5 Failed NBA Players We Hoped Would Pan Out

NBA summer league is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated events in all of sports, I love tuning in not only to watch players my favorite former college basketball players try to find their niche in the NBA. But my favorite thing to do while watching summer league basketball is trying to predict which players can translate to the NBA from there.  Sometimes I’ve been right like in the cases of Jeremy Lin, Tyler Johnson and Jordan Clarkson, all of whom have signed lucrative deals this offseason, but I’ve been wrong in predicting who could cut it in the NBA about almost every other time.

So here are some guys (some of whom didn’t play in summer league) who I really wanted to see make it in the NBA.

Joe Alexander

Joe Alexander’s highlight reel from his final year at West Virginia University is the greatest highlight reel in the history of highlight reels.

Joe Alexander was supposed to be the next evolution of the swing forward position.  A tough, high flyer with the ability to get to the rim and a developing jumper.  The only problem with him was his inconsistent shot, shaky handle, lack of lateral movement and injury history. So yea… maybe he wasn’t gonna be the guy.

Either way I really just wanted to see a white guy dunk all over dudes and we never got that. For that reason alone I am eternally regretful.


Sergio Rodriguez.

I mean the guy’s nickname was Spanish Chocolate because of the comparison to Jason “White Chocolate” Williams. The Spanish Magician had a fancy handle that reminded many of Williams as well as a streaky shot but he had great highlight reels and that’s the most important thing here if you couldn’t already tell.

Rodriguez was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 2006 with the 27th overall pick when he was 20 years old and immediately traded to the Portland Trail Blazers. Unfortunately for El Magician Espanol his slender body wasn’t quite ready for the NBA and he was prone to turnovers. He left for Real Madrid in the Spanish ACB in 2010 becoming the best point guard in all of Europe. I guess even when some people lose they still win.

Rodriguez eyed a return to the NBA as recently as last year, however he opted to stay in his native Spain.  Seeing as the new reality of the NBA is one in which Matthew Dellevedova gets $40 million guaranteed he’s probably cursing himself that he didn’t. Them be the breaks.

Update: The Philadelphia 76ers signed Sergio Rodriguez yesterday



Stromile Swift

We live at a time where Lebron can extort  Tristian Thompson can get signed to a max deal and you’re telling me there isn’t a place in the NBA for the Stro Show? I call horseshit.

Stromile Swift was drafted by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the 2nd pick of the 2000 draft, he spent 7 years with the Grizz before embarking on a journeyman’s career that took him to Houston, New Jersey, Miami, Phoenix and even China.

At first glance it would appear that Stro was nothing more a leaper and a dunker with nothing much else to offer at the NBA level, but a close examination of his stats revealed that he was a not-terrible rim protector who averaged 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes and a pretty good (but probably underachieving considering his athleticism) rebounder pulling down 8.6 per 36 minutes. Hell he wasn’t even a bad free throw shooter hitting them at a 70% clip over the course of his career.

Looking at his stats it kinds of baffles me that he wasn’t more prominently featured by his teams, leading me to a couple theories about why he didn’t make it in the NBA (his decorated injury history notwithstanding):

1: He was a headcase – Which may be true considering his publicized clashes with Memphis coach Mark Iavaroni, and guilty plea for stalking a woman in 2012.


2: He played in the league in the wrong era. – Stro played at a time where big players were expected get the ball in the post with their backs to the basket and go to work on their opponent.  He was more of the pick-and-roll, get his off lobs and off the backboard type, which is pretty much all teams ask of elite big men nowadays due to post-up scoring being exposed as inefficient by the analytics community.  The world could use a few more Stros.


Denham Brown

The guy scored 100 points in a high school game goddammit!

I mean it was in a high school…. in Canada, but still he was good enough to go straight from Canada to the University of Connecticut where he won a national title in 2004.  Brown never averaged more than 10 points a game at U-Conn, and some may look at that and figure it was no wonder he couldn’t cut it in the league, but he played with almost 10 teammates who went on to make the NBA during his time at U-Conn including Charlie Villanueva, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon and the indispensable Hilton Armstrong, He managed to be a key contributor in each of his four years at UConn on some of the most ridiculously loaded college basketball teams in recent history every year he was in college.

Brown  was drafted in 2006 by the Seattle Supersonics in the 2nd round with the 40th overall pick, however Brown never sniffed the NBA because he was considered too small and unathletic to be a full time shooting guard while having no point guard skills and a streaky three point shot.  In retrospect it seems as if Brown probably never had a chance in the NBA to begin with, but I mean… he was crafty. That counts for something right?


Yi Jinlian

I don’t understand why he couldn’t pan out seeing as he really took it to that chair in the much lambasted pre-draft workout video that I’m sure the Chinese Government had scrubbed from the internet because I can’t find any images of it for the life of me (well done Commies.) I did find this, however.

In all seriousness, Yi Jinlian was supposed to be the Chinese version of Pau Gasol or Dirk Nowitzki, the anti- Yao Ming. Physically and skill-wise he had everything he to make it in the league, he was damn near 7 feet tall, was reported to be the fastest player on his team in China, had a decent shooting touch and was a gifted leaper.He was expected to be a useful NBA player for a long time when he was drafted by Milwaukee with the 6th overall pick of the 2007 draft.

However, whatever Yi possessed in terms of skills, size and athleticism he definitively lacked in toughness and and desire, a career killer in a league full of tough guys who desperately want to be there.  He was frequently criticized during his brief NBA career for his lack of effort on defense and his unwillingness to commit to improving his game.  Playing in a league where couldn’t dominate because of his size and athleticism exposed his manifold dispositional shortcomings. And it’s too bad because out of all these guys he was the most suited to play in the league both physically and in terms of skill.

Yi went back to China in 2011 where he continues to dominate. Sure if he had the will to challenge himself he probably could have turned into a good NBA player, but making a ton of money coasting in a league only two steps above intramural works too I guess.