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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

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