5 NBA Teams That Must Reverse Slow Starts to the Season
While making predictions about how the season will unfold prior to tipoff of the regular season is entertaining, it does not hold a candle to watching actual NBA action.
NBA championships cannot be won in November, but that does not mean that we cannot take notes about early season action.
Sure, the Orlando Magic won't be leading the Southeast division at the end of the season, but it has been interesting to watch them overcome the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns.
The same could be said of the Nuggets, who are currently in the cellar of the Northwest Division.
While the Nuggets will find a way to bounce back and are still a heavy favorite to make the playoffs, their poor play has been alarming due to the expectations that were placed upon them.
A sense of optimism is present at every training camp across the league, but can quickly fade if the results aren't consistent with the fanbases' expectations.
The Utah Jazz were able to sneak into the playoffs in 2012 before they were easily swept aside by the San Antonio Spurs.
So far this season, the Jazz have only won one of their first three games, with that win coming via a 113-94 home victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
The two losses came at the hands of the New Orleans Hornets and San Antonio Spurs, although they lost each game in different ways.
Against the Hornets in New Orleans, the Jazz shot the ball very poorly, as they converted on just 41.2 percent of their attempts. Also, Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap had a hard time handling Robin Lopez inside and struggled to keep up with Ryan Anderson on the perimeter.
Lopez and Anderson each scored 19 points and had a combined plus/minus of positive nine. In comparison, Jefferson and Milsap combined to score 21 points and amassed a plus/minus of negative 15.
The Jazz need their frontcourt to dominate the opposition to make up for their lack of experienced wing players and cannot afford to be outplayed inside.
It didn't surprise anyone when the Spurs overcame the Jazz 110-100 on November 3, as the Spurs used similar tactics to what helped them eliminate the Jazz during the 2012 playoffs.
With Tony Parker orchestrating the Spurs offense, the Jazz don't have the defensive talent in their backcourt to compete with San Antonio.
While most would assume that either Jefferson or Milsap would be the best player on the Jazz early in the season, that isn't the case.
Through three games, Mo Williams has been the best player on the team by far.
Williams is averaging 22 points, 6.3 assists and 1.67 steals per game while posting a ridiculous PER of 27.7. While there is no way that Williams will be able to maintain his current level of production, it is incredible to see him playing so well.
Even when he does fall off a bit, there is every indication that Williams will remain one of the more surprisingly effective players in the league.
The Jazz will likely be in contention for a playoff spot until the bitter end, but if the state of Jazz season appears bleak, then look for them to trade Milsap prior to the trade deadline.
Los Angeles Lakers
The moment that Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak traded for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, the expectations surrounding the 2012-13 season skyrocketed.
On paper, the Lakers have what appears to be an almost unbeatable roster.
Unfortunately for LA, basketball games aren't played on paper and actually have to be won on the court.
Steve Nash is an excellent field general, but his court vision and decision-making prowess are useless if he is injured and watching from the bench.
According to Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times, Nash could miss up to four weeks with a non-displaced fractured fibula.
If Nash does miss a month, he would have been absent from about an eighth of the schedule, which would hamper the growth of the team.
The newly-installed Princeton offense has been questioned by just about everyone at this point, so it's important to get the Lakers' best personnel on the floor in order to determine whether or not the offense is a good fit.
Dwight Howard may be the best defender in the NBA, but he isn't fully recovered from his back surgery and won't be able to make the defense elite on his own.
Kobe Bryant has played like Kobe, as evidenced by his 40-point game against the Los Angeles Clippers on November 2. However, Kobe played 43 minutes in that game, which is simply too much playing time for him in a regular season game.
Currently, the Lakers only have four players on their roster with a PER over the league average of 15. Three of those players are Bryant, Howard and Pau Gaol, and the fourth is point guard Darius Moore, who is a non-factor.
Starting small forward Metta World Peace has been a nightmare thus far, as he has posted a PER of 6.0, which is far below the league average.
The Lakers need to form a bench identity, as that unit has been lackluster so far this season. Currently, Jordan Hill has the highest PER of any non-starter that has received extended minutes with a score of 10.3.
LA's playoff seed may be determined by the performances of its role players. The bench players have time to integrate themselves into Mike Brown's system, but the sooner the better.
The Boston Celtics are currently viewed as the only team in the Eastern Conference with a legitimate shot of beating the Miami Heat in a seven game series.
After the first three games of the Celtics season, it is obvious to all those who have watched them that they have to improve defensively and on the boards in order to compete with the NBA's elite teams.
When the Celtics and Heat met on October 30 to tip off the season, the guys in green were unable to slow down the defending champions as the Heat prevailed 120-107.
With Ray Allen spreading the floor for the Heat now rather than the Celtics, Boston struggled to stop anything that the Heat did offensively. LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Allen combined to score 93 points.
If Miami's "Big Four" is able to find that much success against the Celtics offensively, then it will be virtually impossible for Boston to threaten the Heat in a playoff series.
The Celtics season will be defined upon whether or not they are able to triumph over the Heat in May. Their performance in the season opener showcased to the world that they have to improve greatly before that projected matchup.
In their other two contests, the Celtics beat the Washington Wizards on the road and lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in their home opener.
Against the Bucks, Boston had no answer for the speed and playmaking ability of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. By game's end, Ellis had scored 21 points, dished 13 assists and compiled six assists, as the Celtics had no answer for his ball-handling and quickness.
Until Avery Bradley returns from injury, the Celtics will be susceptible to quick guards breaking down their defense and getting the ball into the paint.
Without a dominant defensive presence inside, it will continue to be a tall task for Boston to play solid defense without better defensive play on the perimeter.
When the Denver Nuggets acquired Andre Iguodala in the Dwight Howard mega-trade, it appeared as if the Nuggets finally had the wing player that would make them relevant in the talented Western Conference.
The arrival of Iguodala combined with the assumed progression of JaVale McGee and Ty Lawson caused a fair share of analysts to project big things for the Nuggets.
ESPN Magazine predicted that the Nuggets would finish the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference, which was a bold prediction considering the perennial contenders that call the West home.
Through their first three games this season, the Nuggets are winless, as they have lost games to the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and Miami Heat.
In Denver's defense, all of those losses occurred on the road and could be attributed to the adjustment period that the team is going through due to having two new starters this season.
Through their first three games, the Nuggets are ranked 23rd in points scored and 25th in points allowed.
The impact that Iguodala was expected to make on the defensive end has been largely absent on the box score. Thus far, the Nuggets have surrendered roughly the same amount of points as they did last season.
Denver has too much talent to let the season slip away, but it has to start taking care of the ball better.
If the Nuggets hope to secure home court, then they better start stringing together victories.
While the expectations weren't through the roof for the Washington Wizards this season, optimists believed that if everything went right that they had a chance at clinching their first playoff berth since 2008.
Unfortunately for the Wizards, things have unfolded poorly since the onset of training camp and they find themselves with a 0-2 record.
First, budding star John Wall was ruled out for eight weeks due to a stress injury to his right knee.
Since the Wizards drafted Wall with the first pick of the 2010 NBA draft, they have been working to build a team around his game.
Head coach Randy Whittman had installed an offense that hinged upon Walls' playmaking ability to get things started. So you could see why the Wiz are in a lot of trouble without the catalyst for their offense.
So far this season, the Wizards have lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics by a combined 13 points.
Against the Cavs, the Wizards had no answer for Kyrie Irving's playmaking ability or for Anderson Varejao inside the paint. The issues against the Cavs could be excused due to the absences of Wall and Nene, but neither player is going to return to action in the near future.
In their first matchup with the Celtics this season, Washington came out playing flat and were outscored 26-12 in the first quarter. While they outscored Boston in each of the three remaining quarters, they were unable to make up the 14 point deficit.
According to the Washington Post, Wall likely won't be back until the end of November at the earliest. If Wall were to return at the end of November, he would still have missed between 12 and 14 games.
In a different article by Michael Lee from the Washington Post, it was reported that there is no timetable surrounding Nene's return to the court.
The possibility of Wall leading what could potentially be a 2-10 or 3-9 basketball team to the playoffs is a long shot.
After the injury to Wall, the only chance that the Wizards had to make the playoffs was to hope that players like A.J Price, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza would find a way to replicate Wall's impact, but that hasn't come to fruition.
The expectations weren't high in the nation's capital, but it's a shame that the Wizards will likely be considered irrelevant prior to Christmas yet again.