We’re a good 10-12 games into the season and now it’s time to start making assessments. At least us, the writers, say that it’s time so we have something substantial to write about and overreact to minor trends. However, along with insignificant trends, we can see some very real patterns around and we should most certainly assess them. So, let’s discuss the state of some teams that that appear to be in a free fall and assess whether or not it’s time for the fans to ring the alarm.
It seems that the Kings are in the perpetual state of dysfunction. I’m fairly sure that looking up the definition of the word online basically brings up the team long along with a picture of DeMarcus Cousins.
The team has been working through coaches like an advertising agency churns through interns. They bring them in, suck their soul, make them a doormat for DeMarcus and spit them out. Given the conflict with Karl, Kings seemingly had to make a decision of parting with either Karl, Cousins or both in a Utah Jazz situation. Yet it did neither.
Instead, the Kings picked it up a bit, winning a few games, leaning on phenomenal performances from both Cousins and Rondo (I think they told him that every Kings game is nationally televised now) who seems to be running through triple-doubles like connect four wins.
While the Kings do look significantly better and cohesive, the history between Cousins and Karl will lurk should they slip again and Vlade unable to pull the trigger one way or another will ultimately cost this team.
Crisis level: six snakes in the grass.
New Orleans Pelicans
The one theme for most season previews for the Pels was everyone stating that “they cannot sustain anymore injuries.” So what happened? They got more injuries.
With all the personnel turnover we expected that this team would take a while get into the groove, but it never got there. Without their best ball handler and slasher in Tyreke Evans, the heat are unable to generate the necessary offence. More so, they often leave Anthony Davis on an island, forcing him to create for himself without proper facilitation. Eric Gordon coming around has helped a bit, but still not enough.
Given the personnel, the defensive numbers are more disheartening however. This team is allowing a whopping 109.9 points per game on .477% shooting (.509% from 2). It seems that they’re unable to fill the gaps around Davis to protect the paint. The 1-11 hole is huge, even more so in the West, and it’s hard to see this team getting to the 45 games needed to make it to conference finals
Crisis level: rapid free-fall
Memphis have slid out of the playoff picture with a 6-6 start, getting clowned by Warriors in the process. Their defensive numbers are slipping slightly from what we used to seeing out of grit and grind and that’s the major area for concern. Conley and Gasol are still good enough to work the pick and role and alternate as distributors, but defensively they seemed a step to slow.
More so, they’re unable to generate offence with some of their key spacing options being sluggish. That was quickly remedied with sliding Jeff Green in for a struggling Courtney Lee and trading for Chalmers, which seemed to improve their ability to space the floor.
That said, I still think that their troubles are more from a rough schedule than a drop in skill and they will level out. Conley and Gasol are still close enough to their prime and Z-Bo’s game never really relied on athleticism so as long as he can get off the floor for those two inches. This team will steady itself out.
Crisis Level: Zach Randolph at an all-you-can-eat buffet (pretty standard)
Houston is the most puzzling presence on this list. I called Houston as the dark horse team to make it of the West despite all of my distaste for their mathematical approach to basketball. But so far this team has been horrible to say the least, dropping significantly from last year’s benchmark. What’s more is the 3 point shot is not falling at all (.293%) and if you ever watched a full Houston game (it’s hard without falling asleep, I know) you know how essential that is to their offence.
All of these issues come back to James Harden who is looking increasingly disinterested on defence as well as shooting a career low .263% from three. Yes, he is still extremely effective in getting to the line and spacing the floor, but he seems a lot less engaged, at least he did under McHale. How bad is Harden right now? So bad that Bill Simmons, the all time record holder for number of times a journalist mentions the James Harden trade in any and all articles, has stated that he may be willing to reconsider his view of the James Harden Trade.
What’s more is they can’t space the floor as the shooters are not hitting their shots and/or hurt. Getting DoMo back should help, and sliding Beverly back into the starting line up should level things out. The Lawson experiment has been a complete and total disaster so far. He’s posting career lows across the board and is actually matching his rookie year PPG at 8.3. The problem is, he just isn’t as dynamic as they need him to be or as they envisioned when the trade was made.
The team is however talented enough, and good enough, to get it together and pull back into the playoff race. Hopefully the coaching change can rejuvenate this squad and get them back into the conversation.
Crisis level: tepid.
Los Angeles Lakers
This really shouldn’t be a surprise at all as the Lakers are in a midst of one of the worst seasons in franchise history, anchored by Kobe’s historically awful shooting performance for such high usage (which he at least acknowledges). The problem lies elsewhere.
The team is poorly constructed and lacks identity. It is clear that they do not have the talent needed to survive in the West, but they do have young talent that could use development and minutes across the board. Minnesota, Philadelphia, New York and Denver are all giving their top rookies minutes in crunch time. None of the teams are in a position to be winning right now, so they might as well give the experience to their marquee picks for the future.
Byron Scott on the other hand has a learning disability, or a mixed directive from the Buss Family. Possibly a mixture of both. D’Angelo Russell, while not inspiring in his performances, continues to sit. The Lakers should realistically be running their top rookie into the ground across the board, giving him all the minutes he can handle. Instead, they’re giving that time to a disinterested Lou Williams, who cashed his check and checked out around game three.
Crisis Level: Burn it all down.
This is just a sad situation all around. Brooklyn realistically might as well do as well as they can (which isn’t that good anyways) because they have 0 of their own picks for the next few years. Maybe Brook plays good, maybe he gets enough value for a late lottery or high 10s pick. Maybe there is a glimpse of hope. Otherwise, this is a team that is going to willow in misery for a few more years until the light comes.
Crisis Level: Billy King
The other night they tried to play with six players on the court. That is all. At least Fatty Jah still has the silky smooth footwork of Baryshnikov.
Crisis Level: Eternal