This week on NBA.com, we're taking a closer look at each decade in NBA history.
Today's focus? The 2010s.
While we will spend the day looking at the best players, teams and biggest storylines from the decade, we also wanted to shine a light on the players from the 2010s who might you might have forgotten about.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Zach Randolph was good, man. Like, really, really good.
He only made two All-Star teams and one All-NBA team in his career, but Randolph was one of the most feared power forwards in the league during the early part of the 2010s. He was a walking double-double who could score on anyone thanks to the oldest of old man post games. I can still see that face-up jumper when I close my eyes.
Randolph's run in the 2011 NBA Playoffs will always stand out to me. Led by Randolph, the Memphis Grizzlies made history by defeating the No. 1 seeded San Antonio Spurs in the first round. His averages that series? 21.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. The Spurs had no answer for him.
Randolph saved his best for last, going for 31 points and 11 rebounds in the closeout game.
The Grizzlies got bounced in the second round by the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Randolph helped Memphis extend that series to seven games. In their Game 1 win, he went off for 34 points and 10 rebounds. In their Game 3 win, he recorded 21 points and 21 rebounds. And in their Game 6 win, he had another 30-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Randolph and the Grizzlies went on to have even more success a couple of years later, defeating the LA Clippers and Thunder in the 2013 NBA Playoffs to advance to the Western Conference Finals. You couldn't not love those Grit and Grind Grizzlies teams, and Randolph was a big reason why.
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Joakim Noah won't be remembered for his All-Star peak due in part to the circumstances surrounding his own team.
The Chicago Bulls had a run at the start of the decade where it seemed as if they'd be contenders indefinitely. And then the knee injury to Derrick Rose happened and the rest is history.
Or rather history forgotten.
There's a false narrative that the Bulls stopped being the Bulls the moment Rose went down with just over a minute left in Chicago's opening game of the 2012 playoffs. And while that top-seeded Bulls team lost the series, they remained a competitive group for years thanks in major part to Noah, the heart and soul of that franchise.
Before the in-house tension between a post-injury Rose and a budding Jimmy Butler, it was Noah's team. A ferocious competitor, deft passer and relentless defender with a side-spinning jumper that's among the oddest-looking releases in recent memory, Noah masterfully burrowed his way underneath the skin of annoyed opponents and famously engaged in a war of words off the court with LeBron James. A 2012-13 Bulls team that started Noah and a 2nd-year Butler alongside Carlos Boozer, Nate Robinson and Marco Bellinelli won a playoff series and took a 1-0 lead over LeBron, Wade and Bosh.
The very next year Noah delivered a career-defining season, winning Defensive Player of the Year and even finishing fourth in MVP voting, the latter of which is a result which years from now will stump anyone who wonders how a player averaging 12.6 points per game on 47.5 percent shooting on a fourth-place team in the East finished ahead of James Harden, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul.
Things unravelled quickly for Noah whose game did not adapt well to a sport trending away from the rim. But during his five-year peak from 2009-10 through that 2013-14 season, he ranked 15th in the NBA in Win Shares sandwiched between Pau Gasol and Russell Westbrook despite ranking sixth in total rebounds, 10th in blocks, 53rd in minutes, 59th in assists and 110th in scoring.
Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay): Deron Williams went a pick ahead of Chris Paul in the 2005 NBA Draft and for the first couple years of the 2010s there was a legit argument over who was a better point guard.
That all seemed like a flash in the pan as Williams would be out of the league before the decade was even over and CP3 is still putting in work on a playoff team in 2019-20.
Williams was an all-star from 2009 to 2012. He was the perfect blend of power, size and speed. Put a small guard on him he was taking them to the block, put a bigger guard on him he was breaking their ankles. He also had the ability to score at all three levels which was rare for a point guard and could distribute with the best of them. Williams had it all.
But then he got paid and nothing was the same.
DWill's fall off was quick after signing a five-year $98.7 million contract in the summer of 2012. While he was playing with more talent in Brooklyn then he had before with the arrival of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, injuries and the loss of his quick first step saw his numbers decline. The Nets would eventually waive him and Wiliams would spend time in Dallas and Cleveland for his last couple of years in the league.
At his peak Williams was a top point guard in the league, but his peak didn't last long enough.
Yash Matange (@yashmatange2694): Mike Conley Jr.
When you look at where Conley was picked (4th overall) in the 2007 NBA Draft, you would presume he would have more accolades to his name. Despite being that high a pick, he needed to fight for being the full-time starter and once he did (two seasons later), he always ended up in the shadows of the league's elite during the 2010s decade.
That's not a slight on his talent but in fact, a testament to the greatness of the players ahead of him, especially the point guards from the decade - Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, and Damian Lillard.
Once he was given the reigns, from the beginning of the 2009-10 season, he was the floor general of the team through it's most successful phase ever. Skilled at both ends of the floor, he fit well into the team's 'Grit-and-Grind' identity in the early part of the 2010s.
That team won more than 56.0% of their games in five straight seasons from 2011 to 2015, made it to the playoff each year from 2011 to 2017 including the franchise's only Conference Finals appearance in 2013.
Conley leads the Grizzlies' all-time charts in games, points, threes, assists and steals. And he might not be unanimously voted the greatest player in franchise history but he certainly has a strong case.
In addition, he is possibly the greatest player of the 2010s never to be on a single All-Star game or a single All-NBA team.
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