The Most Disappointing Teams Thus Far
Phil Jackson used to say that an NBA team shouldn’t be judged until 20 games into a season. Well, we’re now at the 20-game mark and there are a number of teams that can be labeled as early disappointments. Here are the four biggest disappointments thus far:
Charlotte Hornets, 5-15: Entering this season, the Hornets had some lofty goals, but they’ve failed to live up to expectations in a big way through their first 20 games.
Last year, Charlotte won 43 games and made the playoffs for just the second time in their franchise’s history led by their defense, which was ranked sixth-best in the NBA. Going into the 2014-15 season, the Hornets were expected to be even better since they had one year of experience under head coach Steve Clifford, young players who were one year closer to their prime and veteran additions such as Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams, Jason Maxiell, Brian Roberts as well as first-rounders Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston. Charlotte seemed poised to be a top team in the Eastern Conference and take the next step as a franchise.
Now, at 5-15, that obviously hasn’t happened. The Hornets are outside of the playoff picture in the East, with the 12th-best record in the conference. They recently had a 10-game losing streak and they’ve already lost to non-playoff teams like the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic. The biggest head-scratcher is that their defense has been awful, ranking 25th in the NBA. Couple that with their 26th-ranked offense and it’s obvious why this team is struggling.
Stephenson has been extremely underwhelming on offense, averaging just 10.4 points while shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from three-point range. His body language has also been terrible, particularly when he doesn’t get the ball.
Charlotte’s first 20 games have been so bad that the front office is reportedly looking at their trade options. Fortunately for the Hornets, they play in the East so they still have a shot at the postseason – they are only four games back from the eighth seed – but they’ll need to turn things around quickly in order to compete for a playoff berth.
Detroit Pistons, 3-18: Stan Van Gundy is an exceptional head coach, but he’s not a miracle worker. That’s what we’ve learned in the early stages of the 2014-15 season, as the Pistons continue to struggle and appear headed for their sixth-straight trip to the lottery.
When Van Gundy was hired as Detroit’s head coach and president of basketball operations, many people were excited and felt like this could catapult the Pistons into the playoffs in the wide open Eastern Conference. However, Detroit has lost 18 of their 21 games and currently have the second-worst record in the East (behind only the Philadelphia 76ers, who are putting on a tanking clinic). The Pistons are ranked 29th in the NBA in offense and 19th in defense, so they obviously have a long way to go until they’re able to be competitive. This team seems to have regressed from last year, which is tough to do coming off of a 29-win season.
While the hire will likely pay off in the future, Van Gundy hasn’t been able to turn this roster into a winner just yet. The trio of Andre Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe continues to struggle together, while Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have been shooting the ball very poorly and playing inefficient basketball.
It seems like Van Gundy will need to make major changes to this roster in order to be successful, since the current group of players aren’t executing his system well. It’s worth noting that Van Gundy inherited many of these core players, so it’ll be interesting to see what the roster looks like after this season when the team will have his fingerprints all over it. Going forward, he should have more cap flexibility so he can build the roster to his liking. Monroe will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and Smith has been mentioned in trade rumors, so their frontcourt could undergo some significant changes soon.
Perhaps the biggest individual disappointment in Detroit has been Drummond, who many expected to break out this season and thrive under Van Gundy. However, the big man has averaged just 11.4 points and 11.7 rebounds, while shooting 47 percent from the field (all of which are down from last season’s numbers). He’s also averaging a career-worst 3.7 fouls and 1.7 turnovers while playing fewer minutes. Drummond is only 21 years old, so there’s still plenty of time for him to realize his full potential as a dominant center, but he has left a lot to be desired so far this year.
This down year has been a disappointment, but it could allow Van Gundy and the Pistons to get a top pick in the loaded 2015 NBA Draft and right the ship rather quickly with a talented young core.
New York Knicks, 4-18: The Knicks weren’t expected to be a contender this season, but many thought they’d be a middle-of-the-pack playoff team. After re-signing Carmelo Anthony, hiring head coach Derek Fisher to install the triangle offense and adding players like Jose Calderon, Jason Smith, Samuel Dalembert, Quincy Acy and Shane Larkin among others, fans in New York were hoping they’d return to the postseason after missing the playoffs last year.
This seemed realistic, since the Eastern Conference is wide open and just two years ago this Knicks squad with many of the same players managed to win 54 games and finish as the East’s second seed. When New York opened their season with a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, fans were even more optimistic.
However, since that win they’ve lost 18 of 21 games and dropped near the bottom of the east standings. New York is currently ranked 27th in defense and 22nd in offense. The Knicks have struggled with the adjustment to the triangle offense, and head coach Derek Fisher recently said that his players aren’t trusting the triangle and doubting whether the system is right for this team.
“I think there still is some doubt that we can do this the way we’re working on doing it,” Fisher said, according to Ian Begley of ESPN New York. “When the pressure goes up, the stress goes up, the tendency to revert to old habits and not sticking with what you’re developing now [happens]. It’s understandable to be that way, but we just have to continue to stretch out the amount of time that we believe in what we’re doing. … [We need to] trust that the things we work on every day will work in good times and bad times.”
The Knicks have lost eight straight games and are the third-worst team in the East. They’ve lost to non-playoff teams like the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves and Charlotte Hornets.
Next offseason, Phil Jackson and the Knicks will have significant cap space so it’s very possible that things could turn around rather quickly for this franchise, but this season has certainly been a disappointment. Fortunately for the Knicks, the own their 2015 first-round pick, which looks to be a pretty high selection.
Denver Nuggets, 9-11: Last season, injuries depleted the Nuggets’ roster so it was no surprise that the team finished 36-46 and outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Entering this season, Denver was being picked as a team that could potentially make the playoffs now that they were completely healthy and had added some new contributors such as Arron Afflalo, Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic and Alonzo Gee among others.
However, Denver continues to struggle. The team is 9-11 and has been incredibly inconsistent this season. They had a six-game losing streak earlier in the year and they are currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak that could go on for quite awhile since their upcoming games are at Toronto Raptors, vs. Miami HEAT, at Houston Rockets, vs. San Antonio Spurs, vs. Houston Rockets and vs. Los Angeles Clippers.
Denver is currently ranked 23rd in defense and 16th in offense, which isn’t a combination that will get it done in the Western Conference, where they’re in 11th place.
Some people around the league have speculated that if Denver continues to struggle, they could be a team that looks to sell off some of their veteran pieces before February’s trade deadline. This could make sense, since they do have a lot of attractive assets that other teams may covet such as Kenneth Faried, Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler, JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov, Danilo Gallinari, Arron Afflalo, Nate Robinson, J.J. Hickson and Randy Foye among others. Teams will certainly be calling the Nuggets if they continue losing.
Perhaps the most concerning thing about Denver’s early struggles is that a number of reports have come out indicating that there’s a lot of drama and tension behind the scenes. There was an ESPN report that the organization isn’t crazy about Faried and only extended him because their hand was forced. There was another report indicating that Lawson has butted heads with Coach Brian Shaw, with our own Steve Kyler adding that most of the roster has lost faith in Shaw.
Things in Denver are ugly and, in addition to all of the losses, there seems to be a lot of finger pointing behind the scenes.
Which team has been the biggest disappointment, in your opinion? Leave your thoughts in a comment!
Lowry, Aldridge Named Players of the Week
The Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry and the Portland Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Dec. 1, through Sunday, Dec. 7.
Lowry led the Raptors to a 2-1 week behind an NBA-best 29.3 points. He handed out 8.7 assists, grabbed 3.0 rebounds and recorded 1.3 steals as Toronto won road games in Sacramento and Utah on back-to-back nights. On Dec. 3, when the Raptors topped the Jazz 123-104, Lowry recorded a career-high 39 points (13-of-22 field goals) and added five rebounds and four assists.
Aldridge helped the Trail Blazers to a 3-0 week, which included road wins at Denver and New York. He ranked third in the league in scoring (27.0 ppg) and sixth in rebounding (11.7 rpg). Aldridge posted a point-rebound double-double in all three contests, including a 39-point, 11-rebound effort on Dec. 2, as the Trail Blazers beat the Nuggets 105-103.
Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Dallas’ Monta Ellis, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Houston’s James Harden, Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Orlando’s Tobias Harris, Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams, Phoenix’s Goran Dragic, San Antonio’s Tim Duncan and Washington’s John Wall.
NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18
With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.
A Lot of Mock Movement
With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.
It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.
Here is this week’s Mock Draft:
Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future
Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.
On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.
Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.
Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with the season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.
Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.
“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”
Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.
“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”
Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.
“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.
While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.
“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.
Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.
There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.
“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”
Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.
“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”
Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.
“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.
Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.
“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.
When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.
Tyronn Lue’s Health Concerns Latest Bump In The Road For Cavaliers
Spencer Davies outlines Tyronn Lue’s decision to take a leave of absence to deal with health issues and covers the reaction around the NBA.
The win-loss record is not where they want it to be.
The performances have not been up to par with what they expect.
With that said, one thing is for certain: There is no other team that will have been more battle tested going into the playoffs than the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Day after day and week after week, there’s always something going on with the team. Between in-house arguments, on-court miscommunication, roster turnover, and more, it has been one giant roller coaster of a season.
Monday morning, another twist was added to the ride. In a statement released by the Cavaliers organization, Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman announced that the head coach would be taking a leave of absence to address his health:
“After many conversations with our doctors and Koby and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.
“I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is. While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team.
“I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season. My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the Championship we are all working towards. I greatly appreciate Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, our medical team and the organization’s support throughout.”
There were multiple instances where Lue either missed part of a half or an entire game this season. The symptoms are definitely not to be taken lightly. According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Lue attempted to return to the bench Saturday night in Chicago but the team didn’t allow him to. Evidently, Lue was “coughing up blood” some nights.
Seeing it first hand after postgame press conferences, Lue was visibly exhausted and stress could likely be playing a part. He’s been fighting through the tough times the team has been going through and avoided stepping away twice this season.
Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford had his own battle with health problems earlier this season and temporarily left the team for those reasons. He has attempted to reach out to Lue, a friend and former player of his.
Other head coaches around the league—Joe Prunty, Steve Kerr, and Luke Walton—have all gone to bat for Lue when discussing the rigors of an NBA schedule and the toll it takes.
Altman supports the decision for Lue to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
“We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues,” he said.
LeBron James is glad that Lue is going to take some time to get better.
“Obviously, health is the most important with everything in life,” James said Monday after shootaround. “Not surprised by it at all. I knew he was struggling, but he was never not himself. He was just dealing with it the best way he could, but he was never not himself when he was around.
“It doesn’t matter what’s going on here. We play a great sport, our coaches get to coach a great sport, and you guys get to cover a great sports. But health is most important right now and that’s what our coach is doing right now and we’re all in favor for it.”
The latest piece of news is a blow to the already injury-ridden Cleveland group. Assistant coach Larry Drew will take over duties until Lue returns.
The good news for the Cavaliers is that Kevin Love can potentially return to the mix as soon as Monday night against Milwaukee.