With the NBA season nearing the halfway point, it’s time to look at the players that have underperformed and need to step up, specifically players that joined new teams in the offseason and are struggling to fit in.
These can be players that teams overpaid for and aren’t getting their money’s worth out of, players that performed well last season but are struggling this season, or both.
Joakim Noah, New York Knicks
The Knicks signed Noah to a four-year, $72 million contract in the offseason, making him the ninth-highest paid center in the league for 2016-17, but the former Chicago Bulls standout has struggled to fit in with his new team, and there was talk earlier this season that he might even lose his starting job. But if Noah’s 12-point, 15-rebound performance in Thursday night’s win over his former team was any indication, he might be preparing to turn things around in the second half of the season.
Chandler Parsons, Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies signed Parsons to a four-year maximum contract in the offseason worth $94 million that ranks fourth among small forwards, and yet he has managed to play in just 15 games this season due to injury. Parsons missed the first six games while still recovering from offseason knee surgery, and he missed another 17 games because of a bone bruise in his left knee. Since returning to the Grizzlies lineup on Dec. 21, Parsons has been on a minutes restriction but looks to be getting healthier after scoring 14 points in 18 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.
Timofey Mozgov, Los Angeles Lakers
Mozgov did little with the Cleveland Cavaliers a year ago to earn himself a big payday in the offseason, but it happened anyway courtesy of the Lakers, who signed the seven-footer to a four-year, $64 million contract. In 21.3 minutes per game, Mozgov is averaging just 8.0 points and 4.8 rebounds. He contributes very little for a starting center in the NBA and needs to step up.
Ian Mahinmi, Washington Wizards
After a career year with the Indiana Pacers, Mahinmi was rewarded with a four-year, $64 million contract in the offseason from the Wizards. But in an unfortunate turn of events, Mahinmi injured his left knee in a preseason game and missed the first 14 regular season games while recovering from surgery. He then required more treatment on both knees after appearing in a game on Nov. 26 and he has been rehabbing ever since with an expected return later this month, possibly the start of next month. Washington is competing for a playoff spot this year and will need Mahinmi off the bench when he’s healthy.
Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic
The Congolese big man who impressed with his shot-blocking in the postseason for the Toronto Raptors a year ago received a four-year, $72 million deal in the offseason from the Magic, who hoped to be a better defensive team under first-year coach Frank Vogel. But Biyombo recently lost his starting job to Nikola Vucevic and played a season-low 16 minutes in Wednesday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Unless he steps up his play, Biyombo could be looking at fewer minutes.
Luol Deng, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers’ splash signing in free agency was the 31-year-old Deng, who got a four-year, $72 million deal despite bouncing around the league the past three seasons. The veteran small forward got off to a brutal start, shooting below 40 percent in 10 of his first 17 games with the Lakers, and he has been wildly inconsistent despite starting every night for first-year coach Luke Walton. Deng is averaging career lows in points (8.3) and field-goal percentage (39.6) and it won’t be long before first-round draft pick Brandon Ingram challenges him for his starting job.
Jeff Green, Orlando Magic
The Magic didn’t reach deep into their pocketbook for Green at one-year, $15 million, but his performance thus far has been a disappointment considering his strong campaign a year ago with the Grizzlies and Clippers. The eighth-year veteran has had a coupe of abysmal shooting nights this season, including a 3-of-13 outing against the Clippers while starting for injured power forward Serge Ibaka. Green is now averaging career lows in points (9.2) as well as minutes (23.8). The Magic need him to be the player he was a year ago when he was giving his teams valuable minutes off the bench.
Solomon Hill, New Orleans Pelicans
Hill signed his biggest contract ever with the Pelicans after making a little over $1 million the past three seasons with the Pacers. The former first-round pick is making $48 million over four years in New Orleans, where he is also playing considerably more minutes than he did in Indiana a year ago. But Hill is averaging just 5.8 points over 27.2 minutes per game, and he is shooting 37.2 percent from the field. For a starting small forward, he needs to contribute more from an offensive standpoint.
Arron Afflalo, Sacramento Kings
Afflalo signed with the dysfunctional Kings for two years and $25 million with the hope that he’d get a bigger role compared to what he had with the Knicks last season, but it doesn’t sound like he’s going to be in Sacramento for much longer. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reports “there is a growing rift brewing between Afflalo and the coaching staff.” The 31-year-old shooting guard is averaging just 7.3 points and 2.2 rebounds, his worst numbers since 2009-10. Whether Afflalo stays in Sacramento or goes somewhere else, he needs to play better or this season could be over for him sooner than he thinks.
Rajon Rondo, Chicago Bulls
Not much to explain here. Rondo’s situation with the Bulls has been well documented in the past week or so, as head coach Fred Hoiberg benched the veteran point guard for several games, opting to go with Michael Carter-Williams as the starter moving forward. Rondo, who signed a two-year, $28 million contract with Chicago in the offseason, recently returned to the rotation but is still on a short leash after a forgettable start to the season. His future remains uncertain, but he needs to play better regardless of what the team does at the trade deadline.
Salary info courtesy of Spotrac.com