By Liam Melrose
Jeremy Lin is amongst a number of NBA players who experienced a breakout in form only to fall away over time. Photo: Chris Chambers/Getty Images
In Part One of our NBA One Season Wonders series Liam Melrose looks at ten players from ten different NBA franchises who had breakout seasons only to drop off the radar in the following years.
NEW YORK KNICKS - JEREMY LIN (2011-2012):
Every basketball fan around the world remembers the season when ‘Linsanity’ took the NBA by storm. The American born former Harvard student burst onto the scene in the 2011-2012 season. The Knicks were actually contemplating waiving Lin, before a number of injuries to multiple point guards on the roster forced New York to give the young guard an opportunity. He didn’t let them down. Following Lin’s promotion to the starting-five, New York went on a seven-game winning streak, with the guard securing the Eastern Conference Player of the Week averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 assists and two steals across four games. This included a career high 38 points against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. While Lin continued on to have a consistent career, he never got back to the heights he reached during that 2011-2012 season in New York.
'Linsanity' took over the basketball world in early 2012. Photo: Reuters/Adam Hunger
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES – JONNY FLYNN (2009-2010):
Flynn put together an impressive rookie season averaging 13.5 points and 4.4 assists per game earning him a place on the 2010 NBA All-Rookie 2nd team. However, his numbers declined the following season. There was speculation hip surgery he underwent in the summer of 2010 was hampering his output during the 2010-11 season, with Flynn only managing 5.3 points and 3.4 assists per game.
Jonny Flynn's numbers rapidly declined following his rookie season. Photo: Getty Images
MILWAUKEE BUCKS – BRANDON JENNINGS (2011-2012):
Jennings was touted as a future superstar of the league after his first three seasons. He put up a 55 point performance in his rookie season, as well as starting in every game with averages of 15.5 points and 5.7 assists per game, earning him a place in the All-Rookie First team. His best season to date came in 2011-2012 where he averaged 19.1 points and 5.5 assists per game. While he continued to average double figure scoring for the next three seasons, he never took that next step to become one of the premier point guards of the league as was expected at the end of the 2011-12 season, with his numbers slowly dropping each year.
Brandon Jennings was touted as a future premier point guard of the NBA, however after a great start to his career he never took the next step to become a superstar of the league. Photo: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – MICHAEL CARTER WILLIAMS (2013-2014):
After winning the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year, Carter Williams’ numbers have gone backwards. In his first year in the NBA he averaged 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. While the point guard remained consistent for the next few seasons his numbers slowly declined, and injuries began to take their toll. He has spent the past few seasons as a role player off the bench for a number of teams around the league.
Michael Carter-Williams with former coach Brett Brown after being awarded the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year. Photo: Matt Slocum/Associated Press
LOS ANGELES LAKERS – ANDREW BYNUM (2011-2012)
Looked to be the next big thing at the centre position, averaging five straight seasons of at least double digit scoring, while securing at least eight rebounds or more. He was a member of the Lakers back-to-back title run in 2009 and 2010. His breakout year came in 2011-12 where he was an All-Star, averaging 18.7 points and almost 12 rebounds per game. However, following that season he fell victim to a number of knee injuries and never fully recovered. He missed the whole 2012-13 season before signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, however the move was short lived, Bynum only managed 24 games with the Cavs before being traded.
Andrew Bynum looked to be the next big thing at the centre position before a number of injuries took their toll on the two-time NBA Champion. Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
SACRAMENTO KINGS – TYREKE EVANS (2009-2010)
While Evans has had a solid career to date, his first season was his best by a long way. He was awarded Rookie of the Year in the 2009-10 season on the back of 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. These were incredible numbers for a rookie. He was just the fourth rookie in NBA history to average at least 20 points, five assists and five rebounds per game. The other three players to also achieve these numbers in their debut season were Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. However, unfortunately for Evans he was unable to replicate his magnificant rookie season and grow into an NBA superstar as many fans and experts predicted.
Tyreke Evans was awarded the 2009-10 NBA Rookie of the Year after averaging similar numbers to LeBron James and Michael Jordan in his first season in the league. Photo: USA TODAY Sports
DALLAS MAVERICKS – JOSH HOWARD (2007-2008)
Josh Howard started in all 76 games he played in the 2007-08 season averaging just under 20 points per game and seven rebounds. However, the following season Howard’s numbers slowly declined as injuries took their toll on the dynamic small-forward. His numbers were increasing in the years leading up to his career-best season, and he likely would’ve continued to improve those or continue to put up around 20 points per game if it wasn’t for a number of knee injuries de-railing his career.
Josh Howard at his best was one of the better small-forwards in the NBA. Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
HOUSTON ROCKETS – AARON BROOKS (2009-2010)
Brooks averaged just under 20 points per game and just over five assists in the 2009-2010 season in what was just his third season in the league. He started in all 82 games and was awarded the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. However, he never averaged more than 12 points again which mainly came down to lack of opportunity. He eventually went on to play in China in 2011-12 before coming back to the NBA, where he bounced around the league as a solid reserve, before finishing his professional career in the NBL with the Illawarra Hawks.
Aaron Brooks won the NBA's Most Improved Player award in 2010. He was traded the following season as his career began to spiral. Photo: USA TODAY Sports
TORONTO RAPTORS – MIKE JAMES (2005-2006)
Mike James only played one season in Toronto and it was the best of his career by a considerable margin. James started in all 79 games he played during the regular season for the Raptors in the 05-06 season, averaging just over 20 points and just under six assists per game at the point guard position. James also became the first Raptor in franchise history to score more than 30 points in four consecutive games. He signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves at the end of that season, but with considerably less minutes James was unable to perform at the level he did in Toronto. The Timberwolves eventually traded him, spending the remainder of his career with a number of different teams coming off the bench.
Mike James's time in Toronto didn't last long despite his very strong 2005-06 season. Photo: Robert Seale/Sporting News via Getty Images
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES – O.J. MAYO (2008-09)
Mayo began his career in the NBA on fire. He started in all 82 games of his rookie year, and averaged 18.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists at the shooting guard position. This earnt him a selection into the All-Rookie First Team. His sophomore year was much the same averaging 38 minutes per game and putting up similar scoring numbers. However, his numbers slowly deteriorated after his sophomore season. He showed signs he had re-ignited his career in the 2012-13 season with Dallas, where he started in all 82 games, averaging 15.3 points and 4.4 assists per game. However, he only spent one season with the Mavericks and his numbers once again dropped off with the Milwaukee Bucks, before he was eventually banned from the league due to drug violations in 2016. He went on to play in China and he remains there today.
O.J. Mayo was once one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Cover Photo: Noah K. Murray/ The Star-Ledger