaign, in which he made it no secret that he wanted to be traded, was an embarrassment to the league.
Carter averaged 27.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in just his third pro season and was a jump shot away from leading Toronto into the Eastern Conference Finals. He continuously regressed after that point, got traded to New Jersey and had moderate success, got traded to Orlando and had less success, and got traded to Phoenix, where he is a shell of a shell of his former self. No, that isn't a typo.
How a man who had the athleticism to jump over 7'2" Frederic Weis en route to arguably the greatest dunk in basketball history turned out to be merely good, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
Too soon? Not when Cousins, a 6'11", 270-pound rookie who is shooting under 43 percent from the field, has the 153rd-best PER in the NBA. There are 150 starting positions available in the NBA, and Cousins has started 54 of 73 games.
Cousins already has 11 technical fouls, eight disqualifications and is on a team that is 21-53 and rumored to be heading to Anaheim this summer.
Thought to be a boom-or-bust superstar prior to being picked fifth in the 2010 NBA draft, Cousins is leaning towards the latter and may become the poster child for anti-superstars five years from now.
Baron Davis signed a five-year, $65 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers after a scintillating three-year run with the Golden State Warriors that included one of the biggest upsets in playoff history—the eight-seed Warriors' six-game first-round series win over the one-seed Dallas Mavericks in 2007.
Davis signed under the assumption that Elton Brand would join him in Los Angeles, but Brand took off for Philadelphia. Left as the Clippers' star and playing under the worst owner in American professional sports, Davis gained weight, floundered and became the butt of Bill Simmons' incessant jokes. He went from scoring 21.8 points per game in 2007-08 to 14.9 points per game in 2008-09. The Clippers, who went 23-59 in that 2007-08 campaign, somehow got worse with Davis on board, going 19-63 in his first season.
Davis was a star in Charlotte, New Orleans and Golden State, but all stars wither and die in Clipper Land. Blake Griffin, get out while you can.
Antawn Jamison was supposed to be the second-banana star to LeBron James who would eventually get Cleveland over the hump. Jamison, who was picked fourth in the 1998 NBA draft, never found his niche following a midseason trade from the Washington Wizards. He averaged roughly 16 and eight per game, down from 21 and nine with the Wizards. He also shot just 50.6 percent from the free-throw line during his Cleveland stint last season.
Like his UNC teammate Vince Carter, Jamison was an incredible college player who couldn't completely live up to his NBA hype.
Joe Johnson is due over $24.8 million in 2015-16, his age-35 season. He signed a six-year, $119 million contract with the Hawks over the summer to become the team's face of the franchise for the better part of the decade.
Naturally, without the motivation of having to play for a monster contract, Johnson is having a down year. He has the 77th-best PER in the league but a top 10 salary. All of his major statistics are down, except assists per game, which remained at 4.9 both last season and this season. Most egregiously, his three-point shooting dropped from 36.9 to 30.2 percent.
Andrei Kirilenko was once famous for being the most versatile player in the NBA but, much like Rashard Lewis, his game mysteriously disappeared and now he is most famous for having an annual "hall pass" from his wife.
Kirilenko averaged 15.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 3.2 blocks and 1.5 steals per game in 2005-06, and those numbers went down to 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.
Kirilenko cried during the 2007 NBA playoffs over a lack of playing time, found former coach Jerry Sloan's dog house, and was never the same. He is currently in the midst of a six-year, $86 million contract that ends next month.
Regardless, he still has the greatest nickname in the NBA: AK-47, derived from when he was simply a beast in the middle of the last decade.
Rashard Lewis is the second-highest paid player in the league, making over $20.5 million per season. He also is ranked 120th in PER...in the Eastern Conference.
Lewis has only made 12 field goals in his last eight games, and he is averaging just under 12 points per game this season, his lowest amount since his second year in the NBA (1999-2000). His postseason mark last year also drew the ire of Orlando Magic fans, as he scored just under 13 points and averaged almost three turnovers per game.
Lewis was once a superstar, as he scored over 20 points per game over a three-year stretch with the Seattle Supersonics from 2004-2007. He also had stellar postseasons with Orlando in 2008 and 2009, but his prime ended abruptly and to the point of no return last season.
Is Corey Maggette going to be Generation X's forgotten superstar? He played one season at Duke, got drafted in the NBA lottery, played one season in Orlando, eight solid seasons for the Clippers (highlighted by two seasons of 22-plus PPG), two years in Golden State and now is getting paid $9.6 million to sit on the bench in Milwaukee. Maggette has received only two minutes of playing time in his last seven games, six of which he was benched the entire night.
Maggette was averaging 20 points per game last season, and now he's averaging as many points per game as you and I lately.