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Playing Panic or Patience with Slow Starts Around the NBA

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 24, 2016

Playing Panic or Patience with Slow Starts Around the NBA

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Not every slow start is the same in the NBA

    Some should be treated as an inevitable speed bump on the road to the playoffs, as the team in question is showing signs of breaking out at any moment.

    And there are also the slow starts that were expected—the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz, for example. I won't be covering those in this article. If panic is a possibility, that means that there were actually expectations going into the season. 

    But even just a handful of games into the season, the panic button can look awfully appealing. The red tint is just sparkling, and it's urging you to press it, especially now that an unexpected record has pulled back the cover that was serving as its protector. 

    But should you press it? 

Chicago Bulls

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Derrick Rose was expected to be an MVP candidate while carrying the Chicago Bulls to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. And if he didn't, he was supposed to be pretty damn close to meeting both of those goals. 

    Even though the talented point guard was coming off of a torn ACL, his stellar preseason had brainwashed everyone into forgetting that he was only dominating against lesser competition. Somehow, the whole "preseason doesn't count" thing got swept by the wayside. 

    Well, the regular season has proven itself a different beast.

    Rose, the proud owner of a 3.1 PER, has shot slightly over 30 percent from the field and recorded more turnovers than assists for the 1-3 Bulls. So far, they've only beaten the New York Knicks, a surprising win that came thanks to a tough game-winning floater from Rose. 

    Now, there's a reason that I haven't mentioned any other players on the Chicago roster until now. Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and the rest of the squad are all carrying their weight, and they'll only continue playing great defense and solid offense throughout the year. 

    This team simply goes as Rose goes on offense. 

    The dynamic point guard has looked like his old self, flashing explosiveness, an attacking mentality and a set of improved mechanics on his jumper. Eventually, he'll turn the numbers around, even if he didn't get off to the start that was expected. 

     

    Verdict: Patience

Denver Nuggets

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    Bart Young/Getty Images

    Offense isn't the problem for the Denver Nuggets. 

    They just haven't been able to stop anyone through the first four games of the season, allowing 103 points per contest. Only seven teams have given up more.

    Even if pace is removed from the equation, things aren't too pretty. Basketball-Reference shows that the Nuggets are allowing 106.3 points per 100 possessions, which gives them the No. 21 spot in the NBA. No team in the league is forcing turnovers with less frequency, and the rebounding has been mediocre at best. 

    No immediate help is coming, and the Nuggets desperately need for both Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari to return to the lineup. Gallo isn't going to be back anytime soon, though, as he continues the lengthy rehab for a torn ACL. 

    The bigger problem comes in the frontcourt, where new head coach Brian Shaw just doesn't have anyone he can trust.

    JaVale McGee has been his typical inconsistent self, either rotating poorly or firing away from mid-range areas with reckless abandon. Against the Atlanta Hawks in particular, he negated what could have been a truly stellar performance with poor shot selection. 

    Beyond him, Shaw is counting on J.J. Hickson playing out of position, Timofey Mozgov doing something other than being a big body, or sliding over either Kenneth Faried or Darrell Arthur. None of those are promising options. 

    Denver will continue hemorrhaging points in the paint, and that's going to make it difficult to keep pace with the multitude of teams competing for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference. 

     

    Verdict: Panic

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    What happened to the Memphis Grizzlies' vaunted defense? 

    Basketball-Reference shows that the Grizz have allowed opponents to rack up 107.5 points per 100 possessions, a far cry from the 100.3 they allowed last season. For context, only the Indiana Pacers were more stingy in 2012-13, and this current Memphis squad is beating out just the Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. 

    Marc Gasol hasn't been the same player since winning Defensive Player of the Year. He's failed to deter players from attacking the basket, and he hasn't looked comfortable in Dave Joerger's new system. More movement hasn't resulted in success. 

    And would you expect it to? The core members of the Memphis team—minus Mike Conley—are all getting up there in age. 

    On the other end of the court, Mike Conley's impressive play hasn't even mattered, because Tayshaun Prince is no longer a threat and defenses can just collapse around Gasol and Zach Randolph. There isn't any three-point shooting to speak of, and that's mitigated the typical interior dominance that has carried Memphis in the past. 

    While the Grizzlies' overall three-point percentage (32.9) hasn't been terrible, only the New Orleans Pelicans are taking fewer triples per game. Joerger must find a way to remedy this, but that's tough without too many shooters at his disposal.

     

    Verdict: Panic

New York Knicks

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Without Tyson Chandler, the New York Knicks are in big trouble.

    Get it? Big? OK, I'll stop now. 

    Mike Woodson, defensive-minded coach that he may be, has already had plenty of trouble getting his team to slow down the opposition. And that was with one of the league's best defensive anchors in the lineup. You know, the same one who is now out for up to six weeks from a fractured fibula

    So, what do the Knicks do now? Do they go back on their decision to manage minutes for Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire? Do they rely on Cole Aldrich? Does Andrea Bargnani have to play center? 

    Yikes. 

    But it gets worse, because the offense has been remarkably stagnant so far, even though Carmelo Anthony is doing everything in his power to change his playing style. He's been unselfish, looking to get his teammates involved, and they've consistently let him down. 

    Instead, New York has almost forced 'Melo into playing hero ball, and the team is strangely content to get him the ball with less than five seconds remaining on the shot clock. No wonder he shoots low percentages. 

    Between the lack of offensive skill/creativity, the defensive concerns and Woodson's inexplicable rotations, there aren't a lot of positives in Madison Square Garden.

     

    Verdict: Panic

Washington Wizards

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    Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    If you're a fan of the Washington Wizards, just grit your teeth and ride out the slump to start the season. There's no reason for anyone associated with this team to panic.

    Well, unless you're Randy Wittman. A few more losses might force the management to pick a scapegoat and replace Wittman with George Karl or Lionel Hollins, two elite coaches just waiting for an opportunity to get back into the NBA.

    But Wittman is beside the point, because this roster is talented enough to bounce back from the unfortunate beginning and get off the proverbial schneid.

    Nene has played in only two of the first four games, and he'll be improving as he gets his sea legs under him. The same can be said for Marcin Gortat, who is figuring everything out on the fly after being traded from the Phoenix Suns to the other side of the country right before the start of the season. He's gotten better each and every game, after all. 

    Plus, there's Bradley Beal. 

    The young shooting guard isn't going to shoot 32.9 percent from the field and turn it over 3.8 times per contest the whole season. He's far too talented to remain mired in this type of slump. 

    With the exception of John Wall's play, not much has clicked in the nation's capital. But that's going to change very quickly. All the signs point toward it. 

     

    Verdict: Patience

Philadelphia 76ers' Tanking Hopes

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    The Philadelphia 76ers may have a winning 4-2 record, but they aren't very good. Like, at all. 

    While the offense has gotten off to a torrid start, the same can't be said for the defense. In fact, no team in the NBA is allowing more points per games, as Philly has been rather ill-equipped for stopping anyone. They've been able to outscore teams thus far, but the Sixers aren't going to keep winning shootouts. 

    The three-point shooting is already falling back to earth, and the two-point shooting will soon follow suit. 

    Plus, if the Sixers keep winning games, the front office will end up pulling the plug on the current roster. Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner will both be put on the trading block, as the ultimate plan still involves winning as few games as possible. 

    Philadelphia's most valuable asset is its 2014 first-round draft pick, and each win devalues it. That can't happen, and management won't allow the team to continue playing quality basketball throughout the season. 

    Patience is a virtue, and it must be exercised here. Just for the opposite reasons...fans should be patiently waiting for this squad to fall back into its rightful spot at the bottom of the league. 

     

    Verdict: Patience

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