The NBA has made it’s living on somehow pairing all-time great players with some of its most functional and successful franchises: Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, Larry Bird and the Celtics, and more recently Luka Doncic with the Mavericks, somehow it just seems to workout. Unfortunately for some of the biggest stars in the league, they aren’t lucky enough to get paired with a responsible franchise and end up toiling in mediocrity for most of their careers: Kevin Garnett with the Timberwolves had some years but largely struggled to stay relevant, Oscar Robertson with the Cincinnati Royals, and Anthony Davis with the Pelicans had a rough time for most of their careers. In today’s NBA as several stars team up with each other to form super teams there are plenty of superstar players who get screwed and are stuck trying to carry a hopeless franchise all by themselves. Here are the top five current NBA stars who are stuck on some really shitty teams.
5.) Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young could have an amazing NBA career and go down as one of the legends of the league and will still mostly be known as the player the Hawks traded Luka Doncic for. That’s an insane statement since Young dropped 29.6 points per game and 9.3 assists and was voted in as an all-star starter last season as a 21-year-old. Unfortunately for Young he was drafted by the Hawks who have been one of the worst franchises since absolutely blowing the Doncic/Young trade in 2018. Young has led the Hawks to a 54-107 record so far in his young career. The Hawks swung for the fences this offseason signing Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, and Bogdan Bogdanvić to compliment their young core. Atlanta was the team that most NBA pundits saw taking a huge leap into the playoffs this season. That has not materialized so far as the Hawks sit in 10th place in the East at 5-7. After a hot 3-0 start Atlanta has dropped seven of its last nine games and Trae Young has struggled. Over the last nine games Young is averaging just 19.6 points per game on 34.2 percent shooting from the field and 20.4 percent from three. Some attribute Young’s rough patch to comments made by teammate and former friend John Collins who criticized how Trae Young runs the offense. Bad franchises find ways to screw good things up and now it seems like Atlanta’s two young stars are beefing and the Hawks may be more open to trading Collins. Perhaps the Hawks should have just stood pat at number three in the 2018 draft and taken the NBA’s number one boy Luka Doncic instead of making what will go down in history as one of the worst trades off all-time even if Young is a perennial all-star.
4.) De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
Another team that blew their chance at drafting Doncic, the Sacramento Kings tuck in right behind the Minnesota Timberwolves as the worst NBA franchise over the last decade and a half. The Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2006, the longest active playoff drought in the league. Fox has blossomed into one of the better point guards in the NBA and should be leading a fast paced high flying Kings team that has the talent to compete for a play-in spot. Alas Sacramento is trash and it’s no wonder Lady Bird wanted to get out as fast as she could. Fox could do the same if the status quo in California’s capital doesn’t change soon. The Kings are so pathetic they have had not one but two fathers of players (including Fox’s) tweet about trading Marvin Bagley III. Fox is signed through the 2025-26 season so there’s no rush to put a winning product around him, and there are already signs of improvement. Sacramento capitalized off of the failures of 11 other teams who passed on Tyrese Haliburton in the 2020 NBA Draft. The combo guard from Iowa State is off to an impressive start to his career and looks like a perfect pair alongside Fox in the backcourt. If history has taught us anything though it is to be wary of the Kings, they will inevitably find a way to fuck things up in the saddest way possible.
3.) Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have been literal garbage since trading Jimmy Butler for Zach LaVine during the 2017 NBA Draft. Since that trade the six-time NBA Champions are 76-166, third worst in the league just ahead of the Knicks and Hawks. During that time LaVine has been arguably the best player in the league to not make and all-star appearance. The 2014 first round pick for the Timberwolves is averaging 23.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game in 160 games in the Windy City. LaVine has held up his end of the bargain, but the Bulls have completely failed to surround him with a competent supporting cast. The young core of LaVine, Coby White, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., and Patrick Williams has loads of potential, but has yet to put together anything that resembles winning basketball. All five are 25-years-old or younger so there is plenty of time to right the ship, but LaVine’s contract runs out after the 2021-22 season so the clock is ticking to win some games before he walks in free agency.
2.) Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
At this point you just have to feel bad for Towns in Minnesota. The former first overall pick is one of the 10 most talented players in the league and has been absolutely wasted with one of the worst franchises in the four major sports. Towns has made the playoffs just once in his six seasons in the league, and that was all thanks to his best good friend Jimmy Butler in 2018. Aside from the best friends gang of Butler, Towns, and Andrew Wiggins getting douchebag swept by the top-seeded Houston Rockets in their lone playoff apperance, the Wolves are 118-203 since drafting Towns first overall out of Kentucky in 2015. Towns has done nearly everything asked of him in his still young career including winning Rookie of the Year in 2016, making two all-star teams and being selected to the All-NBA third team in 2018. The Wolves threw caution to the wind last year in a desperate attempt to build a winner in Minneapolis, and more importantly keep Towns happy, by trading Wiggins and a 2021 first round pick to the Warriors for Town’s actual best good friend D’Angelo Russell. The result of the trade hasn’t rocketed Minnesota into the playoff race like most fans were hoping. The Wolves are the worst team in the West at 3-8 and sport the second worst defense in the league. Somehow the silver lining of all of this turmoil is that Towns has been injured for most of the season missing six games with a dislocated wrist. Minnesota is 2-2 with Towns in the lineup and have looked like a competent team with him and have been absolute trash without him. More bad news for us Wolves fans as Towns has tested positive for COVID-19 and will sit out for the next several games. It’s a scary situation for Towns and his family who have already lost seven family members, including Towns’ mother Jacqueline, to COVID-19 in the past year. KAT still has three years left on his contract, but if the Wolves continue to flounder and they miss out on their first round pick this season it could be time to at least start opening up trade talks for the face of their franchise.
1.) Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
For the love of your man made gods somebody please get Bradley Beal as far away from Washington as possible. For most NBA fans it seems like Beal has been toiling away as a superstar in a hopeless situation for his entire career, but it might surprise most that the Wizards have only missed the playoffs for the last two seasons. In 2017 the Wizards were a team on the rise, the fourth seed in the East and John Wall was jumping on the scorers table after he hit a game winning three to beat the Celtics and force a game seven (that the Wizards lost) in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Things were looking up in D.C. ( at least on the basketball court, not for, you know, the country) but four years later and the Wizards are one of the most hapless franchises in the NBA. Beal is doing all he can to keep the Wizards from becoming the laughing stock of the league. The two-time all-star scored 60 points in a loss against the 76ers earlier this month and it’s starting to weigh on one of the best offensive players in the league. Beal has made remarks that he’s “pissed off” and the Wizards “can’t guard a parked car“, which is true, they have the 28th ranked defense in the league this season. The NBA’s leading scorer this season is on a 3-8 team and is now firmly on the trading block and even Wizards fans have to come to terms that it’s time for him to go.
It’s not all doom and gloom for these franchise cornerstones. As we’ve seen throughout history some all-time great players who start their career’s with a shitty franchise go on to leave them in the dust and win championships with another team. As previously mentioned Kevin Garnett spent 12 seasons trying to lift Minnesota to a title all by himself before eventually cracking and asking for a trade. Garnett was traded to the Celtics in 2007 and won his first and only championship of his career the next season. The Big O toiled away for 10 season in Cincinnati before finally teaming up with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to win a championship in his first season in Milwaukee in 1971. Are any of our current stars KG or Oscar? Two of the 25 best players in NBA history? Probably not but that doesn’t mean they can’t follow the same path and find glory somewhere else, it just takes one public trade request to get the ball rolling.