Exercises In Futility:The 50 Worst NBA Rotation Players, 30-21

Photo by iLikeSpoons on Flickr

A Danny Chau and James Herbert collaboration

 

It’s been a summer of lists — or at least that’s how it has seemed. Over the past few weeks the NBA blogosphere has been inundated with them. Some see them as a pointless exercise in futility (you see what I did there), but no matter where you stand on the idea of ranking players, it makes for conversation. And this has been an offseason starved of honest-to-goodness basketball-related talking points.Inspired by Top 100 lists created by Zach Lowe over at Sports Illustrated’s The Point Forward and the trio running CBSSports’ Eye-On-Basketball, we decided to run in the opposite direction. What if we ranked the worst players?So we set some guidelines and shortened the list down to 50. For one, all players had to have averaged 15 minutes of playing time last season. An arbitrary number, yes, but it kept things consistent.

And it’ll soon be evident (at least it was for us) that when ranking the worst, there really isn’t much of a formula. Arguments can be made for most of these players as the worst. We did our best to take context and potential into consideration, but this list is completely open-ended — that same open-endedness fuels the chaos, riles up emotion, and makes things fun.

Here are 50-41 and 40-31. Let’s continue with 30-21.

 

30. Louis Amundson
PF, Golden State Warriors

Louis Amundson is a solid energy guy who can make your defense better. At his best, for a good team he’s worth a two-year, $4.6 million contract. Unfortunately, last year’s Warriors were not a good team and they never saw his best. Amundson appeared in only 46 games as a result of a broken finger, sprained ankle, and back spasms.

When he played, he was even worse than usual offensively. Never one to exhibit any semblance of touch around the basket, Amundson’s FG% dropped to .454. Unless he was dunking or shooting an uncontested layup, you pretty much knew he’d miss. And with his FT% slipping to .391 (seriously), he became a huge liability. If we attribute this drop-off to injuries alone, then there’s reason to be optimistic about next season. It’s hard to be too positive about an unskilled veteran, though.

Turning 29 in December, Lou could still be useful if he can get those percentages back up. With David Lee, Ekpe Udoh, Andris Biedrins, and now Jeremy Tyler in the Bay Area, he might need a chance to do so elsewhere. -JH

29. Travis Outlaw
F, New Jersey Nets

It annoys me that Travis Outlaw is on this list. While he’s not going to shed the “overpaid” label or become the star we wanted him to be, he should be a fine rotation piece. His game isn’t exactly well-rounded and he gets lost on defense, but there’s plenty of value in a 6’9 guy who can create a decent shot whenever he wants to. The guy we saw in Portland, when healthy, was far from one of the 50-worst rotation players in the league. His two-point jumpers off the dribble weren’t advisable for most players, but Outlaw hit them.

Last year, though… Ugh. His numbers. They were disgusting:

28.8 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, .375 FG%, .302 3P%.

The man’s PER was 8.8. I like Travis Outlaw, but do you want me to try to justify these figures? I can’t. No one can. Outlaw was just about the worst rotation player in the league in 2010-2011. If you’re a Nets fan, you can only pray that it was an aberration. A terrible, terrible aberration. -JH

28. Derek Fisher
PG, Los Angeles Lakers

Putting a label on what Derek Fisher does on the court isn’t very fun. He is a liability in most areas of the game, and his point production has steadily dropped over the last four years. This isn’t necessarily an indictment on his abilities as a player — after all, the Lakers boast one of the most talented and versatile rosters in the league — but shows a natural decline, which tends to happen when you’re 37 and have played all 82 regular season games (not even counting the postseason games) for the last six years.

So with every argument that places Fisher among the worst players in the league, there is a caveat. Add all the caveats up, and it’s pretty clear that he isn’t the worst player (though he isn’t that far off). Let’s take a few things into consideration: He’s one of the smartest players in the league. He’s a natural leader, and a shoo-in as a future coach. He’s beyond durable and he’s consistent. From that perspective, his slowness, ability to blow every single layup he takes whether guarded or not, inability to do ANYTHING against quicker guards doesn’t seem that awful, right?

All of these gripes have existed for years, and it’s only gotten worse. Last I checked, Fisher was supposed to be replaced about 15 years ago. And yet, Ol’ Reliable is still firmly planted in the Lakers’ starting lineup. But at this point in his career, he really, really shouldn’t be. And we all know this. -DC

27. Quentin Richardson
G/F, Orlando Magic

Outside of Dwight Howard, Quentin Richardson was arguably the best individual defender on the Orlando Magic. Injury and conditioning issues have chipped away at his athleticism, but he is still a tall and physical defender that isn’t afraid to take on challenges. Richardson has grown out of the flash that defined his earlier seasons, which has done wonders for his defense.

“Then why is he on this list?”, you ask.

Because he shot 34.1% from the field, and a blinding 28.8% from three. Q was never known for his efficiency (he’s a career sub-40% shooter), but last year was nuclear fallout bad.
 
This, of course, came after his season with Miami in which he boasted a career-high three-point percentage. Richardson still has what it takes to be one of the better role players in the league, but it all hinges on his shot, and whether its abandonment is permanent. Teams won’t be able to justify playing on a solid defender if there is zero utility elsewhere. -DC

26. Vladimir Radmanovic
F, Golden State Warriors (FA)

The above play surprised pretty much nobody who has seen Vladimir Radmanovic play basketball. He can be an excellent spot-up three-point shooter, but you just can’t trust him. The Warriors would go on to lose the game in overtime.

You could argue that we’re being harsh on Vlad Rad with this ranking. After shooting miserably for the Warriors in 2009-2010, he returned to a level of efficiency he hadn’t achieved since his Laker days. The problem is that efficiency is just about his only positive attribute. Radmanovic won’t help his team on defense or on the boards, despite being 6’10 and kind of mobile. If you absolutely need a floor-spacer, he can play, but he’ll hurt you in other areas and test your sanity a little. If you’re like me, when you hear “Radmanovic” you think of poor effort and decision-making before you think of sweet shooting. -JH

25. Carlos Arroyo
PG, Boston Celtics (FA)

I’d like Carlos Arroyo to write a book. He could teach us about basketball in Puerto Rico. He could tell us how a 39-year-old Hakeem Olajuwon got along with a 25-year-old Vince Carter. He could share stories about Stockton and Malone, LeBron and Wade, KG and Ray, and both Supermen. Don’t you want to know what it’s like to go from a star on the international stage in summertime to being a second- or third-string guy in the winter? I do.

…but I don’t want him playing many minutes on my team anymore. Unlike young, flashy Carlos, he won’t hurt you out there, but he’s not contributing much beyond spot-up shooting. If the Heat release you to make room for Mike f’ing Bibby, you belong on this list. -JH

24. Al Thornton
SF, Golden State Warriors (FA)

Al Thornton is a terrific athlete.

Okay, now onto the bad news. Al Thornton is not very good. He is your least favorite offensive dynamo without any of the redeeming qualities that player might possess. He is Al Harrington without the three-point range. He is Corey Maggette without the overbearing strength and nose for contact. He is Josh Howard, except he’s Josh Howard strapped to a malfunctioning jetpack. Unfortunately, he lost the device that controls the thrusters, so he flies and crashes intermittently, and he can’t do anything about it. -DC

23. Mo Evans
SF, Washington Wizards (FA)

-JH

22. Keyon Dooling
PG, Milwaukee Bucks

I like Keyon Dooling. I really do. But between last season and his prospects looking forward, there is little reason why he shouldn’t be on this list.

Dooling joined the Bucks as a stopgap at the reserve point guard position. He replaced Luke Ridnour, who had his most effective season ever backing up and playing alongside Brandon Jennings. Dooling embraced his role as a mentor at the get-go. But as a point guard, Dooling’s first year as a Buck was lukewarm at the very best. With the team’s lack of consistent shooting options, the Bucks needed someone like Ridnour, who was both an excellent distributor and a reliable spot-up shooter. With Jennings’ erratic season, the Bucks needed a stabilizer like Ridnour. Dooling was a willing player, but he just didn’t have the skills to compensate for what Jennings in his current state lacks.

With Shaun Livingston joining the team next season, Dooling will have his hands full trying to stay relevant on a revamped roster. He’s developed into a solid distributor, but his defense, which had always been a plus, began to slip. Next year will determine whether or not Dooling is in the midst of a major decline, or whether it was more of a systemic issue. Either way, Dooling is teetering on the edge of irrelevance. -DC

21. A.J. Price
PG, Indiana Pacers

There is very little that separates A.J. Price’s rookie season with last season statistically — unless you notice (which you should) that his shooting percentages in all areas took a nosedive. This could partially be explained by former Pacers coach Jim O’Brien’s awfully inconsistent rotations, or because Price just isn’t that great of a shooter.

His performance in the five-game playoff series against the Bulls was admirable, and does speak reasonably well for his future, but with the addition of George Hill, Price’s primary backup point guard role might be tinkered with a bit.

Ultimately, Price wasn’t very good last year, and his shooting numbers (which were on par with fellow stinker Quentin Richardson) serve as evidence. But there’s still time. Price has more than a decade to reach his ultimate destiny of being a poor man’s Derek Fisher. I make that comparison with the most positive of intentions, hopefully. -DC

Seth Carstens