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20 Best LeBron Era’s Forgotten NBA Players

20 Best LeBron Era’s Forgotten NBA Players

The LeBron James era, which spans from 2003 to the present, will be the subject of the last segment of the forgotten NBA players of the past. Because many players who were stars in the mid-to-late 2010s are still playing at a star level, they may play their way out of potentially being considered “forgotten NBA players” and are therefore more likely to be on this list of stars from the 2000s and early 2010s.

A significant number of players with international recognition, such as Yao Ming, or stars of historically significant teams, such as Chris Bosh, are also absent from the list. The list notably omitted athletes like John Wall, a superstar in recent memory, off it.

20 Best LeBron Era’s Forgotten NBA Players

1) Shawn Marion

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Mavs Moneyball

Almost everyone would concur that the “7 Seconds of Less” Suns of the late 2000s improved the NBA by accelerating play and adopting a more dispersed, three-point-centric style. Most people associate that potent offence with Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire, but Shawn “Matrix” Marion was the true driving force behind it. And the reason for it is that Marion, a small forward by nature, was athletically fit, physically powerful, and conscientiously motivated to “play up” a position and engage in frequent combat with power forwards so that Phoenix could play quicker. With the Suns, Marion averaged 19.3 PPG and 10.4 RPG over his final seven seasons.

2) Danny Granger

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Bleacher Report

In the NBA, Danny Granger experienced one of the more abrupt ups and downs. His season-by-season scoring averages were as follows: 7.5, 13.9, 19.6, 25.8, 24.1, 20.5, 18.7, 5.4, 8.2, and 6.3. You inquire, “What happened?” Unfortunately, Granger had weak knees and he becomes one of the forgotten NBA players. During his heyday, they hindered him for a few seasons until fully betraying him during the 2012–2013 campaign.

It was unfortunate since his team, and in particular, the other starting wing, Paul George, started to surge and would later compete with the LeBron James-led Heat for control of the Eastern Conference until Granger started to falter. The Pacers may have advanced to the Finals or perhaps won a championship in the early 2010s if Granger had been healthy the entire time.

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3) Chauncey Billups

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Yahoo Sports

Considering that Chauncey Billups earned the MVP award for the 2003–2004 Finals, he is arguably a touch too well-known for this list. The man deserves some appreciation here, though, since he has been a Hall of Fame contender since 2018 but hasn’t yet been elected. Similar to Kyle Lowry, Billups had an unusual career path where he first struggled to establish himself in the league but then enjoyed a prolonged peak as one of the NBA’s best point guards.

Billups was a star from 2003 to 2012 (when he was 26 to 35 years old), averaging 17.3 PPG and 6.1 APG with 42-40-90 shooting splits. Additionally, he consistently performed outstanding defence as evidenced by his nomination to two All-Defensive Teams.

4) Ben Wallace

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Detroit Bad Boys

The Detroit Pistons reached the Eastern Conference Finals six times in a row from 2002-2003 to 2007-2008. In five of those years (and seventh in the other), their defence was ranked in the top five. Ben Wallace served as the defensive lynchpin for that superior defence. Wallace made five All-NBA teams during that time and set a record by winning four Defensive Player of the Year honours (Dikembe Mutombo also won four).

During those years, he also twice led the NBA in rebounds and once in blocks. Despite only averaging 5.7 PPG throughout the course of his career, this all led to his election to the Hall of Fame.

5) Richard Hamilton

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Fansided

Richard Hamilton is the final member of the Pistons from the middle of the 2000s on our list (sorry, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince). Because Chauncey Billups won MVP of the Finals and the Wallace brothers led a dominant defence, Hamilton is frequently disregarded. That’s all well and good, but Hamilton also deserves a lot of praise since the offence was built around his constant mobility, which involved hundreds of screens and the ground-pounding of opponents.

This club would never have been able to get away with playing so many offensively challenged, defensively focused guys like Ben Wallace and Prince if it weren’t for Hamilton scoring his 19–20 points every week. Give Rip his roses now!

6) Jermaine O’Neal

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Sports Illustrated

After being picked by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 17th overall choice in the 1996 NBA Draught out of high school, Jermaine O’Neal began a very fascinating career. Despite showing some promise, O’Neal only played 11.5 MPG across his first four seasons on a club with a lot of big guys and little playing time. After being moved to the Pacers, he absolutely took off, winning the Most Improved Player award in 2001–02. He went on to average 20.4 points per game, 9.9 rebounds per game, and 2.4 blocks per game from 2002 to 2007, and he was selected to the All-Star team in each of the following six seasons.

O’Neal would have been a lock for the Hall of Fame and an NBA Champion had the Malice in the Palace never occurred; he was that talented.

7) Baron Davis

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: BVM Sports

Baron “Boom Dizzle” Davis was one of the NBA’s most charismatic and unstoppable point guards during his prime. He made two All-Star teams, was chosen to the All-NBA team in 2003–2004, and averaged 19.8 points per game, 7.9 assists per game, and 2.1 steals per game between 2002 and 2008. In addition, despite having trouble staying healthy later in his career, he engineered one of the most iconic upsets in NBA playoff history when he led the “We Believe” Warriors to a stunning victory against the top-seeded Mavericks, who had 67 wins, in the 2007 playoffs.

The series was outstanding because of Davis, who averaged 25 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, 5.7 assists per game, and shot 45.5 percent from three-point range.

8) Manu Ginobili

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Pounding The Rock

Manu Ginobili gave more than anybody else during the Spurs’ two-decade run of dominance, maybe with the exception of Tim Duncan. As seen by his two All-NBA team choices, Ginobili was talented enough to be a star or perhaps a superstar, but for the bulk of his career, he played off the bench. Ginobili averaged 16.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 4.1 APG in 156 games over a ten-year period, although he didn’t get the opportunity to shine as often as the other two guards in the league. He also consistently turned it on in the playoffs.

9) Tony Parker

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Sporting News

Although he’s definitely not one of the forgotten NBA Players just yet, I believe that the Spurs semi-dynasty (five championships in 16 seasons) will eventually be lost to history to the casual fan since Tim Duncan was a rather “boring” player who shied away from the spotlight. If that happens, there won’t likely be much discussion about Tony Parker in the future, so let’s acknowledge his tremendous achievements even if he’s maybe a touch too excellent for this list.

Parker was a superior point guard from 2003 to 2015, winning four championships, winning Finals MVP, and receiving several other honours. Despite only being 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Parker dominated in the paint, averaging 17.5 PPG and 6.1 APG throughout that period.

10) Metta World Peace

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Elite Sports NY

Metta World Peace, originally known as Ron Artest, was a star in his day despite occasionally being damaging to his team and frequently being bad to himself. He was really the league’s top perimeter defender for the entire 2000s, as evidenced by his nomination to four All-Defensive Teams and his 2003–04 Defensive Player of the Year award. He was a great offensive player as well, scoring 18 points per game on average from 2003 to 2009.

The repercussions of the Malice in the Palace will always leave those who followed his career in real-time with the impression that he missed an opportunity, but it doesn’t diminish his star-like output and influence.

11) Kemba Walker

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Sky Sports

In the current NBA, Kemba Walker would still be a significant player if it weren’t for his bad knees. “Cardiac” Kemba was chosen for four All-Star teams between 2016 and 2021, and in 2018–19, he was also included on an All–NBA squad. And from 2013 to 2021, he averaged 20.7 points per game, 5.5 assists per game, and shot 36.3 percent from beyond the arc on several occasions (6.6 attempts per game).

He didn’t have the same ceiling as Kyrie Irving or belong to the same group of scoring guards as Stephen Curry or Damian Lillard, but he was still capable of competing with them and giving his team between 85 and 90 percent of what those players contributed to their respective teams. He was a star, just not quite a superstar, to put it simply.

12) Isaiah Thomas

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: The New York Times

Speaking of small-framed athletes with big hearts, until Danny Ainge and the Celtics drove him to the ground, persuaded him to play despite a serious hip injury, then hid his ailment from the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade, Isaiah Thomas was one of the faces of the NBA. Thomas made Second-Team All-NBA in 2016–17, averaging 28.9 PPG (third in the NBA) and 5.9 APG with a 46–38–91 shooting split, and even came in fifth in the MVP vote.

Unfortunately, injuries and bad luck limited his playing time from 2018 to 2022 to just 109 games following 441 games from 2012 to 2017, and he has since left the NBA.

13) Brandon Roy

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: BVM Sports

One of the forgotten NBA players, if he had the necessary knee cartilage, would likely be making it to the Hall of Fame given his early career trajectory is Brandon Roy. Roy’s career lasted just six seasons, and the latter two of those seasons saw him reduced to a shadow of his former self. So why is he included in this list? Considering that he was the Rookie of the Year in his first season and an All-NBA player in the next three. He had a 47-35-80 shooting split over the course of his three All-Star seasons, averaging 21.1 PPG, 5.2 APG, and 4.6 RPG. When Roy’s knees failed, the Blazers were a club on the rise.

Roy and Greg Oden’s other universe would have seen the Blazers competing for championships in Portland for the previous ten years.

14) Deron Williams

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: SBNation.com

In the end, it was just a little blip, but there was a serious argument for almost five years about who was the NBA’s best point guard: Chris Paul or Deron Williams. Williams led the Jazz on several respectable postseason trips from 2008 to 2012 while averaging 19.5 PPG and 10.2 APG. He even played a significant role in the Olympic gold medal-winning teams from 2008 and 2012.

Williams’ career began to decline significantly as he hit 29 and, for whatever reason, he left the NBA before turning 33. So even though he undoubtedly lost the competition for Point God to Chris Paul, he was still a star in the league for five years.

15) Joe Johnson

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Celtics Blog

Joe Johnson, a teammate of Deron Williams in New Jersey and Brooklyn, is the next name on the list of overlooked athletes. Over the course of his 18-year career, “Iso Joe” averaged 19.2 PPG, 4.6 APG, and 4.2 RPG while shooting 45-38-80 percent from 2004 to 2014. Johnson was a smooth-playing, 6-foot-7 wing with point guard abilities who, even into his latter years, could be a go-to player in crunch time thanks to his exceptional isolation scoring ability (as his moniker indicates).

Johnson’s “problem” was that he was always an All-Star-caliber player who was compensated like an All-NBA player—during his career, he collected nearly $220M! As a result, his teams frequently lacked the superstar that might propel them to victory.

16) Blake Griffin

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: NBA.com

People might not remember how outstanding Blake Gryphon was at his peak since his athleticism plummeted once he was 30 (and had already been fast dropping throughout his late-20s due to several injuries). Gryphon averaged 21.9 PPG, 9 RPG, and 4.5 APG from 2011 to 2019 in addition to being one of the NBA’s best in-game dunkers. He came in third place in the 2013–14 MVP vote, trailing only LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

He merits praise for honing his all-around abilities during his professional career as well. In his first seven seasons, he never attempted more than 1.9 three-pointers per game; but, from 2018 to 2021, he averaged 2.0 three-pointers made per season.

17) DeMarcus Cousins

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Marca.com

Before rupturing his Achilles in 2018, DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins was a standout, if not at times, a superstar. Cousins’ averages from 2014 to 2018 were staggering: 25.2 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, and 1.4 BPG. He was undoubtedly one of the most gifted big players to play in the NBA at this time, but owing to his disgruntled on-court demeanour and the aforementioned horrific, career-altering injury, he was unable to realise his full potential and become of the forgotten NBA players.

He averaged 8.2 rebounds per game and 16.3 points per game for Golden State the next season. Nevertheless, as fate would have it, he tore his ACL over the offseason that followed, and he was never the same.

18) Joakim Noah

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: NBA.com

Joakim Noah’s career stats of 8.8 PPG, 9 RPG, and 1.3 BPG appear to be somewhat meagre. However, he was a two-way standout during his time with the Bulls, particularly on the court’s defensive end. His best season was the 2013–2014 one. He was named to the First Team All-NBA for that year, placed fourth in the MVP vote, and was named Defensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately, he failed to keep fit after playing 543 games in total from 2008 to 2015 (thanks Coach Thibs!) and only played 129 games from 2016 to 2020.

19) Rajon Rondo

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: ESPN
The career of Rajon Rondo was a little bit of a roller coaster. He was a fascinating rookie for the Celtics’ remaking team. After the club added Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in the offseason, Rondo was suddenly required to be the starting point guard for a championship squad. He had a great season that year and was a fantastic two-way player from 2008 to 2014, averaging 11.9 points per game, 9.2 assists per game, and 1.9 steals per game (and twice led the NBA in both assists and steals). He then developed into a journeyman who was frequently perceived as a grumpy player who, during the regular season, didn’t put much effort into his defence and frequently went in search of assists, much to the disadvantage of his club.
Then, as a 33-year-old, he was unquestionably the team’s third-best player (behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis) during the Lakers’ championship run during the Bubble, sporadically shooting 40 percent from three, and playing the lockdown defence he was renowned for earlier in his career.

20) Al Horford

20 Best LeBron Era's Forgotten NBA Players
Source: Marca.com

Al Horford is still very excellent despite turning 37 in June 2023, so it’s clear that he’s still relevant in the NBA. He was a standout with the Hawks earlier in his career, from 2010 to 2016, averaging 15.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 3 APG while playing outstanding defence on a balanced team that often made the playoffs.

He continued to be a success throughout his time in Boston when he averaged 12.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 4 APG, and 1.1 BPG while shooting 48-38-80 percent from the field. Still a terrific player in year 16, which is understandable given his excellent ability to develop into a knockout three-point shooter while maintaining his lateral agility.

So these are the 20 Best LeBron Era’s Forgotten NBA Players. What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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