NBA

D'Angelo Russell.

Top 3: Players with the biggest chips on their shoulders for 2016-17

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The NBA proved itself to be a place of dreams and miracles last season as the Cleveland Cavaliers managed to overturn a 3-1 Finals deficit for the first time in history and win the NBA title, also, for the first time ever.

For every golden moment, every moment of redemption and every fairytale ending, there is the other end of the spectrum.

Here is a list of players looking to either rebound after difficult seasons, prove the doubters wrong, or simply get the credit they deserve. These three men have chips on their shoulders they plan to use to bring out the best in themselves.

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D'Angelo Russell

One-half of the self-professed 'Swag Bros - alongside Jordan Clarkson - didn't have the debut season of his dreams in the NBA last season.

Many were surprised when the L.A. Lakers opted to take the point guard over free-scoring big man Jahlil Okafor, but the Purple and Gold brass believed Russell had what it takes to take over from Kobe Bryant as the leader of the franchise when he retired.

Well, now that time has come. But Russell doesn't appear anywhere near ready to fill some of the loftiest shoes the game has ever seen.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers

Although then-coach Byron Scott confined him to the pine on several occasions last season, Russell also had his moments, a 39-point outburst against the Brooklyn Nets chief among them. That's more points in a single game than Bryant or Magic Johnson managed in their rookie campaigns.

However, the video scandal with Nick Young, which ultimately cost his teammate his relationship with Iggy Azalea, significantly hurt his stock. Now the onus is on Russell to prove he is mature enough to fulfill his potential and to justify the faith the Lakers front office put in him.

Damian Lillard

Dame Dolla, as he is known in hip-hop circles, is a grossly underappreciated star in the league

The Portland Trail Blazer guard posted averages of 25.1 points and 6.8 assists a night last season, and yet, he could not even make the All-Star team.

It was a ludicrous snub by all accounts. Especially considering he made the Western Conference team the two years previous with lower averages in both fields.

Portland Trail Blazers v Golden State Warriors - Game Five

Before the 2016 All-Star break in Toronto, Lillard was averaging 24.3 points (sixth best in the entire NBA) and 7.1 assists per game (seventh best in the whole league).

He would then rap in his overtly titled single 'They Sleep' the following:

"Lemme holler at y’all bout a few things quick
I’m as humble as they come, but my shoe game lit
I ain’t make the All-Stars, but I’m flu-game sick
Last time they count me out, what I do? Game 6."

Did he take exception to the snub? Your damn right he did. And next season he will no doubt go on to a whole different level with that motivation burning inside of him.

Hassan Whiteside

The Miami Heat center was never supposed to be a star, but he made himself impossible to ignore.

Until landing in South Beach back in 2014, the 27-year-old had floated around the D-League and had even gone overseas in search of time on the hardwood.

After not getting a sniff earlier in his career with the Sacramento Kings, Whiteside became a shit-blocking, double-double sensation at the American Airlines Arena and quickly established himself as one of the best defenders in the league.

Miami Heat v Toronto Raptors - Game Two

He went from a contract under $1 million last season to signing a $98 million this summer in free agency, even at the expense of franchise legend Dwyane Wade.

However, the NBA 2K was slow to recognise his sensational growth, in his opinion.

Back on 2K14, Whiteside had a rating of 49 and he made his feelings perfectly clear on Twitter.

However, following a 14-point, 13-rebound, 12-block performance against the Chicago Bulls in January 2015, Whiteside said after the game: "I'm just trying to get my NBA 2K rating up."

He's now rated 85 on the 2K17 edition, but the seven-footer must now prove he was worth the sizable investment that the Heat have made in him. And, strive to break 90 on 2K, of course.

Topics:
Damian Lillard
Portland Trail Blazers
Northwest Division
Western Conference
NBA
LA Lakers
Pacific Division
D'Angelo Russell
Miami Heat
Southeast Division
Eastern Conference
Hassan Whiteside

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