Dirk Nowitzki and 6 Players Who Will Regress This NBA Season
It's always a lot more fun predicting which players are going to break out than it is pegging guys who are due to fall off. That doesn't mean someone doesn't have to do the dirty work of singling out guys who are declining and will continue to decline further.
The main contributing factors to a player's decline are injuries and age. When an aging player gets injured, it only signals an even brighter warning flag, and two players featured in this slide show are facing the precarious situation of having sustained major injuries in their mid-to-late 30s.
That said, another major factor that can contribute to regression is the acceptance of a lesser role with a new organization, or a change in the offense that the player has come accustomed to using for the majority of their NBA career. Also, sometimes guys just find themselves in situations in which they must share the ball more.
So, factoring in injuries, age and reduced roles we can determine the fate of the seven players who are all due to fall off even further than they already have.
Monta Ellis is no longer in the same high-powered, fired-up offense of the Golden State Warriors. He also shares the backcourt with another chucker. Ellis' usage rate will dip now that he is sharing the ball with Brandon Jennings, who has a 26.1 percent usage rate in his own right.
Ellis should still play 36 to 38 minutes a night, but Basketball Monster, a popular fantasy basketball site, projects (subscription required) only 18.9 points per game from the undersized two-guard. That would be nearly a seven point per game drop from what he did in 2009-10 as a member of the Warriors.
The precedent has already been set: Ellis averaged just 17.6 points per game in his 21 games with the Bucks last year, while shooting 16 times per game, down three shots per game from what he did the first 37 games of the season with the Warriors. He's been regressing the last two seasons, and it isn't due to age.
Ellis is only 26. His role is just changing and he's on a new team, so the regression is statistical and usage-rate related.
The preseason isn't always the greatest indicator, but the trend has continued, nonetheless. Ellis averaged 13.6 points per game in seven Warriors' preseason contests, while playing 28.6 minutes per game.
Regardless of how well Ellis plays, we're not going to see him put up 25 points per game again this year.
This is probably one of the more predictable picks for guys who are due to experience a fall off. Dirk has been declining since before the Mavericks won their ring in 2010, and he's continued to decline even more rapidly since then.
To top it off, Dirk begins the year injured and won't be back for another six weeks after having surgery on his knee. The knee injury could plague him an entire season according to Ross Bentley of Bleacher Report.
Dirk is now 34 and his scoring average has decreased each of the last four seasons. Last year, he put up 21.6 per game, which was his lowest since his third season in the NBA. This year, he may fall below 20 points per game for the first time since 2000-01.
It's not just the scoring, though. Dirk's rebounding rate has fallen from over eight per game down to 6.8 last season. He's still an effective top-10 power forward, but he is no longer an elite player worthy of MVP discussions.
Allen is another rather obvious and unoriginal example of an aging player who has been falling off and will continue to fall off. Last year, he averaged 14.2 points per game, which was the lowest since his rookie season.
In his defense, he did shoot a career high from three-point range, showing that his stroke hasn't deteriorated at all. It's just that everything else has.
Allen used to be an elite rebounding guard, and averaged over five rebounds per game three times in his career. Last year, he was a tad over three per game.
His minutes are due to decrease further in Miami, and his usage rate will likely decline even further. Last year, in Boston, he shot just 10.7 shots per game. His attempts per game have fallen every year since he left Seattle in 2006-07, and it's possible Allen sees fewer than 10 shots per game this season as a member of the Heat.
Expect Allen to average 11 or 12 points per game, with his typical high shooting percentages. It's not as though Allen is making the transition from decent to worthless—he's still going to be an effective NBA shooting guard.
The purpose of including him is mainly to dispel any notion that he is going to go back to averaging over 16 points per game as he did in 2010-11. He's 37 now, and though he is one of the best conditioned athletes in professional sports, he will fall off as he approaches 40.
Chauncey Billups still isn't ready after suffering an Achilles' tendon injury midway through last season.
"I'm not fighting myself off at all because I know how severe this injury really was. And I'm not going to compromise all the hard work that I've put in all summer…to get back a week earlier," Billups told Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times.
Considering Billups sustained the injury over eight months ago, this has to be a little disconcerting. Hearing him speak of the severity of the injury only further reinforces that when Billups does return, we may not see the same old Mr. Big Shot.
Billups is now 36. Younger guys struggle to come back from major Achilles' surgeries, so how much more so does that apply to a guy who has now played for 14 NBA seasons?
Billups had already seen a reduced role and his minutes have dropped each season since 2009-10, when he saw 34.1 minutes per night with the Denver Nuggets. Last year, prior to the injury, Billups was playing 30 minutes per night. If the Clippers are smart, they will give Billups even fewer minutes this year until the playoffs arrive.
Billups should see 25 to 28 minutes per game. Any less caution with a major injury this late in a guy's career could endanger his career. So, it only makes sense that Billups takes the time to come back fully healthy.
Reasonable expectations for Billups' production are 12 points per game and three assists per night. That would be his worst season since 2001-02.
Devin Harris is due to regress mainly because he is now a backup. He's in a time-share situation with Jeff Teague in Atlanta, and this will be Harris' first time not starting since his second year in the league.
Harris' career high for minutes per game was 36.1 in 2008-09 with the Nets. Last year, he saw 27.6 per game with the Utah Jazz.
That figure may fall to the low 20s this year, as Teague is younger and better. He's the future of the Hawks at point guard, while Harris is merely an above-replacement level backup in the NBA.
He's better than the majority of the backups, but not as good as most of the starters. Tough situation to be in.
Harris averaged 11.3 points per game last season, which was his lowest since his third year in the NBA in 2006-07. This year, he will likely be below 10 points per game, while his assists are likely to fall even further with Teague and Lou Williams both dominating the ball.
Harris will never average 20-plus points per game again, as he did in 2008-09 when he made the All-Star team.
It may seem at this point as though this slideshow has been designed to pick on players who have already fallen off and point out that they will continue to fall off. Fair game. Even so, Hedo Turkoglu is about to go from horrendous to completely unwatchable.
Turk's game was already too heavily reliant upon Stan Van Gundy's "stretch-4" offense and Dwight Howard. Now, not only does he have no one to run a pick-and-roll with, but he's also another year slower (and presumably fatter).
Turkoglu's offensive game at one point was dynamic. He posed matchup problems for small forwards and power forwards alike, as the former were too small to cover him, and the latter too slow. Now, he's slow himself and doesn't even have a refined post game to rely on to make up for the declining athleticism.
Hedo has failed to evolve as he's declined athletically, and the tragedy is that the decline may be premature due to poor conditioning.
If Turkoglu had a trimmer figure and worked harder, he may have been able to prolong his prime at least another season or two.
The Magic are desperate to rid themselves of Turkoglu's contract, but take solace in the fact that the next two seasons are only partially guaranteed. A buy out is quite likely after Turk puts up a career-worst season this year.
Dwyane Wade's stats have fallen off both of the last two seasons since LeBron James arrived. Wade led the league in scoring in 2008-09, shooting 22 times per game and averaging 30 points per night. Last year, he shot just 17.1 shots per game and averaged 22.1 points per game. This year, that figure may fall further.
Wade saw a career low 33.2 minutes per night last year, and is going to need more rest now that he is on the wrong side of 30. It's conceivable that Erik Spoelstra seeks to get Wade as much rest as possible in the regular season so that he's fresh for the playoffs.
Wade is still playing good basketball; he's just due to play less of it.
His intensity and hard style of play dictates he will be injured more often than a shooting guard who makes his living by coming off screens, and eventually Wade's crashes may result in a major injury. Until the time that happens (hopefully it doesn't), expect his usage to continue to decrease as LeBron James serves as the primary piston in the Heat engine.
Wade is still likely to average 20 points per game this season, but the bar shouldn't really be set much higher than that.
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