Biggest Early-Season Disappointments of 2013-14 NBA Season
Although the 2013-14 NBA season has gotten off to an exciting start, it hasn't been pretty for everyone.
A number of big names and promising teams have staggered in the early going, whether it's an underachieving defense or an ice-cold superstar.
The Big Apple features letdowns on both squads, as the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets aren't living up to the hype. Some marquee Western Conference players are also struggling to establish momentum, and a few of them aren't adjusting well to new roles.
Who are the biggest disappointments of the young NBA campaign?
*Team statistics gathered from Basketball-Reference.com, accurate as of Nov. 12. Individual stats accurate as of Nov. 13.
Steve Nash's Diminished Effectiveness
Unfortunately, Nash hasn't been productive, and his deteriorating physical condition is preventing him from shouldering full-time floor-general duties. He's notching 6.7 points and 4.8 assists in 22.5 minutes per night.
After gutting his way through six games of ineffective play, the Lakers announced he would be ruled out for at least two weeks with nerve-root irritation in his back and hamstring.
It's a shame that he must endure this and that the injury is significantly affecting the product on the court. Nash is one of the best point guards in league history, so it's not easy for L.A. fans, or basketball fans in general, to watch him struggle and play a lesser role.
James Harden's Sloppy Defense and Turnovers
The talent-rich duo of James Harden and Dwight Howard could be something special, and the Houston Rockets have a high ceiling in 2013-14 and beyond. They've already flashed their potential and managed some impressive wins early on.
Nevertheless, "The Beard" has made a ton of blunders.
Harden is dishing out turnovers at an alarming rate, exhibiting questionable three-point shot selection and committing some unforgivable defensive miscues.
He's tied for the NBA lead with 4.5 turnovers per contest, and his sloppy ball-handling includes an eight-giveaway outing against the Portland Trail Blazers. Those numbers don't include ill-advised triple-tries, which often result in turnovers.
As a defender, his intermittent lapses have been equally frustrating. He's been caught out of position or flat-footed a handful of times, and it's directly resulted in easy buckets for opponents.
In his defense, Harden has been suffering from nagging injuries to his wrist, back and feet, so he's clearly not 100 percent. However, that is not a sufficient excuse for his lackadaisical play.
If he cleans things up and is more detail-oriented, the Rockets will be that much more dangerous.
Los Angeles Clippers Defense
We thought we would see a vastly improved Los Angeles Clippers defense at the outset of 2013-14, half-expecting Doc Rivers to immediately turn the club into Fort Knox.
The stoppage unit didn't materialize as quickly as Doc had hoped, surrendering 106.4 points per game through its first eight contests.
Los Angeles hasn't exhibited the sharpness or cohesiveness necessary to slow down other high-scoring Western powers. Luckily, the offense has outpaced foes on a few occasions, keeping the Clippers' record respectable.
L.A. is getting caught out of position partway through possessions, so it's fouling at an unhealthy rate and surrendering a league-worst 28.9 free-throw attempts per game.
In shootouts against inferior opponents, the Clippers' defensive woes are overshadowed by their outstanding offense. Against upper-echelon squads, however, outgunning adversaries isn't as easy, and the flimsy defense haunts them.
How soon can Doc patch things up, and how will this defense fare in the postseason?
A superb preseason from Derrick Rose gave hope to Chicago Bulls fans, but his regular-season performance hasn't resembled the All-Star level they're accustomed to.
In fact, Rose has fallen way short of expectations through the first portion of the 2013-14 season. He's shooting 33 percent from the floor, including 25 percent from long distance, en route to 14.7 points and 4.5 assists per game.
He's been unable to convert many of his close-range opportunities in traffic, and he lost his jumper somewhere in mid-October. In addition, he hasn't achieved an offensive flow with Chicago's retooled rotation, and the result has been turnovers, untapped assist opportunities and a low-scoring squad. The only teams scoring fewer points than Chicago are lottery hopefuls Charlotte and Utah.
How bad is it? According to Synergy Sports, Rose is producing a paltry 0.67 points per possession, and on pick-and-rolls, he's turning it over 27 percent of the time.
Chicago needs him to recover from his recent hamstring soreness, play confident and spark a newly efficient Bulls attack. If injuries and mediocre outings continue, the club won't earn a favorable playoff seed.
New Orleans Pelicans' Newcomers
With 7.8 points on 32-percent shooting, Tyreke Evans is making Andrea Bargnani's contract look reasonable.
Jrue Holiday isn't lighting the wool on fire, either. He's shaky on his pick-and-roll decision making and execution, a big factor in his pedestrian 13.1 points per night.
For the New Orleans Pelicans to make the jump from bottom-feeders to playoff hopefuls, their newcomers must start playing up to their potential. Holiday has an All-Star pedigree, and Evans was Rookie of the Year in 2010.
The new-look franchise is forking over a combined $21.5 million to these young guards in 2013-14, so it would be nice to see the pair support Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon more consistently.
Until Evans develops a more reliable approach as a jump-shooter and Holiday plays more efficiently in pick-and-roll scenarios, the Pelicans won't make noise.
We didn't expect Kevin Garnett to dominate at a superstar level when he joined the Brooklyn Nets, but we also didn't anticipate him struggling this much.
The 15-time All-Star is averaging a minus-16.5 net points per 100 possessions through the first half-dozen games, according to 82Games.com.
He hasn't found any kind of rhythm yet, and he seems to lack the sure-handed offensive approach that made him one of the league's best power forwards of all time. Garnett is shooting poorly from mid-range, and he's failed to convert many close-range opportunities as well.
Defensively, things aren't any prettier.
Brooklyn's defensive mediocrity is partially due to developing chemistry and a new coaching staff, but Garnett hasn't exactly been a brick wall. In fact, he's been more of a doormat; the Nets are surrendering 112.1 opponent points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor, compared to 101.2 when he's sitting (via 82Games.com).
The "Big Ticket"? Not worth the price of admission so far.
The New York Knicks
Mike Woodson's New York Knicks have been floundering in almost every phase of the game thus far.
Even before Tyson Chandler was sidelined with a fractured fibula, this roster had serious issues maintaining offensive consistency, moving the ball and rebounding. Oh, and effort.
Slow first quarters have plagued the Knickerbockers in several of their losses, as details like failing to move without the ball and rotate defensively have led to three home losses. In each Garden defeat, New York has surrendered 100-plus points, including 120 to the San Antonio Spurs.
Chandler's absence is already putting a strain on the club, as the ensemble of Andrea Bargnani, Kenyon Martin, Amar'e Stoudemire and Cole Aldrich isn't sturdy enough to compensate.
Woodson is tinkering with the lineup to figure out a makeshift frontcourt, and he's also trying different combinations in the backcourt as J.R. Smith becomes reacclimated to the rotation.
Factor in owner James Dolan's meddlesome, distracting ways (see: Knicks City Dancers crackdown), and you've got the makings of one messy November in New York.
You can't find an individual more disappointing than 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 20-year-old rookie suffered the worst imaginable start, scoring just two points from the free-throw line in his first four games. His unsightly first couple of weeks culminated with a sprained left shoulder, so it's been a frustrating opening stretch to say the least.
However, his career is still in its infancy, so there's no need to hit the panic button just yet.
Bennett's first priority is to fine-tune his body so he can be as explosive and durable as possible. He opened the season a bit out of shape, coming off shoulder rehab, and it showed in his possession-by-possession effectiveness.
With a better body, better chemistry and more confidence, he might be able to shake off the horrendous start and earn more playing time.