The NBA season is over a quarter of the way through, with most teams having played roughly 25 games already. The excitement is bound to pick up with the NFL approaching the end of their season, the Christmas Day NBA slate fast approaching, and All-Star Weekend and the trade deadline just around the corner.
That being said, there’s already been plenty of excitement to go around for most teams in the NBA. A few, however, have given their fans more to worry about than to be happy about. Let’s get into the five (plus one) most disappointing teams so far this NBA season.
Honorable Mention: Denver Nuggets | (12-13) Western Conference 8th Seed
The Nuggets have been a regular-season powerhouse for the last few seasons, so it’s strange to see them towards the bottom of the playoff race. However, it’s not really their fault that two starters, both potential fringe-All-Stars, have been lost for most – if not all – of the season. Jamal Murray is fighting his way back from a torn ACL, while Michael Porter Jr. has recently been ruled out for the season due to a back injury. They’re below what we’re used to seeing, but it’s hard to claim this beaten-down roster is underperforming given what they now have to work with.
5) Philadelphia 76ers | (14-12) Eastern Conference 7th Seed
The Sixers had title hopes coming into the season with a superstar center in Joel Embiid and an impressive cast of supporting players. However, it seems the ongoing drama with Ben Simmons mixed with a bout of COVID-19 for Embiid has derailed the early portion of their season to some extent.
They are still easily in the playoff race and tied with the team currently in 6th out East, but they’ve been known as a potential Top 3 seed in their conference for several years now. Embiid’s return to form after his illness will help them regain their form as the season progresses, but it’s not been a welcome start to the season for Philly fans.
4) Los Angeles Lakers | (13-13) Western Conference 7th Seed
It’s rare for a team possessing LeBron James to be so low in the playoff race. It’s even rarer when you consider the other two superstars on his team in Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, not to mention the Hall of Fame cast of role players like Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard coming off the bench. The Lakers are still right at .500 and only a few wins away from avoiding the play-in game altogether, but avoiding the play-in game was likely not the primary goal to open this season.
The Lakers – thought to be a title favorite before the season started – have struggled to find their respective roles within the team so far this season. It doesn’t help that James and a few other rotation players have been in and out of the lineup with injuries and illnesses, but the same can be said for many teams in the association this season. They make this list for the struggles and their record, but they’re low on this list for the simple fact that they have LeBron James and there’s a very small chance that they don’t figure things out soon.
3) Portland Trailblazers | (11-15) Western Conference 11th Seed
Portland has been on the brink of contention seemingly ever since Damian Lillard got to town. Over the past couple of years, they’ve dealt with injuries and a high rate of replacing role players each season, but this season looks to be different. Lillard has been dealing with some sort of abdominal issue that has hindered his performance more than we’re used to seeing. Combine this with a sudden collapsed lung from CJ McCollum, and the Blazers are in trouble – both as a team and from a health standpoint. We wish the best for all involved.
Focusing on the basketball aspect of these developments, the Blazers are currently outside of the play-in game and don’t seem to have much hope for a drastic improvement any time soon. If Lillard can overcome his lingering issue and McCollum makes a full recovery, they could be fighting for their lives down the stretch of the season just to earn a spot in the play-in tournament, not something we’re used to seeing from this Portland squad.
2) Boston Celtics | (13-13) Eastern Conference 10th Seed
The Celtics are another team that has been struck by injuries with their All-Star wing, Jaylen Brown, missing exactly half of his team’s games already on the young season. Even when Brown is present, the leader of this Celtic squad, Jayson Tatum, has seemingly taken a step backward this season.
It’s not a drastic step back, and definitely not something that can’t be overcome, but his efficiency is on pace for a career-low while his points per game average is almost a full point less than it was last year. He’s also regressed in creating opportunities for his teammates, generating steals, and protecting the ball – posting a career-high in turnovers per game and fouls per game this season. The Celtics have a championship-hopeful roster. They’re not a team that should be worried about avoiding the play-in tournament.
1) Indiana Pacers | (11-16) Eastern Conference 13th Seed
After six consecutive post-season appearances, rumors of a full rebuild are circulating in Indiana. Like most teams, they’ve dealt with their fair share of injuries this season, starting with a worrisome back injury to newly acquired Caris LeVert just before the season started. With their relatively young core of Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, and LeVert, this Pacers team looked poised for a big year in which they competed at the top of the Eastern Conference and made noise in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, they are closer to breaking up the band than they are to even achieving the play-in game. The rumors have already begun that Myles Turner is unhappy and ready to move on, as well as quieter rumors of the Pacers shopping other key players like Sabonis. A team that falls from “young core with playoff potential” to “full rebuild” definitely qualifies for a Most Disappointing Teams list such as this one.
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