Pau Gasol and the 10 Most Disappointing NBA Playoff Performers

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2012

Pau Gasol and the 10 Most Disappointing NBA Playoff Performers

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    There have been plenty of disappointing players in this postseason already, but it wouldn't be hard to guess which one disappointed Kobe Bryant the most.

    That would be his teammate, Pau Gasol.

    Bryant thought Gasol was too passive in the Los Angeles Lakers' Game 4 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and he wasn't shy about it (via Yahoo! Sports' Johnny Ludden):

    "Pau's got to be more assertive," Bryant said. "He's the guy they're leaving [open]. When he's catching the ball, he's looking to pass. He's got to be aggressive. He's got to shoot the ball or drive the ball to the basket. He will be next game."

    One game later, Gasol took 14 shots—the most he'd taken all series. Unfortunately, he made just five of them, shooting 36 percent. And despite the 16 rebounds he contributed, the Lakers still lost by 15 points.

    For the series, Gasol never once topped 14 points. That's not going to cut it for the third prong of a contender's "Big Three."

    Gasol hasn't been the exception in these playoffs. Players and coaches are bound to come up short from time to time, even with a season on the line. Here are the 10 who—like Gasol—haven't lived up to our expectations. 

10. Jason Richardson–SG, Orlando Magic

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    Jason Richardson actually had a couple of very good games for the short-handed Orlando Magic, including a 25-point outburst in Game 4 against the Indiana Pacers. For the series, his numbers weren't far off his regular-season marks.

    Richardson's problem was consistency, pure and simple. He was just 1-5 in Game 2 and 2-8 in Game 3, both contests in which the Magic were ultimately blown out.

    There's plenty of blame to go around for what happened in this series. Never mind that Dwight Howard wasn't playing—Ryan Anderson was functionally a no-show too. He shot just 34 percent in the series and couldn't get a rebound to save his life. He and Richardson were equally disappointing.

9. Danilo Gallinari–SF, Denver Nuggets

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    Danilo Gallinari may not yet be a superstar, but he's certainly one of the Denver Nuggets' best players and arguably the team's best perimeter threat outside of Al Harrington.

    To have any chance against the Los Angeles Lakers, George Karl's team needed better than 13.4 points a game on 36 percent shooting. In his final game, Gallinari made just one of nine field-goal attempts and turned the ball over four times.

    For the series, he made just four of 23 three-point attempts.

    The relatively untested 23-year-old will no doubt view this as a learning experience, and rightfully so. He'll do better next time.

8. Ray Allen–SG, Boston Celtics

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    It wasn't all Ray Allen's fault—the guy was playing on a bad ankle and has still managed to put up more than 10 points a game in these playoffs.

    Even Allen admits he's become more of a decoy for Boston's offense than the more prolific scorer with whom we've become accustomed.

    Still, you can't help but feel like the 36-year-old is finally starting to show some serious signs of age. He hasn't been the spry slasher he once was for some time now, but never before has he looked this much like a spot-up shooting role player.

    There's still a place for him to be sure, but we should come to terms with what Ray Allen may be going forward.

7. Jason Terry–G, Dallas Mavericks

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    Compared to the rest of the Dallas Mavericks (except Dirk Nowitzki of course), Jason Terry had a fantastic first-round series.

    Had his team not been swept so quickly, he might have had an even better one.

    Still, this was not the Jason Terry Mavericks fans had come to rely on in last year's successful title push. He shot well under 40 percent in Games 3 and 4, and never got off more than 12 shots attempts in any of the four games.

    Terry is a free agent, and you can't help but wonder if his uncertain future weighed on his mind. You can add his sub-par first-round appearance to the list of other things that will be weighing on his mind.

6. Blake Griffin–PF, Los Angeles Clippers

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    In Blake Griffin's defense, he was playing with a bad knee against the San Antonio Spurs, and it wouldn't have been easy to beat those Spurs on a perfectly healthy knee.

    He also scored a lot of points when his team needed him to, including 30 points in a key Game 4 victory against the Memphis Grizzlies.

    But, Griffin never rebounded the ball nearly as often as he should have, even when his knee was fine. He had just one rebound in 37 minutes of Game 2 against the Spurs, just five more boards in Game 4. He was still able to throw down some pretty nice dunks, so this was a question of effort, not injury.

5. C.J. Watson–PG, Chicago Bulls

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    Sure, no one expected C.J. Watson to truly replace Derrick Rose.

    We really didn't even expect him to come close.

    But, we did expect better than 25 percent shooting and 7.3 points a game. Watson was outmatched by Jrue Holiday in every way and showed the world why he's not a starting point guard.

    It's not entirely fair to judge Watson on such a limited sample size. He got cold at the wrong time, pure and simple. And really, he wasn't much of a scorer to begin with—though he's typically more reliable than he was this time around.

4. Joe Johnson–SG, Atlanta Hawks

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    What will $18 million a year buy you in the NBA?

    A guy who shoots 37 percent from the field in his first-round series, apparently.

    Johnson hasn't been worth his paycheck for some time now, but his irrelevance against the Boston Celtics epitomized his steady decline. To Johnson's credit, he played well in Games 2 and 3—games the Atlanta Hawks lost.

    In his other four games, he either disappeared down the stretch (eight field-goal attempts in Game 4) or shot his team out of the game (11-28 in Game 3).

    The Hawks desperately need more from Johnson if they're ever going to contend in the East. Unfortunately, it's looking more and more like his best days are behind him.

3. Carlos Boozer–PF, Chicago Bulls

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    Carlos Boozer is set to make an even $15 million next season, and that's at least $5 million too much.

    It's also a reason to scrutinize him more than you otherwise might, especially when he's taking minutes from the promising and comparatively affordable Taj Gibson. Boozer's disappointment preceded Chicago's first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers to be sure, and it surely didn't help his cause when former MVP Derrick Rose went down.

    Chicago's starting power forward failed to score double-digits in three of his six games against Philly. Although he was facing a relatively undersized front-line, Boozer capped the series off with a 1-11 shooting night.

    The Bulls lost that game by one point.

    Boozer also shot a total of seven free throws for the duration of that six-game series. That's almost an accomplishment in its own right given the minutes this guy played.

2. Erik Spoelstra–Coach, Miami Heat

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    There's something to be said for coaches handling distracting situations with a measure of patience, especially in the public eye. Erik Spoelstra could certainly make the case that he's more mature than the rest of us, that he wanted to move on from Dwyane Wade's public insubordination for the good of the team.

    Please.

    Spoelstra has allowed Wade to make a fool of himself and the Miami Heat organization. That kind of public embarrassment shouldn't be tolerated, especially from a veteran leader like Wade. If anything, he should be held to a higher standard—he's the model the rest of his team should supposedly emulate.

    When Wade argued a non-call instead of running back on defense in Game 2, Spoelstra joined in against the official rather than chastising his own player's supreme negligence. These kind of free-passes are poison to a disciplined team.

    They're a disservice to LeBron James' title aspiration and Miami Heat fans who expected more from their superstar coup. This is no time to coddle tantrums.

1. Amar'e Stoudemire–PF, New York Knicks

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    For all the missed shots and consistently horrid play from other guys on this list, Amar'e Stoudemire just made one bone-headed move—and it wasn't even on the hardwood.

    After his fist made contact with that fateful fire extinguisher, the rest was history.

    Stoudemire actually played surprisingly well after returning after Game 3, which he sat out on account of the sliced-up hand. He played better than he did in the New York Knicks' 33-point Game 1 loss.

    Maybe he should hit things more often.

    Better yet, maybe he should figure out how to share the floor with Carmelo Anthony. Until that little chemistry problem is solved, this team isn't going anywhere in the East.