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The Grass Isn't Greener: NBA Player's Who'll Struggle In New Places


Free agency can be a great opportunity for players to find new homes that mesh with their playing styles and help them achieve their potential.

But it can also be a chance for players to think they're doing that and then wind up in a bad situation where they're unable to find NBA success.

This article is about the latter. Let's look at five NBA players who changed teams this offseason and won't be finding immediate success in their new digs.

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Dragan Bender (F/C, Milwaukee Bucks)

The Dragan Bender era is over in Phoenix. The former lottery pick made it just three seasons with the Suns, appearing in 171 games and starting 64 of them.

Last year, Bender played 46 games with 27 starts. He shot 44.7 percent from the floor -- his first year shooting over 40 percent! -- but shot 21.8 percent from three on 2.2 attempts per game. He finished the season with averages of 5.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.2 assists.

Bender just never found his footing with Phoenix. He was a stretch big who couldn't shoot consistently enough to make an impact and spent plenty of time looking lost on both ends of the floor.

Sometimes, a change of scenery helps former lottery picks get their games together, but I don't see that happening in Milwaukee. First off, fitting him into this team's rotation is difficult. Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo are your starting front court. Robin Lopez will get most of the backup center minutes. Ersan Ilyasova is a good version of what Dragan Bender might eventually be and will be the backup four. It's going to take injuries for Bender to get minutes, and even then they might go to D.J. Wilson first. Don't consider this a good fresh start.

 

Avery Bradley (G, Los Angeles Lakers)

When people are tweeting this during your first preseason game with a new team, it's not a good sign:

Bradley has long been known as a defensive guard, which makes him finishing last year with a -1.3 D-PIPM a bad sign, especially when his PIPM on the offensive end was -2.0.

Bradley's numbers in Memphis to end the year -- 16.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game on 46.3 percent shooting in 14 games -- help obscure how bad he was for his first 49 games with the Clippers, when he shot 38.3 percent from the floor, 33.7 percent from three, and averaged 8.2 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per contest.

Lakers Bradley is going to look a lot like Clippers Bradley. His Memphis numbers were buoyed by a 22.9 percent usage rate, which over a full season would have been the fourth-highest mark of his career. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Bradley won't be using nearly that many possessions, which lowers his value significantly.

 

Quinn Cook (G, Los Angeles Lakers)

Speaking of PIPM, the NBA player who had the worst PIPM last year was Quinn Cook. He was one of the worst defenders in the league and his offensive impact was also a net negative.

Now, he finds himself leaving the Warriors -- where he had a pretty sizable role due to that team's back court depth -- to join the Los Angeles Lakers.

Cook likely enters the season fighting with Bradley for backup point guard minutes behind Rajon Rondo. Technically, one of them will likely get those minutes and put up numbers that make them potentially worth a late-round flyer, while the other will be relegate to mop up duties, unless Alex Caruso just passes both of them up.

Cook has value as a shooter, as he's shot over 40 percent from three in each of his NBA seasons. But he's not going to grab boards or dish out assists or get steals, and you can't just assume a low-volume three-point shooter is worth a fantasy roster spot just because he connects on 40 percent of those attempts.

 

Pau Gasol (F/C, Portland Trail Blazers)

Pau Gasol is still in the NBA!

Gasol played in just 30 games last year, averaging 3.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 12 minutes per contest.

It's become very clear that Gasol's days of being a solid NBA player are over, which is why him signing with the Trail Blazers this offseason was a surprise. Here was a guy who was coming off the worst year of his NBA career at the age of 38, and you're telling me that he's going to be playing another season?

Portland has Hassan Whiteside as the starting center and Zach Collins can slide down from the four to the five to replace him at times, but until Jusuf Nurkic returns from injury in the second half of the season, Gasol is going to get some run. But don't expect minutes to necessarily equal opportunity, and Gasol at this point doesn't have much -- if any -- fantasy value, even if he gets 15 minutes per game for the first half of the year.

 

Mike Muscala (F/C, Oklahoma City Thunder)

In addition to writing here at RotoBaller, I cover the 76ers for another site, which means I watched a ton of Mike Muscala last year and...meh.

He's a bench big who can hit some shots when needed but is a defensive liability when he has to play the four and also doesn't have the inside game to play the five. That's not a great combination of things.

In Oklahoma City, Muscala's best non-injury scenario appears to be being the backup power forward to Danilo Gallinari, but Gallinari should play a ton this year, and I expect backup five minutes to primarily go to Nerlens Noel, leaving Muscala with a role that'll be consistent but not great from a fantasy perspective.

And if the Thunder can find a way to trade Chris Paul and pivot into rebuilding mode, there's a good chance that Darius Bazley winds up surpassing Muscala for those minutes at power forward, so...yeah, I don't see the 2019-2020 season going super well for Muscala.

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