by Ryne Nelson

There’s nothing wrong with paying a young, talented basketball player more than $3 million per year. Hell, this happens all the time in the NBA.

So when you’re as talented as J.R. Smith, and no one (including your own team) is even considering paying you, something’s up.

I would be lying if I said Smith doesn’t possess absolutely mint skills and seemingly endless talent. As a matter of fact, I’ve been a fan of his game since he was drafted in 2004.

Smith is one of those guys you cry about. Literally. You cry when he posterizes Jannero Pargo and proceeds to shy away from the ball for the rest of the game. It hurts when Smith lights up the Bulls for 43 (in 33 minutes), and his team still loses.

The guy has range, hops, size, speed…and attitude problems.

He’s a painfully inconsistent player who will never have a winning moxie. He acts like he could care less about the game, and it’s true.

So when teams take a good, hard look at free agents like J.R. Smith (as the entire league assuredly has), they tell themselves, I wouldn’t pay a guy like that, either!

But the (Past) Prodigy isn’t the only young cat who has big-time game but doesn’t deserve a big-time contract. Oh, there are plenty more, and some are making headlines right now. Let’s take a gander…

More young, talented head cases

Shawne Williams, IND

I might be wrong on this, but I’m probably right – Shawne Williams not only doesn’t deserve NBA dollars, he doesn’t deserve to be in the League.

Dude possesses more than enough talent to be a starting swingman, but he, plain and simple, has the common sense of a snail.

The Indianapolis Star reported one of Williams’ boys was arrested for marijuana possession Friday night. The car he and Williams drove was pulled over for a seat belt and window tint violation…and the car didn’t even belong to them!

This is only five months after a man wanted on murder charges left Williams’ home in Williams’ truck.

Larry Bird’s got this guy gone, and don’t be surprised if he’s playing in Europe or Keon Clarking sometime soon.

Sean Williams, NJN

There was a time when Sean Williams was dope. That time was short, very short, but it did exist.

The question surrounding Williams was how can a man play like he’s the sh*t for half a season, and play like a deadbeat for the other? Coach Laurence Frank benched Williams after All-Star because he began to royally suck. Just look at the statistical difference:

There’s a reason for this: attitude. Williams has a superiority complex, and if he feels like he’s being slighted, he won’t perform. If he’s benched, he’ll make good buddies with Stromile Swift. When playing in summer league, you wouldn’t know he existed. It’s embarrassing to watch this guy in Orlando and Utah, and I’m not even a Nets fan.

Regardless, Williams proved he can be one of the best game’s defenders. But his stuck-up attitude will prevent him from getting those dollars.

Gerald Green, DAL

I read Green’s feature in SLAM’s Punks four years ago and started to believe the hype. He disappointed on draft night, falling to No. 18 when most draft experts had Green as a Top 10 lock. I called it a major heist and Green Destiny for the Celtics.

Now, I’m trying to decide who will be more valuable to the Mavs next season: J.J. Barea or this 6’8” athletic swingman who, by the way, has a more than decent shot. Really, this should be a no-brainer. There’s no reason Green can’t be a NBA starter. He has more physical tools than 90 percent of the NBA.
But it’s time to give up on the thought that Gerald Green and the NBA will work things out someday. It’s a cold, hard fact: no one wants the talented Gerald Green.

Make no mistake, this guy will sooner be catching oops from Brandon Jennings than Jason Kidd.

Adam Morrison, CHA

It’s never too early to call Morrison a bust.

We called him a bust when he was drafted No. 3 overall by Michael Jordan (who else?). We did it again when we was demoted by an obscure Argentinean called Walter Herrmann. We called him a bust when he flicked off some fan for calling him ‘white trash.’

We knew he was a bust when he sat out his entire sophomore campaign, displaying less interest in his job than even a laundromat owner.

Sure Morrison proved he could put the ball in the hole a ‘lil bit during his rookie year, but what’s that mean now that his coach thinks he’s just a ‘kid with the long hair, I didn’t know his name. He wasn’t dressed like a basketball player’?

If you look at Charlotte’s roster, they don’t have a place for Morrison. He’ll certainly be a bench player as long as he remains a Bobcat, and there’s nothing indicating that he minds this in the least.

Charlie Villanueva, MIL

My friends are going to kill me for putting Charlie V on this list (including someone here at the Dome…don’t worry, I can take him). However, Villanueva proves time and time again that his name belongs along with this type of company.

The problem with Villanueva is his flaming inconsistency. Most nights he won’t be anything on the court. He’ll be a complete non-factor. Write him off. Forget about him. Pretend he’s from Milwaukee and never give him a second thought.

Then, there’s other nights when he literally doesn’t miss a shot. On these nights, Villanueva looks like Lamar Odom…with much less hair and a game that’s 10 times better.

Problem is, this Villanueva doesn’t show up more then three times a season.

In high school and college, Villanueva wouldn’t miss an opportunity to tell the world he’s better than the other guy. Now, he’s given up on trying to tell anyone.

Tyrus Thomas, CHI

Ah, yet another major mistake by Bulls management. Remember three years ago when the Bulls said they needed frontcourt help? Remember when they drafted LaMarcus Aldridge, you know, the best big in the 2006 Draft?

Well, the Bulls traded Aldridge just as quick as they selected him, and thus were the first to be Pritchslapped. Without Chicago, I guarantee the Blazers would not be in the prime position they are today.

But, Chicago fans, you keep tellin’ yourself how great T2 is…especially you fantasy ‘experts,’ who wouldn’t trade Thomas for anything less than Baron Davis. Yeah, two blocks and four boards in ten minutes is really going to be awesome for your efficiency ratings!

Which teams look good?

New York Knicks

You probably knew the Knicks were going to be mentioned in this column from the beginning, yet probably not in this way. Yes, they’re bad. Yes, many of their players are overpaid. Yes, Stephon has a new tattoo. So much has already been said about this team’s shortcomings, I’m not going to put it all out here.

But…

New York has a secret stash of young competitors. Check this list out, son: Nate Robinson, David Lee, Renaldo Balkman and Wilson Chandler. Get rid of some dead wood, let Danilo Gallinari do that thing he’s supposed to, and they’re right back in the playoffs.

(Oh, and as an aside…Yes, Steph’s still that guy, and he’s going to prove it when he dons the orange and blue next season. Please, I invite you to tell me why he can’t dominate!)

Portland Trail Blazers

We already know Darius Miles was a big mistake, and his contract may still haunt Portland if he plays this season. The Blazers tenured him a grand contract because of (what else) potential and stupidity, and Miles greatly screwed them in the long run. This guy failed more drug tests than a corner-dealing, redhead, late-shiftin’, Jimmy John’s manager…who eats the same No. 5 Vito (with extra mayo!) sandwich at 11:27 p.m. every day.

Still, the Blazers learned from their mistakes, and are turning things around as fast as humanly possible (without miraculously adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen).

They’ll be in the playoffs this year, count on it.

Oklahoma City

There’s no better core of young cats than Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green. With hella cap room, hella draft picks, Chris Wilcox booming on people, and a surprise debut of center Mouhamed Sene in a year or two (Sene’s touted to have the defensive prowess of a young Dikembe Mutombo), they’ll soon be back in the thick of the playoff action.

Lastly…

Let me clarify by saying J.R. Smith and the rest of these guys are not necessarily going to become the next Darius Miles, Eddie Griffin or Chris Washburn. Sure, they could, but so could anyone else.

All I’m saying is let’s make sure we pay the real competitors, and let these deadbeats do what they do.

Let them wonder why they’re still sitting pretty at the end of the bench or on their couch.

Who did I miss?

As I wrote this column, the ideas kept coming (I originally set out to write about J.R. Smith…then Shawne Williams popped up on the feed-reader (again)…then I had to make a bona fide list!).

I’m sure there is more to say on the topic of young, uber talented players you’d never pay big dollars.

Who would you add? How many of these type of players does your team have?

Looking forward to hearing your ideas in comments below!