As per usual, certain NBA teams come into a season with the expectation of taking a step forward, or for that matter break free of their former rank and catapult themselves into championship contention. Following is a list of teams that had dreams of taking a significant leap, but haven’t so far. Except for Brooklyn and Philly. They’re admittedly there just so judgmental fingers can be pointed.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pellies were hoping to be anything but 0-6 in the early going, and yet, here we are. The man I chose to be named MVP this season, Anthony Davis, has looked decent in the early going, but nowhere near the player everyone expected. His PER is down seven points, he’s turning the ball over literally 100 percent more than last season and the only reason why his TS% is above league average is due to an insane amount of free throws.
But before we put the blame solely on Davis, let’s take a look at the Pelicans as a whole.
They’re 28th in offensive rebounding percentage, grab just 40 total rebounds a game and allow a league-worst eFG% of 55.0 percent, which is dreadful. Struggling on either defense or on the glass is bad enough, but struggling in both areas is more or less suicide. These Pelicans are, granted, injured a lot. Tyreke Evans has yet to play this year, and is out for another few weeks at least with a knee issue. Omer Asik, who would undoubtedly have assisted in both the rebounding and defensive departments, is also out.
So while the Pelicans can be somewhat excused for their horrible start, they have to make an appearance because…0-6, man.
More offense! More freedom! More depth! Boo Thibs! That was the mantra of the Bulls going into this season. The front office decided to roll the dice on virtually the same exact roster as last year, thus trying to prove in the process that Fred Hoiberg could take these guys further than Tom Thibodeau ever could.
Unfortunately, a 4-3 start to the season that has included losses to both Charlotte and Minnesota has seen the Bulls play surprisingly similar as they did last season. The three-point attempts are up slightly, but that hardly makes up for their position as a team that gathers the eighth-least fast-break points, the fourth-least points in the paint and the eighth-least points off turnovers.
That combination of low rankings is frankly murder for a team that hoped to become an offensive juggernaut. Instead, from a versatility perspective, they’re about as vanilla as possible and no one should really have any incentive to fear them. Going into Monday’s game against Philadelphia, forward Nikola Mirotic is averaging 3.7 points over his last three games, which has prompted ideas of a lineup swap that will bring Joakim Noah back to the starting unit he’s been so used to in recent years, only to be paired with Pau Gasol, which was a duo that really didn’t work last year.
Adding insult to injury, the Bulls are allowing over 50 rebounds a game on the year, which isn’t helping anything.
Oh my, where to begin? This teams ranks 22nd in protecting the ball, 26th in eFG%, 28th in free throw rate per field goal attempt and 29th in three-point rate. The Nets, as a team, have made 25 three-pointers this season on 23.6 percent. Those are 1980s numbers. But wait, it gets worse. They rank 27th in opposing eFG%, 23rd in opponent’s free throw rate and they lead the league in two-point field goal attempts, while ranking 12th in accuracy.
In particular, it’s the $25 million man, Joe Johnson, who’s been struggling. The former All-Star is netting 10.3 points a game in over 33 minutes, sporting a PER of 10.4 and a TS% of 41.4 percent, which frankly represents the worst year of his career. Good thing these Nets have some draft picks to fall back o…oh, wait.
Philly is 0-6 like the Pelicans, and much like New Orleans, they too aren’t healthy. Tony Wroten is out, Joel Embiid remains out for the second consecutive season and Robert Covington has missed all but one game this year. With Dario Saric still not in a Sixers uni, it should come as no surprise that the team was going to struggle.
Much like other struggling teams, Philly is giving up the ball, ranking 29th in turnover percentage. They don’t force turnovers on the other end, allowing just a turnover percentage of just 12.5 percent, 22nd in the league. They shoot just 32.4 percent from three and rank 23rd in free throw percentage.
Lottery pick center, Jahlil Okafor, is scoring at a high volume and efficiently, but at 5.5 rebounds a game, the big man needs to crash the glass in order to not be viewed as a one-trick pony.
The Kings were one of those teams who were fed up with rebuilding, and decided “what the hell” going into the summer, which in turn led to free agency spending. Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli and Kosta Koufos all signed on with the Kings and hope started to glimmer slightly through the cracks of an organization that had been ridiculed all summer.
That’s why their 1-6 start is extra disappointing for Vivek Ranadivé’s squad, seeing as he was hoping to bring some excitement back to Sacramento. DeMarcus Cousins draining threes does help that I must admit, but the team is allowing over 111 points a game, ranks 29th in opposing eFG% and is fouling almost 24 times a game. As a result, the Kings allow a free throw rate of 25.3 percent, 27th in the league. The Kings themselves can’t hit from the line, shooting 66.5 percent as a team, ranking 28th.
Cousins has missed four games already, which didn’t help. Neither has Rudy Gay’s isolation efficiency. Gay is scoring 0.48 points per possession in isolation, and he has 25 of such possessions already in the young season.
Rondo, a notorious non-scorer and non-shooter, is once again doing well in every aspect of the game except scoring, as his TS% of 43.8 percent will attest to. His 35.7 percent from the line is also just adding further problems to a table full of them.
But hey, at least the Warriors are doing well!