The NBA is a league where stars reign supreme, with all-time greats like Michael, Kobe, and LeBron all carrying their teams to legendary status at different points of league history. But it is the players underneath them that make teams tick as well, even if those players are only effective for a season.
These NBA one-season wonders were great for a short period of time, only to come back down to Earth by the time they gained some notoriety for doing some great things on the court. If nothing else, they managed to earn some hype before their inevitable falls back to mediocrity.
Without further delay, here are 27 NBA players who were merely one-season wonders.
Jeremy Lin, New York Knicks
One of the things that makes a one-season wonder is the hype that surrounds a player who comes out of nowhere to play well. And nobody had as much of that hype around them as Jeremy Lin.
Lin averaged 14.6 points per game and just over six assists per contest in the 2011-2012 season, but the Linsanity craze that followed him around during his time with the Knicks was a period of basketball history that gave the Knicks a brief glimmer of hope. That is more important than any statistical contribution he could have made.
Matthew Dellavedova, Cleveland Cavaliers
Dellavedova’s appearance on this list isn’t due to a surge in stats, but rather for the clout he earned for simply annoying Steph Curry into submission in the 2015 NBA Finals. Delly was a physical defender, who was briefly considered an upper-tier player for hisability to be a Steph Curry stopper
Since that Finals, nobody has seemed to be able to stop Curry on a consistent basis, making that one postseason even more memorable for the Australian who has yet to live up to the standards he set for himself during that series.
Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
In his rookie season in 2013-2014, Michael Carter-Williams averaged 16.7 points per game to go with six rebounds and six assists per contest.
Fresh out of Syracuse, many thought that Carter-Williams was going to be one of the next big things at the guard position thanks to his length and ability to rebound the basketball while performing the tasks of a guard as well.
But Carter-Williams hasn’t had that productive a season since his rookie year, and has bounced around the league since then.
Oliver Miller, Toronto Raptors
Oliver Miller is a great what-if in basketball history, but not due to injuries or disciplinary issues. Miller’s what-if comes from the question “what if Oliver Miller didn’t eat himself out of the NBA?”
Miller averaged 12.9 points per game in 1995-1996 on 52% shooting. He also averaged 7.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game for the Toronto Raptors. But his infamous weight gain prevented him from getting any better than that.
Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic
Before the NBA became a league where the three point shot was the most important thing in the game, a well balanced offense was usually able to wreak havoc on opponents. The Orlando Magic were proof of that, as they used the dominant Dwight Howard to elevate other players, Jameer Nelson included.
In 2008-2009, Nelson averaged 16.7 points per game to go with five assists. He also shot 45% from three-point range for a Magic team that gave the Lakers and Kobe Bryant a scare in the NBA Finals. Once Howard diminished, though, Nelson and many of his Magic teammates did the same.
Jerome James, New York Knicks
Jerome James never averaged more than six points per game in a season, but averaged 12.5 points per game for the Seattle SuperSonics in 2004-2005. Most teams would want to see that kind of production across a larger sample size before awarding a player a huge contract, but most teams aren’t owned by James Dolan.
The Knicks gave Jerome James a massive contract (5-years, $30 million) and he repaid them by averaging no more than three points per game in his four seasons in New York. Needless to say, James did not earn another NBA contract after his time in the Big Apple.
Josh Howard, Dallas Mavericks
The 2007-2008 season saw Josh Howard score 19.9 points per game and collect seven rebounds per contest. It also saw Howard unfortunately peak, as he was never able to maximize the massive potential that he had on the court.
Howard’s candid discussions about marijuana use around the NBA led to many questioning his work ethic, as the Mavericks missed out on pairing a potentially great player with the legendary Dirk Nowitzki due to Howard’s failure to play well consistently.
Ricky Davis, Cleveland Cavaliers
Ricky Davis was a gunner, and he certainly had the green light to shoot the ball at will on the 2002-2003 Cavaliers, who were bad enough to earn the top draft pick that turned into LeBron James.
Davis averaged 20.6 points per game for that Cavs team, shooting the ball an exhausting 18.6 times per game. Once LeBron came on the scene, Davis had to reel things in a bit and was never really the same player.
Dana Barros, Philadelphia 76ers
Dana Barros averaged 20.6 points per game to go with seven assists, shooting over 46% from three point range in the 1994-1995 season. He failed to average over 13 points per game in a season after that year.
Younger NBA fans will remember him being on the roster for the NBA Jam video game as a member of the Boston Celtics, the team he moved to after his best season as a pro. Unfortunately, the video game was where he did almost all of his scoring after becoming a part of the Celtics.
Devin Harris, New Jersey Nets
Devin Harris was a prime example of a player shining on a bad team despite being unable to light it up when not the primary scoring option.
With the New Jersey Nets, Harris scored 21.3 points per game and dished out 6.9 assists in 2008-2009 to earn his lone All-Star Game appearance.
But he was more of a volume scorer than anything, jacking up 15 shots per game for a moribund Nets team that went 34-48 that year.
Bryant Reeves, Vancouver Grizzlies
Bryant “Big Country” Reeves was the first ever draft pick for the Vancouver Grizzlies, and embodied the kind of grit that the team still takes pride in to this day despite having moved to Memphis. But Big Country failed to capitalize on a strong start to his career, disappointing the team that took him into the league eventually.
Reeves averaged 16.3 points per game and 7.9 boards in 1997-1998, but saw his minutes decrease in every year after that until he was out of the league, with his conditioning being a major concern.
Larry Hughes, Washington Wizards
There may not have been a more fun team in NBA history that is rarely talked about than the 2004-2005 Washington Wizards. With streaky yet electrifying shooters like Gilbert Arenas, Washington had the potential to beat – or lose to – anyone in the league each night.
Larry Hughes was a big reason for their explosivity, as the 2004-2005 season saw Hughes put up 22 points to go with 6.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.9 steals per game. But Hughes couldn’t keep that production up, and became a journeyman.
Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
Coming out of Memphis during their time as one of the top teams in college basketball under John Calipari, Tyreke Evans was a highly-touted prospect. And Evans’ rookie year saw him score 20.1 points per game, a career high, to go with 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds.
But ball-dominant guards who couldn’t shoot were beginning to be phased out of the league when Evans came up, and his lack of a three point shot severely limited his ability to follow up on that strong rookie campaign.
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
In 2011-2012, Jennings averaged 19.1 points per game for the Bucks, and was thought to be the next big thing at the point guard position after Derrick Rose’s tragic and injury-fueled decline.
But Jennings was a volume shooter at a position where efficiency and unselfishness are so important that they can make us even debate the talent of Russell Westbrook, so he never climbed into the tier of elite players.
Chris Kaman, Los Angeles Clippers
When you think of players who had one great year in their careers, Chris Kaman probably doesn’t come to mind due to how rancid the Los Angeles Clippers were during his time there.
But the 2009-2010 season saw Kaman earn an All-Star spot by averaging 18.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots per game. He didn’t keep that pace up, but Kaman was a legitimate bright spot on a team and franchise sorely lacking them at the time.
Larry Sanders, Milwaukee Bucks
Larry Sanders is one of the cases of wasted potential that NBA fans will talk about for a long time. He was an elite shot blocker, who had the ability to be something special in a league that only has use for bigs with his type of athleticism.
Sanders’ 2012-2013 season saw him average 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and an eye-popping 2.8 blocks per game. But injuries and his apparent lack of desire to remain in the league led to his career being cut short in disappointing fashion.
Chris Gatling, Mavericks / Nets
Chris Gatling was an All-Star in 1996-1997, thanks to a 19 point per game average to go with nearly eight rebounds per game. Gatling failed to exceed 12 points per game in another season in his career, though.
His career lasted a decade, averaging just over 10 points per game, which is nothing to be ashamed of. But his decline in the season following his All-Star campaign led to him being traded from the Nets to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Bobby Simmons, Los Angeles Clippers
Bobby Simmons was one of the bright spots of the Elton Brand-era Clippers teams, going for 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in 2004-2005. He was even named the league’s most improved player that year.
Simmons couldn’t continue to play at that rate going forward, but he will be remembered as one of the best all-around basketball players in the pre-Lob City history of the Clippers organization.
Injuries plagued Simmons and he was a shell of himself by the time he was just 25-years-old.
Jamaal Magloire, New Orleans Hornets
Jamaal Magloire averaged a double-double in 2003-2004, which was enough to earn him an All-Star selection.
He contributed 13.6 points per game and 10.3 rebounds for the New Orleans Hornets, but only averaged double digits in scoring once more in his career, with injuries contributing to his abrupt decline.
He spent the twilight of his career in Miami, which is a fate many would aspire to even if it wasn’t under the best of circumstances.
Terrence Ross, Raptors / Magic
Before the 2018-2019 season, Terrence Ross had some some flashes of brilliance, including a 51-point performance with Toronto.
In 2018-2019, Ross averaged a career-high 15.1 points per game on a career high 12.7 shots per game, as he helped the Magic get back to the postseason. Prior to that year, Ross had never averaged more than 12.5 points per game, making him a pleasant surprise in Orlando.
Theo Ratliff, Philadelphia 76ers
When most people think of Theo Ratliff, they often think of a big guy who played alongside Allen Iverson and not much else. But in 2000-2001, Ratliff averaged a career-high 12.4 points per game.
But it was his 3.7 blocked shots per game that caught everyone’s attention, including the All-Star voters that put him into the game. Ratliff remained an elite shot blocker for the rest of his career, but his scoring declined save for that one memorable season.
Mike James, Toronto Raptors
After his first six seasons in the league saw him fail to score 12 points per game, Mike James exploded in 2005-2006, when he averaged 20.3 points per game on 46.9% shooting.
He quickly regressed after that monster season, going back to being as anonymous as the others out there who share his generic name. For that one year, though, there weren’t many players in the NBA as fearsome as Mike James.
Aaron Brooks, Houston Rockets
Aaron Brooks, then in his third season in the league, managed to score 19.6 points per game for the Houston Rockets in 2009-2010. He was never used as heavily as he was in that season again, though, and never scored 12 points per game in another year of his career.
He was, however, a useful reserve and someone who could stroke the three point shot throughout his career, making him one of the least tragic stories in this countdown.
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers
Roy Hibbert earned two All-Star nods in his career, but the 2011-2012 season was his best work. He averaged 12.8 points per game, to go with 8.8 rebounds and two blocked shots.
More importantly, he was thought to be someone who could help topple the LeBron James-led Heat in the postseason, which turned out to be demonstrably false. His ability to defend the paint did make him a rather large speed bump for that Heat team to form a mini-dynasty.
Mo Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers
Williams had a solid career, but it was his postseason performance in 2008-2009 that really stood out.
He averaged 16.3 points per game, and was thought to be a legitimate right-hand man for LeBron James in a season that saw the Cavaliers get to the Eastern Conference Finals.
That assessment turned out to be an indictment on the rest of his teammates at the time more than anything, but that one postseason made Mo Williams the topic of discussion in the NBA on many occasions.
Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers
Andrew Bynum is another case of wasted potential on this list, with injuries detailing him after a monster season.
Bynum earned an All-Star appearance in 2011-2012 by putting up 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game for the Lakers.
After that, knee problems and some clashes with the organizations he played for led to Bynum being unplayable, uncoachable and out of the NBA despite showing so much promise.
Michael Adams, Washington Bullets
In 1990-1991, Michael Adams scored a whopping 26.5 points per game for the Timberwolves, averaging 10.5 assists as well.
The ability to average a double-double with points and assists is the mark of a special player to say the least.
Adams finished that year sixth in the league in scoring, but he could never get back to those heights again, as he soon left the Timberwolves and never found a similar fit.