As Draymond Green famously said - there are 82 game players and 16 game players. These 5 players were served the bitter truth this year, and their teams are facing tough decisions. Do you trade them, or you keep them? Here are the five most talked-about names in the NBA.
5. Dennis Schroder
Dennis Schroder was entrusted with the starting point guard slot after the Lakers let Rajon Rondo walk away last summer. For his part, the German guard managed to look like a legit point guard of the defending champions. For what it's worth, the former OKC player rejected a multi-year extension offer worth $84 million because he believes he deserves more. Now, that move seemed laughable to fans and experts because of his first round's performance. In Game 5 against the Suns, Schroder went scoreless in 26 minutes. He missed 9 FG attempts and four 3-point tries.
The poor display prompted a response from former Laker executive and franchise legend Magic Johnson who said, "I don't think he's a Laker." You can't blame a player who bets on himself, as Dennis did. But players have to back that up with court production and leadership. It’s one thing to miss shots, but as the point guard, he could have set plays for teammates or provide defense and contribute with steals or blocks.
Schroder managed to dish only one assist. It’s safe to say the team will not grant him his wish for a bigger paycheck. He might not even suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. In the end, he was only the one to blame. He should have accepted the guaranteed money. Now, Dennis finds himself at a crossroads in the offseason.
4. Kyle Kuzma
Kuzma was expected to bloom in the Lakers lineup after the team traded away Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart. The small forward showed flashes of potential during the regular season when his number was called., but he was getting inconsistent, especially during the Playoffs. As the expected third star in Los Angeles, Kuzma only averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds in six games in the 2021 playoffs.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis were not healthy this year, which factored in the team’s performance. But every Laker was expected to show up and contribute in the absence of their stars. What fans and experts saw clearly was that Kuzma had not progressed the way the Lakers organization had hoped. If the team looks to rebuild in the next few years, Kyle could be offered as part of a deal to other teams.
3. Joe Harris
While he can drive to the basket and drill short jumpers, Harris’s elite skill is shooting 3s. One of the main tasks of a shooter is to space the floor and help lighten the offensive burden of stars such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. However, with increased attention due to the absence of Irving and Harden, Harris wilted under Jrue Holiday’s pesky defense.
In the last 5 games against the Bucks, the outside sniper managed to convert 8 out of 33 beyond the arc. The Nets lost 4 of those games, and Harris was -51, proof of his inefficiency whenever on the floor. Durant almost single-handedly lifted Brooklyn to the Eastern Finals. But sadly, the performance of Harris, as well as other Nets players, dragged them down.
2. Kristaps Porzingis
The Dallas Mavericks fans had big reasons to look forward to the playoff rematch against the Los Angeles Clippers. The team was complete with a healthy Porzingis. Dallas even went up 2-0 but eventually lost 4-3 in a weird series against the Clippers. Naturally, fans blamed KP for his seemingly passive approach every game. He averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 7 games. These are decent numbers but far below the expected production from a max-salary player.
Before getting injured last year, KP averaged almost 24 points with 9 rebounds and a block in 3 playoff games against L.A. He was reduced to a floor spacer, and fans were frustrated for his lack of effort providing the second wall of defense or posting smaller guards thrown at him in the post. With his diminished impact in games, Dallas went out for the 2nd year in a row in the first round.
1. Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons’ kryptonite has always been his outside shooting. Since he arrived in the Association, Simmons was seen training his shot in offseason videos, year after year. He looked comfortable draining them consistently, but game time and the playoffs are different from summer workouts.
As the Philadelphia 76ers succumbed to the Atlanta Hawks, with the Eastern Conference finals berth at stake, fans were angered toward the performance of the power forward. Seen as the next LeBron James due to the similarity of their games and size, the truth is that Simmons is not yet ready for the playoffs where the stakes are higher. The series against the Hawks exacerbated his struggles.
At the free-throw line, the Australian shot only 33 percent against Atlanta. In the entire playoffs, he only managed to convert 34 percent of his freebies. In the process, Simmons entered the history books as the player with the worst free-throw percentage in the playoffs of all time. Right now, it is all mental for Ben. Expect the Sixers to explore options for him if they want to win it all next year. The only problem is, his value has never been lower. Once the centerpiece of a Harden trade, the Sixers would be lucky to get Zach Lavine right now.
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