Every NBA season there are teams that surprise fans, whether it be for better or for worse. The 2008-2009 NBA season was full of surprisingly underachieving teams.
The list is most notably highlighted by the following teams.
The Pistons went from "the team to beat" in the East to just an average team in just one season. Their guards have been consistantly underproducing since the trade for Allen Iverson. Various injuries leaves this team on track to finish around 0.500 this season, ending their streak of five conference finals appearances.
Some questioned Joe Dumars' decision making when he decided to sign the biggest bust in NBA history, Kwame Brown, to a two-year deal. To make matters worse, Dumars decided to trade the best point guard in the East for a declining scorer.
By completing that trade, Dumars cleared lots of cap space for next season, but he essentially threw this one down the toilet. The Iverson-Hamilton duo was never going to work. Both are very talented scorers, but both like having the ball in their hands and creating their own shots - and having two such starting guards just does not work in this league.
Philadelphia made a number of big offseason moves that gave very high hopes to the 2008-2009 seasons. The resigning of Andre Iguodala and the signing of superstar Elton Brand was thought to have transformed the 76ers into one of the top East contenders.
However, the low production from Brand and his inability to mesh with his new teammates led this team to falling quite short of their expectations and capability. The 76ers were 13-16 before injury prone Brand came down with a season ending shoulder injury. His injury turned out to better the 76ers, as they have a 23-17 record without him.
Since the acquisition of Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns have routinely been the most exciting team in the league and at the top of the Western Conference standings.
After a somewhat disappointing season last year, they brought in defense guru Terry Porter as their head coach. The Porter hiring was supposed to add some defensive intensity to this offensive line up of players.
The Suns' season did not turnout as planned. They have been all over the place this season. Porter was unable to transform this team as Kerr planned and just ended up wasting Amare Stoudamire's offensive talents.
When Kerr's experiment first began to fail, he traded two solid contributors, Boris Diaw and Raja Ball, for another star in Jason Richardson to add to an already star studded team.
Then Kerr decided that he wanted to switch back to the run and gun offense that helped the Suns excel under D'Antoni, an offense under which both Diaw and Bell shined. Kerr subsequently fired Porter and Alvin Gentry was brought in to revive the offense.
After a few offensive explosions following Gentry's hiring, the Suns seemed revived and motivated, especially Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire. Stoudamire then came down with a season ending eye injury that will likely lead the Suns to miss the playoffs for the second time in 21 years.
The 2008-2009 Toronto Raptors were hailed by Bryan Colagelo as the best team he has ever put together and were thought to be one of the top five teams in the East.
So what went wrong? First and formost, the acquisition of O'Neal seemed destined for failure.
In his prime, O'Neal was a tough player who could score, rebound, and defend, which seemed perfect for the Raptors. The only problem was that O'Neal was far from being in his prime and has turned into somewhat of a shooting big man, much like the team's star Chris Bosh.
This conflict in their styles along with an injury to Jose Calderon exposed the Raptors' more immediate needs for toughness, a quick wing player, defense, and rebounding.
Colangelo tried to salvage the season by trading for Shawn Marion, but unfortunately the players seemed to have already given up on the season and they could not recover to make a serious playoff run.