We all expect some growing pains from rookies through their first years in the Association, as the adjustment (both physically and mentally) required to make it in the world’s greatest basketball league is quite complicated at best.
Some guys never thrive in the majors as they did at a high school or college level, becoming flops or huge “what ifs”, failing to achieve what was expected of them when they were scouted and drafted by NBA teams.
On the other hand, several players turned out exactly the opposite way, becoming twice or three times the player everybody expected them to be, becoming huge steals and completely taking the league for assault completely out of the blue.
Today, we’ll honor these guys, reviewing our top 10 NBA players who became good out of nowhere list. Enjoy
10. C.J. McCollum
Well, everybody expected a lot from this guy due to his explosiveness and ability to put up points from pretty much everywhere, but after a couple of seasons with very low minutes due to the presence of other guys, it seemed like CJ was going to stall his development.
Nevertheless, at the very first minute, he was asked to take the starting backcourt of the Trail Blazers alongside Dame Lillard, CJ became a huge beast like he was already a veteran, winning the Most Improved Player award during the past season and currently averaging 23 points, 3.6 boards and 3.6 helpers per game.
9. Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Buckets overcame pretty much every single obstacle that he was forced to face through his youth, but nobody expected the Marquette product and 30th pick of the 2011 NBA draft to become the elite two-way player he is nowadays.
After Derrick Rose went down and Luol Deng was dealt, the Bulls became Butler’s team, and the guard/forward showed tremendous improvement and leadership on his way to winning the Most Improved Player award and even being part of the MVP conversation.
8. Jeremy Lin
Lin was always a great scorer at minor levels but there were a lot of doubts regarding his ability to become an NBA-caliber talent. Nevertheless, we all remember how frenetically he took the league for assault as a member of the New York Knicks during his “Linsanity” stint.
Sadly, inconsistency, lack of opportunities, injuries and competition really hurt his development, and even if he was poised to take the reins for the Brooklyn Nets, it seems like Lin was just a fluke and he’ll never be as good as we thought he’d be.
7. Kyle Lowry
Through his first couple of seasons in the NBA, Lowry didn’t seem explosive enough or much of a good passer to actually make it in the NBA, being dealt by the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets for pretty much nothing in return.
Nonetheless, from the very first day he became a member of the Raptors, his mentality changed due to the bigger role with less pressure, and he’s become one of the elite point guards in the Eastern Conference since then, being set to get paid a lot of money during this upcoming free agency.
6. Hassan Whiteside
Nobody even knew who the hell this guy was a couple of years ago, as he was just one of DeMarcus Cousins’ backups, not getting a lot of chances to prove his value and being sent to the D-League before he tried his luck overseas.
But, one of the greatest basketball minds of our era, Erik Spoelstra, decided to give the young center a shot, and he’s definitely glad he did so, as he provided much-needed rim protection and a presence in the paint for the Miami Heat, becoming one of the elite shot blockers and rebounders in the current NBA.
5. Paul George
During George’s first couple of seasons, he looked like he was going to be a huge flop for the Pacers, struggling on both ends of the floor and being a very inconsistent player, especially when it came to his three-point shooting.
But, after Danny Granger had to be sidelined, the Pacers became George's team, even making the elite scorer expendable. Nowadays, PG-13 is one of the league’s elite two-way scorers and an ultimate stat sheet stuffer, being set to enter free agency to go to another team where he can take his game to a whole new level and finally win that MVP award or NBA ring he desires.
4. Kawhi Leonard
When Gregg Popovich decided to let George Hill go to the Indiana Pacers in order to acquire Kawhi, even he admitted that he was scared and probably overpaying for the San Diego product, who’s offensive game was rough and poor at best.
But, a couple of years after, Leonard proved his value with his elite defense over LeBron James, winning the Finals MVP and carrying the spurs to another ring, before becoming the second best two-way player in the league behind LeBron, completely rounding up his offensive game while being a top 3 candidate to win the Defensive Player of the Year award on a yearly basis.
3. Isaiah Thomas
Thomas was actually the last pick of his draft, and nobody had a single bit of faith in the tweener guard due to his (lack of) size and horrendous defense, being dealt by the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns until he finally got his chance to prove his value with the Boston Celtics.
Needless to say, Thomas proved everybody wrong with his tremendous scoring ability, being the most important player in a Celtics team that’s back into the Eastern Conference Finals, as well as being the league’s leading scorer in crunch time despite being way smaller that pretty much everybody else in the court.
2. Manu Ginobili
Ginobili was the best player in Europe before coming into the NBA, but truth to be told, nobody knew anything about him other than the Spurs, and there were a lot of doubters regarding the Argentinian’s true potential.
Nevertheless, Ginobili became a top 5 foreign player in NBA history, being the ultimate leader for San Antonio’s second unit and showing one of the most versatile offensive repertoires the league has ever seen, as well as good defense and hilarious flops. If you like Harden’s offense, Ginobili’s the guy you should thank, as The Beard himself has admitted that he copied a lot of the moves from the leftie.
1. Steve Nash
Who would the hell expect a non-athletic white baller from Canada to be a two-time MVP and one of the ultimate point guards in NBA history? We sure as hell didn’t but Nash took the league for assault in the Suns’ fast-paced run and gun offense and he didn’t slow down a single beat since those days.
Sadly, he had to retire without any kind of jewelry despite joining Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant on the Lakers, but he’s still one of the smartest and most prolific passers in NBA history, as well as one of the few member of the select 50-40-90 club.