Time is of the essence for Victor Oladipo. After the Indiana Pacers were knocked out by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs that went the distance, one of the first things Oladipo did was text his trainer and ask if they could start hitting the gym – ASAP.
Oladipo knows hard work pays off in the NBA. Prior to the 2017-18 season, Oladipo trained like there was no tomorrow, focused on bouncing back from a disappointing season with the Oklahoma City Thunder which saw him serve as the Alfred to Batman’s Russell Westbrook. Not Robin.
The result was astonishing. Oladipo entered his fifth season in the league with a burning motivation and in the best shape of his life. His sacrifices translated to an All-Star making performance on the court, as he led the Indiana Pacers to an unlikely playoffs seat, let alone getting there as a fifth seed.
Averaging 15.9 points per game on 33.2 minutes in 2016-17, Oladipo’s offensive production jumped to 23.1 points per game even with only a minimal addition to his minutes (34.0).
Point being, there’s always room for improvement, and there’s always an opportunity to recover from a mediocre season if you put in the work early. Fans would like to see their teams’ players follow Oladipo’s example, so here is our unsolicited list of some NBA dudes whose teams are already eliminated this season but should be wasting no time preparing for 2018-19.
Look, I understand Anthony is not getting any younger, so preserving whatever amount of juice is left in his legs should also be a priority.
On the other hand, Anthony’s window of winning his first NBA ring is getting precariously small. It may not be long before he completely falls off outside the reach of the NBA’s relevancy radar.
Perhaps among stars on the wrong side of 30, it’s Anthony that needs a career resuscitation the most. Among the players on the Oklahoma City Thunder team that was eliminated by the Utah Jazz in the playoffs, it’s Anthony who probably took the biggest L.
Unlike Paul George and Russell Westbrook, Anthony barely showed up in that series and nearly turned into a ghost, while averaging just 11.8 points with a horrid 37.5 field goal shooting percentage. In a game of Start, Bench, Cut between Anthony, Westbrook, and George, Melo is likely most people’s cut choice.
Whether Melo stays in Oklahoma City by picking up his $27.9 million player option or starts another chapter of his career somewhere else, he needs a solid 2018-19 campaign to prove he’s far from fading to black.
Hoodie Melo Part II? Why not?
There was a time when Damian Lillard was deservedly included in this season’s MVP discussions. The Blazers had one of the hottest second halves in the league which was powered by Lillard’s exploits.
Following the All-Star break, Dame posted 28.6 points, 6.6 assists, and just 2.2 turnovers per game. Lillard and the Blazers were supposed to win their first-round series against the New Orleans Pelicans, but it was the opposite that transpired. Worse, the Blazers were taken to the woodshed by the Pelicans in a shocking sweep with Lillard nowhere to be found.
The pendulum kept swinging but Dame Time never happened. He was never a factor in the series. Though Lillard scored 18.5 points in four games, he shot 35.2 percent from the field and 30.0 percent from deep. Nothing deflates a star’s ego than going into a series with his team as the clear favorite, only to get whipped in such a crushing fashion.
For Lillard, though, he could use the embarrassment to fuel his desire to get even better. Lillard is still the face of the Blazers’ franchise and him getting back to work early in the offseason should only inculcate discipline in his teammates.
LaVar Ball promised that Lonzo Ball will lead the Lakers back to the land of milk and honey. LaVar made the Los Angeles Lakers believe that in Lonzo. That the storied franchise were getting a messianic figure, who was going to solve all their woes in just a year.
That sounded foolish then and it sounds even more hilarious today knowing that Lonzo seemingly could not even fix his own jump shot.
Speaking of which, Lonzo has all the time in the world to start fine-tuning his awkward shooting motion. In his first year in the NBA, Lonzo shot 36.0 percent from the field, 30.5 percent from deep, and 45.1 percent from the foul line. Those are atrocious numbers no matter how one looks at them. Lonzo will continue to run the offense in La La Land, but at some point, he’ll have to show the Lakers that, as a guard, he can be a reliable source of scoring.
Are we even sure that this guy still exists? It was not that long ago when Okafor was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers as the third-overall pick in 2015, but after a decent rookie season, it has since gone downhill for the once highly-touted NBA prospect from Duke.
Okafor appeared in just 28 games with Philly and the Brooklyn Nets combined last season, spending just 12.6 minutes on the floor and averaging just 6.3 points.
The Sixers treated Okafor like a bench ornament in his last season in Philly before they shipped him to Brooklyn, where he continued to occupy the deepest parts of the pine. If Brooklyn decides not to pick up its club option on Okafor for 2018-19, the former Blue Devil will become a free agent this coming summer.
It’ll take a lot before teams start believing in Okafor again, as his stock has taken a nosedive. That’s not entirely his fault, but in the NBA, a player is only as good as what he showed the past season.
Getting back to top shape is a good start for Okafor. He’s actually already started a rigid training regimen under the same trainer that helped Oladipo transform into an All-Star. Okafor is still just 22, meaning a career turnaround for the 6-foot-11 post operator is very much possible.
The pain of watching Memphis implode last season could have been easier to bear for Grizzlies fans if they weren’t aware of the fact that their team has been swindled by Chandler Parson into paying him $94 million. In two seasons for the Grizzlies so far, Parsons has averaged eye-sore numbers of 7.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in only 70 games played.
As of the moment, he is earning more money than DeAndre Jordan, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie Irving. Ouch. Parsons will make $24.1 million in 2018-19 and $25.1 million more in 2019-20.
He’s not exactly an endearing figure for Grizzlies fans because of that, but if he could show that he is doing work early in his offseason instead of dating models and posting on Instagram, he would look less of a waste of money for Memphis.
The Minnesota Timberwolves
Nah. They need to rest.