by Spencer Suk & Jake Weiner
The one and only Jake Weiner from (D)Roses & Thorns and I have collaborated to pinpoint this year’s busts in the NBA. I’m talking about the Larry Sanderses and the Josh Smiths of last year. Whether it’s injuries, age, or simply not fitting in on a new team, the following six guys don’t have a sunny outlook for the 2014-15 season. Our six breakout players can be found here. So without further ado:
As a Clipper fan, I have a soft spot for DC. He was a fantastic backup who provided great energy and pesky defense. With Chris Paul missing 20 games last year, the Clippers still went 14-6 during that stretch with Collison filling in as the starting point guard. More importantly, he stepped up in Game 4 of the Clippers-Thunder series and led the Clippers to a comeback win from down 15 in the 4th quarter.
Strangely enough, the problems with Collison begin when Chris Paul is no longer his teammate. In his rookie year with New Orleans, Collison thrived when Chris Paul went down with a torn meniscus. When Paul returned the next season, Collison was traded to Indiana. There, he struggled as a starter for two years before getting moved again to Dallas, where he started half of the season before being benched in favor of Mike James.
Collison, whose market value had plummeted, was snagged by the Clippers for just $1.9 million and enjoyed another successful campaign alongside Paul.
Now, Collison is on his own again, as the Sacramento Kings signed him to replace Isaiah Thomas. While Collison will be an upgrade on the defensive end (Isaiah was basically invisible on defense), he will struggle to replace Isaiah’s offense, which is a big problem considering the Kings don’t have many weapons outside of DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Don’t expect big things from DC.
ESPN recently ranked Kobe as the 40th best player in the NBA, a number I see as way off. Unlike Kobe, however, I think ESPN overrated him. Let’s look at the facts.
Kobe’s 35 years old with over 1,200 games and 45,000 minutes under his belt, and that’s only counting the regular season. Most importantly, he’s coming off of two significant injuries. As Isiah Thomas and Dominique Wilkins can tell you, it’s extremely difficult to bounce back from a ruptured Achilles as the same player. To make matters even worse, Kobe was only able to play in six games last season before breaking a bone in his knee.
The Achilles injury means Kobe will have little to no lift on his jumper and far, far more trouble finishing at the rim. I just can’t see this version of Kobe as an effective player any longer, especially because he still approaches every play like he’s 25-year-old Kobe in Game 6 of the Finals. It’s going to be a long, ugly season in Lakerland with Byron “Three-Pointers Cause Cancer” Scott at the helm. Counting on Kobe to will this team to the playoffs would be insanity.
Ariza was a big part of why the Washington Wizards were able to upset the Chicago Bulls and make a nice little playoff run last year. His playoff numbers jump off the page as he averaged 13.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.5 steals while shooting a Steph Curry-esque 44.6% from downtown.
However, Ariza has a habit of showing up in contract years, only to disappoint once he is locked into a new deal. He initially broke out during the playoffs of a contract year during the Los Angeles Lakers 2008-09 title run, averaging 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals and shooting an insane 47.6% from long distance in the postseason.
However, he would slump over the next four seasons until last year, which of course was another contract year:
This is the second time the Houston Rockets are gambling on Ariza after a fantastic year (they also signed him after his 2008-09 season with the Lakers), but it looks like they might be disappointed again.
Another injury-related bust, but this is too significant to overlook. When he’s been able to stay on the court, Lopez has been a truly phenomenal big. He can rebound, block shots, shoot at a high percentage—basically everything you’d ask for out of your center. You could actually see why Brooklyn didn’t go all in for Dwight Howard in the past.
Unfortunately, chronic foot injuries have cast a major question mark over both Lopez and Brooklyn’s future. After playing in all 82 games his first three seasons, Lopez only appeared in five in 2011-12 after breaking his foot and suffering an ankle injury. While Brook bounced back to miss just eight games the next season, he broke his right foot once again in December of last year and missed the rest of the season.
With recent reports saying that Lopez is out for a couple weeks with a soft tissue injury in the same right foot, it’s all sounding too familiar. Foot injuries have derailed the careers of countless All-Star big men, from Yao Ming to Bill Walton. Don’t count on Brook this year.
This could be the end of the line for the future Hall of Famer. The Washington Wizards brought on Pierce to replace Trevor Ariza, who agreed to sign with the Houston Rockets this past offseason. Pierce had his moments last year and showed us he could still deliver when it counted most, including when he won the series against Toronto with a buzzer-beating block on Kyle Lowry.
Alas, Father Time always walks away as the victor. In his first season away from Boston, the Truth experienced career lows in minutes, points, field goal attempts, field goals made, free throw attempts, and assists.
At 37 years of age, Pierce will have to adjust to his third different team in as many seasons. And with John Wall and Bradley Beal (when he returns from injury) expected to take care of ball-handling duties, Pierce will be reduced to a mere role player. Though I am rooting for him, it seems as if Pierce’s gas tank is empty.
Hibbert had one of the most unique breakdowns last year when he seemingly forgot how to rebound. Seriously, here are his monthly rebounding averages: October-10.0, November-8.7, December-7.6, January-6.9, February-7.1, March-4.6, April-3.2, Playoffs-5.5.
Considering his minutes largely didn’t change, what the hell happened? Well, I doubt anyone besides Roy, and perhaps Lance Stephenson, can tell you that. I can tell you not to count on him to bounce back to his old self. This is not a player that handles adversity well, as evidenced by last year’s shocking decline that coincided nicely with a decline from the Pacers as well.
Hibbert finished with his lowest rebounding average since 2009-10 at 6.6. His 16%+ rebound rate from 2011-13 dropped to a shocking 12.5% last year. With Paul George out indefinitely, Stephenson in Charlotte, and David West battling an ankle injury to open the season, Hibbert will be depended upon to produce. Averaging just 4.8 boards in 20 MPG this preseason (Hibbert has never averaged 30 MPG), I’m not betting on Roy to get back to his old ways.