The Biggest Letdowns of the NBA Season to Date
Expectations can be tricky beasts when it comes to the NBA. Sometimes they lead to pleasant surprises, but they can also create some rather major letdowns.
It shouldn't surprise you whatsoever that the 2012-13 campaign has been rife with teams, players and events that belong in the latter category. Sure, we've had our fair share of surprises, but the major disappointments sometimes tend to stand out more.
If you're lucky, you won't feel any emotional attachments to the seven featured letdowns in this article.
Chances are, though, you won't be so fortunate.
Sadly, injuries are a part of each and every NBA season. The 2012-13 campaign has been no different. And each time there's an injury, we fans can't help but feel a little bit let down.
During the 2012-13 season, a number of stars have gone down. Among others, Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, Kevin Love injured, returned and re-injured his hand, Lou Williams tore his ACL, Tony Parker sprained his ankle, Chris Paul hurt his knee, Eric Gordon missed an extended portion of time with his own knee injuries and more.
Don't be offended if I didn't list your favorite player, because that would mean the list would need to go on and on and on and on.
I haven't even gotten to the players who began the season in suits instead of jerseys, either.
That brings Derrick Rose, Ricky Rubio and Iman Shumpert into the equation. And, of course, who could possibly forget about Andrew Bynum, who has made more news for his increasingly strange hairstyles than his play on the court, namely because he has yet to log a minute for the Philadelphia 76ers.
We know injuries are going to occur every year, but that doesn't prevent us from feeling let down.
The Los Angeles Lakers' Season
I'm not embarrassed to admit that I was a member of the masses who predicted that the Los Angeles Lakers would be challenging the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs for supremacy in the Western Conference.
Before the season, I predicted that the Lakers would finish 59-23, giving them the second-best record in the West, better than every Eastern Conference team, save the Miami Heat. The article that featured that prediction also contained the following quote that's now rather incorrect:
The Los Angeles Lakers will struggle a bit at the beginning of the season as they attempt to get their bearings and learn to play as a team instead of a collection of ultra-talented individuals. Point guard and center are arguably the two most important positions on the court, and the Lakers are attempting to fill both slots with new additions.
However, they'll remain in the upper tier of power rankings and avoid panic mode. Then things will start clicking during the second half of the season, resulting in an absolute juggernaut that rolls through the rest of the league for weeks at a time.
When it's all said and done in the regular season, the Lakers will trail only the Oklahoma City Thunder in the standings.
Well, it didn't take 82 games for the Lakers to lose 23 times. In fact, it only took 40, as L.A. dropped to 17-23 after losing to the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 20.
They didn't exactly avoid panic mode either.
Kobe Bryant has consistently dominated yet again in purple and gold, but the same can't be said about his talented teammates. Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash have all struggled both to stay healthy and effective.
Now, instead of dreaming about a spot in the NBA Finals, the Lakers are hoping just to make it to the postseason. After beating the New Orleans Hornets in come-from-behind fashion, the Lake Show sits at .500 with a 31-31 record, putting them 1.5 games behind the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot in the West.
Not only is this one of the biggest letdowns of the 2012-13 season, but it's one of the most disappointing campaigns in NBA history.
The Trade "Dead"line
The trade deadline is supposed to be a festive time for NBA fans. Rumors are flying left and right, and anything can happen. Usually, there's at least some sort of impactful move made.
With Josh Smith, Monta Ellis, Pau Gasol, Eric Gordon and a number of other big-name players all playing a major part in those rumors, surely there was going to be some sort of action this year.
The deadline ended up being a bunch of NBA writers sitting on Twitter, bored out of their collective mind with nearly nothing to talk about. Trust me, I spent all day monitoring my feed and waiting for something to happen.
That something never did happen.
J.J. Redick was the biggest name dealt, and other players who changed teams included Eric Maynor, Thomas Robinson, Marcus Morris and...wait for it...Josh McRoberts.
Deron Williams is still a great point guard, but he's by no means elite anymore. Quite frankly, the 2012-13 season should have everyone wondering whether he ever was.
Surrounded by great options on the Brooklyn Nets, D-Will should be thriving. His field-goal percentage should at least be respectable, but the big floor general is only shooting 41.9 percent on the season en route to averaging 17.4 points and 7.5 assists.
His 18.09 PER is a number that leaves him decidedly short of elite status.
Is it possible that Williams was a product of the system while playing for the Utah Jazz? You know, the same one that once allowed Karl Malone and John Stockton to thrive beyond compare in the pick-and-roll.
While the Nets have been one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, much of the credit has to go to Brook Lopez. Williams has been a major contributor, but he's fallen well short of the original expectations that stemmed from his decision to stay with Brooklyn.
James Harden's Beard
James Harden's beard is absolutely phenomenal. Its a follicular forest well worth gracing the No. 1 spot in Luke Petkac's facial hair rankings on B/R.
However, the growth of said beard has left me rather underwhelmed during the 2012-13 season. I have two problems with it.
First, it doesn't appear to have grown whatsoever since he left the Oklahoma City Thunder. Take a look at this picture from the 2012 NBA Finals, now just a few months shy of a full calendar year in the past.
Does it really seem like it's gotten thicker, bushier or longer? Brian Wilson's kept growing, so why hasn't Harden's?
Is he—gasp—trimming it? The horror!
At this point, Harden should be looking like Albus Dumbledore or Gandalf. It doesn't matter that a beard of that length and majesty would be tripping him up on the court because it would look unbelievably epic.
Secondly, I always assumed that Harden's level of production and beard length were positively correlated. As the beard got longer, the shooting guard's game continued to grow. It made perfect sense.
However, while Harden was good coming off the bench for the Thunder, he's been simply phenomenal for the Houston Rockets. In fact, he's asserted himself as one of the top 10 players in the Association with room to spare.
So, I ask again, why is the beard not longer?
Surely, I can't be the only one left disappointed by this.
Brandon Roy's Return
Brandon Roy was an All-Star for a reason during his prime. He was quickly becoming one of the best shooting guards in the entire NBA, and the potential was seemingly limitless.
Unfortunately, his knees had other ideas.
Degenerative joints led to injury after injury, eventually forcing Roy to prematurely call it quits on what once looked like a promising career.
Well, Roy attempted to come back with the Minnesota Timberwolves, a move that was met with celebration by all those who have fond memories of the 2-guard racking up gaudy point totals with the Portland Trail Blazers.
He certainly wasn't going to be an All-Star again right off the bat, but he was surely going to contribute positively to the playoff-contending T'Wolves.
So much for that.
Roy re-injured those knees and has only played in five games through this point of the 2012-13 season. He shot only 31.4 percent from the field and didn't even look like a shadow of his old self. Maybe just half a shadow, at best.
It was a story with so much potential for a happy ending, but as we all know, not every story can end well.
Some Big-Name Rookies
While there are a number of players from this year's rookie class who have lived up to the draft-day expectations—I'm looking at you, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dion Waiters, Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond and more—there are also a select few who have quickly flamed out.
Plus, there's Royce White, who has yet to play in a single NBA game. His anxiety disorder has become a public battle and a cause for lots of controversy between basketball fans.
I'm not going to take sides between White and the Houston Rockets, but I will say that it's been quite a letdown for all of us hoping to see the multi-talented forward take his skill set to the next level.
Thomas Robinson has been another interesting name.
He wasn't very good for the Sacramento Kings, but the dysfunctional organization cut ties with him far too soon. He simply can't be called a bust at this stage of his career, and now, he'll have every opportunity to prove his worth with the Houston Rockets.
Finally, there's the biggest draft letdown of all: Austin Rivers.
The Duke product has averaged 6.1 points, 2.1 assists and 1.2 turnovers per game through the first 60 professional contests of his career, and he's earned a putrid PER of just 5.97. Of the 334 qualified players on ESPN, only Sasha Pavlovic has been worse.
With a broken hand now sidelining him for at least a month (via Sports Illustrated), Rivers isn't going to have much of a chance to improve those numbers.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, the combination of playing time and utter futility on the court led Rivers to earn minus-1.1 win shares during his time with the New Orleans Hornets. That's a historically awful mark, one that should never be earned by a 10th overall pick.
If you look at value added on that aforementioned ESPN database, you'll find that Rivers ranks dead last at minus-95.9. Coming in at No. 333 and 332, respectively, are Norris Cole and Dahntay Jones, with scores of minus-67.3 and minus-43.8.