10 Biggest Early Disappointments of the 2011-12 NBA Season

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2012

10 Biggest Early Disappointments of the 2011-12 NBA Season

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    Heading into the 2011-2012 NBA season, expectations soared for a certain number of teams and individual athletes, and while some have risen to the occasion, others have simply fizzled.

    While the league is currently boasting its fair share of pleasant surprises this season, there are a number of parties who have done nothing but disappoint thus far. Particular struggles can be attributed to the extended offseason, yet such excuses will only get you so far.

    The manner in which a team or athlete opens the season is arguably almost as important as how they close it. A strong beginning sets the tone for the rest of the year, and right now, there are a plethora of ominous finishes in the making.

    Should those who are struggling fail to get their act together soon, this abbreviated season is liable to last a lifetime.    

Dallas Mavericks

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    The reigning champion Dallas Mavericks have looked anything but impressive this season.

    Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are the only players on Dallas who have been able to put together a consistent performance on the offensive end; outside of them, barely anyone is putting points on the board, a reality that has resulted in a 3-5 start.

    Tyson Chandler's absence leaves a clear hole in the middle, yet Lamar Odom and Brendan Haywood have done nothing to alleviate the damage . Odom looks lost outside of the Los Angeles Lakers' system, and while he is a newcomer and has somewhat of an excuse, what's Haywood's? He may be 32, but at 7'0", he has to be able to rebound the ball.

    The Mavericks have been inconsistent at best thus far. At times they show flashes of a team with depth, but more often than not, they have resembled an organization heading down a road no one should want to travel on.

Stephen Curry

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    On Wednesday night, Stephen Curry went down for the third time this season with a sprained ankle, noting afterward that the injury is as bad as it as ever been.

    Curry's re-occurring injury is severely disappointing, as it not only damages the Golden State Warriors playoff hopes, but has affected the point guard's ability to make an impact. Curry is averaging 15.2 points, 5.6 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game amidst his plaguing injury, but think of what his stat lines would read if he were at full-strength.

    Curry's inclusion amongst the league's most disappointing happenings early on is out of his control, yet it isn't at the same time. Injuries are bound to happen, but after the second occurrence, extended time off should have been a must.

    The Warriors need Curry on the floor to win, but looking ahead, what if he injured his ankle to the point where he needed surgery or tore something? 

    Both Curry's injury, and the manner in which he and the organization have handled it, are disappointing.

Manu Ginobili

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    Unlike Stephen Curry, Manu Ginobili's situation is completely out of his hands—no pun intended—yet his injury is incredibly disappointing.

    Ginobili broke a bone in his left hand on Monday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, leaving the San Antonio Spurs with much more to dwell on than their loss to Kevin Love and company.

    Ginobili will be sidelined nearly two months, which is unfortunate not only because of the offensive tear he was on, but because of his value to the Spurs' championship aspirations. For the first time in years, San Antonio was being overlooked, but the shooting guard was helping the team remain relevant.

    If the Spurs want to continue to be considered legitimate title contenders, they are going to have to do so without Ginobili on call to carry the offensive burden. At least for now. 

Russell Westbrook

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    On the surface, Russell Westbrook is having a solid season, but delve deeper and you'll see the star point guard has lost some of his swagger.

    Westbrook is averaging 17.1 points, 5.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game, stellar numbers, but his playmaking skills have dropped off quite a bit. He has visibly struggled to recapture any chemistry with Kevin Durant, and is easily aggravated as a result.

    Additionally, Westbrook is having the worst year of his career thus far in terms of shooting, especially from behind the three-point line; he has been knocking down just North of 15 percent of his attempts from downtown. His ball-protection has also been horrendous.

    Yes, it's early, and Westbrook has time to recover, but the Oklahoma City Thunder are rolling as a team, and he needs to catch up. It's a shame to think that the Thunder may still have been undefeated if Westbrook was playing up to par.

New York Knicks

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    The New York Knicks may be in the midst of acclimating numerous new faces into their system, and health hasn't exactly been a luxury they possess, but their 2-4 start is more than disappointing.

    New York looks lost on the basketball court, especially in terms of communication. Different players have stepped up at different times, but only one time has the team put forth a complete effort this season, and that came against a lowly Sacramento Kings team.

    What's even worse is that no one is accepting responsibility. Teams both lose and win together, but why isn't Amar'e Stoudemire calling out his teammates like he did last season? Why hasn't head coach Mike D'Antoni tried to light a fire under his players? And why doesn't the team seem more angry about their horrific start?

    The Knicks lack familiarity and cohesion at this point, which is to be expected. That being said, it doesn't excuse them from failing to make progress. If anything, New York's most recent loss against the Charlotte Bobcats showed us things are only getting worse.

    And that's not just disappointing, that's unacceptable.

Tyreke Evans

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    Tyreke Evans has been a major disappointment this season, after turning a number of heads the past two years.

    Last season, Evans averaged 17.8 points, 5.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds despite a nasty bout of plantar fasciitis. While those were numbers that were slightly below his rookie production, many were impressed with his resiliency as he took the court whenever he could. This year seems to be a different story though.

    Evans is averaging only 15.8 points, 3.3 and 4.1 rebounds per game. His foot could still be a bother, but his lack of effort has been staggering to say the least. He is exerting little effort while running the floor—if you could even call it that—and while his stat lines aren't terrible, he is producing career lows in almost every statistical category.

    The season is young, and so is Evans, but at some point the whole "he has time to get it together" bit will mean less than nothing.

    Evans came into the league with a wealth of promise and a scrappy work ethic, yet from what we have seen thus far, such virtues appear lost.  

Jason Richardson

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    As time as passed, so has Jason Richardson's athleticism, but his ability to score has remained prevalent. Until now.

    The Orlando Magic inked the shooting guard to a four-year, $25 million contract just before the start of the season, thanks to his ability to score, and such a train of thought is now coming back to haunt them. In another feeble attempt to retain Dwight Howard, Orlando had hoped Richardson's instant offense would help propel the Magic deep into the playoffs and Howard's heart.

    Seven games in though, Richardson is averaging 8.7 points and three rebounds per game, and shooting a career worst 22.7 percent from beyond the arc. He simply isn't playing good basketball right now, and while he is no longer in his twenties, he is only 30, and such a drop off is inexcusable.

    As long as Richardson isn't scoring, he is of no value to Orlando, and should he fail to regain his scoring abilities, his presence may actually hurt the Magic's chances of convincing Howard to remain long term.

Joe Johnson

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    The Atlanta Hawks are one of the NBA's biggest surprises this season, yet their supposed star player has earned himself a spot amongst the most disappointing happenings of this year.

    After signing a monster contract in the summer of 2010, Joe Johnson put up less than warm numbers last season. His stat lines were respectable, but did not reflect those of a max-level talent.

    Having been universally criticized, one would have expect Johnson to start the season with a chip on his shoulder and a plot for vengeance in his back pocket. It seems he lost his blueprint for redemption though, as he is averaging a meager 16.6 points and three rebounds per game.

    Johnson remains Atlanta's leading scorer, but his shot-selection has been poor and his production has been inconsistent at best. The 30-year-old's decreased numbers could be attributed to the Hawks' tendency to spread the ball, if it weren't for the fact he was jacking up a plethora of shots on a nightly basis.

    At this rate, the only thing Johnson will prove to his critics by season's end is that they were right.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    After an incredible postseason run without their star player, the Memphis Grizzlies were viewed as one of the league's elite teams. They are rapidly playing themselves out of that category.

    The shortened season has taken its toll, and the Grizzlies have had to deal with multiple key injuries to Mike Conley and Zach Randolph, but for a team that prided itself on depth last season, they have looked extremely thin so far.

    Memphis has an abundance of contributing players, yet few have produced consistently. Additionally, Rudy Gay has failed to re-enter the fold seamlessly, as his presence has visibly disrupted the chemistry that was established in last year's playoffs.

    At 3-3, the Grizzlies are far from the dominant squad many have imagined. If they continue at such an inconsistent pace, postseason success will become a thing of the past.

John Wall

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    The Washington Wizards are in a tailspin, yet the most disappointing aspect of this team is franchise cornerstone John Wall.

    While the Wizards are a promising bunch, most of their roster remains unproven or one-dimensional, and as a result, they are only going as far as their leader can take them. Right now, Wall isn't taking this group anywhere.

    After an incredible rookie year, Wall has jumped out to a tepid start to the season, averaging 13.8 points, 6.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. He is shooting a hair less than 33 percent from the field, and his long range game has regressed, as if that was even possible.

    Currently, the only positive aspect of Wall's game is his defense. His quickness has allowed him to continue hounding opposing guards, and his effectiveness on that end hasn't faltered. That being said, his flaws on the other side of the ball are undeniable.

    Wall remains perhaps the most elusive player in the league, yet there is a noticeable lack of flow in his offensive game right now. He is forcing the action on his end, and has struggled to create for his teammates. His ball-protection remains an issue as well.

    Expectations soared for Wall as the season approached. He was thought to have enough talent to render the Wizards nearly relevant again. Unfortunately for both the team and its fans though, Wall seems to have hit his rookie wall nearly a year too late.

    It's going to be the shortened season from hell in Washington if Wall doesn't regain his composure. 

    You can follow Dan Favale on Twitter here @Dan_Favale.