Throughout NBA history there have been talents that were measured by an hourglass. Eventually, their stardom would run out and they would fade away. Only, to leave us fans wondering about what happened and what could’ve been? All of these players that will be mentioned in this article had their time in the limelight as stars.
They all lost their stardom for different reasons. I am going discuss who they were as players at the peak of their talent and what led to their downfall. For the record, all of these players currently still play in the NBA, just in a much smaller and reduced role on their respective teams. Here are 5 players whose stardom faded.
5. Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin’s story is quite different than many other everyday players because his career didn’t start on stardom. It was bridged by it. Jeremy Lin started to receive serious minutes and the starting point guard role after Baron Davis went down with an elbow infection and back injury. During the Final 26 games of the 2011-12 season, Linsanity became a thing. That is what they labeled Jeremy Lin’s brief rise to stardom because it came out of nowhere. In the final 26 games, Lin averaged 18.5 ppg and 7.6 apg as the New York Knicks starting point guard. To make a long story seemingly short, his star stock would only fall fast from here.
In the off-season, the New York Knicks elected not to match the Houston Rockets offer of 3 years/$25 Million for Lin and just like that he was a Rocket. Coach Kevin McHale had unrealistic expectations for Jeremy Lin that he could be the face of their youth movement. Meanwhile, he was still viewed as nothing more than a bench player at best by other NBA executives. His best season with the Rockets included a solid performance of 13.4 ppg and 6.1 apg. Solid is good for a role player, not for a star. Fast forward years later, he’s been passed around the league more than the offering plate at your local church. Now, he’s banking on his Brooklyn Nets being a playoff team. Maybe he has a career in comedy? That would be Linsanity for you.
4. Deron Williams
At one point in time, Deron Williams was arguably the best point guard in the league while playing for the Utah Jazz. D-Will was breaking ankles, making plays, and taking names. Deron Williams brought the Utah Jazz back to the playoffs ending a three-year drought for the franchise and delivered the deepest playoff run since the Stockton and Malone days. Williams averaged 19.2 ppg, 8.6 apg, and 4.3 rpg in the 2007 playoffs on route to a conference finals berth where they would lose to San Antonio. Bruce Bowen of the Spurs had much praise for the guard calling him a “young Stockton”. Williams went on to spend 6 incredibly productive seasons in Utah. Highlighted by the 2008-09 season, where he averaged 19.4 ppg and 10.7 apg.
His time in Utah would be kaput following a trade to the New Jersey Nets before the second half of the 2010-11 season. D-Will showed some true promise with the Nets posting averages of 15 ppg, 12.8 apg, and 4.6 rpg during his first 12 games with the Nets before suffering a season ending wrist injury. This injury was the start of his decline and many more injuries to come. In particular, problems with D-Will’s ankles would hamper him for the rest of his career. Now, he is an NBA free agent coming off an embarrassing NBA finals performance with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Williams looks gassed at 33 years old and a far cry from his Utah days. Could be time for D-Will to retire.
3. Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard never had the best attitude, but at one point he was the best center in the NBA. Howard spent most of his earlier career in Orlando as a member of the Magic. 8 seasons to be exact and arguably was the best player they’ve ever had.
His most notable accomplishment in Orlando was taking the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009. He averaged 20.3 ppg, 15.3 rpg, and 2.6 bpg on 60% shooting overall in that 2009 playoff run. Howard was a beast in every sense of the word. During his tenure with Orlando, Howard was an 8-time All-Star, 5 time All-NBA First Team, and 3-time Defensive Player of the Year. Howard led the league in the rebounding 4 times and led in blocks twice in Orlando.
Things all fell apart after the blockbuster trade that sent Dwight Howard to the LA Lakers during the 2012 off-season. Howard would spend one disappointing year with the Lakers, where he averaged 17.1 ppg(lowest scoring average since 05-06 season) and 12.4 rpg(lowest rebounding average since 06-07 season). Howard never could click with Kobe Bryant and thought a change of scenery to Houston would save his career for the better. Howard would spend three seasons in Houston, where his numbers would get progressively worse as the seasons went on. Howard only made 1 All-Star appearance as a member of the Houston Rockets. In his last season, Howard’s averages fell to 13.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg, and 1.6 bpg. Those are not superstar numbers.
Howard ran into chemistry issues over a lack of touches while playing with James Harden. Howard decided that it was best for him to head home and play for the Atlanta Hawks. It only took 1 season for them to realize that the signing was a mistake. Dwight’s numbers dipped even further. To put things into perspective, Howard was averaging 8 ppg on 50% shooting in the playoffs. For an NBA center that is pathetic. Now, Howard is going to be a Charlotte Hornet next season and is nearing the end of his prime. Oh, how has D12 fallen so low? Maybe, it was the injuries. Maybe, it was how the NBA game changed on him. Maybe, he didn’t change with it.
2. Luol Deng
At one point in his career, Luol Deng was with the Chicago Bulls and he was a top 5 small forward in the NBA. Luol Deng showed glimpses of stardom for Chicago during the 2006-07 season and playoffs. During the season, Deng averaged 18.8 ppg and 7.1 rpg on 51% shooting for the Bulls. In the playoffs, those averages rose to 22.2 ppg, and 8.7 rpg. Luol Deng would spend 9 and half seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Becoming an absolute fan favorite in the city. The Sudanese born player made the All-Star team twice with the Chicago Bulls (2012, 2013). Deng also was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team in 2012. Deng was one of the league’s best two-way talents.
All things were going great for Deng until he was traded to Cleveland because Chicago didn’t want to pay him in free agency. Deng’s numbers would dip instantly in Cleveland. Deng’s field goal percentage dropped down to a paltry 41% with Cleveland to go along with 14.3 ppg, and 5.1 rpg. Deng would only spend one year with Cleveland before signing with the Miami Heat in hopes of a revival in his career. To make a long story shorter, it didn’t. Now, after spending 2 seasons in Miami, Deng made bank with the Lakers and is buried on their bench. All $72 Million of him. Can’t suck to be Deng, it really can’t.
1. Rajon Rondo
Let’s talk about a guy from Kentucky. A guy that was originally drafted by the Phoenix Suns, but was then soon traded to the Boston Celtics. This is where he would become a 4 time All Star and arguably one of the best pure point guards in the game. Rondo was an amazing passer and great at playing the passing lanes to come up with steals. One of the best rebounding guards in the league. The closest thing we might ever see to Jason Kidd was Rondo in his Boston days. A triple double machine in the playoffs. Playoff Rondo was a different animal. That is where his stardom shined the brightest. In the 2009 playoffs, Rondo averaged a near triple double through 14 games with Boston. The averages were 16.9 ppg, 9.8 apg, 9.7 apg and 2.5 spg. In the 2012 playoffs, Rondo had his best showing yet. Averaging 17.3 ppg, 11.9 apg, and 6.7 rpg on 47% shooting. Helping to lead Boston to the 2012 ECF, where him and the Celtics would give LeBron’s Miami Heat an amazing 7 game series.
In the 2012-13 season, Rondo tore his ACL and when he returned from it a season later, the decline in his game was apparent. His efficiency in the 2014-15 season was deplorable for a player demanding a max contract. Rondo shot 40% from the field including 25% from 3 and 33% from the FT line. By mid-season, he was traded to Dallas, where expectations were high. People felt that Dallas could be a dark horse contending team. Little did Dallas know, how much of a cancer Rondo would be for their team success going forward? In the 2014 playoffs, the Mavericks chemistry would be compromised and he was the culprit. They were eliminated by Houston in 5 games and Rondo was benched for most of the series and denied a playoff share.
Rondo would leave Dallas in free agency for Sacramento, where he would lead the league in assists on a losing team. This would help Rondo make a case for his next contract, which would be for the Chicago Bulls. Rondo would end up having a disappointing season with the Bulls despite one good performance in the playoffs against Boston. Rondo went down to injury to end his season and was waived in the off-season. Now, Rondo is going to play for the New Orleans Pelicans next year and form a big four with Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday. Should be interesting to watch, but I doubt they will make much noise in a loaded Western Conference. Basically, Rondo went from being a triple double machine to being a team hopper. Always playing for his next contract.