7 NBA Teams Already Hitting the Panic Button

Kelly Scaletta@@KellyScalettaFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2012

7 NBA Teams Already Hitting the Panic Button

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    The NBA hasn't completed a month of play, but some teams either aren't liking or shouldn't be liking how things are going so far. Some teams need to be worried. 

    Some teams need to be really worried. 

    Some teams need to hit the panic button. 

    Some teams need to beat that thing like a monkey on Ritalin. 

    Here, in order of severity of panic, are seven teams that should at least be approaching the button. They are ranked, not in order of how good the teams are, but in order of how far short of expectations they are. 

    All stats in this article are current as of the November 25. 

Chicago Bulls

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    If the Bulls were 6-6 and sitting on the ninth seed with Derrick Rose healthy, they would definitely be at the top of the list. Things aren't quite that bad though since their superstar is missing.

    They're in second place in the Central, so they're definitely not at full-blown panic yet—but prudently concerned is an apt measure. 

    What should be of concern though is that they just snapped the first three-game losing streak under the leadership of Tom Thibodeau as well as having lost four of six. 

    Even more important are their fourth quarter struggles. In five of their six losses, they were outscored in the fourth quarter, and in four of those games they lost because they were outscored in the fourth quarter. 

    The Bulls simply have no "go-to" guy without Derrick Rose, and they're going to need to find an answer when the game is on the line until he returns. The best option would seem to be Richard Hamilton, who has played the role in the past with Detroit. 

    Hamilton averages 24.5 points per 36 clutch-time minutes, and the Bulls are a net 22.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the court in the clutch. The problem is he's only played 22 minutes and often sits in the clutch. 

    The Bulls don't have a perfect option, but Hamilton is the best they have. If they don't figure something out they might not have enough for Rose to salvage when he returns. 

    Panic Level: Know where the button is located

Washington Wizards

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    The Washington Wizards are, in a word, awful. They are 0-11 in spite of the fact that they are the proud owners of the league's second-easiest schedule, according to Basketball Reference.

    Things get tougher for them now. It's quite conceivable they could drop their next six games as their worst opponent, Portland, is presently just half a game under .500. The rest all have winning records. 

    Their next winnable game might be New Orleans, and even that's no guarantee. Should they fall to the Hornets as well they could be sitting on the worst streak to start a season, tying the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets record. 

    And on top of all that Bradley Beal, their rooking shooting guard, is worried that the team is getting depressed, according to Michael Lee of the Washington Post,  

    We just lost. Everybody hates losing. You just see the guys faces, it’s like depression. We haven’t won a game yet. We still have [71] more games. It’s still a long season. We still have our opportunity to get over .500. Right now, it’s our goal we have to shoot for, is to probably get into the playoffs. We’re going to make it. I have faith in this team. I have confidence in us. I think we’re more than capable of doing it, with the assets that we have. As long as guys keep buying in and never give up, we’ll be fine.

     

    If there's anything worse than panic, it's depression. Beal qualifies his statement with some optimism, but the word "depression" still stands out. No one expected much from the Wizards, especially with John Wall out for the start of the season, but who knew they'd be this bad?

    Something needs to be done to rejuvenate the team. Depression is never a good word to hear from your locker room. 

    Panic Level: Don't worry, be happy

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Well, technically the Lakers already broke the glass case and hit the fire button, so they're moving down the list, not up. 

    Still, they have a major concern after the whole Phil Jackson fiasco in that if things don't work out with Mike D'Antoni, they will be wearing a significant helping of egg on their metaphorical face. 

    It hasn't helped that they've started 2-2 under D'Antoni, but to be fair, it is just a start, and in their last game they put a serious smackdown on the Dallas Mavericks. 

    This was a team that was supposed to compete for an NBA title and they're still 7-7. They are up to 7-7, though. 

    Steve Nash appears closer to returning, and that should help things considerably. Dwight Howard appears to be closer to being Dwight Howard. Kobe Bryant is having his most efficient shooting season ever. 

    They are gradually moving away from the panic button, but it won't take much for them to start moving back toward it, especially since they are stuck with Plan B. 

    Panic Level: Slowly, carefully, step away from the button 

Toronto Raptors

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    The Toronto Raptors and their fans were positively juiced before this season started, fully expecting that they'd put together a crew that could make a playoff run. 

    Well they got the "off" part right. It's the play their still struggling with. They are a woeful 3-11, disappointing their fans. 

    What's worse is how painful so many of their losses have been. Six of their losses were either in overtime or by two points or less. 

    That's six games that could have gone differently with a swing of one possession. One loss can partly be laid at the feet of an official (though there's no guarantee that Andrea Bargnani makes both free throws). 

    That can be good or bad. It either means they are close, or it means they don't know how to finish. Or perhaps it means both. If they learn to finish, they could turn things around. 

    The reason they need to panic is that there's a murmuring of quit already. People are speculating about moving Bargnani, which signals giving up on the season. 

    The Raptors need to not let the run of bad breaks defeat them so early in the season. 

    Panic Level: Stuart Smalley self-affirmation course.

Dallas Mavericks

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    The Dallas Mavericks started well, but the smoke is dissipating and the mirrors are broken now. They are waiting for their former MVP, Dirk Nowitzki, to come back and save them. 

    Perhaps what should push the Mavericks to the panic button is what happened when they last played against the Lakers, when they were, in a word, obliterated. The Lakers pounded them 115-89 and sent them to their sixth loss in nine games. 

    And now the Mavericks are facing road games in five of their next six games. 

    Based on points per 100 possessions, the Mavs are struggling on offense, ranked 14th; struggling more on defense, ranked 21st; and are about to hit a rough patch in their schedule without their best player. 

    Just over a year removed from a championship, the rebuilt Mavs are looking at the possibility of being under .500 20 games into the season for the first time since the year 2000, Nowitzki's second year. 

    And the worst news is that Dirk doesn't seem to be getting any closer to returning, as he announced he won't be back until at least mid-December, according to Jeff Caplan of NBA.com. 

    Things started great, went bad and are looking to get worse for the Mavericks. The cause for panic is that by the time Nowitzki comes back, it might be too late. It's too bad he can't put a little more of the "now" in "Nowitzki..." 

    Panic Level: Hilfe!!!

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves had an amazing start to their season. They won four of five in spite of the fact they weren't just missing their best player, they were missing their best two players. 

    But they had newcomers step in like Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Alexey Shved, along with returning players like Nikola Pekovic and Luke Ridnour.

    Then Chase Budinger went down for three to four months. Brandon Roy might be gone for good. At least Kevin Love is back, but they've lost all three games since he's been back. 

    You have to respect the heart and integrity with which Minnesota plays, but you also have to wonder whether the team will ever get well enough. 

    The 'Wolves aren't hitting the panic button because they're losing. But they might start hitting if the injury bug doesn't stop biting them incessantly. 

    Panic Level: Carefully, and gently, so as to not hurt anyone, press the button. 

Indiana Pacers

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    Probably no team right now is more disappointed in their record than the Indiana Pacers. Danny Granger boasted before the season they were the second best team in the East. 

    Granger's out, injured until January or February, and they're 10th in the East.

    In fact, they're not even the second best team in the Central Division, as they trail both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Chicago Bulls. 

    The Pacers have the Association's third worst offense, averaging a meager 99.1 points per 100 possessions. Their defense is impressively stingy, yielding just 100.2 points, but when you can't score more than that you've got a serious issue. 

    What's worse is the answer doesn't appear to be found on their roster. Leading scorer David West is shooting a whopping 46.2 percent from the field.

    Breakout candidate Paul George is second on the team in scoring, and is having a career high in points per game at 15.2, but with woeful inefficiency, as he's hitting just 41.1 percent from the field. While his impressive 42.5 percent shooting from deep helps some, he doesn't take enough shots from downtown to even put his effective field-goal percentage above 50, as he's hitting just 49.2 percentage.

    Furthermore, his overall game has regressed. His Player Efficiency Rating is down 2.1 points to 14.4, below the league average. George might not be the star the Pacers were hoping he'd be. 

    Karma might be biting the Pacers. There's no question that they really view the Bulls as their chief rivals. Their best offensive player might have taken a little too much delight in the Bulls' loss, and his team might be paying the Karmic price for it now. 

    Of all the teams that are troubled, the Pacers are the one that had the highest hopes, are the furthest from realizing them, and are the least able to turn things around.  

    Panic Level: Beat that thing mercilessly like a monkey on Ritalin.