The NBA is beginning to take shape this season, with the 76ers looking like the team to beat in the East and the Los Angeles teams are dominating the West. This had us thinking, which teams have disappointed us in the NBA so far this season?
With the season still in its infancy, there’s a lot of ‘ball still to be played but so far these three teams have stood out to us for all the wrong reasons.
In the offseason, the Rockets traded point guard Chris Paul and two first-round picks to acquire former MVP Russell Westbrook giving Houston on paper a strong core of Westbrook, Harden and Capela. Unsurprisingly, the Rockets have struggled to gel instantly as two high volume shooting players in Harden and Westbrook have struggled to efficiently move the basketball. When coupled with Harden’s poor early season field goal percentage (38.1%) it starts to paint a picture as to why the Rockets are situated 8th in the Western Conference.
Harden, Westbrook Partnership
So far, the Rockets have gone 4-3 with wins against New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards, OKC and Memphis Grizzlies. Despite the firepower at their disposal, Houston has struggled to blow teams away this season, with their largest winning margin coming against the Grizzlies (7 points).
In their wins, so far this season James Harden has finished the highest points scorer in every game he has played, but his field goal percentage is way below his career average, something that was evident when he went 8/29 from the field against the Pelicans. Harden is the focal point of the offence with Westbrook as the secondary scoring option, working more as a facilitator. This pairing appears to be working very effectively in an offensive capacity. The story drastically changes when we look at the team from a defensive point of view.
No Three or D
The losses Houston have faced have been borderline embarrassing. They have suffered defeats at the hands of the Bucks, Nets and Heat with the latter being a 100-129 blowout. Currently, the Rockets are the third highest-scoring team in the NBA averaging 119.3 Points Per Game. Although, this is heavily negated by the fact they rank dead last in opposition points per game giving up on average 123.1 points ranking them 29th/30 in the NBA.
The calibre of teams they have played so far does not warrant giving up that many points. The Bucks have been the biggest test Houston has faced so far. The Rockets 4-3 record is a little concerning given that before the season began many were tipping them to be a contender for the NBA title. Perhaps that pressure has hindered the start for the Rockets as Westbrook and Harden have appeared to struggle in high-pressure playoff games in the past.
Can we write the Rockets off?
The Rockets still have a lot of work to do if they are to mount a serious threat this season. Head coach Mike D’Antoni must find a solution to the defensive frailties the Rockets are displaying on a nightly basis. They have the stars and firepower to be a serious contender in the West this season and could mount a challenge in the postseason but so far, the Rockets have struggled.
Some people will think there is no expectation of the Brooklyn nets this season as they don’t have one of the three best basketballers on the planet playing, but D’Angelo Russell managed to carry the Nets to the playoffs last season, so is there a hint of pressure on Kyrie to do the same?
Brooklyn instantly put themselves into the conversation for the 2020-2021 NBA championship when they signed both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets will be without Durant for the entire 2019-2020 season due to injury, giving Kyrie a honeymoon year with the Nets with no expectation of success. Although, Brooklyn fans will still expect the team to make the Playoffs after D’Angelo Russell managed to take them to the 6th seed where the 76ers would beat them in five games.
A fresh start?
Looking at their results so far this season Brooklyn sits at 3-4 and have been beaten twice in overtime against the Timberwolves and Grizzlies. It appears they do struggle to close out games even with one of the greatest closers in NBA history, Kyrie Irving.
In this loss to the Grizzlies, Brooklyn allowed NBA rookie Ja Morant to drop 30 points in 32 minutes, including a layup that tied the game with five seconds left on the clock. If Brooklyn is to make the playoffs again this season, they must take advantage of winnable games like Memphis and Detroit – two teams which Brooklyn finished with a better record than last season.
D’Loading vs Kyrie
When compared to last season the Nets had a similar record of 2-4 but had played a much higher calibre of teams in that period including a Golden State Warriors that still featured Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant and a New Orleans Pelicans team that was led by Anthony Davis. This seasons Nets faced the Pelicans at the Barclays Center, winning 135-125. The Nets now begin a five-game road trip where they will face tests such as the Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets. If the Nets can pick up some wins on the road then they should have no problem making the playoffs this year but losing can be a difficult habit to break especially in the NBA where the games come thick and fast.
How is Brooklyn underachieving?
Next season they could be a real force in the NBA with Kyrie and Durant but last year D’Angelo Russell led the Nets to the playoffs and stole a game from the 76ers on the road. Therefore, the minimum expectation for Brooklyn this season must be the playoffs, they have made trades that have immensely improved their standing within the NBA and so far, it appears their results have slightly regressed.
The Bucks have last year’s MVP amongst their ranks and currently boast a record of 5-2 with respectable losses to Boston and an inform Miami team who narrowly edged out the Bucks, so how have they been disappointing this season?
For Milwaukee, the disappointment started in the offseason. After reaching the Eastern Conference finals and losing to eventual NBA finals winners, Toronto Raptors, in six gruelling games the Bucks were immediately rated one of the top teams in the NBA, this was only compounded when Kawhi Leonard left the Raptors for LA leaving it a three-way battle in the East between the 76ers, Celtics and Bucks. So how have Milwaukee already disappointed us this season?
This offseason should have been huge for the franchise with the reigning MVP on their roster, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and retaining the services of small forward Khris Middleton. Milwaukee was in a position to make a real push for the finals this year by adding some rotational three and D guys who were available in free agency. The Bucks did add an ageing Kyle Korver to their ranks, who can light up from outside the arc but the lack of 3-point scoring options in this Bucks roster could prove to be their undoing once again like it was in last season’s Eastern Conference finals.
As we enter an age in the NBA where you need at least two or three elite level players Milwaukee could be in a real danger of losing Giannis when his free agency comes around in 2021. Antetokounmpo could grow tired of being let down by the Bucks who are failing to provide him with a team to challenge for the NBA finals.
Will Milwaukee regret not getting shooters round Giannis?
So far this season the Bucks have had a strong start mainly down to the Antetokounmpo, who has set an all-time NBA record by recording 160 points, 80 rebounds and 40 assists in the opening six games. Although the Bucks early season form is fair, it has included losses to conference rivals Miami and Boston, one of which is guaranteed to be a top-three seed at the end of the season.
Boston is the only real challenge Milwaukee has faced but they now head West on a four-game road trip which will be a test as they face Kawhi’s Clippers and Donovan Mitchell’s Jazz. If the Bucks can take a few scalps on this run, then their season will be well underway but as for now, the Milwaukee hype train should still be at the station because the front office hasn’t provided a generational talent with the resources to succeed.