12. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: EMEKA OKAFOR
When Emeka Okafor won Rookie of the Year honors in 2004-05, greatness might have beckoned for the former UConn big man. Injuries did halt his progression over the next few years in Charlotte, but when he was traded to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler, it was clear who ended up with the short end of the stick.
Despite playing healthy for most of his first two seasons with the then-Hornets, Okafor was clearly an underachiever, as his play continued to regress slowly, but surely. Then injuries began to rear their ugly head by Okafor’s third Hornets season. He was out of the league after a similarly lackluster season with the Wizards in 2012-13, and while he’s just been cleared to return to the NBA after four years dealing with a neck injury, we don’t think he’ll even match his decent, but underwhelming productivity with the now-Pelicans and Wizards, now that he’s turning 35 in September.
11. NEW YORK KNICKS: STEPHON MARBURY
We here at TheSportster have often wished that Stephon Marbury would come back home from China and give the NBA another try. Though he’s just turned 40 and is far removed from his glory days as one of the NBA’s most exciting, high-scoring point guards, he’s older and likely wiser now, emphasis on wiser. Or at least we hope he is, because “Starbury” was quite the headache for New York Knicks coaches and management during his five-year run with the team.
Though Marbury was a productive player stats-wise during that 2004-09 stint, he had public feuds with the likes of Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas, with the latter feud a particularly ugly one that did neither man any favors with the fans. The native New Yorker was oftentimes a pariah with the vocal-as-always hometown crowd, and it goes without saying that he could have potentially led the struggling Knicks to more playoff success, had he swallowed a bit of his pride and kept his mind on the game.
10. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: VIN BAKER
While you may consider Shawn Kemp the biggest Seattle SuperSonics/OKC Thunder waste of talent ever, he did waste his talent big-time for another team (more on him later). Instead, we’re going with Vin Baker, whose NBA career got off to a hot start – four All-Star Games in his first five seasons, including his first with the Sonics after four strong years with the Milwaukee Bucks.
It was in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season where the bottom began to fall out for Baker, who went from regular 20-10 power forward to drunken mess faster than you can say “Seattle SuperSonics.” His game would drop off even further when he joined the Celtics in 2002, as he mostly rode the bench until his NBA career ended in 2006.
Baker could have been a Hall of Fame candidate, but his drinking and weight issues meant his run as an NBA superstar was over well before he even turned 30.
9. ORLANDO MAGIC: ISAAC AUSTIN
Remember when Isaac Austin had “next big thing” written all over him? The guy had literally come out of nowhere in 1997-98 to become a productive center for both the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers, and he won that season’s Most Improved Player award for his unexpected rise to prominence. Turns out that was a contract year for Ike, who signed a lucrative free agent deal to join the Magic in 1998-99.
Now nobody was going to confuse Austin for the second coming of Shaq, but what the Magic got was a starting center who shot just 41 percent from the field, and suddenly forgot that centers are supposed to grab rebounds. In short, he began to underachieve big-time after that one big season of his. Suffice to say, that season, and Austin’s last three NBA seasons, put him alongside other 1990s one-hit wonders such as the Macarena.
8. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: DERRICK COLEMAN
With his mix of size, strength, skill, and athleticism, Derrick Coleman could have easily been up there with Bob Pettit, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Tim Duncan among the best NBA power forwards of all time. Instead, the #1 pick in the 1990 NBA draft produced some of the emptiest big-time numbers in the history of the league, relying on his physical tools, but oftentimes mailing it in instead of delivering like the aforementioned Mailman. This started to become especially true when he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1995.
Playing for a sad-sack Philly team that had yet to add Allen Iverson to its lineup, DC was still the headache he had previously been for Nets coaches, and while he did deal with his share of his injuries, “lackadaisical” was a charitable way to describe how he played while healthy. Again, the numbers were good – around 18 points and 10 rebounds a game in his two full seasons with the Sixers. But he didn’t really add to the win column, nor endear himself to coaches in this largely wasted three-year run in the City of Brotherly Love.
7. PHOENIX SUNS: RICHARD DUMAS
A second-round pick of the Phoenix Suns in 1991, Richard Dumas had to wait one year before fans could see how good he was, as his NBA career started with substance abuse issues from the get-go. But when he was done serving his one-year suspension, fans got to see a dynamic, slam-dunking small forward whom some had even compared to the legendary Dr. J, Julius Erving. Those comparisons were a stretch, but you can’t argue with the promise of 15.8 points and 6.4 rebounds a game, and 52.4 percent field goal shooting as a rookie.
Dumas then spent the entire 1993-94 season in rehab, but once he returned, he was on the deep end of the Suns’ bench, playing just 15 games in 1994-95. His next, and final season saw him play for recovered drug addict John Lucas on the Philadelphia 76ers, but those moments of brilliance he showed as a Suns rookie were few and far in-between.
Sadly, post-NBA life has not been too kind to Dumas, who was given three years’ probation in 2015 for a series of thefts from a military base store.