The Biggest Disappointments in the NBA Thus Far
The All-Stars have been named and the trade deadline is just around the corner. By this point in the shortened NBA season, we have our contenders, our pretenders and everyone in between.
There are a handful of teams, young and old, whose play has been subpar this year. Here are seven disappointments that stand out.
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The Washington Wizards have the talent to compete for one of the lower seeds in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they are competing for the top pick in the draft.
Having been to a slew of Wizards games this season, I can tell you they just do not play well together. There is way too much one-on-one basketball going on and guys looking for their own shots. The team is averaging just 17.3 assists per game, 29th in the NBA. Considering that John Wall is averaging seven of those assists, there is a whole lot of standing around, dribbling and shooting coming from the rest of the roster.
I would like to see more playing time for veteran Roger Mason and Maurice Evans. I believe their veteran influence would have a better impact on Wall than the gunning Nick Young and inconsistent Jordan Crawford. I love the energy of youngsters Jan Vesely, Trevor Booker, Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack, so I still say the future is bright in Washington. I just thought we would have seen some progress this season.
New York Knicks
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OK, good news, bad news time. The good news: The New York Knicks are on a three-game winning streak. The bad news: It has been without Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, the players expected to make the Knicks a contender.
I was like most NBA fans; I thought the Knicks landed a huge piece of the puzzle when they traded for Tyson Chandler. Part of the problem is the importance of a true point guard in Mike D'Antoni's system, and they may finally have one in the form of Jeremy Lin.
However, point guard or no point guard, Stat and Melo have to play better together. Melo is in the midst of his least productive season since his second year in the league, and Stoudemire is having his worst since he was a rookie. Overall, Stoudemire's scoring average has dipped about seven points per game since the trade for Melo.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Knicks would be in a tie with the Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot. Chandler is doing his job, and I believe Lin is the real deal at point guard. That does not mean he will be averaging 20 points per game from here on out, but he does help bring balance to the roster.
The success of this team rests squarely on the shoulders of the Knicks' supposedly dynamic duo.
New Jersey Nets
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The New Jersey Nets were faced with a pretty ominous option for 2012: show serious signs of progress, or say goodbye to Deron Williams. An 8-19 mark is not going to inspire D-Will to be the new face of Brooklyn.
The Nets are not going to land Dwight Howard, and that is the only thing that would keep Williams in town. I know they lost their second-best player (and chief bargaining chip for Howard) in Brook Lopez, but would the Nets have been that much better with a seven-footer that averaged six rebounds per game last season?
I am a believer that the Nets should trade Williams for Pau Gasol. Otherwise, they risk selling the farm for a one-year rental of Williams. A core of Gasol, Lopez, Marshon Brooks and a top-10 pick in a deep draft class is something Mikhail Prokhorov can build around.
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You can call the Sacramento Kings the Wizards West: A ton of talent, but none of it meshing together.
Players with the ability of Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins, bolstered by a scorer like Marcus Thornton, should be playing .500 ball. Instead, they are winning about a third of their games. Like the Wizards, the individual stats do not look that bad. And yet again like the Wizards, they are not sharing the ball, as they are the one team in the NBA averaging fewer assists per game.
I would like to see rookie Isaiah Thomas start at point guard (might as well see what you have in the kid), move Evans over to his natural position of shooting guard and have the veteran John Salmons lead Jimmer Fredette and the bench mob. J.J. Hickson (remember when he was the deal-breaker for the Cleveland Cavaliers in a potential Amare Stoudemire trade?) needs to ride the pine in favor of Jason Thompson, who is playing way more efficiently in all facets of the game.
The talent is there; it is just figuring out how to make it work.
Dallas Mavericks, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers
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I include the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics in the same slide because their stories are all the same: For veteran teams likely making their last run together, their play has been, well, disappointing.
They have not been awful, but they have not looked like contenders either. If the playoffs were to start now, the Celtics would be the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Mavs and Lakers would be the sixth and seventh seeds in the West.
The disturbing part is that veteran teams should have an advantage over the youngsters when it comes to chemistry, due to the lockout. However, there have been times when all three have looked completely out of sync. Both Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki came into the season horribly out of shape, and Gasol is not playing with much passion.
Of course, the only way to measure these team's success is in the playoffs, so we could be looking back at their sluggish winter performances as nothing but a blip on the radar screen.