Sink Or Swim: 5 NBA Players Who Need To Eat This Year

I’ve been busy the last few days, so I have not been able to catch much of Shark Week so far. But I assure you, it is one of my favorite weeks of the year. One of my lifelong goals is swimming with Whites. Definitely freaky, but I have to do it. Naturally during Shark Week, it’s only fitting to combine two things I love: sharks and basketball. Watching Great Whites feast on seals off the coast of South Africa is always the highlight of the week. For them it’s so simple: seek and destroy. Survive or die.

For NBA guys, it’s not that simple. But goals should be. So many players lose sight of what they’re aiming for in the daily grind. If they kept it simple, stayed focused, maybe they could rival the world’s greatest killing machine. Is this just a poor excuse to post videos of attacking sharks? Yes. But at the same time, these five players really do need a surprise attack, really do need to locate their prey, set their sights on exactly what they need to get themselves back on track.


Deron Williams
THE PREY: a 40-win season, the best individual year of his career
It wasn’t too long ago that everyone was arguing Deron Williams for “best lead guard in the world.” By wasn’t long ago, I mean last fall. Chris Paul was hurt, or maybe he wasn’t, or maybe he was just coming back really slow from the knee injuries and didn’t look at all like the guy we saw in the playoffs. Russell Westbrook was just coming into his own, while Derrick Rose had yet to vault Chicago to the top of the league. I remember arguing Williams’ case as the best in the world not too long ago. Remember Utah’s string of come-from-behind classics early last season? I bet you forgot; Williams only hit two game winners during that four-game stretch while dropping 30 and 14 in another. It was Williams’ position, and he was having perhaps his best all-around year as Utah jumped to a 27-13 record by the middle of January.

Now Williams is stuck in limbo, on a team that could be good, but isn’t expected to do much this year and still doesn’t have a permanent home; with a contract situation that will surely be drastically affected by the new CBA; and with a game that suddenly became old news amidst a trade, a blow to his image and a wrist injury that dropped his scoring from 21.3 to 15. Time to show and prove all over again.

Ben Gordon
THE PREY: 20 a night, reclaim his spot as the one of the ultimate fourth quarter weapons
There isn’t a player in the whole league whose stock dropped more in the past two years than BG. And that doesn’t make sense at all considering he’s only 28 years old, should be in his prime, averaged nearly 21 a night during his final season in Chicago, is on a team that desperately needs a guard who can consistently hit open shots and create and flirted for a bit last year with a 50/40/90 campaign.

Something has to change. Because of the problems surrounding the Detroit organization, Gordon is being lumped in with all of the rest, and now, many want to describe him as a problem, a gunner, someone who cares only about the money when none of that’s true at all. There isn’t a player in the league who played with him who doesn’t rave about BG and his work ethic. Maybe Lawrence Frank will open up the offense a little bit and Gordon will flourish again. More than likely, someone must be moved.

Tyreke Evans
THE PREY: 22, 6 & 5, leader of the most entertaining team in the league
Plantar fasciitis is no joke, and Evans dealt with it all of last year. His numbers were still solid, but everyone was expecting a jump. The expectations coming out of Evans’ camp last August were MVPs and first-team All-NBAs. Eventually, he could get there. After a rookie season like he had, a lot of the public felt the same way. When his sophomore plateau hit, the fans jumped off the bandwagon, and latched on to what he can’t do (shoot, pass-first) instead of what he can (breaking people down, finishing inside).

Now as the best player on a team that could recreate the last great Sacramento era in terms of entertainment, it’s time for Evans to bounce back. He says he is 100 percent healthy. All of the fans are saying “show me.”

Jeff Green
THE PREY: 6th Man of the Year, crunch-time PT & a mindset change
We covered the Celtics’ plight numerous times before. Jeff Green wants to be more like LeBron & Kobe? He can start by earning big minutes, fourth quarter minutes next to Rondo, Jesus and the Truth. He can do a little bit of everything, playing off of Pierce, waiting for Rondo’s kickouts, driving-and-kicking to Allen. Offensively, he can fit. Defensively, even if he struggled at a four in OKC, his issues won’t matter. The Celtics are too good at protecting the rim.

Green turns 25 later this month. The word for his time in Boston: ordinary. Like his name. Boston can’t have that. That’s not what they traded for. He has to help be the bridge – the squire to Rondo’s knight – that will help transition Boston as Pierce and KG begin to slide. Changing your mentality this far into your career is almost impossible, but that’s what the Celtics are asking Green to do.

Chris Kaman
THE PREY: consistent PT, resorting back to All-Star status
It’s almost certainly not happening in L.A. DeAndre Jordan might not be as skilled, but he’s younger, bigger, more athletic and just happens to be in love with Blake Griffin. Kaman is on his way out as a Clipper, in one way or another. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Two years ago, stayed healthy and went for 19 & 9, good enough for a spot in the All-Star game. Two years before that, it was nearly 16 & 13 with 2.8 blocks a night. But everything in between reads like this: treatment for ADHD, treatment for the misdiagnosis of ADHD, bone bruise on his knee, sprained knee and ankle injuries. Now he’s in a contract year so you do the math. Coming off the bench to play 20 minutes a night for the Clippers isn’t doing anyone any good.

Which players most need to bounce back next year?

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.