Comeback Player of the Year
Every year certain NBA players are written off, left for dead so to speak. Some are due to serious injury, others are due to inconsistent play and a team just gives up on them.
Needless to say it is difficult for NBA castoffs to achieve the status they have worked so hard for. Some of these players never return to the level they are accustomed to and some of them even end up out of the NBA all together. But for some, not only do they get back to being a productive player; they actually improve upon their games.
This is what being a Comeback Player of the Year is all about. Players whose careers were on the down turn, but found the drive to push themselves to a new level. Whether they succumbed to a major injury in the past, or were traded for cap space, these players are making a difference this season that few expected.
Michael Beasley-Minnesota Timberwolves: It seems like a long time ago the debate raged on about who should go first in the 2008 NBA Draft, Derrick Rose or Beasley. At the time it was a pretty close race, especially since the Bulls had PG Kirk Hinrich and zero post presence. Looking back however, it seems it was an obvious choice. Rose is an All-Star and has made the playoffs each of his first two seasons, while Beasley was traded away from the Miami HEAT this past offseason in an effort to clear up more cap space. Clearly this has motivated Beasley, because all he’s done since coming to the Timberwolves is lead the team in scoring, average over six boards per game (good enough for second on the team behind the league’s leading rebounder Kevin Love) and shoot over 47% from the field and 44% from behind the arc (both career highs). Those are numbers every team in the NBA could use, even the HEAT, but only Minnesota was willing to take a chance on Beasley. At this point, it looks like the T-Wolves found themselves a cornerstone to build around.
Dorell Wright-Golden State Warriors: Wright is another HEAT castoff that is thriving in a new a situation. Wright has proven to be more than just a spot shooter and defender, a label he earned during his six-year tenure with the HEAT. This season he is averaging career highs in points (16.1ppg), assists (3.0), rebounds (6.0), steals (1.4) and minutes (39.0). In Wright’s case the biggest stat is minutes; this is the first time in his career he has averaged starters minutes. Sometimes all it takes to be considered a Comeback Player is to get into a situation where you get the minutes to prove you belong.
Tyson Chandler-Dallas Mavericks: Few have questioned Chandler’s talent, but his ability to stay healthy has been an issue since the 2008-09 season. Since playing 79 games in 07-08, Chandler has missed 68 games over the last two years. Throw in the fact he averaged 6.3 rebounds a game last season (his lowest total since he was a rookie) and we can begin to understand why the Charlotte Bobcats traded him to the Dallas Mavericks in a salary dump. As with all of the Comeback Players, this season has been different for Chandler. His rebounding is back up to over 9 per game and he earned the starting Center job over incumbent Brendan Haywood. Chandler is also averaging a career high in field goal percentage and has become the catalyst for a Mavericks defense that is holding opponents to under 94 points a game, good for 6th in the league.
Darko Milicic-Minnesota Timberwolves: How many times has Milicic been written off? How many times has he had the ‘bust’ label put on him? How many people thought David Kahn was crazy for signing him to a four-year deal? I know I did. This season Milicic has been a completely different player. While he may not be putting up gaudy numbers like Beasley or Wright, Darko is providing solid defense and an interior presence that Minnesota has been lacking. Milicic is leading the league in block percentage (the percentage of shots taken with him on the court that he rejects) and is averaging a career high in points. This is a pretty impressive turnaround for someone that many believed would never amount to a serviceable player, much less a starter in the NBA.
James Jones-Miami HEAT: From 2005-07 Jones was one of the up and coming three point shooters in the NBA when he was with the Phoenix Suns. In the three seasons since, he has been injury plagued and has missed a total of a 112 games. This season, Jones has avoided the injury bug and is back to being one of the game’s top three point specialists. He is in the top twenty in 3PT%, hitting over 43% of his attempts, and is in the top 15 in total 3s made. Jones’ ability to spread the court is a key component to the Miami HEAT turnaround after a 9-8 start; his accuracy from the perimeter helps open up the lane for Miami’s ‘Big Three.’