The Best Players On Bad Teams

Paul Pierce decided to finaly express his frustrations over being stuck with a miserable team in Boston. I can't say that I blame him.

Since Danny Ainge took over as head of basketball operations for the Celtics, the has been rudderless. They've made two playoff appearances and won a division title in 2005 which looks like more of an anomaly each season.
The Celtics are in the mix for the No. 1 pick, but what does that mean for a 29-year-old, five-time all-star like Pierce? Pierce is getting to old to continuously punt away seasons of his career while Ainge surrounds him with players who should be in the Final Four this weekend, not facing the Philadelphia 76ers.

"I'm the classic case of a great player on a bad team, and it stinks," Pierce said.

Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash are being touted as the potential MVPs, but it's easy to elevate the talent around you when you are actually surrounded by talented players. I generally contend that great players make their teams great, but what happens when your team's second-best player is Ricky Davis? As I scan across a watered-down league with perhaps two too many teams and about 30 players who probably shouldn't even have a logo on their chests, I realize that Pierce is probably right.

There are a lot of great players on bad teams in the NBA. Allen Iverson got his escape from Philadelphia, but he used to be the posterchild. I thought it might be cool to make a list of the top five. Here's the criteria: You have to be the sole all-star on a team that is lottery bound.

So, Ray Allen doesn't make the cut because he is teamed up with one-time all-star Rashard Lewis in Seattle. Anytime a guy scores 268 points in five games and his team wins those games by an average of 4.4 points, it doesn't look so good. But the Kobe Bryant's Lakers are in the playoffs, so he is off the list, too. LeBron James is a great one-man show, but he has willed his team into title contention because he plays in the lowly Eastern Conference. So, he doesn't make the list, either.

The five best players on really bad teams:

1. Kevin Garnett, Minnesota
Money couldn't by Paul McCartney love and it can't buy Garnett happiness in 'Sota. He's looking at three straight lotteries after former all-stars Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell skipped town.

2. Paul Pierce, Boston
The Truth is Pierce doesn't get the appreciation he deserves because, like Garnett, the team's general manager can't get it right.

3. Michael Redd, Milwaukee
The Bucks could've been a playoff team had Redd not missed 20 games with a . They went 3-17 without him.

4. Pau Gasol, Memphis
The Grizzlies might also be in better shape if Gasol hadn't missed 22 games to start the season.

5. Joe Johnson, Atlanta
He asked for this. Johnson wanted out of Phoenix and is realizing how hard life can be when you leave a solid quintet to roll solo.


By Michael Lee |  March 30, 2007; 3:18 PM ET
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I don't know about you, but I hope EG trades for all five of them this off season.

Maybe we can give up AJ, Blatche, that Euro, and a bazillion first rounders!

Posted by: Sarcasm | March 30, 2007 4:09 PM


Again, thank you for another wonder stimulating article. Can't thank you enough. What about Emeka Okafor in Charlotte?

I still remember watching him in the NCAA finals - blocking shots - swatting them away like flie. Sort of like
Noah w/the Gators. He's been stuck in Charlotte his enttire NBA career.

I understand Dwight Howard(ORL)paid a private coach to help develop his skills etc...

Emeka might consider same. Dwight & he were approx same size, etc. both struggling on disorganized teams.

Michael, Thanks again.

Not knocking Ivan - Its just that you make us put our thinking caps on.

Posted by: Robin | March 30, 2007 4:30 PM

I read today Rashard Lewis will be free agent? 6'10 295 lbs.

Michael, Ivan & Wiz Fans what do ya think?

Posted by: Robin | March 30, 2007 4:34 PM

I know Portland is a small market and people dont look at the team very seriously but Zach Randolph has to be considered ahead of Pau Gasol. He absolutely tore him apart last night and is now averaging 23 and 10 on a team that is young like the celtics. I would much rather have randolph on my team than gasol and pierce

Posted by: fan in san anton | March 30, 2007 4:56 PM

Okay, here's the question: If Iverson is not on the 76ers from the beginning of the season, are they in the playoffs? If so, then you have to ask, out of the 5 players on M.L.'s list, who of those are the Allen Iveson's? In other words, who of those five are great individual players, but are not the type of player who makes their teammates better?

Posted by: M.E.G. | March 30, 2007 5:13 PM


Posted by: DC Man88 | March 30, 2007 9:41 PM

The Nuggets are still not very good even with Iverson and Carmelo. I can understand one or even two lottery bound seasons, but after 3 in a row- maybe this "star" player isn't as good as you think he is. Sometimes it's easy to pile up big stats on a bad team- I don't think Joe Johnson would be considered a star player on a more loaded team.

Posted by: juandixonformvp | March 31, 2007 6:08 AM

Robin - my two cents - Lewis is a nice player who can score inside and out. His game, tho, is somewhat similar to AJ's - good scorer inside and out, but doesn't really play defense, and in general is a little soft. He also is going to want a lot of money, or at least more than the Wiz have for a free agent.

Bottom line - WHat he would add primarily is scoring, something the Wiz don't need. He wouldn't add big rebounding, defense or toughness, which the Wiz do need.

Posted by: charles jones | March 31, 2007 9:31 AM

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