NBA Question of the Day: Which players need to restore their value?
Which players need to restore their value?
From now until NBA training camps begin, we’ll be asking a question about the league and the upcoming season. Today: Which players need to restore their value this season?
BOSTON – Regardless of how many accolades a player receives based on past glory, the NBA is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of league.
So, as we find ourselves less than a week away from all 30 teams to start training camp, there are dozens of players coming in with something to prove.
And it’s not just rookies, NBA journeymen and players in contract years either.
In some cases, it’s players who have garnered multiple all-star selections, all-defensive team praise, even a former league MVP.
Here we take a look at some of the higher-profile players whose recent struggles have cast doubt as to how good they are, which for them has created a focus going into this season to reclaim a spot among the game’s elite.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
All you see and hear about in the NBA these days is the talk of stretch bigs who can score from way, way outside. Gasol is a beefy 7-footer who has a long range touch. But he is at his best when he’s around the block scoring, passing or doing something to help the Grizzlies be effective with his on-the-court presence.
He’s coming off a season in which he played in a career-low 52 games because of a broken foot injury that kept him out of the playoffs as well.
And when the two-time all-star did play, the 7-foot-1, 255-pound center wasn’t as big a difference-maker as we have seen in the past.
An eight-year veteran, Gasol’s defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) was 102.9, his worst since his second year in the NBA.
Throw in the fact that Grizzlies were a seventh seed in the West last season before being swept in the first round by San Antonio (the first time Memphis was swept in the first round since 2006), and it stands to reason why Memphis – and Gasol in particular – is looking to bounce back with a much stronger season.
Dwight Howard, Atlanta Hawks
There are few players in the NBA 30 or younger who have had as accomplished a career as Dwight Howard.
He’s an 8-time All-Star, 3-time Defensive Player of the Year and an Olympic Gold medalist.
Howard is a player whose talent isn’t question.
His commitment to winning?
That’s another story.
The addition of Howard and the departure of Al Horford to Boston will give Howard a chance to rid himself of a couple basketball demons from his past that have dogged him throughout his career: leadership and desire to win.
He will have an opportunity to provide both to a Hawks franchise that’s clearly in a transition phase right now.
Not only did they lose Horford, but they also traded away Jeff Teague which automatically moves Dennis Schroeder into the starting lineup.
Because of problems on his way out in Orlando, the run-ins with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and things just never quite clicking in Houston, Howard brings far more questions than a player with his talent and skill should.
And that does not bode well for a player who, while averaging a double-double of 13.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game last season, showed noticeable slippage defensively which factored in him having a career-worst defensive rating of 105.1.
It’s a big year for Howard, who inked a three-year, $70.5 million deal this summer with the Hawks.
While he certainly was among the winners this summer in free agency by landing one of the larger contracts, he’ll be out to show that he’s still one of the game’s better centers.
Joakim Noah, New York Knicks
Injuries (and potentially Father Time?) made Noah a shell of the player NBA fans have loved while other loathed. That high-intensity, defensive-minded, gritty player was among the many factors that led to Chicago struggling so last season, and one of the many reasons why he’s no longer there.
With the Knicks, he’s close to home and will certainly look to bring back that edge which made him one of the league’s best defenders.
But again, it’s hard to say whether his issues had more to do with dealing with nagging injuries or whether the 31-year-old has simply lost a step or two and therefore can’t be as effective.
Regardless the reason, Noah has the kind of focus and intensity heading into this season that’s going to be a feast-or-famine situation for the Knicks.
He’s either going to be a special player and make the Knicks relevant again for something other than punchlines to jokes about bad teams. Or he’s going to be similar to what we saw with the Bulls last season … and it wasn’t pretty.
Because with a player like Noah, he plays too hard to be an average player.
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Last season did not end soon enough for Blake Griffin. There was the incident in which he hit an equipment manager and wound up missing games due to a broken hand.
That injury, which sidelined him for more than a month, came at a time when Griffin was close to returning to action after sustaining a partially torn left quadriceps tendon.
Once healthy, the Clippers hit him with a four-game suspension because of the incident.
Fast forward to the playoffs, a time of redemption many saw for Griffin.
The injury bug struck again, but this time it was not self-inflicted as Griffin re-aggravated the quadriceps injury and found himself out for the rest of the postseason.
It was that kind of season for Griffin who played in just 35 games last season.
While his numbers for the year were pretty good – 21.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists – they need that production for more than just 30 or so games.
And with this potentially being a contract year for him (Griffin can opt-out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent this summer), you can bet Griffin will be even more focused on doing all he can to help advance the Clippers deep into the postseason and only solidify his status as a max-salaried player.
Derrick Rose, New York Knicks
There is no accomplished player in the NBA with more to gain by having a strong season than Derrick Rose.
The injuries that have made him an afterthought by many in the NBA, after being its MVP just five years ago, are just sad.
In the three seasons leading up to being the 2011 MVP, he averaged 80 games played.
The four seasons since then (he missed all of the 2012-2013 season with a torn ACL injury) have seen him average just 41.5 games played.
Such long stretches of inactivity have created an ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ reality for Rose.
Because at the top of his game, Rose was as dynamic a player as you would find in this league. To be able to have a fresh start in New York after seeing his game fade into the NBA backdrop because of recurring injuries in Chicago, should bring out the absolute best in him as a New York Knick.
But there’s one big problem.
Can he stay on the floor long enough to make an impact?
Even with him at times looking hesitant or potentially having lost a step, Rose is still a difference-maker when he’s on the floor.
A healthy Rose playing with a (relatively) healthy Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah – there are legit concerns about their health as well – would be enough to make New York a legit playoff contender.
A healthier Rose would likely mean a more aggressive, getting-to-the-rim Rose, too.
Last season was a significant step forward in him re-establishing himself as a player who can get to the rim often.
According to NBA.com/stats, he averaged 8.9 drives per game last season which ranked 15th in the league.
That was a noticeable jump compared to 2014 and 2015 seasons he averaged 7.4 and 7.2 drives per game, respectively. Keeping him from getting to the paint is still a major challenge for any team defensively.
And his jumper which has never been a strength of his game, is solid enough to where you have to respect it and not just leave him open.
However, Rose has to improve defensively. Last season he had a defensive rating of 105.8, his worst since he had a 107.5 rating as a rookie.
Regardless of what statistic you cling to when it comes to Rose, he has to improve his overall game in order for this trade to work. And the only way he can do that is to stay healthy which when it comes to Rose, has been easier said than done.