Biggest Disappointments to Start the NBA Season

Biggest Disappointments to Start the NBA Season
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - JANUARY 24: Russell Westbrook #4 of the Washington Wizards prepares to take on the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on January 24, 2021 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

This NBA season is coming up to the quarter-way mark. There has been a lot of drama, a lot of question marks, and a lot of storylines. It is a weird basketball season for many.

Everyone tries to work around the current state of the world while trying to entertain millions. With that thought comes a lot of up and down seasons for many teams. As much as COVID-19 makes things a little difficult for everyone, we are strictly going to look at the on-court performances to see who the impact is hitting most in the NBA.

New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans went into the season with the expectation of being a young team with a lot of talent that could potentially make a run for the playoffs. So far this season, they have not come close to those expectations.

When you look at this Pelicans team it starts on the offensive side of the ball. They play entirely too slow for the modern NBA. They are ranked 25th in time of possession and 19th in transition offense. These numbers are unacceptable for a team with one of the best transition players in the league in Zion Williamson.

Brandon Ingram gives them someone who is well capable of creating offense and gets downhill opportunities without a full head of steam. Eric Bledsoe, starting at the two-guard, doesn’t make opposing defenses respect the outside jumper. He is best used on the fast break where he can get easy layup opportunities. Zion Williamson is just an athletic freak of nature who needs space on the open floor to really get going.

The biggest issue surrounding the Pelicans is the lack of spacing in the half-court. 

It isn’t like the team is full of snipers from three to complement their main stars. They are ranked 26th in three-point accuracy. It feels like the only threat the Pelicans have from three is J.J. Redick who could improve himself as he is shooting 31.8%. The addition of Steven Adams does not help either with him not being able to generate offense outside of the paint. 

This year was never about being a contender for the Pelicans, but the window to figure out what is going on this year is starting to close.

Toronto Raptors

It feels like this season, nothing about the Raptors remotely makes any sense. Even when the Raptors are playing well, it doesn’t seem to make sense.

For the team this season, they started off really slow as a bottom-three team in the Eastern Conference. Even though they have started to pick it up somewhat as of late, they are still ranked 9th in the East at 7-9. The number of losses the Raptors have suffered in crunch time equals out to five, which shows that they are nowhere near figuring out this season yet. 

Chris Boucher is playing like the team’s clear second-best player while averaging 14.6 points a game and snagging about seven rebounds as well. They also have some other solid role players such as the newly acquired Stanley Johnson who is shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range. Norman Powell is also shooting 42.4 percent from behind the arc but continues to be a liability of defense.

The biggest issue however is none other than the star player, Pascal Siakam. If you keep up with NBA social media, you will see that Siakam has even become a meme. Teams are ready for his crazy spin moves that lead to nowhere and his play has become very inconsistent. His up and down games are hurting the Raptors tremendously.

The defense and lack of rebounding from the big men Aron Baynes and Alex Len are also not helping. The team is 23rd in the NBA in interior defense and fouling way too much. The offensive side of the ball for the big men isn’t the problem as the team is 11th in scoring but if you can’t stop anyone inside, it is hard to win.

The Russell Westbrook Experiment

In the offseason, the Washington Wizards pulled off a blockbuster trade that sent John Wall to the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook. So far, it doesn’t seem to be working.

The Washington Wizards, after the trade for Westbrook, had higher hopes for the season than years past. They had a solid offseason by drafting Deni Avdija and trading for the former MVP, but the season has been everything except what fans hoped for. The team is currently ranked 14th in the Eastern Conference at 3-9. 

The team has nice young pieces along with two All-NBA caliber players so the question is- Why isn’t it working? 

Bradley Beal has been amazing this season per usual. He is averaging an amazing 34.5 points per game along with five boards. He is doing everything he can to will the Wizards to some wins and help them get back on track. 

Russell Westbrook, while he has been healthy, is averaging almost another triple-double with 18 points, 10.6 assists, and 9.5 rebounds. Westbrook did end up suffering a quad injury a few games in. When he was on the court though, the lack of ball movement from him and Bradley Beal was hurting the development of the young guys surrounding them such as Deni Avdija or Rui Hachimura. It also doesn’t help that the team lost a promising young player in Thomas Bryant for the season, who was doing it all for them. 

It would be unfair to put all the blame on Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal with the injuries or even worse, the COVID-19 breakout in the NBA and the organization. The team had its last six games postponed so the team is probably having a hard time trying to mesh and learn how to play together. Even then, we will have to wait and see what happens with this experiment.

Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks

Like many of these teams, the Atlanta Hawks came into the season with high expectations. They made a lot of really good free agency signings that included Rajon Rondo, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kris Dunn, and Danilo Gallinari. They started off really hot like they were expected to, but they cooled off big time and are now 8-8.

Part of the reason why they have struggled is all-star point guard Trae Young. Through the first four games, Young averaged 33 points and 8.3 assists on top of 15.3 free throws attempted a night. 

Then, his production took a big hit and it shows.

Since the start of January, Trae Young has averaged 18.3 points, 8.8 assists, and 6.4 free throw attempts a game. On top of that, he is shooting just 22.2 percent from beyond the arc. Inside the arc, he is also shooting only 35.7 percent.

They are 2-6 since the start of January when they began to cool down. This is probably also due to the drama surrounding John Collins and the team. It is obvious that Collins is upset with the team for not offering him a new deal and it shows on the court with his chemistry with the team. There have also been several injuries to a couple of their key guys that also threw off the whole game plan for the team right now. 

With all of these circumstances surrounding the Hawks, this doesn’t take away the fact that Trae Young has not played well. 

Deandre Ayton’s Inconsistent Play

During the bubble, the Phoenix Suns played incredibly well and showed just how good this young team could end up being. During the offseason, they traded for one of the best leaders and veterans in the NBA today, Chris Paul. They had playoff hopes for the season which still looks probable, Deandre Ayton looks like the only one not getting with the program.

Devin Booker looks like he is struggling a bit to find himself in an offense where he isn’t the only star on the team anymore. He is turning the ball over at a way higher rate than usual and he still is a liability on defense. The Suns as a whole are still trying to figure out how to piece this all together. They are trying to find the perfect rotation and the perfect sets to run with this new and young team.

Everyone is trying to figure out the rotation and the game plan. It hurts though when your young star center is shaky and inconsistent. His play has almost become unpredictable on a nightly basis.

Everyone understands that playing alongside Chris Paul and Devin Booker is going to take some adjusting. His post-up attempts are about what they were last year, but his problems seem to be more rooted. He isn’t rolling to the basket as hard and he even isn’t doing it that often anymore. 

Ayton shoots about 37 percent of his shots inside of three feet whereas last year it was about 46 percent. He is shooting more free throws this year but not shooting them as efficiently. Ayton has also been on hot streaks this year where he will put up back to back 20 point games then turn around and do the same with 10 point games. He will also go on streaks where he only gets up about 10 shots a night. 

If Ayton keeps up the inconsistency, the Suns will have to start thinking about if he is a staple to their culture, or better off as a trade asset. 

 

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