The 7 Most Disappointing Teams of the 2012-13 NBA Season
Before every NBA season, each team is linked with reasonable expectations. Are they assumed to make the playoffs, compete for a championship or fall into the lottery?
Nobody can see into the future, but smart projections can always be based on a multitude of factors, including past performance and alterations to personnel made in the offseason.
The 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers are the quintessential example of a team believed to compete for a title but instead has fallen far short of expectations. They aren't alone.
Here are seven teams that have disappointed this season, ranked by the ceiling of success most believed they'd see.
7. Utah Jazz
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Last season the Utah Jazz were a young basketball team that possessed emerging pieces on the bench.
Led by Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the team qualified for the playoffs before swiftly losing in four games to a San Antonio Spurs squad playing basketball at a rare level of brilliance.
Heading into this season, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter were all seen as developing talents capable of taking another step forward and helping the Millsap/Jefferson anchor do some damage in the postseason.
Instead, the Jazz have seriously faltered. Favors and Kanter have averaged just 22.9 and 15.4 minutes per game, respectively, and with absolutely no depth behind an inconsistent Mo Williams at the point guard position, Utah might not even return to the playoffs.
On top of that, Millsap has been an individual disappointment (in a contract year), with his per-game points and rebounds declining from last year.
6. Dallas Mavericks
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Two years ago the Dallas Mavericks won the championship. This season with a completely different roster, they most likely won't even make the playoffs.
No one expected this particular group to win another title, but at the very least they were expected to qualify for the postseason. They brought veteran big men Elton Brand and Chris Kaman into the fold to help Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion.
The Mavericks also added O.J. Mayo, a talented 2-guard who's enjoyed a breakout season under annual Coach of the Year candidate Rick Carlisle. But it hasn't been enough.
According to NBA.com, Dallas' defense is 20th in the league this year, as opposed to eighth last year. This area in particular has been incredibly disappointing for a team that hasn't missed the postseason since 2000.
Nowitzki's knee injury at the beginning of the year didn't help matters, but it still doesn't excuse Dallas' shoddy play on the defensive end.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
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With Andrei Kirilenko and Kevin Love fresh off dominant performances in the 2012 London Olympics and Spanish wizard Ricky Rubio returning from a torn ACL, many expected the Minnesota Timberwolves to be one of this season's bright spots.
But on Oct. 17, Love broke the third and fourth metacarpals on his right hand. He eventually re-aggravated the injury after returning to action too soon, and his season was lost (he has appeared in 18 games).
Instead of Love being the dominant performer, journeyman combo guard Luke Ridnour has led the Timberwolves in minutes and is second in points scored.
Instead of competing for home court in the first round, Minnesota hopes to end this season with at least 30 wins.
4. Chicago Bulls
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The Chicago Bulls are headed to the playoffs without their best player. How does that make them a disappointment?
Well, if the expectations were for Derrick Rose to make a return sometime after the All-Star break in preparation for a championship run through the postseason, then what's transpired with the Bulls has been incredibly anticlimactic.
Chicago's offense wasn't expected to set the world on fire this year, but it also shouldn't be less efficient than those of the New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons. Debilitating defense is this organization's current calling card, but since the All-Star break they've allowed 102.3 points per 100 possessions.
That's worse than the Washington Wizards and Golden State Warriors; that's the definition of disappointing for a team that's usually as consistent as any.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
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Last summer the Philadelphia 76ers pushed all their chips towards the center of the table, parting ways with Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Lou Williams, Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic so enigmatic big man Andrew Bynum could become the face of their franchise.
The situation has gone about as poorly as possible. Bynum will not play a game for the Sixers this season, and because he's an unrestricted free agent, there's a chance he never puts the uniform on at all.
After finding themselves one minute away from an appearance in the Eastern Conference finals last spring, the Sixers will not make the playoffs this season.
Jrue Holiday made his first All-Star team, and that's great. But Evan Turner showed no improvement in any area of his game, leaving the organization with multiple questions as it heads into the future.
2. Boston Celtics
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Instead of burning down their house last summer, parting ways with guys like Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green and maybe even dealing Rajon Rondo, the Boston Celtics chose to attack the offseason.
They used their mid-level exception to sign Jason Terry away from the Dallas Mavericks, acquired Courtney Lee in a sign-and-trade with the Houston Rockets and gave Green, Garnett and Brandon Bass multi-year contracts.
If everyone could stay healthy, this team looked like a championship contender. But that isn't how it's turned out. The Celtics were 11-9 in their first 20 games, showing obvious difficulty in implementing all their new pieces.
Then Rondo tore his ACL during a double-overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks on January 25 (Boston's sixth loss in a row). Rookie rebounding sensation Jared Sullinger had season-ending back surgery a couple weeks later, and the Celtics' chances of beating the Miami Heat in the playoffs took a lethal hit.
This season hasn't been what the Celtics thought it would be.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
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Short of the Miami Heat, no team headed into the 2012-13 season with greater expectations than the Los Angeles Lakers. With the addition of Hall of Fame talents Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, on paper this team looked nearly unbeatable.
But instead of running through the league and leaving wreckage in their path, the Lakers started the season by firing head coach Mike Brown after just five games. From that point they've never found a rhythm or any consistent playing style to hang their hat on.
Howard leads the league in rebounding, but because of offseason back surgery he hasn't been able to play consistently stout defense as expected.
Since the All-Star break their defense has been mediocre, allowing 103.6 points per 100 possessions (ranked 15th in the league). If it weren't for Kobe Bryant's miraculous all-around play on a nightly basis (his 6.0 assists per game are tied for a career best, according to Basketball-Reference.com), this team wouldn't even have a puncher's chance at making the playoffs.
Unless they recover to make an NBA Finals appearance, time will remember this Lakers team as one of the most disappointing groups in league history.