9 Sidekicks Who Could Potentially Be Great Players

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2017

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 07:  Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans celebrates after knocking down a pass from Connor Cook #8 of the Oakland Raiders during the first quarter of their AFC Wild Card game at NRG Stadium on January 7, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Not all sidekicks stay out of the spotlight forever. 

Some sidekicks demand their fair share of the attention, refusing to go ignored while shining in their own right next to legends. Think Ed Reed to Ray Lewis, Marvin Harrison to Peyton Manning, even John Stockton to Karl Malone. Oh, and a guy named Scottie, of course.

Others never blossom, whether the hero of the story never really left or they fall apart once the hero departed. For a lucky few, an ascension to superstardom awaits once "sidekick" status gets thrown out the window.

A handful of these sidekicks are going through the paces as a secondary act right now. In time, these guys could ascend to a main role and earn sidekicks of their own.



Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 1:  Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans jogs off the field during a game against the Houston Texans at Nissan Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Titans defeated the Texans 24-17.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/G
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Everyone loved to focus on the bounce-back campaign of DeMarco Murray with the Tennessee Titans in 2016.

While a good story, it was nothing compared to the debut of his sidekick, Derrick Henry.

Henry, the No. 45 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, bulldozed his way to 490 yards and five touchdowns on a 4.5 per-carry average. The Alabama product received just 110 carries compared to Murray's 293.

Bleacher Report's Ian Kenyon helped explain what made Henry stand out as a rookie:

Ian Kenyon @IanKenyonNFL

Derrick Henry was 12th in the NFL this year in yards-per-carry and his longest carry was 22 yards. Routinely got 4-5 yards each carry.

It's only a matter of time before Murray steps aside and Henry assumes the role as lead back.

For now, Henry will remain second to Murray. In terms of star power, he may never surpass quarterback Marcus Mariota. But a proven, big (6'2", 247 lbs), bruising back has a way of standing out once shoved into the spotlight.



Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, F, Brooklyn Nets

BROOKLYN, NY - JANUARY 10: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson #24 of the Brooklyn Nets boxes out against the Atlanta Hawks on January 10, 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a sidekick to the New York Knicks.

All right, kidding aside, RHJ falls behind Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin in terms of popularity right now. It certainly doesn't help that he is playing on the nine-win Brooklyn Nets.

But the Nets haven't given the No. 23 pick from the 2015 NBA draft enough playing time yet, as he is averaging 21.7 minutes per game.

RHJ knows how to make an impact on limited time, though. He averages 8.1 points, 2.0 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game on 40.4 percent shooting. At 6'7", 214 pounds, he forces defenses into uncomfortable situations and it helps explain when he boasts an adjusted 14.9 points per 40 minutes at ESPN.com.

While he still continues to come into his own, the restrictions will come off RHJ at some point and veterans will step aside. When these dominoes fall, RHJ might find himself a household name before long.



Kristaps Porzingis, F, New York Knicks

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 20:  Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks looks on during a game against the Indiana Pacers on December 20, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Nobody would argue Kristaps Porzingis isn't well ahead of schedule as a sophomore.

But when it comes to the pecking order on the Knicks, Porzingis continues to sit in second place behind Carmelo Anthony.

This is actually the best place Porzingis could be for his current state of development—and what makes trade rumors around Anthony so perplexing. Porzingis looks promising and for a "project" player is well ahead of the projected curve, so shredding the environment and asking him to do everything right now seems silly.

Alas, off the soapbox we go. Porzingis is a matchup nightmare in the same vein as a Dirk Nowitzki considering he stands at 7'3", 240 pounds. He's not just averaging 18.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, either; he's shooting 45.3 percent from the floor and 38.6 percent from deep. Don't forget a player efficiency rating (PER) of 17.66, per ESPN.com.

At this pace, Porzingis could wind up being one of the best players in the NBA when permitted to leave Anthony's shadow. The "when" part of the equation might be up to those in charge of the franchise.



Martavis Bryant, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Don Wright/Associated Press

It is quite easy to forget about Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant.

After all, Bryant spent 2016 on the shelf and recently applied for reinstatement to the NFL.

Should all go according to plan, Bryant will resume his status as the big-play sidekick to Antonio Brown. He'll still be the second option on the offense, but 1,314 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns and 17.3 yards per catch over just 21 career games say Bryant isn't going anywhere as a stat-sheet stuffer.

With incredible production over the first two years of his career and a 6'4", 211-pound frame with a wild catch radius, Bryant has enough talent to develop into a No. 1 on his own.

Granted, Bryant may never have to do it on his own. But a full 16-game season will help Bryant post some gaudy numbers and help him steal some of the spotlight for himself.



Willie Cauley-Stein, F, Sacramento Kings

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

In many situations, a top-10 pick out of Kentucky would already be a star player in the NBA.

Not in Sacramento.

Willie Cauley-Stein has had to play the happy sidekick to DeMarcus Cousins for the first few years of his career. His rookie campaign allowed him to show flashes on an average of 21.4 minutes, but this year he has received just 11.6.

WCS hasn't been shy in expressing his frustration, as captured by the Sacramento Bee's Ailene Voisin:

I feel I was showing stuff at the end of last season that would make people say, "Oh, damn, they got a steal in the draft." Now it’s like I took 25 steps forward and 30 steps back. It’s like my whole rookie season didn’t matter and I’m back at square one. Nothing I did last year is having an effect on my career. It’s been very frustrating.

One way or another, WCS will eventually leave the dregs of the sidekick role. He's 23 years old and 7'0", 240 pounds, so the upside is there.

It is hard to know if changes in Sacramento occur and how long Cousins sticks around, should he eventually leave. For now, WCS remains a quiet backup. But the flashes on the court and all the upside in the world suggest he could be a great player when more of the spotlight swings his way.



C.J. McCollum, G, Portland Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 26:  C.J. McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers controls the ball against the Toronto Raptors during the game on December 26, 2016 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees tha
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

It's not easy to outshine a guy like Damian Lillard. Not only is the guy one of the best point guards in the league, he's a pretty good rapper.

C.J. McCollum has made for one heck of a sidekick, though.

McCollum, 25, has really come into his own this season in what is his second year with respectable playing time. He is averaging 23.4 points, 3.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 48.2 percent from the field. His PER at ESPN.com has climbed to 20.7.

McCollum and Lillard form their own Splash Bros. combo, though they happen to do so in the Western Conference with the real thing. Still, this shouldn't stop fans from seeking the two out and enjoying the show.

Well on his way to being a great player, McCollum is easily one of the best sidekicks in the NBA today.



Jadeveon Clowney, LB, Houston Texans

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 24: Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans stands at the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at NRG Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Whispers of the word "bust" started to chase Houston Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney entering his third season.

Short and to the point—Clowney rose to the occasion.

After only playing in four games as a rookie and having a ho-hum sophomore campaign, Clowney posted a career-high six sacks with two passes defensed and 12 stuffs. He piled up rewards for his play, such as one noted by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle:

John McClain @McClain_on_NFL

Texans' Jadeveon Clowney named first-team All-NFL https://t.co/uFRWXow83H

The sidekick to J.J. Watt, who has outright been the face of the Texans for years, Clowney has grown into the role in a hurry and doesn't look like he'll slow anytime soon.

Now on the right path, Clowney teams with Watt and gives the Texans one of the nastiest one-two punches in the league.



Julius Randle, F, Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 17:  Julius Randle #30 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against the Denver Nuggets during the game on January 17, 2017 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees t
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers stole some of their thunder, but the Los Angeles Lakers have quietly been a fun, young team to watch this year.

D'Angelo Russell is a big part of the reason for the team's better-than-expected performance, though his sidekick, Julius Randle, deserves some credit as well.

Randle was somewhat left for dead. An injury during his debut ruined his rookie campaign. What followed during his sophomore year was the weird Kobe Bryant farewell tour while young guys didn't have much of a chance to blossom.

This year, Randle is averaging a career-high 13 points per game and a career-best 48.9 percent field-goal percentage. Like others on this list, he is slowly transforming to the point of meeting expectations, of which he had many considering he was the No. 7 pick in 2014 out of Kentucky.

Maybe the Lakers turn into the Brandon Ingram show down the road, but it is clear Randle's upside is still great while he remains in a secondary role.



Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, New England Patriots

Winslow Townson/Associated Press

New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is one of the best sidekicks ever.

Anyone who has watched a cartoon knows how it goes. Batman disappears for an episode and it's all up to Robin, who holds it down and saves the day.

Garoppolo did so this year while Tom Brady served a four-game suspension, throwing four touchdowns over two games, both wins, looking like a guy who could one day become a franchise quarterback.

Granted, Garoppolo is far from the first Brady sidekick to look like such and might be the latest to go try the gig elsewhere—or maybe even in New England if Brady starts to show signs of humanity.

The hype for Garoppolo is quite real, as a note by CBS Sports Radio illustrated:

CBS Sports Radio @CBSSportsRadio

"One scout told me if the #Browns trade for Jimmy Garoppolo they won't have to worry about the QB position for 10 years." - @DustinFox37

Still 25 years old, Garoppolo has plenty of time to break off on his own and become a franchise player.

Given the flashes, Garoppolo has the upside to transform from a smiling sidekick talked about more than any backup in the league this side of Tony Romo into a starter for a team in need.

Like the rest of the secondary players on this list, it's just a matter of time.

NBA stats current through Jan. 27 and via Basketball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.