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The NBA 2K All-Stars: 10 Players Who Haven't Fulfilled Their Athletic Potential

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2011

The NBA 2K All-Stars: 10 Players Who Haven't Fulfilled Their Athletic Potential

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    Sports video games have come a long way in the past couple of decades. In a short 17 years, we went from Tecmo Basketball to, well...this.

    It's difficult to pick apart a game that is aesthetically beautiful, but every experienced gamer knows that the line between reality and virtual reality still exists. In a video game, the person holding the controller is making all the decisions—when to pass, when to shoot and when to rotate defensively. Basketball IQ and temperament—normally qualities that separate the elite players from the mediocre—are rendered more or less irrelevant on the virtual court.

    The NBA 2K All-Stars are a group of current NBA players who excel on your Xbox, but haven't put it all together in real life. They are players who are blessed with extreme athleticism, length, shooting ability and speed, but lack the basketball IQ and temperament to succeed in the real league.

    They're the guys who frustrate you because you know how good they should be, but it doesn't seem like they'll ever get there.

    Being on the NBA 2K All-Stars doesn't necessarily mean you'll stay there forever, though. Just last year, both DeAndre Jordan and Michael Beasley graduated from the team, and became viable NBA players.

    The clock may not have run out on them yet, but if these 10 don't start taking advantage of their tools soon, then NBA 2K12 might be the highlight of their careers. At least they have that, right?

Starting PG: Jerryd Bayless, Toronto Raptors

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    Bayless isn't here because he's been a horrible NBA player—he hasn't—but because of how much better he should be. Don't forget that in the 2008 NBA Draft people were shocked to see him fall all the way to the 11th pick. They were even shocked to see him drop past Seattle at the 4th pick.

    The next day, critics said that the Sonics (soon to be the Oklahoma City Thunder) would rue the day they passed on Jerryd Bayless, to draft a similar, less talented version of him. That player? Russell Westbrook.

    Oops.

Starting SG: J.R. Smith, Denver Nuggets

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    Allow me to reiterate: This isn't a team of players who haven't been good in the NBA—it's a team of players who aren't as good as they should be. Anyone who thinks that the Nuggets' sixth man has maxed out on his talent clearly hasn't watched him play.

    J.R. Smith can make the game look easy. He can shoot, create his own shot and fly to the rim.  He has all the tools.  The only thing he can't do is put all those tools together and form the consistent scoring machine that he was expected to become.

    ESPN's John Hollinger notes that Smith might have the worst shot selection in the entire league. Maybe he's just the right coach away from becoming an unstoppable offensive force.

Starting SF: Donte Greene, Sacramento Kings

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    Even with a prototypical NBA frame, and a career of college production behind him, Greene slipped to the back end of the first round when he was drafted. The warning signs were there.

    Tall, long, and possessing easy three-point range, Greene seems like he should be an unstoppable offensive force. However, his poor instincts and inability to grasp the intricacies of the NBA game have relegated him to the role of "rotation player" on one of the league's worst teams.

    At 6'11'', he should have some sort of post game, but he shows no desire to ever learn how to play with his back to the basket. He ignores his frame, and plays like a European forward, minus all the toughness, grit, and passing ability.

Starting PF: Anthony Randolph, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Randolph narrowly beats out J.R. Smith for the right to captain this year's NBA 2K All-Stars. A player this talented shouldn't be suiting up for his third team in a three-year career.

    Randolph is built like the Shawn Bradley Mon-Star from Space Jam. He's 6'11'', with an other-worldly wingspan, shot-blocking instincts, and even a respectable jump shot to boot.

    He's put up Jekyll-and-Hyde performances whenever he's been given the opportunity to play, and he finds himself in the right situation as a Timberwolf.

    Hopefully the access to consistent minutes, and guidance from Kevin Love (as well as NBA 2K All-Star alumnus Michael Beasley) will turn him into the player he has the potential to be.

Starting C: Hasheem Thabeet, Houston Rockets

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    Thabeet's career hasn't been pretty thus far. Selected number two overall—ahead of the likes of James Harden, Tyreke Evans, and Steph Curry—the big African has yet to show signs of becoming the next Mutumbo.

    The warning signs were there in college. Everyone remembers DeJuan Blair beating the crap out of him when UConn played Pitt in 2009. But the Grizzlies believed that his measurables, and his seemingly natural propensity for shot-blocking, would make him worthy of a top-five draft pick.

    What they found, however, is that against NBA bodies—against guys who are at least close to him physically—Thabeet's limited offensive game actually makes him a liability.

    That and the fact that he's softer than ice cream that's been left on the table overnight.

Reserve PG: Jonny Flynn, Houston Rockets

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    Like Donte Greene, Jonny Flynn came out of Syracuse with high expectations, following a spectacularly productive year for the Orange. Also like Greene, however, Flynn has failed to adjust to the NBA as easily as he was supposed to.

    Flynn is lightning-quick with the ball, and can isolate his way into the lane at ease. In college, his ability to finish at the basket masked his poor decision-making. Now that he's being faced with NBA athletes in the paint, he needs to adjust his shot selection. But he hasn't.

    He had a decent rookie season in Minnesota, but regressed—not only to the mean, but to the bottom—in his second pro season. A move to Daryl Morey's island of misfit NBA players (also known as the Houston Rockets) could be good for Flynn, and hopefully he will improve on his terrible play from 2010-2011.

Reserve SG: Xavier Henry, Memphis Grizzlies

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    At Kansas, Henry was never dominant, but when you looked at him, you couldn't help saying "that guy is an NBA player." He's smooth, crafty, and has a picture-perfect lefty jump shot. 

    However, we've never seen him play like a superstar. Memphis threw him into the rotation right off the bat in his rookie year, but he didn't produce much. They benched him halfway through the season. Even in the wake of Rudy Gay's injury, Henry didn't see any court time during the Grizzlies' surprising playoff run. 

    A smooth 6'6'' athlete shouldn't be warming the bench for anybody. Even in his rookie season. He needs to improve his ball skills offensively, and needs to do it fast if he wants to become part of Memphis' bright future.

Reserve SF: Austin Daye, Detroit Pistons

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    Daye was never as dominant as he should have been at Gonzaga, and that has carried over to the Detroit Pistons as well.

    Second-round pick Jonas Jerebko usurped playing time from Daye despite being a much more limited athlete. Daye doesn't seem to understand the best way to utilize his talent. He's built like a taller version of Kevin Durant, and even has a jump shot to boot.

    Unlike Durant, however, he doesn't understand how to create his own shot. Until he figures out how to use his length, he'll be nothing more than a rotation wing man.

Reserve PF: Tyrus Thomas, Charlotte Bobcats

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    You could see this one coming from a mile away.

    Tyrus Thomas rode a successful NCAA tournament run, and his incredible length, to the fourth overall pick in 2006. Since entering the league, he's been able to block shots, but he's one of the league's worst finishers around the rim, and his offensive instincts leave a lot to be desired.

    Meanwhile, his partner in crime Glen Davis wouldn't be drafted until the second round the following year. Despite being Thomas' polar opposite athletically (he's short and stocky as opposed to long and lean), Big Baby's advanced offensive game has made him an invaluable piece for a perennial title contender.

    That goes to show you how much combine numbers really matter.

Reserve C: Darko Milicic, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Darko, Darko, Darko. The name just makes you cringe, doesn't it?

    The legend of Darko Milicic is known far and wide. Drafted second overall—between LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, and also before Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh—Darko has been nothing more than a rotational big man since entering the league. Sam Bowie 2.0.

    In the wake of all his failures, people seem to forget what a specimen Darko really is. He's a legit seven-footer, with nimble feet, advanced passing ability, and the ability to block shots. His effort, however, is inconsistent, and although he isn't stiff, he's definitely soft.

    There's a reason he went ahead of Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade. It just wasn't a very good one.

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