Top 5 NBA Stars Stuck on Shitty Teams

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.

Is Karl-Anthony Towns the Next Chris Bosh?

While the Coronavirus has halted the NBA season, it’s time for some NBA stars to take a step-back and evaluate the trajectory their careers can take. One of those young stars is Timberwolves Center Karl-Anthony Towns. The 24-year-old still has all the potential in the world to grow into one of the most dominant players in the league, but if he wants to cement his legacy and win a championship, Towns may have to look at how former NBA star Chris Bosh took his legacy into his own hands and became a future Hall of Famer.

Karl-Anthony Towns was drafted first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2015 NBA Draft. Some saw him as a transcendent big-man, a possible savior for the worst franchise in the NBA. While his numbers have been great in his first four-plus years (22.7 points 11.8 rebounds per game) his teams have not had the same success. The Wolves have won 29, 31, 47(Jimmy Butler season), 36, and 19 games when this season was suspended. That’s not a huge difference from what Bosh did during his first five seasons in the league. In those seasons Bosh averaged 18.9 points and nine rebounds a game and lead the Raptors to 33, 33, 27, 47, and 41 wins. In five years of service both made the playoffs once, with Bosh earning one more All-Star nod (3 to 2).

Bosh spent two more seasons floundering north of the border in Toronto. He became known as a talented forward who put up big stats on mediocre teams. That perception all changed when he decided to team-up with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010. The rest is history, the Heatles eventually bagged two championships in four years and became one of the best big-threes of all-time, cementing Bosh’s legacy as one of the greats.

To go down in history as an all-time great player Towns may have to follow in Bosh’s footsteps. This will be difficult because Towns is in the first-year of a five-year extension. He could force his way out of Minnesota, but won’t have much leverage for another two or three years. The other question is who will want to team up with Towns in order to create a championship caliber team? The go to answer for who Towns would team up with always seems to come down to the same guys; D’Angelo Russell and Devin Booker.  Towns and Russell are already teammates with the Wolves but have only shared the court for one game together. Even if the three amigos somehow find their way to the same team through free agency or trades, it would be hard to conceive of a team anchored by Towns, Booker, and Russell as being legitimate title threats. All three are great offensive players, but are some of the worst defenders in the league. That wouldn’t be quite the same as Bosh landing with Wade and James, two top five players in 2010 and both top-25 players of all-time.To have the success (and luck) that Bosh found, Towns would need to upgrade his friends list significantly. Maybe Kawhi Leonard opts out of his Clippers deal after two years and wants to grab onto a younger star to keep his championship window open. Maybe young stars like Luka Doncic or Zion Williamson become the next wave of transcendent players and need a sidekick. The dream scenario and one that mirrors Bosh’s very closely would be if Towns found a way to team up with Kawhi and Damian Lillard. That team could compete and would give Towns a legitimate chance at multiple titles and redefine his legacy.

Towns has endless potential to still put together an amazing NBA career, but considering a Bosh like second act as a third banana could cement Towns as a sure-fire future Hall of Famer. Check back in 2035 to see which way his career goes.

Minnesota Timberwolves season review

The Minnesota Timberwolves were finally bounced from the playoffs on Wednesday by the Rockets in Game 5 of the first round series 122-104. It was the first playoff appearance for the franchise since 2004. This season definitely had its ups and downs, but the season as a whole should be seen as a success.

Minnesota won 47 games this season, 16 more than the previous year. A lot f that can be contributed to the new additions of Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford. Butler was the key piece as he led the team in scoring and was top-10 MVP candidate until his knee injury in February. Karl-Anthony Towns notched his first all-star selection and is still coming into his own as a 22-year-old budding superstar. Role players like Tyus Jones and Nemanja Bjelica showed improvement in their third years with the team. There is plenty to like about the Timberwolves going forward but that doesn’t mean there weren’t bad signs this year.

The team struggled without Jimmy Butler in the lineup. Butler missed 23 games this year, in which Minnesota went 10-13. That could be chalked up to tough competition in those games, but it shows the Wolves relied too heavily on Butler this season. The young duo of Towns and Wiggins couldn’t step up to lead the team without Butler, and that resulted in sliding to the 8th seed and barely making the playoffs.

Speaking of Wiggins, he regressed majorly from the 2016-17 season to have his worst season as a pro. His shooting was down across the board, especially looking at his unexplainable 12% drop in free throw percentage. He seemed especially disengaged this year, and disappeared for quarters and halves at a time this season. While he may have made marginal improvements on defense, his overall game took a huge dive.

Overall though I think the season was a success, and showed why the Butler trade was necessary. I’ll grade it out as a B since the trajectory the Wolves were on before the Butler injury was the three or the four seed. If they grabbed a higher seed, maybe they would still be playing.

Looking ahead to next year it will be really interesting to see who they can add through free agency and the draft. Limited cap space may make adding a significant piece difficult. Hopefully they can add a three and D player or two to improve the bench and take the team to the next level next season.

The Timberwolves finally don’t suck anymore

For the first time since I was 13 years old the Minnesota Timberwolves are headed to the playoffs. That long gap spanning half my life sucked since I grew up in the Kevin Garnett era and watched the Timberwolves make the playoffs eight straight years from 1996-97 to 2003-04. I thought that as long as Garnett was on the team they would be contenders forever. But those dreams came crashing down as they missed the playoffs the season after making it to the Western Conference Finals. After that they traded the greatest player in franchise history for Al Jefferson and a bunch of nobodies. That’s when I figured out it was time for a rebuild, but I had no idea that rebuild would take well over a decade to complete.

The one thing that comes to mind during 14 years between playoff appearances, other than god awful basketball, was really crappy drafts. I always got excited for the drafts, especially when the Wolves had high picks, because it meant a new era could possibly start. They had some seemingly nice drafts from 2006-2008 drafting Brandon Roy, but trading him for Randy Foye in 2006, drafting Corey Brewer in 2007, and taking O.J. Mayo, but flipping him for Kevin Love in 2008. Put those guys together with young star Al Jefferson, and you would have thought the Wolves were on a decent track. Both Foye and Brewer had a few mediocre years before departing, but Kevin Love turned into a star and future building block. Then the most infamous draft in recent history happened. Minnesota had three first round picks in the 2009 draft. Seemingly ready to add some major talent to its team, David Kahn made what will go down as one of the biggest draft day blunders of all time. He chose Spanish phenom Ricky Rubio with the 5th pick, then turned around and took another point guard, Jonny Flynn with the 6th pick (and a third point guard, Ty Lawson with the 18th pick). It seemed like a huge draft at the time. Rubio and Kevin love could be the dynamic duo that the Wolves needed to get back to prominence, while Flynn and others could form a solid supporting cast. But there was one name in the draft that will forever be linked to the Wolves futility in the 2000s, that being Steph Curry. The NCAA tournament darling out of Davidson wasn’t supposed to be a great all around player. He might provide some shooting help, but couldn’t be a point guard and run a team is what scouts said before the draft. As we all know Curry went on to win two straight MVP awards and lead the Golden State Warriors to two NBA Championships in the past three years, while becoming one of the biggest superstars of this generation. The Wolves had two chances to nab the five time all-star, but instead got a huge bust in Flynn, and had to wait two years for Rubio to come from Spain and become a slightly above average NBA player. That draft alone set the franchise back several years. Minnesota had a string of first round busts in the years afterwards. They picked Wes Johnson fourth overall in 2010, Derrick Williams second in 2011, and traded Trey Burke for Shabazz Muhammad in 2013. Minnesota struck out in the draft more times than any other franchise, and I began to think we would never had another superstar again. Finally some hope emerged when The Wolves traded disgruntled star Kevin love to Cleveland for their two straight number one overall picks (Anthony Bennett from the 2013 draft, and Andrew Wiggins from the 2014 draft). This excited me as Wiggins was dubbed Maple Jordan and was one of the most highly anticipated phenoms in recent years (we all knew Bennett was terrible already).

Another major reason for the decade and a half long struggle was the absolute inability to find a decent coach. After the conference finals run in 2004, Flip Saunders returned with largely the same team. After  going just 25-26 through the first 51 games, he was fired and replaced by executive turned coach Kevin McHale, who for his efforts went 19-12 down the stretch, albeit failing to make the playoffs. Dwane Casey stepped in the next season going 33-49. The Current Toronto Raptors head coach actually had the Wolves off to a decent start in the 2006-07 season, but was fired to give Randy Whittman a crack at the position. The Wolves finished an abysmal 12-30 under Whittman to close out the season 32-50. He was back again next year and somehow got worse as the Wolves went 22-60 in his only full season. He only got 19 games of the 2008-09 season before enough was enough. He went 4-15 and was replaced by McHale again, who guided the team to another terrible 24-58 record. Then there was hope for the 2009-10 season, and hopes name was Kurt Rambis. Rambis was a hot commodity in the coaching world having been an assistant for the Lakers for four championships, including the previous season. That hope fizzled quickly as he amassed an amazingly bad 32-132 record over two season and was fired. After that even more hope for the franchise came in it’s next coach, Rick Adelman. Adelman was one of the greatest coaches in NBA history when he took over the struggling Timberwolves. He made his name guiding the early 90’s Trail Blazer squads to perennial playoff appearances, and did the same with the Chris Webber led Sacramento Kings teams of the early 2000’s. Most Timberwolves fans, including myself figured he would be the one to get us back to the playoffs. While he may have had the best run for a Timberwolves coach since Flip Saunders, it wasn’t enough to get into the playoffs. Minnesota won 26, 31, and 40 games in Adelman’s tenure thanks to the rise of Kevin love, and he was fired after three seasons. The white night of the franchise, Flip Saunders returned for another go with the Wolves, taking up a position as head coach after already becoming the President of Basketball Operations the previous year. Minnesota bottomed out at 16-66 that year but thankfully got the first overall pick.

For the first time in franchise history the Timberwolves were awarded the number one overall pick in the 2015 draft. After some debate over who to pick it became obvious that Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns was the selection. They took Towns and planned to start him slow, but after putting up rookie numbers not seen since Tim Duncan, Wolves fans finally had some hope for the future. Tragically Flip Saunders passed away in October 2015, just before the season began. Sam Mitchell took over, guiding the young Wolves through some growing pains to a 29-53 record. Another turning point came that offseason when former Chicago Bulls head man Tom Thibodeau was hired as the head coach. Thibs led the Bulls to the playoffs in all five years he was there. Finally the Wolves had a blueprint for success. After they only managed 31 wins in the 2016-17 season though, enough was enough and it was time for the Timberwolves to make their biggest splash since trading away Kevin Garnett ten years prior.

The 2017 NBA draft was huge for the franchise not because of who they picked, but a blockbuster trade that changed the entire landscape of the league. The Wolves traded Kris Dunn, Zach Lavine, and the 7th overall pick (that would become Lauri Markkanen) for Butler, and the 16th overall pick (Justin Patton). Butler was a three time all-star, and one of the league’s top two way players. The excitement around the team was the highest since playing the Lakers in the 2004 Wester Conference Finals. With Butler, Wiggins, Towns and later additions of Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, and Jamal Crawford, the playoffs were finally in sight.

Many thought the Wolves could compete in the West right away. They were chosen to be the fourth or fifth best team in the conference by many experts. They started to look the part right away, reaching as high as the three seed in the West. But Butler injured his knee, and the Wolves sputtered without him going 8-9 in his absence. Luckily he came back just in time to lead Minnesota into the playoffs with an overtime win against Denver in the regular season finale, in which Butler scored 30 points with five assists and five rebounds. The 8th seed isn’t glamorous, and isn’t quite where hopeful Wolves fans saw this team ending the regular season, but a playoff berth is a playoff berth in the eyes of fans waiting a generation for their team to get back in the postseason.

Now hopefully they don’t get embarrassed by the Rockets in round one. My prediction: Wolves steal a home game, but the Rockets blow them out for three of their four wins and take the series in five games.