Every NBA season begins with the unlikely combination of mystery and prediction. Analysts come out with seemingly every type of prediction possible, from championship contenders, to potential MVP’s, to unlikely heroes. This is the beauty of sports. The possibility of playing prophet and predicting the future, while simultaneously hoping that your prophecy comes to fulfillment, in order to say that you called it all along, is part of the joy of sports.
Of course, the narrative of sports rarely turns out like any of us predicted or prophesied. Sports has a way of creating its own narrative, often times much better than we could have written ourselves. Why else do we keep up with the latest gossip in the sports world as if sports were the equivalent of soap operas?
This year is unlike any previous years in the NBA because there is no consensus on who the best team in the NBA is. You have the Atlanta Hawks with the best record in the league, but whom many still consider inferior to teams in the Western Conference. You have the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs clinging on to the seventh seed in the West, which is foreign territory for them. And then you have teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder that are on the outside looking into the playoffs, despite the early return of Kevin Durant, which is where everyone in the top 8 seeds wants them to stay. Who in the world could have predicted any of these three things?
Below are some of the players that many believed were going to have a terrific 2014-2015 season, but have failed to live up to the hype.
The numbers are there as usual, but the wins are not, nor is the consistent play. This season, Melo is averaging 24.2 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game, and 3.0 assists per game. However, the lowly New York Knicks have a record of 10-39, which is one of the worst in the league. The Knicks have put the blame on others and have shipped out the likes of Jeremy Lin, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert, but the one constant has been Melo, and he eventually has to take the blame.
After a very successful summer on the USA Team, Faried was projected to have an incredible 2014-2015 season, especially after the contract that he received and the faith that the Nuggets placed on Faried. Unfortunately, that salary number has only translated into mediocre numbers this season. This season, Faried is averaging 11.8 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game, and 0.7 blocks per game. With his hefty contract, he should be averaging at least a double-double per game.
The former MVP’s play is but a distant memory. After two full years of recovery, Rose still looks like a shell of himself. Sure the Bulls have one of the best records in the league, but it has more to do with the emergence of Jimmy Butler and the acquisition of big man Pau Gasol, then the stellar play from Rose. This season Rose is averaging 18.7 points per game, 4.8 assists per game, and 3.2 rebounds per game, but the real numbers lie in his extremely poor shooting percentage (40.8%) and his careless turnovers per game (3.4).
This is technically Noel’s rookie season even though he was drafted last year by the Philadelphia Sixers, however, due to his injury he was not able to play a single game last year. Had he not gotten injured before the draft, many believed that Noel was a lock to be the number one pick, so the expectations on Noel were very high from the beginning. However, Noel is a poor rebounder and he is even more of a poor offensive threat. Even on the extremely thin Sixers team, Noel only averages 8.1 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game.
The Dragon’s numbers are down all across the board with the addition of Isaiah Thomas off the bench and the health of Eric Bledsoe. Out of the three guards, Dragic has had the hardest time adjusting to this deep 3-guard line-up. This season, Dragic is averaging 16.3 points per game, 4.0 assists per game, and 3.6 rebounds per game. The rumor is that Dragic may leave the Suns this summer for a team where he can get more consistent playing time like he used to last year.
With the departure of LeBron James, this was Wade’s chance to prove to everyone that this was his team again and that he could be the best guy on a playoff team. And the numbers are certainly there with an average of 21.4 points per game, 5.4 assists per game, and 3.8 rebounds per game. Unfortunately, the numbers weren’t the reason why LeBron James left, the real reason was because Wade can’t stay healthy enough to play in games, and that puts a tremendous amount of pressure on everyone else; a load that LeBron could no longer carry. Wade's already missed 14 games this year and the Hear are sevcn games below .500.
Tony Parker is having one of his worst seasons in recent memory. Fresh off winning a championship, the Spurs wanted to do what they have never done before and that is repeat for a championship. However, the engine that runs the team has been in and out of the line-up all season long, and when he does play, something looks really off. This season Parker is averaging 14.2 points per game, 4.7 assists per game, and 1.8 rebounds per game, which is down all across the board. The more worrisome part is that he can’t seem to finish in the paint like he once used to.
With the departure of Lance Stephenson and the devastating injury to Paul George, many believed that the Pacers would resort to a half-court offense where they pounded the ball even more to Roy Hibbert and David West. Unfortunately, Hibbert has been extremely passive on offense. This season, Hibbert is averaging 11.3 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game, and 1.8 blocks per game on a very depleted Pacers team. If he can’t inflate his numbers on a bad team, maybe this is as good as Hibbert will ever be.
Words cannot explain the debacle that is Deron Williams. At one point in his career, he was arguably the best point guard in the NBA. Today, he can’t even start on his own team, and has been supplanted by Jarrett Jack. This season, the disgruntled point guard is averaging 13.9 points per game, 6.1 assists per game, and 3.0 rebounds per game on a Nets team that has an abysmal record of 20-28 in the heavily diluted Atlantic Division.
Remember all that talk about the Triangle Offense and Jose Calderon being able to fix the offensive problems of the New York Knicks? No? Neither do we. This was the year that Calderon no longer had to look behind his back for a younger point guard to take half his minutes, but Calderon has not been able to take advantage of all of the playing time that he has received. This season, he is only averaging 9.2 points per game, 4.5 assists per game, and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Lin was going back to Cali where he was hand-gifted the starting point guard position, in addition to 30 minutes per game. No longer did he have to deal with the pesty Patrick Beverley during practice. Instead, he was going to play in front of a 40-year-old point guard that could tutor and mentor him. Unfortunately, Nash was forced to sit out the entire season and Lin now finds himself in the same position as last year, on the bench. This season Lin is averaging 10.4 points per game and 4.7 assists per game.
At one point in his career, Lopez was dubbed the best center in the game by Shaq. However, this season, he finds himself in the same position as his point guard Deron Williams – on the bench. Lopez lost his starting spot to Mason Plumlee who has been taking advantage of his new situation. This season, the somewhat healthy big man is only averaging 15.3 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 1.6 blocks per game in 27.2 minutes per game.
The Cavs have won 12 games in a row, but Love still looks lost on offense. He was always lost on defense, but offense was supposed to be his forte. However, he has been regulated to a glorified Ryan Anderson at this point in the Cavs offensive schemes. Yes, he is averaging 17.0 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game, but unless Love gets more comfortable on offense, the Cavs won’t last in the playoffs. And no, the answer is not to have LeBron come off the bench.
This man led the league in triple-doubles last year. This year, he finds himself on the bench of the lowly Charlotte Hornets who are somehow in a playoff spot. This season, he is averaging 9.3 points per game, 4.9 assists per game, and 5.8 rebounds per game. This was supposed to be the year that the 24-year-old matured a bit more physically and in terms of his skillset, but that hasn’t really happened so far. If the Hornets want to hold onto their playoff spot, they'll need Stephenson to pick up his game quickly.
When every team that you leave does dramatically better after you leave, you can’t point the finger at anyone else anymore. At a certain point, you have to start looking at yourself. Furthermore, when a team pays 90% of your salary to leave the team, that is a red flag. This season Smith is averaging 12.0 points per game, 3.6 assists per game, and 6.6 rebounds per game. The 12 points a game are far off the 18.8 points per game he averaged in 2011-12.