The NBA playoffs usually produce a few young stars, with the spotlight that comes from the increased pressure really pushing some players to ascend to new levels of play. Last year, Pascal Siakam became a shocking number two option on an NBA championship team. This year, it's going to be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder who...
NBA Players That Could Fix Their Reputation This Season
By: Jake Lofgren
In modern day sports we know more about the players and their personal lives than ever before. From various forms of social media and interviews it has become very easy for fans to learn about the players. As fans we love this because it almost makes the NBA a cross between basketball and reality television. We all have our own favorite characters, we create heroes, and we also create villains. We hear so much about these players that it is easy for them to develop a reputation not only on the court, but off of it as well. In this article I will discuss some players who have been the usual victims of Twitter trolls and jokes over the past couple years, that could change that this season.
1. Dwight Howard - Los Angeles Lakers
During his prime, Dwight was one of the most dominant centers we have seen over the last two decades. He will forever be responsible from preventing fans the opportunity to see LeBron face off against Kobe in the finals. His downfall came after his time with the Lakers was unsuccessful. Fans heard all types of stories about how Dwight and Kobe didn't get along, he didn't want to work hard, and was a "bad locker room guy." Since leaving the Lakers last time he has been under contract for six more teams, including being traded three times and cut twice. Although, Dwight unexpectedly was given a second chance by the Lakers this offseason, who have huge expectations. The Lakers aren't even close to the same team as when LeBron first got there, and the expectations for this team are now championship or bust. Dwight's presence off the bench will be relied upon to be a big factor in their success this season, and if he can contribute consistently with little drama, his legacy might be a little different when he retires.
2. Markelle Fultz - Orlando Magic
Now let's cut Markelle some slack here, his disappointing start to his career really hasn't been his fault. His first two seasons consisted of an injury we had never even heard of before and his sudden inability to shoot a basketball correctly. These issues caused him to only see the court in 33 games as a 76er, but luckily for him the Magic gave him a new opportunity when they decided to trade for him last February. Markelle now appears to be healthy and has appeared in all three games so far for the Magic. Markelle Fultz finds himself in a great situation on a talented Magic team that made the playoffs last year, but have a weakness at point guard with the aging D.J. Augustin as their starter. Augustin is still an experienced point guard that can act as a mentor towards Fultz and allow Fultz to come off the bench with the chance to run his own unit with the ball in his hands. Fultz has an opportunity this season to show fans the player that was deserving of being the number one pick in the draft, while being on team that doesn't get too much pressure from the media.
3. Jimmy Butler - Miami Heat
Now Jimmy Butler isn't on this list because he's been playing poorly or doesn't have fans, Jimmy is on the list because he is a prime example of a "bad locker room guy." Jimmy so far throughout his career has demanded a trade twice on both the Timberwolves and Bulls, while at least allowing the 76ers to sign-and-trade him to the Heat for Josh Richardson. His time on the 76ers was short lived playing only 29 games and appeared to have turned over a new lead. On the other hand, his time on the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Chicago Bulls was full of drama that perceived him to be an outcast. This summer should've changed everything because Jimmy now for the first time in the NBA is playing for the team he chose to play for. Jimmy fits in immediately to a team that needed a number one option to lead their talented group of role players. Jimmy can put an end to all the talk that he isn't a leader and is a bad teammate by bringing the Heat back to the playoffs through his leadership. Jimmy is already off to a good start by convincing Tyler Herro to hit the gym with him at 4 a.m. and inspiring Meyers Leonard to beat him there at 3:30. If Jimmy keeps this up, his reputation around the league would change immensely.
4. Isaiah Thomas - Washington Wizards
Despite being one of the best underdog stories in the NBA, Thomas is clowned upon daily. The majority of this stems from his height, injury issues, and history of being traded. Thomas still overcame being a 5-9 point guard and being the last pick in the draft to becoming a 28.9 PPG scorer on the number one seed Boston Celtics in 2016-17. Things quickly took a turn for his career as he began to develop some injury issues and his previous season was not good enough to prevent the Celtics from trading him for Kyrie Irving. Since then he has only been able to see the court 44 times over the last two seasons, while appearing for three different teams. Now on the Wizards where he will surely be limited on the minutes he can play at first, we should be able to see a season with a healthy Isaiah Thomas. He also finds himself in a situation where he can be successful with John Wall out for the entire season and the only other experienced point guard on the roster being Ish Smith. Isaiah has a big opportunity to clear his name and maybe even make himself a notable free agent this upcoming summer.
5. Andrew Wiggins - Minnesota Timberwolves
Despite how people may talk about Wiggins on social media, he's had a pretty decent start to his NBA career. He has managed to avoid any major injuries allowing him to average 80 games a season while putting up 19.4 PPG. While his numbers aren't bad, he just hasn't lived up to the expectations that were placed upon him when he entered the league. His lack of efficiency, playmaking, and defense has even caused people to discuss whether or not he's a bust. Minnesota finds themselves as one of the worst teams in a strong Western Conference that will need more production from Wiggins to be successful. Karl-Anthony Towns has wasted no time in finding his groove this season as he already is putting up All-NBA caliber stats. Towns and Wiggins are still a talented duo of former number overall picks that could lead to a bright future in Minnesota. Now in his sixth season it's still not too late for Wiggins to breakout, but the patience of fans around the league seems to be dwindling.
6. Hassan Whiteside - Portland Trail Blazers
Very similar to Isaiah Thomas, Whiteside has a tremendous underdog story. He started as a second round pick, bounced around in the G-League his first few seasons, and was waived three times before eventually settling in Miami. His time in Miami saw Whiteside finally find success in the league and even saw him average 17 PPG and 14.1 rebounds in 2016-17. When Whiteside wanted to he could look like an All-Star, but the problem was that version of Whiteside didn't always show up. Whiteside on many occasions has let his emotions get the better of him which resulted in technical fouls, benching, and suspensions. This lack of professionalism and immaturity has given the media the fuel to call him lazy and unwilling to put in maximum effort. Well now Whiteside finds himself on the Trail Blazers after being traded this summer. This gives him a fresh start on a team that made the Western Conference Finals last postseason that are still without their starting center Jusuf Nurkic. Portland will be placing a lot of faith into their new center this season to get over his previous immaturity, and help them take another step forward to contending this year.
7. Jahlil Okafor - New Orleans Pelicans
Since being drafted with the third pick back in 2015, Okafor hasn't had the impact he has wanted in the league. Many think that Okafor's style of play may be outdated. His strength is his offensive ability with his back to the basket, but modern bigs are more valuable when they are capable to play on the perimeter. In his third season in the league, the 76ers decided to traded him to the Nets while even packaging Nik Stauskas and a second rounder only to get Trevor Booker in return. That next summer he signed for the Pelicans where he started to have some games where he was able to showcase what he could do. The Pelicans offseason was chaotic to say the least and are now starting a brand new era with their newly acquired young core. Okafor could prove this season to be a useful piece to their rebuild and prevent fans from labeling him as a bust.
8. Chris Paul - Oklahoma City Thunder
After the media pushed a story out to the public that Paul and Harden were fighting and creating a hostile environment for the team, the Rockets decided to part ways with Chris Paul in a package that allowed them to land Russell Westbrook. Make no mistake that Chris Paul is one of the best point guards the league has ever seen, but his failure to win a ring or even reach the finals hurts his legacy in the eyes of most fans. Chris Paul now finds himself on a Thunder roster with no Westbrook or Paul George in the beginning of a new rebuild. In a perfect world the Thunder would like to trade Paul for more assets too, but the remaining 123 million dollars over three seasons puts other teams off from pulling the trigger. The remaining roster around him still has other good players like Gilgeous-Alexander, Adams, and Gallinari that could still be a hard team to beat. If Paul can get off to a hot start this season and prove to the league he's still got it, then some team trying to contend might be willing to take the chance.
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