5 NBA Playoff Contenders Who Will Fall Flat on Their Faces by the All-Star Break
Anticipation is rarely converted to winning the championship. The majority of NBA GMs spent many a sleepless night this offseason working to shape their team into one of the 16 playoff teams, with the end result being that not every GM’s hard work will actually end up paying off.
(MJ, we’re looking at you.)
Charlotte Bobcats aside, more than 16 teams are actually capable of being a playoff team. Teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves have gone from being a joke to a threat in the past few years, to the point that it’s not unreasonable to expect that they could both make deep playoff runs this season.
Teams like the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs have consistently held their status as championship contenders over the last decade, and the emergence of powerhouses such as the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers make it all too easy to predict the 2013 NBA champions.
Back to the point at hand, though, we still have teams that are destined to disappoint. Whatever the reason is, not everybody can be winners.
Based on the first week of the NBA regular season, I will now go through the list of anticipated playoff contenders that are heading toward falling flat on their faces before the All-Star break—or at the very least, talented teams that are underachieving.
Los Angeles Lakers
Based on their roster, the Los Angeles Lakers don’t deserve to be on this list. They haven’t shown that they can be dynamic with the pieces that they’ve accumulated, though, and that’s why they belong here.
They brought Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in over the offseason, as well as role players like Antawn Jamison, but we have yet to see the added productivity that the additions were supposed to bring to the table.
In fact, it has been quite the opposite. Over the first week of the regular season, the Lakers are 0-3. The teams that they lost to included the Dirk-less Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers, who managed to squeeze out just 28 wins last season.
The new pieces on the team have to be given time to mesh, and that’s the only reason that it’s not time to hit the panic button in Los Angeles.
At this point, it could go either way for the Lakers. If they can work out the kinks and learn to play on each other’s strengths, then we can go back to debating who could actually beat them in the playoffs. If not, it’s going to be a disappointing season.
It’s not far-fetched to say that it’ll take them at least until the All-Star break before we see them start consistently manhandling teams like they should be doing.
The loss of Ray Allen was the most significant departure from Boston over the offseason. Jason Terry was brought in from Dallas to fill the void of a scorer/sixth man, but the Celtics have still come up flat so far in the first week.
It doesn’t help that they opened the season playing against the reigning champs, the Miami Heat—but they also dropped the game against the Milwaukee Bucks, and that was a game that Boston should have taken.
The Celtics managed to eke out a win against the Washington Wizards, but they only won by three points. And the Wizards were playing without their star players, John Wall and Nene.
It took the Celtics until the All-Star break to begin convincing people that they weren’t washed up last season. History often repeats itself; the Celtics likely won’t come on strong until around midseason again. Based on the first week, they showed that they have obvious deficiencies that need to be solved.
If the Boston Celtics continue to play at the level they’ve played thus far, they’re going to have to work hard after the All-Star break if they want to make it to the playoffs.
The Denver Nuggets kicked the year off by acquiring Olympic gold medalist Andre Iguodala. They already established themselves as a playoff-caliber team last season, so the addition of Iguodala put them in position to be serious threats.
We haven’t seen it yet, though. The Nuggets dropped all three of their games so far, losing to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic.
In their first week, Denver shot a meager 25 percent from beyond the arc. Frankly, that number is terrible.
Good thing for them that it’s just the first week, because they’ve started off looking quite unconvincing.
They also happen to be in one of the toughest divisions in the NBA, sharing the Northwest division with the reigning Western Conference champs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as the up-and-coming Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz.
They have zero room to fail if they wish to make it to the playoffs—let alone have a winning record by the All-Star break, and they’ve started off slipping.
The Chicago Bulls started off their first two games looking rather decent. Granted, they didn’t play the toughest opponents, but they didn’t appear to be lacking an offensive presence after losing Derrick Rose with the torn ACL.
After suffering a tough loss to the New Orleans Hornets, though, Chicago’s vulnerable side was exposed. As we’ve seen many times before, Carlos Boozer failed to produce much of anything, the offense couldn’t generate points and the team couldn’t convert easy shots.
That’s the effect that losing the best point guard in the league will have on your team.
The good news for Chicago is that D. Rose is supposed to return sometime around the All-Star break.
They’re going to be bailed out by his midseason return, although it’s almost definite that Rose will need time to adjust.
One thing is for certain, the Bulls showed Saturday night that they don’t stand an earthly chance of being serious threats without Rose. By the All-Star break, Chicago will be fighting to stay relevant.
The Atlanta Hawks suffered a blow when they traded away All-Star Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets.
It was evident in their season opener against the Houston Rockets, when James Harden demoralized the Hawks defense en route to a 45-point game.
Although they’ve only played one regular-season game, it was obvious that the team doesn’t have the same playoff level offense that they had last season.
Over the course of the preseason, Atlanta managed a 3-4 record. While the preseason isn’t necessarily indicative of how the regular season team will play, it’s looking more and more like the Atlanta Hawks are going to struggle mightily to make it back to the playoffs this season.