NBA Players with Everything to Prove in 2010-11

| by Hoops Karma

Amar’e Stoudemire

Stoudemire left the comfort of Steve Nash passes and playoff games to rejoin coach Mike D’Antoni in New York, which has been awful of late but was expected to make a huge splash in the free agency bonanza of 2010.

Instead they only landed Stoudemire, who is equally well known for getting injured as he is for fast break dunks.

He declared “the Knicks are back,” leading NY fans to hope he meant back in the running for LeBron James. It turns out they weren’t, and Stoudemire was the only big-name free agent to bite on the Big Apple’s allure. He knows D’Antoni’s system and is clearly the centerpiece of this team; now it’s on him to actually make the Knicks relevant. We already know what he can do next to All-Stars like Nash, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson, Shawn Marion, Shaquille O’Neal, and Joe Johnson. We’re about to find out what he can do on his own.

Joe Johnson

Baseball legend Yogi Berra coached the 1964 Yankees to Game Seven of the World Series, only to lose 7-5 to pitching great Bob Gibson. Great season and postseason, right? Well Berra was fired. The offseason signing of Joe Johnson is pretty much the opposite of that situation. He put up another decent season—decent enough to be one of Atlanta’s three best players—but he dropped yet another shiny turd in the playoffs. Shiny because he put up a bunch of 20-point performances. A turd because he played passively and needed a ton of shots to get his points, and it’s not like he was being asked to do a ton of other things to win games. Here are his points-shots pairs through all 11 playoff games: 22-21, 27-23, 25-22, 29-22, 13-16, 22-24, 8-14, 10-11, 19-16, 8-15, 14-15. None of those make you think, “Wow, he was really getting it done” except maybe that fourth game (29 points on 22 shots), but it comes down to this: when it counted in Round Two against Orlando (the Hawks squeaked by an Andrew Bogut-less Bucks team in Round One in seven), he scored a total of 51 points on 57 shots (13 ppg, 17-for-57, 30% FG). Ouch – that had to hurt his free agent negotiations, especially after talking a little trash about the Hawks while it was happening. Nope. They dumped a max contact on him, paying him $120 million over six years. Way to reward him for sucking in the playoffs again. Way to lock up so much money you can’t possibly ever pay Al Horford’s what he’s worth or sign new free agents to help a squad that’s been stuck in the East’s second-tier for years. This year is all on Johnson to prove he was worth this money and can finally put the team on his shoulders in the playoffs.

Greg Oden

Want to play a fun game you can’t possibly win? It’s called “What In God’s Green Earth Will Greg Oden Be Doing In Five Years?”. Everyone already knows he’s always injured. If it’s not this, it’s that, and the Blazers’ doctors keep saying the latest setback was a fluke in no way related to the others. Unless he’s Mr. Glass and every part of him is easily injured. Either way, when he does play, it’s clear he’s phenomenal. If he had played more games last year, his FG%, eFG%, Rebounding%, and Block% were all in the top-3 in the league. Every advanced impact statistic says he affects the game in a big-time way, which makes sense considering he’s a great rebounder, great shot blocker, and he makes an extremely high percentage of his shots, even when given a bigger load. Could he be the next Dwight Howard in five years? Yes. Could he be out of the league because of so many leg/knee/hip/ankle/back injuries? Yes. Is he more likely to be on the Blazers or another team if he’s playing then? Who knows? 2010-11 is his now four seasons removed from the 2007 NCAA National Championship game in which he owned Al Horford and Joakim Noah at the same time. He has a possible contract extension coming up, and every franchise that’s even thinking about putting together a package to trade for his potential has to be scared to death trying to figure out how much he’s worth. All that being said, it’s now or never for Oden to show that he can both play 65-plus games in a year and average more than 24 minutes per game.

Gilbert Arenas

Remember when Arenas was dropping 30 points every night while recording not-just-a-gunner pers of 6 assists and 2 steals? Remember when he lead the league in 3’s and single-handedly got people talking about the importance of second-round draft picks? Well the Wizards certainly do because they’re willing to pay him the final $80 million on his contract over the next four years even though they could probably get out of it based on him threatening to shoot up the locker room last year. The ultimate joker is now playing the straight man (which has the same awkward feel as River Phoenix in I’m Still Here), vowing to be different, to let John Wall lead, blah blah. Arenas hasn’t played meaningful minutes since 2006-07 and has a long way to go to prove he was worth keeping around. We already know he’s not worth the money, but can he at least do enough things well to help Washington win?