Sports

NBA's Most Prominent Late Bloomers

| by David Berri

Some players don’t pan out during their early years. GMs are more than willing to give certain players a second chance though. In spite of their “bust” titles Kwame Brown and Darko Milicic are still gainfully employed. It’s easy enough to believe that players with enough potential will eventually “snap out of it” and become a star despite playing poorly early in their career. Is this really a reasonable assumption?

I decided to look for late bloomers. Here was my criteria:

  • Player played two seasons where they earned 10+ Wins (Star) during their career
  • Player never had a good season (WP48>0.150 and 1000+ MP) in their rookie contract (first four years)

Has the NBA traditionally been ripe with players that simple needed a little more time to develop? Should a GM invest their efforts into finding diamonds in the rough that other GMs overlooked? The answer appears to be no.

Late Bloomers

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Table 1: Late Bloomers before they Bloomed.

 

Player
Pre-Star Seasons
Pre-Star G
Pre-Star GS
Pre-Star MP
Pre-Star WP48
Pre-Star WP

Chauncey Billups
5
297
203
8154
0.071
12.1

Darrell Walker
5
378
126
8796
0.096
17.6

Detlef Schrempf
5
374
52
8690
0.090
16.3

Doug Christie
4
155
51
2962
0.037
2.3

Gary Payton
4
327
321
10222
0.127
27.0

Gerald Wallace
4
208
77
3485
0.105
7.6

Mike Miller
5
351
283
10747
0.115
25.8

Sam Cassell
6
353
126
9205
0.087
16.7

Stephon Marbury
7
502
496
19196
0.086
34.5

Steve Nash
5
307
148
7536
0.112
17.6

Terrell Brandon
4
304
68
6736
0.086
12.1

 

Table 2: Late Bloomers after they Bloomed

 

Player
Post-Star Seasons
Post-Star Star Seasons
Post-Star G
Post Star GS
Post-Star MP
Post-Star WP48
Post-Star WP

Chauncey Billups
9
7
685
685
23523
0.213
104.3

Darrell Walker
5
3
342
230
9805
0.218
44.5

Detlef Schrempf
11
7
762
472
24907
0.193
100.0

Doug Christie
11
3
672
657
23116
0.159
76.7

Gary Payton
13
10
1008
912
36895
0.185
142.5

Gerald Wallace
6
5
407
392
15394
0.239
76.6

Mike Miller
6
3
382
247
12480
0.214
55.7

Sam Cassell
9
3
640
564
20608
0.149
64.1

Stephon Marbury
6
2
344
320
12690
0.113
29.8

Steve Nash
10
10
783
783
26637
0.260
144.3

Terrell Brandon
7
4
420
412
14809
0.206
63.5

We do have some genuinely awesome talents. Chauncey Billups, Detlef Schrempf, Gary Payton and Steve Nash all turned into great players after their rocky starts. Walker, Christie, Cassell and Brandon managed to have short bursts of greatness. Miller and Wallace are still playing and their ability to overcome injury will dictate their legacy. Marbury managed to turn himself from a below average overrated scorer to an average overrated scorer. There’s hope for every player!

Summing Up

Despite the fact that late bloomers do exist we should not be so optimistic. Over 2500 players have suited up since 1978. Around 300 of these players have turned into “stars”. It’s very rare to find a star player and even rarer to find one out of a pool of players that have been playing badly. Everyone can hope that their favorite player that is chocked full of potential will turn it around. Sadly, the fact is if it hasn’t happened by their first contract extension, it probably won’t ever happen. That won’t stop many GMs from hoping though.

-Dre