Over the last decade, big-name stars such as Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade stand out as top NBA players. However, several second-tier players who also played at a high-level over the past decade have quickly gone forgotten. In the first part of this three-part series, here are five NBA players who fans forgot were really good.
5. Luol Deng, 2005-2019
Luol Deng was never the best player on his team but was always a solid contributor during his prime. For the first nine and a half seasons of his career, Deng played with the Derrick Rose-led Chicago Bulls teams. The best season of his career was the 2012-13 season, where he averaged 16.5 ppg and 6.3
At the end of his prime, Deng joined the big three in Miami, where he lost in the NBA finals in 2015. Last year was his last NBA season as he rarely appeared off the bench, and was washed up at age 33. The South Sudan native signed a one-day contract at the start of this season to retire with the Chicago Bulls.
4. Kevin Martin, 2004-2016
Most fans have probably forgotten about the name Kevin Martin. It’s due in large part to the fact that Martin was the lone standout on an otherwise atrocious Sacramento Kings’ team during the late 2000s. However, Martin was consistently a knockdown shooter, despite his quirky shoot-from-the-hip motion. From the 2006-07 season with Sacramento to the 2010-11 season with Houston, Martin averaged 22.4 points per game, despite battling injuries.
Martin was later brought in by the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the blockbuster trade for James Harden at the start 2012-13 season. After a down year with the Thunder, Martin was able to revive his career and put up an average of 17.1 ppg in two and a half seasons with the Timberwolves. Minnesota traded him to San Antonio at the 2016 deadline, where Martin would finish out his career before retiring. It’s a shame because Martin could have been even better if he’d avoided injuries.
3. David Lee, 2005-2017
Prior to the Carmelo Anthony years, David Lee was the centerpiece of the mediocre late 2000s New York Knicks’ rosters. Lee played the first five seasons of his career with New York, earning his first all-star appearance in 2010. During that 2010 season, Lee was arguably the sole reason the Knicks weren’t atrocious. He averaged 20.2 ppg and 11.7 rpg that year, anchoring the Knicks to a 29-53 record.
Lee then signed with Golden State before the start of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. Lee continued to play at a high level for four more seasons with the Warriors, before hitting a bridge year in 2015. He earned his second all-star appearance in 2013. Despite playing in a limited role off the bench, Lee won a ring in 2015 with Golden State. After one season with Boston, from where he was traded to Dallas, Lee played the final season of his career with San Antonio in 2016-17.
2. Al Jefferson, 2004-2018
Playing for five different teams throughout his 14-year career, Al Jefferson always flew under the radar. Despite never making an all-star team, Jefferson was a top-ten center in the NBA from 2007 to 2014. After three seasons with Boston, Jefferson was shipped to Minnesota as part of the Kevin Garnett trade back in 2007. Jefferson had the best year of his career with Minnesota in 2008-09 when he averaged 23.1 ppg, and 11.0 rpg.
After three years in Utah, Jefferson was able to revive his career with Kemba Walker and the Hornets in 2013-14. That season, Jefferson averaged 21.8 ppg, while helping to take a young roster to the playoffs. The bridge year for big Al came in 2015 when his scoring and playing time dropped considerably. He played his final two NBA seasons with the Indiana Pacers, but only played 13.9 mpg across two seasons.
1. Zach Randolph, 2001-2018
Most fans seem to forget there was a period where Randolph was considered a top-tier power forward in the NBA. A gritty, hard-nosed big, Randolph earned two all-star appearances in his 17-year career, while playing for five different teams. Randolph’s breakout season came in 2003-04 with Portland, when he averaged 20.1 ppg and 10.5 rpg. However, after six seasons with the Blazers, Z-Bo was shipped off to the Knicks to make room for Greg Oden.
At the 2009 trade deadline, New York sent Randolph to the Clippers where he played half of a season. However, Randolph was traded at the end of the season to Memphis, to make room for Blake Griffin in Los Angeles. In Memphis, Randolph helped the Grizzlies, and their grit-and-grind mentality. In eight seasons for the Grizzlies, Randolph averaged 16.8 ppg, and 10.2 rpg while earning two all-star appearances. Randolph’s last season came in 2017-18 with the Sacramento Kings.
Stay tuned for part two of this list of players who fans forgot coming soon.
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