While we have been celebrating the extraordinary talents of the NBA thus far, it's only fair to highlight the players who have been having an exceptionally hard time. Players who might exit the league if they don't show some sort of improvement in their game in the 2021-22 NBA season.
Below are five players who might be playing their final season in the NBA.
#1 Otto Porter Jr.
Otto Porter Jr. was chosen by the Washington Wizards in 2013 as the No. 3 overall pick in the NBA draft. He spent six seasons with the Wizards averaging 10.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game in 384 appearances. His debut season with the Wizards was somewhat anticlimactic as he was known to be one of the best college players, but only averaged 2.1 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.3 assists per game in 37 appearances made off the bench.
In his debut game against the Milwaukee Bucks, he fielded 14 minutes off the bench and recorded no points in a 109-105 overtime loss suffered by the Wizards. In his final season with the Wizards, he registered a career-high 14.7 points and 6.4 assists.
Since 2018, Porter has sat out more games than he has featured in, due to multiple injuries. He was traded to the Chicago Bulls in 2018, where he spent three seasons before being traded to the Orlando Magic. He has only featured in three games for the Magic as he was out due to a knee injury.
The six-foot-eight small forward signed a veteran's minimum deal with the Golden State Warriors as a free agent. His retainment will be highly dependent on his performance in the coming season, but it does look like Porter is far spent and will be exiting the league.
#2 Al-Farouq Aminu
The Los Angeles Clippers No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Al-Farouq Aminu, had an injury spell that has kept him on the sidelines for most of the previous two seasons. He has represented 6 franchises in the NBA, including the Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls and most recently joined the San Antonio Spurs.
Aminu was at his best with the Blazers averaging a career-high 10.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game in the 2015-16 NBA season. Before his trade to the Bulls, Aminu spent 2 seasons with the Magic, he registered a career-low of 4.3 points per game with a field goal accuracy of 29.1% on his debut season with the Magic.
Since his final season with the Blazers in 2018-19, his career has taken a downward spiral and he might never get back to his prime. He could be on his way out of the league if the season goes poorly.
#3 Dante Exum
Dante Exum was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft selected by the Utah Jazz. In his debut season with the Jazz, he appeared in all 82 games with 41 starts, averaging 4.8 points, 1.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Who would have thought he was never going to feature in that many games in a season again?
In 2015 during an international appearance for the Australian national team, he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, which saw him miss the entire 2015-16 season. He returned for the 2016-17 season and featured in 66 games with 21 starts, averaging 6.8 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists. But he has since been riddled with several injuries that have hindered his growth in the NBA.
Exum was traded to the Houston Rockets from the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2020-21 NBA season, but he never played for the Rockets because of a calf injury. Going by his amazing performance in the Olympics for his country, leading his team to their first Olympic medal (bronze), he has been given another go with the Rockets. A lot is riding on him putting up a good performance in the 2021-22 NBA season.
#4 Kevin Knox
It's a make-or-break season for New York Knicks small forward Kevin Knox, who is down to the final year of his four-year rookie contract. While he is eligible for a contract extension, his chances of getting one by the deadline later this month are very slim.
Knox was selected during the 2018 NBA Draft by the Knicks as the No. 9 overall pick on June 21, 2018. His debut season has been his best season in the NBA with an average of 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game in 75 appearances and 57 starts. The points he scored the next season were half that of his debut season and he got really bad defensively. He has since fallen below the pecking order with no game starts in the 2020-21 season, having featured in 42 games averaging 3.9 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game.
Knox was expected to feature in the NBA summer league, which would have helped solidify his role within the team and aid his growth. However, he was absent for the six-game outing, having been ill and later contracting Covid-19. He trained in Miami and Tampa during the offseason and made it to training camp about three weeks ago. Would that be enough for coach Tom Thibodeau to get him into the Knicks rotation? He would need to make a strong impression at any given opportunity he gets in the, else he could be on his way out.
#5 LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers as the No. 2 pick in the 2006 NBA draft. In his debut season, he averaged 9.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 0.4 assists with a field goal of 50.3%, having featured in 63 games for the Blazers. He made the 2006-06 All-Rookie First Team.
The 7-time All-Star will most likely be playing his last season in the NBA in the 2021-22 season. The Brooklyn Nets' power forward had spent 9 seasons with Blazers, 6 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs and a season with the Nets. In the 2020-21 NBA season with the Nets, Aldridge featured in five games, where he averaged 12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists with a field goal of 52.1%.
Two weeks into his contract, he announced his retirement based on health issues - an irregular heartbeat diagnosis. Upon receiving medical clearance to play, he re-signed with the Nets on September 3 and will feature in the coming season. His contribution to the game has been immense, being the first player in the NBA since 2006 to register 18,000+ points and 8,000+ rebounds, but it just might be time to hang the proverbial boots.