Who were the NBA’s five worst starters for the 2019-20 season?
ANDREW WIGGINS IS NO LONGER THE WORST PLAYER IN THE NBA. Wiggins has slowly graduated from tragic to just terrible on defense, and his added playmaking gave him positive value on offense for the first time ever. Wiggins was one of the five worst starters in the NBA each of the past two seasons and the league’s least valuable player a year ago. Now he’s just another bad player, and he’s Golden State’s problem.
The NBA recognizes its greatest players by picking First, Second, and Third Team All-NBA rosters, but why stop there? There are 30 teams and 30 starters at each position. Today we’ll look at the other end of the greatness spectrum, the Wiggins end. Sure, Wiggins is better at basketball than 100.00% of the people reading this, but that’s not the point. Five guys have to be the worst starters in basketball, so let’s find those five guys. They’re the 30th Team All-NBA, the Andrew Wiggins All-Stars.
No rookies allowed. Darius Garland, R.J. Barrett, and Jarrett Culver were pretty rough, but it’s no fun ragging on 19-year-olds, and rookies on bad teams aren’t expected to be good yet. Beyond that, anyone who started at least half their team’s games is available for selection.
Let’s get down to business. Who were the worst five starters in the NBA in the 2019–20 season? Let’s name our Worst Team All-NBA.
Isaiah Thomas, Washington Wizards
This one hurts.
Only three years ago, Isaiah Thomas finished fifth in the MVP race and was a legitimate 2nd Team All-NBA player at 28.9ppg. He pushed his body to the limit those playoffs, and it abandoned him — and then the Celtics did too. IT has bounced around the league since, playing for the Cavs, Lakers, Nuggets, and Wizards the last three years.
Thomas started 37 games this year, fifth most in his career, and like everyone else on the Wizards, he was absolutely atrocious on defense. IT’s size has always limited him on D, but he’s worse than ever now that he’s on the wrong side of 30. His free-throw rate is gone, and his offense is neutral at best, despite a career-best 41% behind the arc.
It’s sad, really. Thomas’s body is gone, and history says it probably ain’t coming back. He ranked bottom-10 in the entire NBA in PIPM.
Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies
Dillon Brooks led the presumably playoff-bound Grizzlies in minutes played. He scored 15.7ppg and was the only reliable Grizz wing for much of the season, and he hit 37% of his couple threes a game. On the surface, Brooks looks like a key 3-and-D wing for an up-and-coming playoff team.
It’s not as pretty if you dig a little deeper. Brooks made only 42% of his twos and attempted almost nine per game. In fact, he nearly led the team in usage, just barely behind Ja Morant. Brooks barely ever draws free throws, and he’s simply being asked to do way too much on offense. He might look like a 3-and-D guy, and perhaps he’ll develop into one, but right now he’s badly miscast as the #2 option on offense.
Brooks made just 50% of his shots at the rim this season and had negative offensive win shares, despite all those minutes played. That’s really bad. He was last among all qualified NBA starters at -4.3 BPM.
But he was like the sixth or seventh best player on a playoff team! That may or may not be. But the Grizzlies haven’t made the playoffs yet and won’t be a threat when they get there, and Brooks doesn’t get credit for the lack of wing options on this team.
Memphis liked what they saw this season and gave Brooks a fat extension, $35 million over the next three years. Brooks may develop into a quality 3-and-D guy if they can surround him with better offensive options, but that looks like a gross overpay either way.
You can make an easy case for Collin Sexton, but the Cavs were terrible and Sexton was being asked to do far too much. The defense is still terrible, but 20.8ppg with 38% from deep and kind of decent offense despite his age and the talent around him is enough to escape 30th Team honors.
Bryn Forbes started all year for San Antonio because he can hit threes and the Spurs badly need his spacing, but his defense is atrocious and he’s a one-trick pony. Gary Harris is much closer to this group than anyone would like to admit. We chalked his poor season up to injuries last year, but he was healthier and even worse this season. He’s still owed $40 million the next two years and is holding Denver back at this point.The Perfect 2020 All-NBA TeamsWhich L.A. superstars get snubbed from First Team? Jokic, Gobert, or Embiid? And which guards and forwards sneak onto Third Team?
F Terrance Ferguson, Oklahoma City Thunder
In 2008, Clay Bennett sold his soul to the devil and stole the Seattle SuperSonics and moved them to Oklahoma. He was promised years of All-NBA production from Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Paul George, and now Chris Paul.
In return, he promised the Thunder would never find that fifth starter.
Poor OKC just can’t ever find that elusive 3-and-D guy. They’ve spent a decade drafting long, athletic dudes and none of them seem to work out. Terrance Ferguson is just the latest attempt.
Ferguson was the worst starter in the league by PIPM. He was bad on defense and tragic on offense. Oklahoma City is a legit playoff team with four excellent starters. CP3, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and Steven Adams are all good enough to be fringe All-Star considerations. All they need is a fifth low-usage guy to hit open jumpers and guard wing players. It’s all this team has ever needed. And they simply cannot find it.
Remember Turd Ferguson, the Burt Reynolds “Celebrity Jeopardy” character from Saturday Night Live?
Terrance was Turd Ferguson this year. He had a -3.7 rating per 100 possessions, despite starting next to four very good players, and a terrible -9.2 on/off. He scored a whopping 4.2ppg and made under 30% of his threes, and even that wasn’t invisible enough. Ferguson was poor enough that OKC tried out Hamidou Diallo and Deonte Burton instead and found even worse results. Those two were third and fourth worst in OPIPM this season, just slightly ahead of Ferguson (13th worst) and behind (ahead of?) the latest lanky Thunder project Darius Bazley, worst OPIPM in the league.
The Thunder eventually stumbled into Luguentz Dort, an undrafted rookie out of Arizona State. Dort was at least functional on defense and that was enough on this team. He moved into starting lineup late and saw the Thunder finish 16–5 before the hiatus.
Ferguson was a first-round pick a year ago, and he’s still super young and was playing up a position. Maybe there’s hope for him yet. The Thunder just need that fifth starter.
F Taurean Prince, Brooklyn Nets
The rebuilding Atlanta Hawks, in desperate need of any help possible on the wing, did not want Taurean Prince. They wanted him so little they were willing to take on Allen Crabbe’s awful contract to dump Prince.
The Nets disagreed and signed Prince to a fat extension a year before they would’ve had to make a decision, giving him $29 million for two years that haven’t kicked in yet. That looks like a significant mistake.
Prince averaged around 12 points, six boards, and two assists a game, about the same as his last couple years. The problem is those years weren’t good either. Prince is supposed to be a 3-and-D wing, but he’s not good at threes or defense. His three-point percentage dropped from 39% the last two years to under 34%, and he’s always been average at best on defense, unable to use his great length to his advantage and often out of place on team D.
Prince finished the year under 50% true shooting thanks to sub-43% on twos. He had just a 94 offensive rating in 1857 minutes for a clear East playoff team, by far the worst Brooklyn regular on offense but the Nets had so little on the wing that they just kept on playing him.
No harm done on a season that was never going anywhere with Kevin Durant out, but now Brooklyn is locked into two more years of Prince at $15 million when he probably can’t play next to Durant and doesn’t look at all like the 3-and-D guy this team badly needs. Brooklyn has no real room to add to this team, so they’ll need either Prince or Caris LeVert to step it up on the wing or their KD-Kyrie construction may be doomed before it even begins.
Carmelo Anthony has a case for inclusion, but let’s respect the old man. He shot 43/37/84 and started 50 games off waivers for a desperate Blazers team that had no other options at forward. We know what he is at this point.
Miles Bridges is still young, but the signs are not good so far. He isn’t hitting shots or finding a consistent role on offense, and the athleticism has translated into highlight dunks but not much else. Cedi Osman is not as young as you think and locked into a four-year $31-million extension that’s about to kick in. He should be very grateful for that money.
But shouts to Andrew Wiggins, who played his way off back-to-back appearances on my 30th Team All-NBA, including recognition as my LVP a year ago. Wiggins’s teams lost 20 straight games at one point this season, winless between January 9th and Leap Day. He certainly still isn’t good, but at least he’s no longer worst in the league — or a Timberwolf.The Final 2020 NBA MVP LadderWas Giannis Antetokounmpo or LeBron James this year’s deserving MVP? And is there another name we’re overlooking?
C Cody Zeller / Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Hornets
Center is always tough on a team like this because so few centers play big minutes these days, so the ones that do are generally at least decent.
That’s why we’ll honor both Hornets together as our 30th Team center. Bisdy Zelyombo combined to put up 18 points and 13 rebounds in 43 minutes of play, basically taking all the center minutes this season. That certainly seems harmless enough, but the 2.4 assists and 1.3 blocks — remember, that’s combined!! — are pretty terrible.
Zeller is better on offense, which is to say he’s not as tragically bad. Biyombo did not attempt a three this season. Zeller did… and shouldn’t have. He took 75 threes this year and made only 18, a putrid 24%. Biyombo at least has use as a dunker, but he was a miserable 33-of-110 on shots outside of three feet. That’s fetid 30% means the Hornets would’ve been just about as good turning and punting the ball into the stands on those Biyombo shots which, to be fair, they probably did that a few times too.
The Hornets ranked dead last in defensive rebounding. The Hornets ranked second to last on offense and sixth worst on D. The entire team was bad. These two weren’t particularly egregious, but for over $31 million combined, you’d sure hope for something much better than “not particularly egregious.”
Biyombo made my 30th Team two years ago too. Welcome back, buddy.
Ian Mahinmi was not good in his 35 Washington starts. He was probably the Wizards’ best defender, but that’s kind of like being the least flammable oxygen tank on the Hindenburg. Eight more games until the Wizards are freed of his incendiary contract.
Meyers Leonard is the de facto Heat starting center. I’m not sure why either! As a starting NBA center, Leonard blocked 15 shots all season. Miami, WYD??The 2020 NBA Bench Mob All StarsAnyone can make 1st Team All-NBA. What about 31st Team All-NBA? Bench players matter too in the NBA, and it’s time we give them their due…
G Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers
Anfernee Simons was the worst regular in the NBA this season. He started only four games, so we’ll have to bring him off our bench.
Simons was horrible on offense and somehow even worse on defense. He ranked bottom-five in the NBA in some defensive metrics and finished dead last in the NBA in PIPM at -5.34. Simons had a 102 offensive rating and a 118 drtg, meaning the Blazers were outscored by 16 points per 100 possessions with him on the court. That’s one point every six possessions!
The Blazers had high hopes for a nifty three-guard rotation with Simons coming off the bench behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Simons played 1400 minutes and made barely 40% of his shots. A supposed point guard, he averaged only 2.4 assists per 36 minutes with a sub-10% assist rate, and he isn’t getting to the line or making much for himself either.
The Blazers were 4–15 this season when Simons played at least 25 minutes. They were 25–22 in their other games. Portland struggled to find useful forwards all year as they struggled to stay in the playoff race, but the truth is that they were hurt just as badly but their reliance on young Simons.
Simons just turned 21 a week ago, and his talent is clear. But his performance on the court makes it look like he should be developing that talent in the G-League, not playing big minutes for a team in the playoff race.
Kyle Kuzma can thank his lucky stars Simons is keeping him off the list.
Stats from Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.