The Biggest Disappointments This Season: NBA Edition

As the NBA season looms nearer to the end of the regular season, with the All Star break around the corner, we see things a little clearer. Teams like the Suns, Warriors, Bucks, and Celtics are among some that are labeled as serious contenders. We’ve had a couple of good surprises like the huge season the Bulls and Grizzlies are having, with Chicago on top of the East and Memphis 3rd in the west. Teams such as the Raptors and Timberwolves have exceeded expectations and are having standout seasons. We’ve also witnessed the rise of some players, with guys like DeMar DeRozan and Ja Morant taking their games to an insane level to bolster their stock and elevate their teams. With all the good we as fans have seen, we also have been witness to the decline of some teams along with some players. Today, I’ll highlight the biggest disappointments thus far in the NBA season. 

Damian Lillard and “His” Blazers:

Damian Lillard rumors: Two factors could push Trail Blazers star 'out the door,' report says | Sporting News

There is little doubt when it comes to listing Damian Lillard as a star.. He is one of the most loyal players in the league and also an absolute problem on offense. Just two years ago he averaged 30 PPG with 8 assists… So what happened? The issue starts with the front office. They traded 2 first round picks for Trevor Ariza and Robert Covington, a move that made a lot of people scratch their heads. They also shipped Gary Trent Jr, one of the more underrated guards in the league, to the Raptors along with Rodney Hood for an older version of Trent… Norman Powell. For the rest of that season they were traded, their stats were nearly identical with Powell only averaging 2 points more. This season, the Blazers have done even worse with their trading. They let Norman Powell and Robert Covington go for Keon Johnson, Justise Winslow, Eric Bledsoe, and a 2025 second rounder. They essentially lost 2 first rounders and a younger and higher ceiling Gary Trent Jr for two guys who average 15 points combined and a couple months of Eric Bledsoe, who is on his 4th team in 3 years. When it comes to Dame, his game took a dip this year. He is averaging lower numbers across the board in the last 3 years, scoring 4 less points a game along with lower shooting percentages for 2s, 3s, and free throws. The Blazers were a whopping 12-17 with Lillard this season as well, further pointing to a steady downfall of a team that never lived up to its hype over the last few years. Now he is set to miss time after abdominal surgery he underwent in January. On the bright side, they also traded CJ McCollum to New Orleans for a package around Josh Hart including 3 draft picks. Josh Hart is having a career season averaging over 24 points a game, so we’ll see who ends up winning that trade. 

Michael Porter Jr: 

There has been nobody quite like Michael Porter Jr. - Denver Stiffs

This is just another case of talent being plagued by injury. Denver is such an exciting team when healthy, and even when they are not they are super competitive. This year, without Jamal Murray, was going to be yet another test for the young and hungry Nuggets. You’d think with Jokic coming off an MVP win and MPJ inking a huge 5-year contract before the season began that this team would be itching to prove themselves. No Murray meant Porter Jr was free to become the number 2 option behind Jokic and prove he deserved that huge contract. Unfortunately, that’s not how it panned out. He played just 8 games, averaging more shots a game (11.4) than actual points (9.9). In his ninth game, he would exit early with back problems and later would be ruled out. It was stated that he would require surgery, and no timetable was set for his return for the foreseeable future. For a team like Denver to invest over $170 million only to lose him after 8 games is bad. They needed a spark to step up in place of Murray, and instead they wound up losing another key piece. This was made to be his breakout season, a huge opportunity for a young talent. Instead, it looks as if Jokic is left to carry his team as the only star. 

The Knicks… Sadly

Knicks 116, Warriors 114: Scenes from a massive upset out West - Posting and Toasting

I really hate to even write this, but the Knicks are just not living up to any sort of expectations. We should have seen this coming, with their offseason acquisitions being rather questionable despite the funds available to acquire a star. They re-signed key guys like Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, and Nerlens Noel, all huge pieces to a great season last year. They also added guys like Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker. Fournier is a decent pickup on offense but that’s about it, helping contribute 14 points a game and finally finding a consistent 3 point percentage at 39%. For $73 million for 4 years, I just don’t see it as the best signing. Kemba, however, is a really bad signing. He is battling a knee injury but has been benched multiple times prior to that. When he did play, it was very on and off. He averages just around 11 points a game, a career low even worse than his rookie season. If there is no using him, and then having him injured when you need him, it makes you wonder if he’ll okay out his 2 year signing. I won’t even get into the decline of Julius Randle or Thibs not playing newly acquired Cam Reddish… They could have made some moves before the deadline but didn’t, classic Knicks. On top of the signings and non signings, the Knicks are just falling apart right now. They sit in 12th place in the east, something you’d expect from the Knicks of the past. But after a strong season last year and a playoff berth, this is a major downgrade. They are 25-34 and are a couple games back of a play-in chance. Their offense has been abysmal, ranking 27th in PPG, ranking 30th in points in the paint, while being ranked 29th in assists a game. Just not winning basketball. Their best stat as a team is total rebounds which means they throw bodies in the paint, yet they can’t translate that in the opposing key. Their defense ranks 8th in PPG allowed yet they rank 14th in defensive efficiency. Just an inconsistent season from a team that finally looked to move on from their lackluster past seasons. 

The Lakers “Superteam”:

LeBron James' miss before the half summed up Los Angeles Lakers' year

Whoever called the Lakers a superteam before this season must’ve been in a coma since 2012. These Lakers, with the average age of 30 (oldest in the league), are anything but super. I mean if you want to talk about hopes being shot down, ladies and gentlemen look no further. I’ve never seen a team with so much hype fall off the face of the earth harder than these Lakers have. Sure, they are 9th in the west just 2 games behind the 8 seed, but for a team with the likes of AD and LeBron, that is just unacceptable. And that’s the problem, AD and LeBron. The Lakers naturally rely on their two biggest stars, but without one or the other, they look like a YMCA pick up team. Without LeBron, the Lakers are 6-11 on the year. Without AD, they are 10-11. Their best offseason pickup was Malik Monk, who is averaging a sturdy 13 a game on 40% 3 point shooting. Their second best singing? Guaranteeing Stanley Johnson’s contract for the rest of the season. Yes, it has been that kind of a year for LA. They acquired guys like Wayne Ellington, Trevor Ariza, Carmelo Anthony, Kendrick Nunn and yet most of them have been out with injury. They rank 10th in PPG, and 12th in offensive rating. Their defense has been solid as they rank 4th and 7th in blocks and steals a game. Away from the numbers, though, I think their flaws are beyond any numerical value. The biggest issues I think to blame are Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. We know Westbrook is known for his poor shot selection and his abysmal turnover problems. However, his ability to create and his passion and wit for the game was appealing to the Lakers. LeGM made some calls and the Lakers somehow landed the former MVP. The Lakers would lose a good chunk of their depth, with guys like KCP, Montrezl Harrell, Kuzma being shipped to Washington. Kuzma is having a career year, averaging 16 and 8 rebounds, a huge injection of two-way play that the Lakers desperately need right now. Unfortunately, the Lakers are stuck with Westbrook. The issue isn’t necessarily him. He is still averaging 18 a game, with 7 boards and 7 assists to round off his stats. If anyone wants to prove they can play with the likes of LeBron and AD, it’s Russ. Yet, his constant turnovers and horrible shot selection have essentially blacklisted him from close game lineups. This season, he has 224 turnovers and counting (NBA high), good for an average of 4 a game which have him in 4th place in the entire league. He is shooting 30% from 3 which leaves him wide open on offensive possessions because teams know he either won’t shoot or just flat out miss. He is an issue because he isn’t confident, because we all know this man is capable of making huge plays when he is feeling it.  He, however, isn’t even the biggest issue in my eyes. The man who should shoulder the most blame is AD. Talk about a guy who was once regarded as a top 5 player in the league. He comes to LA, wins a chip in his first season, but has quietly slipped to a shell of what he once was. This season he has played in 36 games all of which he started, already tied with games played and started in all of last season. He is averaging 23 a game and 9 boards, a solid year from one of the best bigs. The issue is his availability. It seems he averages about 4 scares a game. AD has missed well over 160 games in his 10 year career, good for about 2 full seasons of action. Last season he was out with an achilles injury that limited him to less than half of the season. This year, he has already dealt with an MCL sprain that left him out 17 games. In the time of writing this article, he suffered a nasty ankle injury against the Jazz and is surely out for more games. So why is he to blame if injuries are unlucky? The fact that he can’t stay healthy is a problem. With LeBron aging and slightly declining like we saw in the playoffs last year, AD was supposed to be that guy for the Lakers. He was supposed to take on a bigger role this season and be a bigger aid to LeBron with Russell Westbrook as the third star. Yet, all I’ve seen is non stop slander on how Russell Westbrook is ruining the team when the team is not healthy to begin with, and also not HIS team to lead. Since when are we blaming 3rd options for the failures of a team? If anyone had to step up this year, it was AD. Russ, although inconsistent with shooting and protecting the ball, is at least consistent enough to be healthy and available for games. The issue in LA isn’t Russ, it’s the health of the team and the lack of heart.

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