With the 2013-14 NBA regular season in the books, let’s take a look back at some of the biggest disappointments of the campaign.
Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavaliers came into the season with high expectations led by Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and another top draft pick. While the first three didn’t disappoint, Anthony Bennett’s rookie season has many labeling him as a draft bust after just one season. The team, in theory, wanted to compete, but the moves that were made just didn’t pan out. They experimented with Andrew Bynum and found out quickly that Bynum may never be the same player that he was with the Lakers. He was traded after 24 games to the Bulls for Luol Deng in a move that the Cavs hoped would bolster their run toward the playoffs. Deng played nearly half of the season in Cleveland, averaging 14.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, but the Cavs came up short of the playoffs and Deng will likely leave this summer in free agency. The team also has questions to answer regarding their general manager and head coaching positions. The Cavs fired GM Chris Grant back in February and must make a permanent decision moving forward, especially ahead of what will sure to be a busy offseason. Meanwhile, Mike Brown is on the hot seat after being hired last summer. The team will likely have another top-10 draft pick and they will also figure to be busy in the upcoming free agent class, which could be headlined by LeBron James.
New York Knicks – On paper, the New York Knicks were a team that should still be playing basketball right now. But given injuries, off of the court troubles, poor offense and even worse coaching, the Knicks managed to miss the playoffs even in the weak Eastern Conference. Perhaps one of the most disappointing things about the Knicks’ season is they won’t even be “rewarded” for their efforts as they don’t have a single pick in June’s draft. Between the team’s lack of draft picks and nonexistent cap room, there is no relief in sight for the Knicks. The team faces a huge question mark surrounding free-agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony and whether he will return. While Knicks fans can only be hoping he opts for the five-year max deal the Knicks can offer him, Anthony has previously stated that finances will not be his main motivation when selecting where to sign this offseason. The Knicks are in a real mess and Phil Jackson may be the only one who can rescue them.
Detroit Pistons – With new additions in Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, the Pistons were expected to win more games this season. Instead, they struggled and finished the season with just 29 wins. The Pistons gave Smith a four-year, $56 million deal and also gave Jennings $25 million over three years. After just one season together in the Motor City, there is a belief among fans that the team shouldn’t keep both Smith and Jennings, and that one of them needs to go. Smith shot a career-worst 42% from the field this past season, and an even worse percentage from three-point range. While Smith isn’t known for his perimeter shooting, he still managed to attempt the most three-point shots in his career while making just 26% of them. The team has hope, however, in Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, who is a restricted free agent this summer. With Monroe’s upcoming free agency, the team could opt to keep him long-term and find a way to unload Smith’s monster contract.
New Orleans Pelicans – The Pelicans entered the season destined to make the playoffs after making a couple of big-time moves. The team added Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday to a roster that already featured Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon. The Pelicans battled inconsistency all season, which can be attributed largely to the amount of injuries they suffered. Despite the upgrades, the team still is in need of a small forward and center that can put up some points. Al-Farouq Aminu started 65 games at the three spot, and averaged just 7.2 points per game. One easy fix the Pelicans can make is by moving Evans from the sixth man role to the starting lineup permanently. Evans proved his ability to start games when he averaged 19.9 points starting versus 12.1 points when coming off of the bench. The Pelicans could also stand to benefit by having a starting-caliber center, which would only help Davis’ development.
Milwaukee Bucks – For nearly the entire season, the Bucks have been the laughing stock of the NBA. At just 15 wins, it’s hard not to have that distinction. The team went through its fair share of injuries like any other team, and its share of off the court trouble. Larry Sanders was injured in a night club fight and missed two months with a thumb injury. He was also suspended for five games for testing positive for marijuana. The team signed free agent Gary Neal prior to the season, and then traded him and Luke Ridnour to the Charlotte Bobcats at the trade deadline on February 20. O.J. Mayo was brought into Milwaukee in hopes that he would be the team’s leading scorer, but a slew of injuries hampered him throughout the season. Mayo averaged career lows in minutes (25.9), field goal percentage (41%) and the second-fewest points per game of his career with 11.7. He was also suspended for a game back in March for punching Pelicans’ center Greg Stiemsma in the throat. Multiple players questioned Bucks first-year head coach Larry Drew’s approach to games, including their defensive schemes and rotations. His job will only get tougher when developing the team’s younger players in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Josh Henson and Nate Wolters and adding a potential top draft pick in June’s draft. The fact that Milwaukee entered the season with playoff aspirations and ended up so bad is crazy.
In your opinion, which team was the biggest disappointment? Leave a comment below!
VIDEO: Tobias Harris – 2018 NBA All-Star
New LA Clipper Tobias Harris talks about the trade from Detroit, his mindset after being traded a few times and more.
New LA Clipper Tobias Harris talks about the trade from Detroit, his mindset after being traded a few times and more.
Rest Assured, the 1-16 NBA Playoff Format Is Coming… Kinda
Based on Adam Silver’s comments, it’s safe to assume that the NBA will soon reformat the playoffs.
If there’s one thing Adam Silver has proven in his four years as the NBA’s Commissioner, it’s that he isn’t afraid to do things his way.
And if Silver has his way, the league will eventually figure out how it can implement a system that results in a more balanced playoff system. On Saturday, though, he revealed that it’s probably closer to a reality than many of us realize.
During his annual All-Star media address, Silver admitted that the league will “continue to look at” how they can reformat the playoffs to both ensure a better competitive balance throughout and pave the way for the league’s two best teams to meet up in the NBA Finals, even if both of those two teams happen to be in the same conference.
“You also would like to have a format where your two best teams are ultimately going to meet in the Finals,” the commissioner said on Saturday night.
“You could have a situation where the top two teams in the league are meeting in the conference finals or somewhere else. So we’re going to continue to look at that. It’s still my hope that we’re going to figure out ways.”
Since Silver took over the league, he’s been consistent in implementing dramatic changes to improve the overall quality of the game. Although Silver didn’t take over as the league’s commissioner until 2014, he was instrumental in getting the interested parties to buy into the notion that the “center” designation on the All-Star ballot was obsolete.
As a result, beginning with the 2013 All-Star Game, the Eastern and Western Conference teams have featured three “frontcourt” players, which essentially lumps centers in with forwards and eliminates the requirement that a center appear in the All-Star game. That wasn’t always the case.
From overhauling the league’s scheduling to reducing back-to-back games to implementing draft lottery reform to, this year, eliminating the traditional All-Star format which featured the Eastern Conference versus the Western Conference, it’s become clear that Silver simply “gets it” and isn’t afraid to make revolutionary changes if he deems them to be in the overall best interest of the league.
At this point, everyone realizes that something needs to be done about the league’s current playoff system.
Last season, for example, the Western Conference first round playoff series featured the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder squaring off against one another. Only one series—the Los Angeles Clippers versus Utah Jazz—went seven games.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, the first round series that were contested weren’t exactly compelling.
The Cleveland Cavaliers steamrolled the conference to the tune of a 12-1 run to their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. It wasn’t the first time that the public questioned the wisdom behind separating the playoff brackets by conference, but the dominance of the Cavs and LeBron James specifically (who is expected to win the Eastern Conference for the eighth consecutive time this season) has caused renewed scrutiny.
The most common solution offered to this point has been to simply take the 16 best teams across the league, irrespective of conference, and conduct the playoffs as normal.
From afar, this solution seems simple enough, but the obvious concerns are twofold.
First, if the Celtics and Clippers, for example, were pitted against one another in a first round series, the travel would be considerable. Private charter flight or not, traveling is taxing, and the prospect of having to make five cross-country trips over the course of a two-week span would certainly leave the winner of such a series at a competitive disadvantage against the opponents they would face in subsequent rounds, especially if the future opponent enjoyed a playoff series that was contested within close proximity.
Atlanta to New Orleans, for example, is less than a one-hour flight.
Aside from the concerns about geographic proximity, the other obvious issue is competitive balancing of the schedule, which seems to be an easier issue to fix.
Using the Pelicans as an example, of the 82 games they play, 30 are played against the other conference—in this case, the Eastern Conference. The other 52 games would all be played within the conference. If playoff seedings were going to be done on a simple 1-16 basis, the scheduling would have to be realigned in a way to essentially pit all teams against one another evenly. It wouldn’t be fair for a team like the Celtics to be judged on the same standard as the Pelicans if the Celtics faced inferior teams more often.
On Saturday night, Silver revealed that the league’s brass has been thinking about this and is trying to find a solution, and in doing so, he may have tipped his hand.
* * * * * *
As a multinational conglomerate, the NBA values the inclusion of as many markets as possible. Wanting to improve the overall quality of the product, though, there are interests that may not align fully.
What’s obvious with this year’s All-Star game is that the NBA has found a way to balance the two.
Rather than eliminating the conference designations altogether and simply choosing the “best” 24 players to be in the All-Star game, the league still chose All-Stars based on their conference, but then distributed them within the pool to allow for better competition.
That’s exactly what Silver revealed the NBA is considering doing with the playoffs. It makes perfect sense, and it’s probably just a matter of time before it’s implemented.
A report from ESPN notes that the idea that the league is kicking around would essentially do exactly what the league did with the All-Star selections with the playoff teams: choose the best from each conference, then disburse them in a way that allows for competitive balance.
The proposal would have the league’s teams compete as they normally do and would still feature the top eight teams from each conference getting into the playoffs.
Once the teams are qualified, however, they would be re-seeded on a 1-16 basis and crossmatched, on that basis.
It’s not perfect, but compromises never are. The travel issues would still persist, but the league would accomplish two goals: the less dominant conference wouldn’t be underrepresented and discouraged from competing, but the two best teams would still be on opposite ends of the bracket.
An NBA playoffs that featured 11 or 12 teams from the Western Conference would be a ratings nightmare for the league. Eastern Conference cities are less likely to stay up past midnight during the week to watch playoff games, and less competitive markets would frown at the prospect of having to compete against the other conference for a playoff spot. For many small market teams, the millions of dollars generated from a single playoff game often has a significant impact on the team’s operations, so there would naturally be discord.
This system would at least eliminate that contention.
On the positive side, it would allow for the Rockets and Warriors, for example, to meet in the NBA Finals. In both the NFL and MLB, geography hasn’t been a determining factor on which teams battle for the league’s championship.
Why does it have to be in the NBA?
* * * * * *
With the league having begun regular season play earlier this season, at the All-Star break, most teams have played about 57 games. A lot can change over the final 25 games of the season, but if the seeds were frozen today and the league took the top eight teams from each conference and then crossmatched them, the Los Angeles Clippers would be the team that got the short end o the stick.
Although the Clippers have the 16th best record in the league, they would be the ninth-seeded Western Conference team and would thus be eliminated from postseason contention by the Miami HEAT. The HEAT have the 17th best record in the league but are the eighth-best team in the Eastern Conference, so to preserve the conference weight, the HEAT would win out.
This is what the seedings and matchups would look like…
(1) Houston Rockets versus (16) Miami HEAT
(2) Golden State Warriors versus (15) New Orleans Pelicans
(3) Toronto Raptors versus (14) Philadelphia 76ers
(4) Boston Celtics versus (13) Portland Trail Blazers
(5) Cleveland Cavaliers versus (12) Denver Nuggets
(6) San Antonio Spurs versus (11) Oklahoma City Thunder
(7) Minnesota Timberwolves versus (10) Milwaukee Bucks
(8) Washington Wizards versus (9) Indiana Pacers
Here, the Celtics would face the nightmarish scenario of having to travel to and from Portland for their playoff series, while virtually every other series would feature much more friendly travel (especially the Spurs-Thunder and Raptors-Sixers).
The Cavs would have a very tough road to the Finals, having to beat the Nuggets, Celtics and Rockets if the seeds held. The Celtics would have a similarly tough road, as they’d have to get past the Blazers, Cavs and Rockets.
At the end of the day, the Rockets and Warriors would be aligned in such a way as to avoid one another until the championship, but each of the two would face daunting competition. The Rockets would have to go through the HEAT, Wizards and Celtics, while the Warriors would have to face the Pelicans, Timberwolves and Raptors—again, assuming the seeds held.
It would be a benefit to all observers.
One of the unintended consequences of implementing this system would be to make every single game count. If the Celtics were able to move up to the second seed, for example, their road to the Finals, in theory, could become much much easier, comparatively speaking.
The end result would be less resting of players during the course of the season and certainly less instances in which star players take the final week of the regular season off in other to be fresh for the postseason.
No, there’s no perfect solution, but just as the league has found a clever way to serve multiple interests as it relates to the All-Star game’s competitiveness, Silver has revealed that the league is at least considering following suit with the playoffs.
It’s only a matter of time before we see it actually see it happen.
It simply makes too much sense, and if there’s one thing the commissioner has already proven, it’s that he isn’t afraid of changing tradition.
NBA All-Star Saturday Recap
Brian Slingluff recaps All-Star Saturday from Los Angeles.
Basketball Insiders is here to recap an eventful All-Star Saturday that led to three first-time champs in the various skills contests. Let’s get right to it.
Taco Bell Skills Challenge
In Saturday night’s Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the “Bigs” team, boasting 3 All-Stars, set out to claim a third straight title. The competition kicked off with Joel Embiid coming from behind to best Al Horford, and sharpshooter Lauri Markkanen swishing his first 3 point attempt to eliminate Andre Drummond. On the Guard side, Buddy Hield had an early lead before losing out to Spencer Dinwiddie, and Jamal Murray upset hometown favorite Lou Williams.
In the semifinals, Markkanen was able to dispatch Joel Embiid, who struggled with the pass portion of the competition, and Dinwiddie topped Jamal Murray by making his first 3 pointer for the second consecutive round.
In the Final round, Dinwiddie finally missed a 3 pointer, but it did not matter as he finished with a wire to wire victory over Lauri Markkanen. Dinwiddie, competing in front of his friends and family, was able to end the Bigs’ two year win streak in impressive fashion.
JBL Three Point Contest
The event started off with Tobias Harris scoring a solid 18 points. Wayne Ellington was next, sporting the hot new alternate Miami Vice jersey. Ellington started off cold and heated up on his last three racks, ending up with a score of 17. Devin Booker and former three-point champion Klay Thompson tied for a round-high 19 points. Paul George, Bradley Beal, and Kyle Lowry struggled from the start and never found a rhythm, falling short of making the championship round. Defending champion Eric Gordon never got it going, and would not defend the title, scoring only 12 points.
In the Championship round, Tobias Harris was on fire through the first 3 racks, but quickly got cold, scoring 17 points. Devin Booker was next and could not miss, scoring 28 points, leaving Klay Thompson a high number to match. Thompson fell just 3 points short, and Devin Booker was crowned the 2018 JBL Three Point Champion.
Verizon Slam Dunk Contest
The final and most anticipated event of the night started with Donovan Mitchell bringing out a second hoop, bouncing it off the second backboard and finishing with an impressive windmill dunk, scoring a 48. Victor Oladipo followed with a difficult look-away alley oop dunk attempt that he was unable to complete, totaling 31 points from the judges. Dennis Smith Jr. had a nice reverse double pump that got 39 points and Larry Nance Jr., in a throwback Phoenix jersey, payed homage to his father’s cradle dunk, nailing it almost exactly for a score of 44 points.
Oladipo started the next round of dunks by borrowing Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther mask, and scoring 40 points with a tomahawk windmill dunk. Smith Jr. hit a seemingly impossible reverse 360, through the legs, switching hands dunk for a perfect score of 50. Nance Jr. pulled off a Vince Carter level windmill, nearly missing a perfect score. Mitchell jumped over comedian Kevin Hart to advance to the finals against Larry Nance Jr.
In the Finals, Nance started things off with a windmill alley-oop with some help from Larry Nance Sr., garnering a score of 46. Mitchell completed the difficult one handed alley-oop he had attempted in the previous round, scoring a perfect 50. Nance Jr. answered with an incredible double pass off the backboard dunk, scoring yet another 50 points. Mitchell ended the contest with a Vince Carter tribute dunk, coming out on top by just two points. It capped off an exciting Saturday night, setting things up for the main event on Sunday, Team LeBron versus Team Stephen.