Skip to content

Seven players who need to answer doubters, have big years

Oct 24, 2012, 6:37 PM EDT

John Wall AP

It’s time gentlemen.

Step up or be swept to the side.

There are a lot of players in the NBA who need to answer questions we have about them, but maybe none more than the seven below. These are players who either need to show how good they are to get paid next summer; or they just got the big payday and now need to prove they can live up to it.

These are guys who need to answer the doubters and prove their worth. Seven guys with a lot on the line this season.

1) John Wall (Washington Wizards): When the Wizards drafted Wall No. 1 overall they thought they were getting a franchise anchor, a guy you can build a contender around. But it hasn’t been that way — he was solid as a rookie and good in his sophomore campaign — he scored 16.3 points per game and added 8 assists per contest — but his game hasn’t developed like it needed to. The big issue is he has no jump shot you have to respect— he took 4.4 shots a game from 16 feet out to the arc last season and hit 29 percent of them. He’s not a real threat from three. You go under the pick on him.

Next summer Wall can get an extension to his rookie contract and the Wizards will have to decide what to do.

Wall is going to miss the first month of the season (until around Thanksgiving) due to a stress fracture in his patella. That will give the Wizards pause come next summer. When Wall does return he needs to show he can both play fast and under control, show he has a jump shot opponents have to respect, and show that he can lead. The time for excuses is over — the Wizards have cleaned up the locker room culture and brought in veteran professionals like Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. It’s on Wall now to show what he can do.

2) Al Jefferson (Utah Jazz): How much would you pay to have Al Jefferson to be your center? That’s the question before NBA GMs next summer when Jefferson becomes a free agent — how he plays this season will impact how many zeroes are on future checks. And likely where he plays. Jefferson is solid offensively — you get him the ball on the block and he’s going to score about two thirds of the time, plus he shot 40 percent outside 10 feet last season so you have to respect the shot. He’s not going to draw fouls. He can defend the post pretty well but get him out in the pick-and-roll and he gets destroyed. If he improves that P&R defense his value goes up, and he is just 27. There’s a lot to like and he’s going to get paid. The question is how much? And by whom? Is Utah really going to spend on him?

3) O.J. Mayo (Dallas Mavericks): In Memphis, Mayo could never find a fit with the Grizzlies’ big front line and Rudy Gay. They tried him as a starter, sixth man, lots of roles but nothing clicked. Memphis actually let Mayo walk without getting anything for him (which was a mistake). Mayo’s agent’s phone was not ringing all that often, so Mayo took a contract with a Dallas Mavericks team that needs scoring. Mayo is going to get the chance to work off the ball and show he can catch-and-shoot when Darren Collison has the rock. He’s going to get to run some pick and rolls with Dirk Nowitizki. If he proves he can score and fit in then Mayo can turn down the $4.2 million option he has with Dallas next season and get a bigger payday. But he’s going to have to prove he deserves it.

4) Brook Lopez (Brooklyn Nets): Brook Lopez, max contract. In a summer where a few contracts had you shaking your head, this one was one of the biggies. The Nets got out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes to keep Lopez and max him out. And on offense he’s worth it — Lopez is a gifted scorer who averaged 20.4 points a game two seasons ago. But he lost last season to a case of mono then a foot injury. But the bigger issue is he is not a good rebounder or defender at all. Fellow front line guy Kris Humphries can cover his rebounding woes, but the Nets need him to be a force in the paint on defense to make any real waves this season. Lopez got the max deal, now can he just make the Nets and their fans not regret it.

5) Eric Gordon (New Orleans Hornets): Here’s a guy who has to redeem himself more to his own fan base than anybody else. All New Orleans fans have heard is how he is arguably the best young two guard in the game and how he and Anthony Davis can form the foundation of a contender down the line.

All they’ve seen is a guy injured all but nine games of last season and then all of this preseason. They’ve seen a guy who signed a max offer sheet from Phoenix last summer then publically begged the Hornets not to it. They did anyway. Gordon needs to get on the court and win over the New Orleans fans, because so far he has not come close to living up to the hype since he went East in the Chris Paul trade.

6) Jeff Green (Boston Celtics): It is great to see Jeff Green back on the court. After missing a year due to heart surgery, I think everyone around the league is all happy to see him back and playing again. That doesn’t mean any of us understand the four-year, $36 million contract the Celtics gave him this summer. That was a huge commitment to a guy who didn’t merit it from his play in Oklahoma City (where his numbers were average and his defense unimpressive). For a guy coming off heart surgery.

But Boston is using Green more at the three (he was an undersized four a lot for OKC) and they are going with smaller lineups. In the preseason it seems to have worked — Green has been very impressive and able to show off his athleticism. But that’s the preseason, where you play against makeshift lineups and usually not the other team’s top talent. Green needs to have big a big year and earn a salary nearly double the average NBA player if Boston is going to be a top three seed in the East and threat to Miami. Green will be key for them this season. And the three after that.

7) Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings): There are not enough Jägermeister shots in all of Sacramento to get GM Geoff Petrie drunk enough to offer Evans a contract extension in the next week — Evans is going to be a restricted free agent next summer. And how he plays this season will determine how much he gets paid and where he plays next year.

Evans was a rookie of the year averaging 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game, but his game stalled after that. Part of that was injuries, but a bigger part was him never developing a reliable jump shot. As a rookie he slashed to the rim with the best of them, but as his jump shot weakness was game planned for his driving angles disappeared and so did his efficiency. This season Evans must show he can work off the ball, that he has a jump shot and that his game is more than just being a slasher from the wing. Do that and he gets paid (maybe by the Kings, who would still like to pair him with DeMarcus Cousins). Do that and he can start to become the guy we all thought he would be after his rookie season. Don’t and he will not like his options next summer.

Latest Posts
  1. 67RIEFNS No. 27: Chandler Parsons in the spotlight

    Oct 22, 2014, 9:20 PM EDT

    Preseason - Dallas Mavericks v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Rockets downgraded Parsons, but he’ll have a chance to reach new heights with Mavericks

  2. Phil Jackson breaks down the Knicks roster. He’s high on Shumpert, says Carmelo must move ball

    Oct 22, 2014, 6:21 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks

    Phil Jackson has spoken to the media more than the previous three GMs ever did, I think.

  3. Commissioner Adam Silver talked television money, what it could mean for potential 2017 lockout

    Oct 22, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT

    Adam Silver Adam Silver

    “ We still have roughly a third of our teams that are not profitable under the current system, despite revenue sharing.” —Adam Silver

  4. Other highlights from NBA’s GM survey: Some thought Chicago had better summer than Cleveland

    Oct 22, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day Getty Images

    Oddest vote of the survey — 10.7 percent of GMs thought Chicago had a better offseason than Cleveland.

  5. Jeff Van Gundy: Confusing a system (like the Triangle Offense) with reason for success is ‘a huge mistake’

    Oct 22, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson answers questions at a post-game news conference following Game 4 of their NBA Western Conference semi-final basketball playoff against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas Reuters

    Van Gundy says players are responsible for wins and losses, not systems — like the one Phil Jackson is bringing to the Knicks this season.

  6. Five top candidates for NBA Rookie of the Year

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:58 PM EDT

    Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks

    This could be the year a big man breaks the string of guards winning the award.

  7. Paul Pierce on players switching teams in free agency: ‘It’s a great thing for our league’

    Oct 22, 2014, 2:13 PM EDT

    Paul Pierce AP

    Pierce played 15 years for the Celtics, but is now with his second new team in as many seasons with the Wizards.

  8. Celtics trying to trade Will Bynum, who they recently acquired from Pistons

    Oct 22, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT

    Miami Heat v Detroit Pistons Getty Images

    Boston is hoping to get an asset in return for Bynum instead of simply waiving him.

  9. NBA GMs surveyed predict LeBron will win MVP, Spurs will repeat as champions

    Oct 22, 2014, 12:04 PM EDT

    2014 NBA Finals - Game Five Getty Images

    There are plenty more interesting tidbits in the league’s annual survey.

  10. Owners vote down NBA Draft lottery reform, system to stay same for this season

    Oct 22, 2014, 11:23 AM EDT

    David Griffin, Jeff Cohen David Griffin, Jeff Cohen

    It may come up again, but for one more season at least Philadelphia’s uber-tanking system will pay dividends.

  11. George Hill leaves with knee injury, creating more problems for Pacers

    Oct 22, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    George Hill AP

    In addition to losing its two best playmakers in the offseason. Indiana has struggled with injuries.

  12. ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 preview: Houston Rockets

    Oct 22, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Houston Rockets Media Day Getty Images

    This is a team where winning 50 games and exiting in the first round would feel like a big disappointment.

  13. Chris Kaman suffers head laceration thanks to the teeth of Timofey Mozgov (VIDEO)

    Oct 22, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Utah Jazz v Portland Trail Blazers Utah Jazz v Portland Trail Blazers

    Inadvertent collision resulted in Kaman needing stitches in the back of his head.

Featured video

Lakers, Celtics among lottery bound teams
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Bryant (4470)
  2. B. Lopez (4153)
  3. D. Rose (3879)
  4. J. Lin (3817)
  5. E. Payton (3817)