NBA rosters have shaped out. Depth charts and rotations are clear. The season has started. Looking at rosters in correlation with the coaching styles and franchise atmospheres employed by these teams, analysts begin their search for the breakout player.
Players are put in a box: who will exceed expectations, rise to an unforeseen level, and climb the ladder of the NBA ranks?
Where there are stars sizzling though, there are stars fizzling. There are duds. There are flops. There are busts. For every C.J. McCollum and Kyle Lowry last year, there was a Dwight Howard and Bradley Beal. With the season beginning, we rat these underachievers out.
The All-NBA Bust Squad is always difficult to predict. But we’re gonna try our best.
Rajon Rondo, PG
Starting at point guard for this plaintive group is the infamous Rajon Rondo, the new free agent addition by the Chicago Bulls. Last season, while with the Sacramento Kings, Rondo enjoyed a bit of a rebound season after his disastrous tenure with the Dallas Mavericks, posting up respectable numbers of 11.9 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals while leading the league in assists with 11.7. However, these numbers don’t show the entire picture; in fact, they display only a small portion of Rondo’s true performance.
While Rondo was on the court, the Kings actually posted a negative box +/- per 100 possessions at -3.3. Rondo had the fourth most turnovers in the league while owning a usage % of 18.8, more than 10% lower than the three turnover leaders above him, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall. While not completely awful, Rondo certainly wasn’t a superstar.
The worst aspect of Rondo’s game is his outside shooting. His 3-point % last year was an abysmal 37%, and his FG%’s from ranges 3-10 ft., 10-16 ft., and 16 ft. < 3-point arc were 38%, 31%, and 34% respectively. It’s evident that Rondo is no sharpshooter – he took more than a third of his shots from within 3 ft. of the basket.
Rondo has put himself in a precarious situation by teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler in Chicago, two other players who are, similar to Rondo, non-effective shooters from the perimeter who score the majority of their points while being the primary ball handler. This self appointed “Three Alphas” group is going to be in a constant struggle with shooting and spacing – teams will clog the lanes of the primary ball handler and lay off the remaining two players who are positioned on the perimeter.
The offensive play of Rondo is about to be turned upside down, which writes bust all over him.
Not to mention Rondo’s reputation as a player with a bad attitude and a discouraging locker room presence follows him to Chicago. The fiasco in Dallas shed light on Rondo’s souring relationship with basketball management and coaching. His comments following the regular season that called out the Kings by saying “there were too many distractions on and off the court. The organization as a whole, I don’t think was completely together” made him look like a bad teammate.
If Rondo gets into the bad graces of Coach Hoiberg or GM Gar Forman, the Bulls $30 million investment could turn into a train wreck, headed straight towards the All-NBA Bust Squad.
|2016-17||4.0 points||11.1% fg||50.0% 3-point fg||9.0 assists||6.0 rebounds|
Kyle Korver, SG
Just a year removed from an All Star appearance, the great “Threezus”, as Korver is known by Atlanta Hawk fanatics, finds himself on a bust list. How could this atrocity occur? It’s simple – in the battle against Father Time, Korver, like many before him, is losing. While he led the league in 3-point accuracy for two consecutive years, Korver underwent a sharp decline in his shooting last year that saw his 3-point % drop from 49.2% to 39.8% and his eFG% drop from 67.1% to 56.3%. Korver’s offensive box +/- actually turned into a negative number, dropping from +3.1 to -0.7. Korver’s athleticism also took a hit in his 35-age season, with his rebounds, assists, and free throw attempts per game all having decreased.
The future doesn’t look much better for Korver too. During the playoffs, Korver went ice cold at times, putting up 1-10 and 3-11 shooting performances in the Celtics series. In the Cavaliers series, Korver produced 0 made field goals in Game 1, less than 20 minutes played in Game 2, a modest Game 3 that still saw him end with a negative box +/-, and a wretched Game 4 that saw him play less than 25 minutes and make one of his field goal attempts. Down the stretch, Korver simply lost his role with the team.
Once known as a reliable sharpshooter, Korver became an old, sluggish bricklayer. With Atlanta undergoing a changing of the guard with Al Horford and Jeff Teague out and Dwight Howard in, along with the promotion of Dennis Schroder, Korver may be lost in the shuffle. As his battle with Father Time continues to be a losing fight, and with younger talent taking over the reigns in Atlanta, Korver looks not to just have a down season, but a bust-worthy one.
|2016-17||5.0 points||50.0% fg||33.3% 3-point fg||4.0 assists||3.0||8.5 PER|
Aaron Gordon, SF
Now I know what you’re thinking: how could a human being who can dunk a basketball after jumping over the ball be a disappointment? I know that dunk was sick, but let’s be real – this is the easiest bust to forecast by a long shot. Aaron Gordon simply doesn’t belong as a SF, but that’s what the Orlando Magic classify him as, and with the logjam of frontcourt players honed by the Magic, that’s where he’ll play. The young slam-jam phenom will have horrible spacing as a SF. Gordon, used to points in the paint, will be out of his element, and Gordon is not very good outside the paint. From ranges of 3-10 ft., 10-16 ft., 16 ft. to < 3 point arc, and beyond the 3-point arc, Gordon shoots 34.4%, 34%, 38.8%, and 29.6% respectively. That’s well below average for an ordinary SF, but what can we expect from a player who has 13% of all his field goal attempts as dunks.
Gordon will have to compete with Nikola Vucevic, Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, and Jeff Green for frontcourt playing time, and Gordon is smaller than all of these players. Gordon is still a developing player, and adapting to an unknown position that simply doesn’t fit his physique and playing style,and is not good for his growth and maturity as a basketball player. Not to mention, Gordon has to compete with the young Mario Hezonja, whom the Magic spent a top-5 pick on a year ago and has more potential as a floor-spreading forward than Air Gordon.
The Magic have set up Gordon to fail, and his digression will lead to a bust of a season.
|2016-17||14.5 points||47.8% fg||2.0 assists||7.5 rebounds||0.5 blocks|
Jared Sullinger, PF
Jared Sullinger has always seemed to be in the midst of the Celtics starting lineups due to their lack of consistent, reliable big men. Now he finds himself on the Toronto Raptors, with almost the same situation. Toronto has All Stars at both its guard positions and a mainstay in the starting lineup with DeMarre Carroll. The rest of the frontcourt consists of an oft-injured Jonas Valanciunas, an unproven rookie Jacob Poetl, a journeyman in Patrick Patterson, and the newly signed Sullinger. So, once again, Sullinger finds himself in the starting mix. However, Sully has not shown the most promise.
A career FG% of 43.9% doesn’t bode well for a big man, but that’s what Sullinger brings to the table. His offensive win shares were a meager 1.3 last season, and his offensive box +/- was a putrid -1.2. It’s safe to say Sullinger isn’t the most offensively skilled player in the NBA. Another point to bring up is that Sullinger, while being in the Celtics rotation, has never been a consistent starter with plenty of minutes.
Last year, Sullinger averaged only 23.6 minutes a game, which was actually less than the year previous.
Can one believe that Sullinger can step up into a consistent starting role for an Eastern Conference contender? It’s ambivalent to think this is plausible when Sullinger has shown little in the time given, and he’s got competition with Patrick Patterson who took up a larger role on the Raptors team in the playoffs when Valanciunas went down with injury.
Sullinger presents himself as an easy 5th option for the Raptors squad (if he even gets into the starting lineup). He’ll decline in his first year in a Toronto uniform.
Timofey Mozgov, C
Here we continue the trend of free agent additions being upcoming busts. This bust squad member, Timofey Mozgov of the Lakers, has an obscene contract that is worth $64 million over four years.
While Mozgov did win a championship last year, he had the closest thing to zero influence, starting zero games and putting in a total of 76 minutes in 13 games played in the Cavaliers 21 playoff games. Indeed, Mozgov’s role diminished on the team until he was a total, undeniable non-factor. So how is this the $64 million man of the Los Angeles Lakers?
The Lakers are paying him like an above-average starting caliber center, when that’s not the reality.
Mozgov puts up a Total Rebound Percentage of 14.4, far from an admirable statistic for a 7’1” 275-pound behemoth. His box +/- was negative, a startling and depressing fact from the team that won the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Mozgov is already going into his age 30 season, so his basketball prime is, more likely than not, behind him. The Lakers were looking for a rim protector and defensive presence that will be a good mentor to their younger talent. Mozgov does not excel in any of those categories.
The Lakers are in for a rude awakening when they discover that despite the NBA salary cap being raised to infinity and beyond, Mozgov isn’t worth that kind of money. While Mozgov doesn’t have the expectation to be an All Star, he still is expected to perform.
The Lakers should count on less than that and plan instead for more playing time for Tarik Black and Ivica Zubac. Bust is written all over Mozgov’s season.
|2016-17||10 points||52.9% fg||7.0 rebounds||1.0 blocks||1.5 assists|
photo via llananba