As the 2016 calendar year comes to an end, the LWOS MC50 series captures the 50 most captivating athletes from 2016 in each sport. For LWOPB, we take a look at the 50 NBA players who drew headlines this past year, whether it be for on court accomplishments, off-season drama, or happenings off the court.
Here, we analyze the fourth set of 10 players. A new MC50 article will be published every Saturday morning leading up to the new year.
NBA Most Captivating Players of 2016: Part 4
Chandler Parsons certainly didn’t make headlines in 2016 for his play on the basketball court, as he has struggled to stay healthy all year long. In the summer, however, Parsons agreed to a 4 year, $94 million contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. His signing helped convince Mike Conley to stay in Memphis, who ultimately made NBA history with the richest free agent contract ever (5 years, $153 million). Parsons’ departure from the Dallas Mavericks signified the end of a short, yet eventful, tenure in Dallas, highlighted by his significant role as a recruiter in the DeAndre Jordan free agency saga a year ago. In 2016 Chandler Parsons signified the beginning of struggles for the Mavericks, while representing, along with new head coach David Fizdale, a transformed basketball culture in Memphis. Oh, and his relationship with Mark Cuban was also a hot topic for the media and fans alike.
Blake Griffin was in the news for all the wrong reasons in 2016. While he continued to improve his skill set and work on his jumpshot, Griffin couldn’t get away from altercations, suspensions, and injuries. It was just announced earlier this week that the power forward would miss 4-6 weeks due to knee surgery, and earlier in the year Griffin missed 45 games due to a hand injury and a subsequent suspension. Let’s not forget when Griffin punched a Clippers equipment manager, leaving damage to his hand and to his reputation, as the Clippers then suspended Griffin four games without pay as a result of the altercation.
It was quite the year for Isaiah Thomas. Not only did he play in his first All-Star Game, but he also led the Boston Celtics to a tie for the third best record in the Eastern Conference and he currently has them in sole possession of third place this season. The undrafted 5’9” point guard continues to improve and make a statement to all those who doubted him along the way. Thomas has been an exciting player to watch, carving up defenses with his crafty ball handling and lights out shooting.
DeRozan, along with backcourt mate Kyle Lowry, led the Toronto Raptors to their best regular season in franchise history, going 56-26 while finishing second in the East. He also brought them to the Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, bringing all sorts of excitement to basketball fans up north. The past few months, the two-time All-Star has taken his game to a new level, averaging 28 points per game while leading the Raptors to the second best record in the East once again. Both DeRozan and the city of Toronto have enjoyed their best calendar years of basketball in 2016.
Hmmm…did Kyrie Irving do anything relevant in 2016? Well, if you consider hitting one of the clutchest shots in NBA history in addition to outplaying the unanimous regular season MVP in the NBA Finals, then yep, Kyrie Irving was relevant! Irving famously hit the dagger that put Cleveland ahead for good in the final moments of game seven, giving the Cavaliers their first championship in franchise history. His three pointer capped off a historic comeback from down three games to one against the 73-win Warriors. Oh, and he also played a huge role as one of the main contributors on the gold medal Olympic Men’s Basketball team. It was quite a remarkable year for the 24-year old Kyrie Irving.
Klay Thompson certainly was one of the prominent figures in the NBA this year. He was one of the main characters during the Golden State Warriors historic 73-win regular season and their eventual collapse in the playoffs. He took his game to new heights on both ends of the floor, continuing to develop as one of the most electric and talented players in the NBA. From an individual standpoint, Thompson defeated fellow Splash Brother Stephen Curry in the three point shootout during All-Star weekend, and he recently broke social media during his 60-point outburst, a game in which he played just 29 minutes, touched the ball for 90 seconds, and dribbled 11 times.
The talented young shooting guard was on the move in 2016, as he was dealt from the Orlando Magic to the Oklahoma City Thunder on draft night in a somewhat surprising trade. It seemed as if he would be a building block for the young Magic to construct a roster around, but his departure proved that Orlando no longer thought too highly of him. On the other hand, his arrival in Oklahoma City was supposed to be a bold move that persuaded Kevin Durant to stay. Well, we know what happened there. Instead, Oladipo signed a 4 year, $84 million extension with the Thunder and has proved to be a reliable scoring option alongside Russell Westbrook.
Lillard continued to build upon his reputation as a feisty underdog, leading his Portland Trail Blazers to the fifth seed in the Western Conference. The surprising Blazers won a playoff series over the Clippers in 2016, a year in which they were supposed to contend with the Lakers for the Western Conference basement. In his first full year without LaMarcus Aldridge, Lillard has shined and proved to be a legitimate superstar in this league. Lillard’s personal highlight of the year came on February 19th, when he put up a statement game after being snubbed from All-Star weekend; he dropped a career high 51 points as the Blazers toppled the dominant Warriors. Despite a slow start to the 2016-17 season for the Blazers the past few months, Lillard has put up career highs in points (27.4) and field goal percentage (45.7%).
Jeremy Lin had a bit of a resurgent year in 2016. He re-established himself as a legitimate NBA player with the Charlotte Hornets, and he went on to sign a 3 year, $36 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets. Lin teamed up with his former assistant coach, Kenny Atkinson, as Brooklyn’s main acquisition in the off-season. Despite the lack of talent on the roster, Lin has been a key piece both on and off the court in changing the basketball culture of the Nets. Linsanity is back in New York, which is where he rose to fame four years ago. Oh, and on a side note, his hairstyles have been quite interesting to follow as well.
Well, 2016 was the year the wheels finally came off for the future Hall of Famer. Duncan’s stats dipped across the board, and the 40-year old announced his retirement in the most Tim Duncan way ever. No press conference, no elaborate Players Tribune article, no drama. Just a simple press release sent out by the Spurs and a straightforward, short letter written by Duncan to the fans. Duncan’s historic retirement marked an end to a legendary career, giving NBA fans an opportunity to look back on all that he has brought to the game. Just one week ago, the Spurs held a jersey retirement ceremony for Duncan, providing the former power forward and head coach icon Gregg Popovich with the ability to reflect on Duncan’s greatness and address the San Antonio crowd. In 2016 we all say together, thank you Tim Duncan.