Underachieving is frustrating. For outsiders looking in, it is so disappointing to watch talent go to waste. Sometimes circumstances like injuries and the numbers game prevent those from reaching their full potential. There is also the steep learning curve of the pro game. But more times than not, we shake our heads when the shortcomings are due to simple lack of effort. At the end of the day, production is everything.
After all of the hoopla and praise, Anthony Randolph has fallen short of expectations so far in the preseason. He has the size and athletic ability to start for a shaky Knicks’ roster, but according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, Randolph will be coming off the bench this season.
Randolph is not the only player out there that has some expectations to live up to. Around the League there are tons of players who find themselves on the hot seat. As Dime’s Aron Phillips told me yesterday, “You have to bring it, son!” With that in mind, it’s put up or shut up time for some players. Here are five players that have to step it up this season:
O.J. Mayo — I’ve been on the O.J. Mayo bandwagon since I first saw him as a 7th grader dropping 20 points a night on the varsity level in the basketball-rich state of Kentucky. He was probably the second most hyped high school player ever. But since becoming a pro, he has left those who believe in his abilities feeling a little unfulfilled. Mayo has produced very nicely. With all of the hype he carried with him into the League, though, he has to perform on a higher level.
Joe Johnson — The Hawks have invested a lot in him by agree to a 6 year $120 million contract. Johnson is a proven top-tier scorer, but his playoff performance has left a bad taste in the mouths of Hawks fans. By signing a contract bigger than LeBron James, Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade this summer, Johnson has a lot to live up to. He has to lead Atlanta to a deep playoff run this season.
Amar’e Stoudemire — After being a big trade subject over the last two seasons, he finally got his wish and is out of Phoenix. Now what? Can he produce without Steve Nash spoon-feeding him? Can he lead the Knicks back to the playoffs? With a 9-figure contract and being in the New York market, coming up short is not an option.
Aaron Brooks — After his locker room beef with Trevor Ariza, the Rockets decided to keep Brooks. He is also in a contract year and has publicly expressed his frustrations about not being offered an extension yet. He won the Most Improved Player award last year due to his numbers, but now the question is can he win?
Sebastian Telfair — Telfair is another mega-hyped prospect who has not come close to living up to his billing. He was selected 13th overall in the 2004 draft, signed a hefty endorsement deal with adidas, but has yet to average in double figures in points. Now that he is on the All-NBA Bust Team that is the Minnesota Timberwolves, it’s now or never for Bassy.