The most exciting time of the year, at least for fans of the Big 4, is upon us.
Hockey playoffs are in full swing and the major league baseball season is underway. For hoops fans, the long season is finally over and the best 16 teams of the 30-team lot are now battling it out for NBA supremacy.
Many players are competing in their umpteenth post-season, such as LeBron James, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Dwight Howard to name but a few.
There are, however, quite a few players who are on the outside looking in. Some, even, have yet to get an invitation to the Big Dance. For them, it’s a long summer punctuated by possibly watching their some of their brethren go to work deep into spring.
There are 12 readily identified hoopsters, past and present, who have not had their heart rates go up in a post-season contest. Here they are, with one group of three.
10. Nikola Jokic
For the Joker, the fact the Denver Nuggets narrowly missed the playoffs this season is no giggling matter. The big Serb had to take a back seat on several occasions this season to the soon-to-be-traded Jusuf Nurkic, much to the detriment of a club that was within a game (well maybe two) of making it to the playoffs. As it was, the Nuggets finished at 40-42, one game back of playoff bound Portland (which, at 41-41, held a head-to-head tie breaker in the event both teams went 41-41). Jokic, who made the NBA all-rookie team in 2015-16, had a breakout sophomore campaign. He started 59 of 73 games and averaged 16.7 points per game, up from 10.0 in his rookie season. In just about every offensive and defensive category he improved greatly, putting him among the elite among NBA centers. It won’t be long, we think, before he and the Nuggets are in it.
9. Clark Kellogg
Special K has come full circle, now a studio analyst for CBS Sports on college basketball broadcasts. The former Ohio State standout and first round pick (eighth overall) of the Indiana Pacers in 1982 has found a lengthy career as a talking head for NCAA hoops. After being the Big 10 MVP, Kellogg burst onto the NBA scene in 1982-83, making the all-rookie team by scoring 20.1 points per game and adding 10.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals. Unfortunately, the power forward out of Cleveland played on a pretty horrible Pacers team that finished 20-62. That was a recurring them in his next three seasons, as Indiana never won more than 26 games and finished out of the running. By his fourth season, when Indiana went 26-56, Kellogg’s wonky knees were giving out. In his fifth and last season (1986-87), his injury woes limited him to four games and forced his early retirement. Ironically, the team improved to 41-41 and made it to the post-season.
8. Tom Van Arsdale
In terms of all-time non-playoff participants, Van Arsdale would be the unluckiest. The former three-time all-star and All-Rookie First Team member played in 929 regular season games, but had a donut post-season wise, making him the leader in this category. That’s right, 12 seasons in the NBA, nary an appearance in the playoffs. The Hoosier from Indianapolis and Indiana University grad played for six different teams between 1965-66 and 1976-77, only coming close once. Unfortunately, he was playing for the 1967-68 Detroit Pistons, who would go 40-42 and squeak in, but got traded mid-season to Cincinnati. It was with the old Royals that he would enjoy his greatest personal success, reeling off three straight all-star worthy campaigns from 1969-70 to 1971-72. None of those Royals teams, though, would finish better than 36-46. Interestingly, his twin brother Dick, who Tom played with in Phoenix in 1976-77, made the playoffs on four occasions.
7. Brandon Knight
Coming out of Florida high school hoops as a top 10 recruit, Brandon Knight had his pick of schools, opting for the factory that is the University of Kentucky in 2010. The Miami native played one great season with the Wildcats, earning a nomination for the Bob Cousy award (best point guard in the nation) and helping Kentucky win the SEC and make the final four in 2011. He opted for the draft after his outstanding freshman season and was picked eighth overall by Detroit. He made the All-Rookie First Team in 2011-12, scoring 12.8 points and dishing out 3.8 assists er game. Somehow, he’s never been able to stick with any one team, none of them making the playoffs either. Despite solid stats (15.2 points, 4.3 assists per game, career) Knight has been traded from Detroit, to Milwaukee and now the Phoenix Suns. He has played in 382 games and has yet to display his considerable talents in the playoffs.
6. Popeye Jones
Well, at least one of the Jones family can say they have appeared in the playoffs. Former long-time NBA forward Popeye Jones (that is his real name, not an alias) has a son, Seth, a talented NHL defenceman who has skated in 12 playoff games already. As for the elder, now an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers (who are in the playoffs this year), Popeye never once got a glimpse of the post-season bright lights. He played in 535 career games with six different clubs, none of them good enough to make it to the Big Dance. A reserve during the last part of his career, Jones retired after playing five games with Golden State in 2003-04, finishing with 7.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. The closest any he team he played for to making the playoffs were the 2001-02 Washington Wizards, who fashioned a 37-45 record, good for 10th in the Eastern Conference.
5. Geoff Huston
For much of the first two decades of their existence in the NBA (starting in 1970-71), the Cleveland Cavaliers were pretty much a sad-sack also-ran, making it to the playoffs just seven times in 20 seasons and winning all of one round. To his detriment, point guard Geoff Huston had three pretty good seasons there in the early 1980s, averaging 6.3 assists and 11.0 points for a team that won 66 and lost 180 in that span. A great passer, but fairly poor defender, Huston never played for one team that won more games than it lost in his nine-season, 496-game career. To put a fine point on how unlucky he was, in a game against Golden State in 1982, Huston dished out 27 dimes (tying him with John Stockton for fourth most assists in a game, all-time), yet the Cavaliers could muster only 110 points and win by just four. Cursed, he was.
4. Geoff Petrie
Like that other Geoff (Huston), former two-time all-star and 1971 NBA Rookie of the Year point guard Geoff Petrie toiled for a pretty bad expansion team in Portland. The Trail Blazers debuted during the 1970-71 season, coinciding with Petrie’s freshman season after he was selected eighth overall out of Princeton. An Ivy League standout, Petrie could play the point and swingman, as well as small forward. He set the league on fire for the 29-53 Trail Blazers in 70-71, scoring 24.8 points per game on 44.3 percent field goal shooting, along with dishing out 4.8 assists. He would play 446 of 492 games in six seasons with Portland, none of his teams winning more than 38 games. Before a knee injury derailed his career in 1976, Petrie posted career numbers of 21.8 PPG and 4.6 assists and retired having scored a team record 51 points in a game twice (since broken by Damon Stoudamire, who had 54 in a game during the 2004-05 season).
3. Bob Rule
Before some dude named Kevin Durant came along, former Seattle SuperSonics center Bob Rule held the team rookie record for points per game at 18.1. Rule, who played for Jerry Tarkanian at Riverside (CA) Community College for two years before transferring to Colorado State in 1965, was drafted 19th overall by the expansion Sonics in 1967. The team finished 23-59 that season and along with improved play from Rule, they got better in each of the next three seasons, going 38-44 in 1970-71, narrowly missing out on the post-season. They very well could have made it that year, had Rule not torn his Achilles tendon, limiting him to just four games. The next season, Rule played 16 games for the SuperSonics and then was traded to Philadelphia. Rule would play in 403 total NBA regular season contests, finishing with 17.4 assists, 8.3 rebounds and zero games in the playoffs.
2. Ricky Rubio, Karl-Anthony Towns And Andrew Wiggins
We’ve lumped these three together, simply because with them as starters, the Minnesota Timberwolves should be a playoff team — if not now, soon. Rubio, the elder statesman of this group with six seasons to his credit as a starting point guard, has had to suffer through some painful campaigns, the best of them being a 40-42 squad in 2013-14. He has averaged a respectable 10.3 points, 8.5 assists and 2.1 steals in 353 games. In 2014, soon-to-be Rookie of the Year and first overall pick (by Cleveland) Andrew Wiggins came gift-wrapped to the cursed T-Wolves. He averaged 16.9 points per game that season and in three non-playoff years has averaged 20.4 PPG. The team finished dead last at 16-66 during Wiggins first year, leading to the selection of Karl-Anthony Towns at first overall in 2015. Despite his considerable presence (he was RoY in 2016 and has averaged 21.7 points and 11.4 rebounds in two seasons), the three have yet to see any action in the playoffs. Pity.
1. DeMarcus Cousins
Boogie, of all players on this list, should not have suffered sevens seasons (and counting) out of the playoffs. Love him, or hate him, the three-time all-star and two-time All-NBA Second Team member should be someone to build around toward a championship. If only he could find a coach he doesn’t openly feud with or that on/off switch for the times he racks up idiotic personal and technical fouls. After debuting in 2010-11 with Sacramento, the all-star center played on Kings teams that won 24, 22, 28, 28, 29 and 33 games until 2015-16. Then 55 games into the 2016-17 season, Cousins was shockingly traded to New Orleans, uniting him in a monster front court with Anthony Davis. That deal, as lopsided as it was, was supposed to push the Pelicans back into the playoffs for the first time since 2014-15. Boogie did his level best in 17 games with Nawlins, scoring 24.4 points and adding 12.5 rebounds, but in the end the Pelicans finished a dismal 34-48 and out of the playoffs.