Predicting NBA's 10 Biggest Underachievers in 2013
Consistently following through with production is such a difficult task to accomplish in sports, and because of this, there are always a handful of players who underachieve.
The New Year is around the corner and provides us with a nice deadline to look back on things and also look ahead to predict how certain things will play out. For the NBA, it is almost natural for a fan to think how certain players will pan out for the remainder of the season.
There are times where certain players can hit a wall or just decline their production. And of course, there are also players who can just underachieve for the whole season.
Let's see what part of the NBA could very likely be underachieving in 2013...
*All stats used are from Basketball-Reference.com
As a Sixers fan, I feel like I go through the same song and dance with Spencer Hawes every season (except this time it comes with an ugly mullet). He always starts off strong, but then quickly fades away on a path of inconsistency as the season progresses.
In fact, the inconsistency has already started after his typical solid start. After averaging nearly 10 points and eight rebounds through the first six games (production respected out of a guy like Hawes), he went on 14-game span of averaging just six points and four rebounds per game.
Fortunately enough, he has turned it around over the last couple weeks, averaging 14 points and seven rebounds per game. But because we are talking about Hawes, the streak should conveniently end as the New Year begins.
It's always a weird case with Hawes. Some nights he plays out of his mind and reassures fans that he is a legit post player. But then there are other nights where Sixers fans just yell, "Get this seven-foot oaf off the court!" (it's true, I've heard it before).
We know Hawes will not be consistent, so for the most part of 2013, he will probably be underachieving.
Marcus Thornton has yet to put it together this year and nothing says he will. This year Thornton is averaging just 13.5 points game in over 27 minutes per game. For those unfamiliar with Thornton's style of play, he is primarily a scorer.
Compared to last year where Thornton was averaging nearly 19 points per game, this season has definitely been a disappointment thus far. In fact, he has scored more than 20 points just three times this season and is barely shooting over 40 percent from the field.
What makes his level of production even less excusable is the fact that Tyreke Evans has missed a handful of games due to injury. One would think that Evans' absence would work in Thornton's favor in terms of getting more scoring opportunities.
Ironically, the conditions for Evans seem quite favorable, yet he has actually underachieved. Considering Evans will come back soon, it's hard to see Thornton improving.
Obviously, Kobe will continue to be dominant. However, not in the same way he has thus far.
Considering he has played a hefty amount of minutes, it will be extremely hard for him to fulfill expectations (continuing his production) for the rest of the year.
We saw this happen with Kobe last year. In his first 30 games, he was averaging 30 points, six rebounds and five assists per game while averaging over 38 minutes per game. For the second half of the year, Kobe averaged 26.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and four assists per game.
He was not playing bad by any means, but the decline is there. He cannot continually produce at that level after taking in so many minutes at his age.
This year, he is averaging roughly the identical numbers as he did at the start of last season: 30 points, five rebounds and five assists per game while averaging 39 minutes per game. I think it is safe to assume that he will gradually decline.
While Kobe is still a spectacular player, at the age of 34, he definitely is not as durable as he was in his prime. This should present itself as the season progresses.
The same case can be made for Luol Deng. In fact, he ranks fifth in the league in total minutes played this season.
Although statistically he is putting together one of the best seasons of his career (17.7 points and seven rebounds per game), he is playing a league-leading 40.5 minutes per game with majority of the workload on his shoulders because of the absence of Derrick Rose.
Well, we know Rose is coming back soon, which means Deng will not be seeing the workload he is seeing right now.
Not only will Deng's overload of playing time be taking a toll on him, but he will become a secondary option for most of 2013.
Jonas Valanciunas is another one of those guys who will continue to underachieve.
Averaging just 7.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, Valanciunas has under-performed for 6-11 size. One could have speculated that he is still getting used to the league and could turn things around in the second half, but unfortunately Valanciunas fractured his finger against Orlando last week and should miss 4-6 weeks.
Basically, Valanciunas has minimal chance to turn things around this year and we can only speculate less production when returning from an injury.
As a fifth overall pick, he has not satisfied expectations and it certainly does not look like he will be doing so this season.
Without question Damian Lillard, currently averaging 18.6 points and 6.7 assists per game, deserves Rookie of the Year based on the season thus far. It's just hard to imagine that he matches his production for the rest of the season.
A good reason behind this speculation is the Trail Blazers' upcoming schedule. In fact, in 2013 Portland plays the Grizzlies, Clippers, Timberwolves and Thunder three times and the Heat and Lakers twice. The Grizzlies, Clippers and Timberwolves are three of the top five defenses in the league.
Long story short, the Blazers have a tough path ahead of them, and Lillard specifically has some tough competition to keep up his stellar numbers.
This is no stab at Lillard as a player, because he is definitely proving himself as a player fans will love to watch for years to come.
O.J. Mayo had a hot start to the season, but recently he has slowed down his production.
In his last seven games, Mayo has recorded just 12.1 points and 4.9 assists per game. Oh yeah, and a guy named Dirk Nowitzki is back in the starting lineup.
This is not to say Mayo's start to the season is a fluke, because this is the most convincing run we have seen from Mayo in a while. However, we have also seen Mayo go through streaks in the past as a natural shooter.
Despite Mayo's great start, it will be hard for him to continue his production, especially with Dirk back in the picture.
Nikola Pekovic has been extremely reliable for the Timberwolves, especially while Kevin Love was injured. He has put together a solid start of 15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
Now that Love is fully back into the equation, Pekovic could easily take a step back.
Some might argue that Pekovic should not decline once Rubio comes back, which is fair, but Luke Ridnour and Jose Juan Barea have done a solid job creating plays in in his absence. Rubio is definitely a one-of-a-kind play-maker, but Pekovic will not be seeing that many additional looks.
Keep in mind the Timberwolves' tough schedule ahead as they will play teams like the Jazz, Celtics, Hawks, Trail Blazers, Clippers, Spurs, and Grizzlies, all of which have competitive big men that will be hard for Pekovic to consistently out-play.
He will still produce, but not to the standards fans will soon expect from him after averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game over the last eight games.
As the Nets scramble to find a new head coach, Kris Humphries does not have anyone to steer him in the right direction. Humphries is putting together a sub-par season, averaging just 7.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
The Nets as a whole have been struggling: they rank 22nd in points scored, 21st in three-point shooting, and 19th in rebounds.
The struggling environment certainly will not help Humphries' cause.
After just being awarded a $12 million contract, yes, his production is definitely considered underachieving. And considering there are little signs that suggest he will improve, yes, he will continue to underachieve.
If there is any one superstar player that has declined in the past couple years, it's Dwyane Wade.
Wade was easily a top five player in the league at one point, but times have changed. Now, some fans argue that LeBron's impact has limited Wade's production, which is a possibility.
However, when watching Wade play he looks slower, he is less durable, and he plays dirtier (and no, this is not being mentioned only because of the suspension).
He does not create shots the way he used to and the reason behind it is probably injury and age. After all, he is barely averaging over 20 points per game right now.
There's nothing that says Wade will be improving and assuming he wears down as the season goes on, Wade could possibly average less than 20 points per game. Less than that from a guy like Wade is underachieving in my book.