Expectations can really kill a player’s career early on, but it’s pretty good when it happens the opposite way and players surprise all the people that weren’t expecting anything of them when they entered the Association.
We can easily catalog youngsters of busts after just a couple of games or months into the season, and it’s really satisfying when they shut our mouths with great performances and prove that they’re actually worthy of a roster spot.
Today, we’re going to name 5 young ballers that were looking like busts after a season, or even during the NBA Draft, but that have proved that they’ve got what it takes to have long and successful NBA careers.
5. Tyler Ulis
Tyler Ulis’ NBA stint has come as a rollercoaster, as everybody expected a lot out of him right away, but he wasn’t able to contribute as he’d like with Eric Bledsoe’s presence in the Phoenix Suns, a situation that has finally changed.
Ulis has posted very solid outings ever since holding onto the starting point guard gig in the desert, and even though he’s struggled with consistency, he’s looking like he’s finally shaping up. So far, he’s averaging 8 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1 steal and 4.1 assists per game in 39% from the floor.
4. Lauri Markkanen
Just like with Kristaps Porzingis, most basketball fans didn’t hesitate to call Lauri Markkanen a huge bust and just another Andrea Bargnani, but it didn’t take long for the Finnish rookie to prove his doubters wrong at Eurobasket and now at the Association.
Markkanen hasn’t been as impressive as Kristaps, but he’s still been a huge stud for the struggling Chicago Bulls, posting averages of 14.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.3 dimes in 40% from the floor and 33% from downtown, owning a very respectable 14.2 PER for a first-year player.
3. Jaylen Brown
Brad Stevens really trusted Jaylen Brown the prior campaign and despite the fact that he showed some glances of greatness, several insiders and fans were starting to wonder if this kid was actually worthy of such a high Draft pick.
Entering the season as a prime trade candidate with Gordon Hayward’s arrival, Brown has really stepped up big time, averaging 14.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1 steal and 1.3 assists per game in 46% from the floor and 39% from beyond the arc, being a prime candidate for the Most Improved Player award this year.
2. Larry Nance Jr
Being a son of a former NBA great, Larry Nance Jr seemed nothing like his big man in the early going, but has proved to have a lot of talent in both ends of the court on his way to becoming a starter and one of Luke Walton’s favorite players.
Nance does a lot of intangible things and is a master of hustle, and his athleticism and strength are way beyond your average PF. Through the campaign, his 17.5 PER has shown way more than his averages of 9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.6 steals in 58% from the floor, completely outplaying Julius Randle, who’s now expendable because of him.
1. Domantas Sabonis
And another son of a former NBA legend makes our list, as nobody had much hopes in Domantas Sabonis since Billy Donovan benched him in favor of Taj Gibson, being later dealt to the sluggish Indiana Pacers to bring Paul George on board to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now, considering both team’s records, Sam Presti must be really regretting to let go of Sabonis, who’s shown great consistency and versatility during his sophomore season, posting averages of 12.1 points with 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 dimes, shooting 54% from the floor and a very nice 45% from three-point land, and posting a 18 PER for the Pacers.