Predicting NBA Stars Most Likely to Drop off in Second Half of 2012-13 Season
The NBA stars likeliest to drop off in the second half of this season include a group of players who all currently rank among the top 50 in scoring.
Some of these stars have put together a better-than-expected start to their season. Others have track records which portend a decline.
Regardless, each of these stars are still scoring the basketball at a rate that ranks among the top 15 percent of all NBA players.
This list does not include players like Pau Gasol, for example, who already began dropping off well before this point in the 2012-13 season.
It also doesn't include others, like Amar'e Stoudemire, who have not had enough of a sample size this year to truly indicate which direction their career is currently trending.
The drivers for each prediction include a combination of shooting efficiencies, team-shot-distribution trends and other qualitative factors.
The predicted drop-off for each star is with respect to where they are now from a production standpoint and where they project to finish the 2012-13 season.
Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks
Monta Ellis is the 15th-highest scorer in the NBA this season at 18.8 points per game.
On the offensive end, he's coexisting with teammate Brandon Jennings, who also ranks just behind Ellis at No. 16 in scoring.
Those are the positive aspects of Ellis' season.
I suppose the Milwaukee Bucks earning the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference through Thursday would be considered a positive as well.
What's most indicative of a likely drop-off moving forward, however, is that Ellis is becoming a less efficient scorer with age.
The now-27-year-old Ellis shot 53.1 percent from the floor during the 2007-08 season. In the five years since, prior to the 2012-13 campaign, he's shot no better than 45.1 percent.
Last year, specifically, Ellis shot only 43.3 percent along with a dismal 30.8 percent from three.
This season, he's been even worse in both categories—shooting a career-low 40.4 percent from the field and 23.7 percent from three.
O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks
O.J. Mayo has had a tremendous first half of the 2012-13 season for the Dallas Mavericks.
The change of scenery appears to have been a breathe of fresh air for Mayo, and he's playing the most efficient basketball of his life under coach Rick Carlisle.
Despite that, heading into the second half of the season, a drop-off in production for Mayo is still likely.
The 18.2 points he's averaged on 45.9 percent shooting this season currently ranks Mayo 19th overall in scoring.
Over the last 15 games since Dirk Nowitzki returned from injury, however, Mayo has averaged only 15.3.
The healthier Dirk becomes, the less reliant the Mavericks will be on Mayo to score the basketball.
From three-point range, specifically: After connecting on 51.2 percent of his attempts through November, Mayo hit 38.9 percent in December and only 34 percent in 11 games in January thus far.
That decline is not going to help Mayo maintain his current scoring pace moving forward.
Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
Joe Johnson was a member of the Phoenix Suns the last time he shot a field-goal percentage as low as he is this season for the Brooklyn Nets.
His 17.4 points per game—which ranks Johnson 24th overall in scoring—have come on 42.9 percent shooting heading into Friday's matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies.
While Johnson has improved his scoring to average 19.7 points during 11 games in the month of January, expect his production to drop off dramatically in the second half of this season.
Besides Johnson's lowest shooting percentage in nine seasons, teammate Brook Lopez is simply more deserving of those volume shots that Johnson's been attempting.
Since Lopez returned from injury, the Nets have gone 14-7 in their last 21 games.
Brooklyn only increases its chances of winning if the 52-percent-shooting Lopez becomes more of a focus offensively than the 14.4 attempts he's averaged so far.
Those additional shots also need to be pulled from Johnson, whose numbers will only drop off further as a result.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
The 2012-13 season got off to such a great start for Josh Smith.
I really wanted to believe it was sustainable.
Currently, Smith is still among the top 40 scorers in the NBA. Tied for 34th overall, he's managed an average of 16.7 points on the season.
Despite the Hawks losing six out of their last 10 games, he's also helped Atlanta to a record that's good enough for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
But the Hawks were as high as third not too long ago.
They also employed a healthy Lou Williams, Smith had stopped getting suspended, and there was even talk of J-Smoove making the All-Star team.
Approximately one month removed from all that, none of those statements are true any longer.
Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls
The work that Carlos Boozer has put in with Derrick Rose sidelined this season has been admirable.
I just don't see him keeping this up.
While earning All-Star considerations on the strength of 16.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, Boozer has resembled more of the star Chicago thought it acquired back in 2010.
Beyond the scoring and rebounding averages, however, Boozer is also shooting a career-low 48.3 percent from the field during the 2012-13 campaign.
That field-goal percentage also represents a significant drop from the 53.3 percent Boozer's averaged for 11 NBA seasons.
That's not a good sign moving forward, especially when projecting how shots will be distributed by the Chicago Bulls upon Derrick Rose's eventual return.
If he had even maintained consistency from start to finish in Chicago before this season, I might not be as skeptical. But Boozer hasn't done that yet, and I don't expect this year to finish any differently.