Many NBA fans believe that if a player puts up impressive stat-lines, they are automatically qualified to be in the MVP conversation. These same fans believe that when these players aren’t winning, it is their team that is failing them. I frankly disagree. Players who just fill up the box score need to additionally step up as the leader of their respective team. Take Anthony Davis for example. He can motivate the lackluster Pelicans to beat opponents way better than them, such as the Raptors, Rockets, and Nuggets. Certain talented players need to stop using their teams as an excuse and realize that winning is more valuable than stats.
Devin Booker Suns
Booker is one of the best young talents in the league and was an absolute steal at the 13th pick. He is an elite sharpshooter and is averaging an absurd 24.6 points per game on 43.3% shooting from the field. But why is his team so bad? Yes, you can blame the coaches. You can blame the front office. You can blame the supporting cast too. But at the end of the day, I believe it should come down to Booker and his ability to lead.
One comparison that you can draw is this year’s Mavericks. So far, the Mavericks have been decent and have shown flashes of potential. In my mind, they are playoff contenders - although not likely to make it to the postseason. However, at least they have been winning enough to have a chance at the postseason. Devin Booker's Suns don't even have a chance. Though the Mavericks have a better front office and coaching staff, they have a worse overall team. Luka Doncic’s supporting cast is lackluster, with his second option being Tim Hardaway Jr (whom is shooting under 40% from the field). Devin Booker has a supporting cast of a first overall pick in Deandre Ayton, a 4th overall pick in Josh Jackson, and a 10th overall pick in Mikal Bridges. Ayton is playing phenomenal as a second option, averaging a double-double on near 60% shooting. Bridges was on 2 NCAA Championship winning teams and probably knows a thing or two about winning. TJ Warren is also playing alongside Booker and is contributing 18 points a night.
What makes these two teams so different in terms of success? Luka Doncic. Despite being younger, Doncic plays better all around basketball than Booker. Other than being a great scorer, Booker is an okay passer and a below average defender and rebounder. He is not a real winner, and though he will continue to put up great numbers, will never lead his team anywhere.
Bradley Beal Wizards
Beal is one of the best 2-way players and shooters in the league. But even with him putting up lustrous numbers, the Wizards cannot win. Every year they are expected to do so well, but they always end up disappointing. And it seems that every year, we give this team yet another excuse. Last year, the Wizards finished below expectations as the eighth seed and were destroyed by the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. They blamed that season’s outcome on John Wall’s injury. This year, John Wall is injured again and the Wizards are the 11th seed. It’s not like the Eastern Conference playoff picture is extremely competitive - both the 7th and 8th seed are under .500. Even without Wall, the playoffs should be achievable for the Wizards.
Every year the Wizards disappoint, Beal receives zero credit for the failure. Sure, things will be harder with John Wall is out. But even with Wall injured, his backup, Tomas Satoransky, is one of the better bench players in the NBA. Bradley Beal is nothing short of a star and should be treated with the same responsibilities as one. Beal is putting up 25 points per game and his team is still 10 games under .500. Meanwhile, Kemba Walker is putting the lowly Hornets on his shoulders and carrying them to an Eastern Conference playoff spot. Bradley Beal deserves more of the blame for his team’s failure.
Demarcus Cousins Warriors
Okay, so I know that the Warriors are winning right now. But just about any other team in the league would be mediocre at best if they added Demarcus Cousins. When drafted to the Kings, Boogie looked like the brightest spot on one of the worst teams in the NBA. Despite Boogie improving almost every season, his seven year tenure with the Kings never resulted in a single winning season, let alone a season with more than 33 wins.
After a few years, the Pelicans made a move for Cousins, trading Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, and 1st round picks for Cousins and Omri Casspi. The Pelicans were in playoff contention at the time of the trade, sitting at the 8th seed in the West. Yet, after trading for Boogie, the Pelicans regressed to the 10th seed. A team that added arguably the best center in the NBA went from being in the playoffs to out of the playoffs. How backwards is that?
The next year, the Pelicans were not looking so great. The Boogie-AD experiment was failing. In late January, the Pelicans were again in the 10th seed and outside of the playoffs. Then, Boogie Cousins fell on a hustle play and tore his Achilles in the final seconds of a matchup versus the Rockets. The Pelicans, desperate for any big man, traded for Nikola Mirotic. With a stretch four as their replacement for one of the most acclaimed centers in the league, the future wasn't looking too bright for the Pelicans. But, to many’s surprise, Jrue Holiday, Mirotic, and AD were on fire for the rest of the season. They ascended to the 6th seed in the conference, swept the Portland Trail Blazers, and were ultimately defeated by Golden State.
The Pelicans further proved that Boogie can be a liability when it comes to winning games. And while his new team is winning, Cousins is barely contributing - granted, he is coming off injury. And with his impending free agency, we will be able to see how Demarcus Cousins contributes to his next team.
Blake Griffin Pistons
Blake Griffin has always been a very good player. He is flashy, athletic, a decent shooter, a good passer, and a great scorer. But he cannot win. His success has often times been a result of his fit within a team’s system. When he was with the Clippers, Griffin won due to an incredible team around him. He didn’t have to focus on much other than catching lobs and getting into good position near the basket. He had an all-time great playmaker in Chris Paul to find him when he was open. He had DeAndre Jordan to rebound and defend the paint for him. He had one of the greatest coaches of all time in Doc Rivers to get him good offensive looks. This team was perfectly constructed for Blake Griffin to succeed.
However, the team’s injury proneness was the main factor that exposed Blake Griffin. Whenever Chris Paul was injured, Blake Griffin could not lead the Clippers to success. Because of that, this team severely disappointed year after year in the playoffs. And it got even worse in 2017 when Paul left them in free agency. It was now Blake Griffin’s time to prove himself. The Clippers put full faith in Griffin by signing him to a huge extension, worth $30 million a year. But Griffin couldn’t perform or lead the team without CP3. The Clippers had enough and a few weeks before the trade deadline, Griffin was traded to the Detroit Pistons for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, and 2 first round picks.
On his new team, he was expected to be the scorer and the leader. He was expected to be the missing piece that would bring a promising team to a successful playoff run. However, with a record that is four games under .500, this team has been anything but successful. Blake Griffin couldn’t lead the Clippers anywhere and so far hasn’t been able to lead the Pistons anywhere either. Talented as he is, Blake Griffin's biggest flaw is that he cannot win.
Carmelo Anthony Free Agent
It is well known that Carmelo Anthony is far from the player he used to be. He is an inefficient ball stopper on offense and a liability on defense. These are the reasons why no team has signed the former All-Star yet. But the thing is, Carmelo was this same exact player back before his OKC days. With every team he has been on, Carmelo Anthony has slowed down his team's offensive momentum by going to his go-to move: the three point stance.
This stance halts any movement of the ball as he rarely passes when in this position. This playstyle is inefficient and does nothing except confirm the fact that Melo is the “posterboy” of a stat padding. He scores, and does nothing else. He has not won anything significant in the NBA and will not unless he decides to chase a ring.
When Melo was on the Nuggets, he played pretty well up until around the 2010’s, when he became a ball hog. When traded to the Knicks, he put up impressive numbers, but could not succeed due to his playstyle. When he was traded to the Thunder, the team was expected to do great things. Until, of course, they actually played with one another. Westbrook and Carmelo constantly took terrible shots, which they rarely made. Within a season, Melo was onto his next team in Atlanta, where he was immediately cut. Without Carmelo this season, the Thunder have thrived and PG13 has really shined in Melo's absence.
Meanwhile, the Rockets started the season horrifically with Carmelo Anthony. The former first seed in the West couldn't even a maintain a .500 record with Melo, causing him to be traded to the Bulls and eventually cut there. Melo’s skillset was one that did not lead his team to win. This is why he has not, and will not win a title.
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