INSIDER : Biggest Disappointments So Far

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FightOnRon
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We made the cut for dissapoinments

Not all of the surprises in the 2013-14 season's first two weeks have been positive. Today, let's complement Monday's list of surprises with the most disappointing performances thus far.

The East's top tier

The West was expected to have the upper hand in the interconference battle -- and so far it has won 63.3 percent of all East-West matchups (19-11) -- but more because of its depth and the lottery-bound teams at the bottom of the East standings than superiority at the top. Instead, despite the Indiana Pacers' undefeated start, the best of the West have been far better than their East counterparts. In terms of point differential adjusted for schedule, the West has five of the top six teams in the league, seven of the top nine and 10 of the top 14.

Aside from the Pacers, the other four teams picked atop the East have all struggled early on, going a combined 12-14. The Miami Heat's inconsistent effort and the Chicago Bulls' difficulty incorporating a rusty Derrick Rose will likely resolve themselves, but the poor starts by the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks (both 2-4) are more troubling. The Nets have been outscored by 2.8 points per game. After Sunday's blowout at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks' minus-4.8 differential ranks 24th in the league -- far worse than even SCHOENE's dire 37-45 projection. Suddenly, the Atlantic Division -- currently led by Boston and Philadelphia, both 4-4 -- looks wide open.

Kevin Garnett

There have been plenty of culprits for Brooklyn's disappointment so far, but none more worrisome than Garnett's play. At age 37, Garnett no longer looks like the valuable-but-limited player he was last season, let alone the superstar he was in his prime.

This season, Garnett has looked every bit the 37-year-old that he is.

So far, Garnett has rated 0.4 wins worse than replacement level. He's making just a third of his 2-point attempts, having taken two-thirds of them outside the painted area. Garnett simply isn't capable of creating easy scores inside at this point.

More troubling is Garnett's apparent defensive decline. As recently as last year, he rated as one of the league's most important defenders in terms of net plus-minus. But this season's Nets, as Zach Lowe noted yesterday, have allowed 11.0 more points per 100 possessions with KG on the floor -- a discrepancy that can't be blamed on rotations. Garnett remains elite on the glass but isn't moving quickly enough to be in the right place at the right time on D.

Kyrie Irving

After calling Irving the league's most overrated player a few weeks ago, I run the danger of appearing to pick on him. However, Irving belongs on this list for an entirely different reason -- he hasn't yet provided the elite offense that makes him so promising despite his defensive shortcomings.

Irving's true shooting percentage has slipped from .553 to .457 because of declines across the board. He's not shooting as well from 3-point range after making better than 39 percent of his attempts the past two seasons, is getting to the free throw line less often and has struggled to finish inside. Irving's in-between game has been particularly absent. After making 38.9 percent of shots in the paint but away from the rim last season, per NBA.com/Stats, Irving has gone 5 of 27 (18.5 percent) so far this year. His shooting is sure to rebound, and a Cavaliers team that currently ranks 29th in offensive rating badly needs that to happen.

Los Angeles Clippers' defense

Several contenders have struggled with defense early, none more so than the Clippers, who rank 29th in points allowed per 100 possessions. While the Clippers slipped down the stretch and in the playoffs, they were ninth in the league in defense a year ago. They haven't been this bad defensively since posting the NBA's worst defensive rating in 1999-2000, when, suffice it to say, expectations weren't this high in Clipperland. The Clippers, who led the league in forcing turnovers a year ago, are 20th so far this season and miss Eric Bledsoe's pressure defense. The idea that L.A. would sacrifice some steals for sounder rotations has yet to materialize, as opponents have made more shots in the restricted area (156) against the Clippers than any team in the NBA.

Since the Clippers have been as advertised offensively, ranking second in points scored per 100 possessions, there's a real chance they could join the 1978-79 Houston Rockets and 1981-82 Denver Nuggets as teams that combined the NBA's best offense with its worst defense. As of now, the Clippers' offense (8.9 percent better than league average) is 14.2 percent better than their defense (5.3 percent worse than league average), larger than any imbalance in NBA history. The Heat (13.9 percent better on offense), though, also have been more imbalanced than the previous record holder, the 2003-04 Dallas Mavericks (13.8 percent).

Tyreke Evans

Here's the good news: New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams hasn't had to worry about finding enough playing time for Evans as a sixth man. That's because Evans, who got a four-year, $44-million deal from the Pelicans last summer, hasn't been worth keeping on the floor at all.

Evans has contributed little to the Pelicans, and his role is murky.

Evans is making just 33.9 percent of his 2-point attempts and had gotten to the free throw line a paltry eight times in 157 minutes -- barely a third of last season's rate -- before taking seven in Tuesday's lopsided loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Worse yet, Evans has had a tough time coexisting with point guard Jrue Holiday when they've been on the floor together, which has reduced Evans to a spot-up shooter averaging just 9.9 points per 36 minutes. It's tough to see how Evans fits in New Orleans, especially with Eric Gordon healthy and productive thus far.

Minnesota's bench

The Minnesota Timberwolves have managed to start the season 5-3 with a robust plus-6.0 point differential despite -- not because of -- their bench. Collectively, Minnesota's reserves have been a full win below replacement level, worst of any team in the NBA. When the Timberwolves have had at least three bench players on the floor, the team has been outscored by 21.4 points per 48 minutes. And head coach Rick Adelman knows it; Minnesota's starting five has played more minutes together than any other lineup.

Help is on the way -- eventually -- when injured wing Chase Budinger returns to provide more perimeter shooting. And center Ronny Turiaf will upgrade the interior defense when his fractured elbow heals. But the Timberwolves have to get better production from slumping J.J. Barea, Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams to keep up their promising start.

Utah's veterans

Granted, expectations weren't high for the likes of Richard Jefferson, John Lucas III and Jamaal Tinsley, but they've been unable to meet them. As Per Diem colleague Tom Haberstroh noted on Twitter, as of Tuesday, all three players were at the very bottom of the NBA leaderboard in estimated wins added, the win-based version of PER. WARP is slightly kinder, though not by much: They've combined for minus-1.1 WARP, undermining the decent play of the Jazz's young core.

Utah waived Tinsley on Tuesday and might replace him with Diante Garrett, according to Marc Stein. Still, things won't really get better until the Jazz get healthy. The return of rookie Trey Burke will ultimately push Lucas to a more appropriate reserve role, and Brandon Rush and Marvin Williams should eat into Jefferson's 25 minutes per game once they're back at full strength.

ClippersDA
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Agreed. Can someone who understands defense break down what is going on?

Amnesty_David_Stern
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There's nothing really to break down. What you witness during the game is pure an utter chaos on defense.

Our guys are constantly going up against mismatches on defense. When your PG or SG is guarding the big guy in the paint, that's a problem. We also seem to not be able to play solid man defense, which is allowing for easy give and go's, or quick cuts to the paint to look like textbook plays for the opposition.

Fact is, CP3 and DJ are the only 2 known defenders on this team. CP3 can't do it all and probably doesn't want to do it all. And while DJ is having a nice year, he's still in need of that entire year of stepping it up under his belt, to really get more credit for what he does. When the team traded Bledsoe away, and traded for / signed guys like Jamison, Redick, Dudley etc. this is what I expected. Tons of scoring, no friggin' defense.

The situation itself is going to become dire when we hit the playoffs. Teams like San Antonio who always plays great fundamental defense will crush us. It'll look like murder out there.

FightOnRon
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Perfect example,Willie guarding LeBron

clipnasty
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I think we need to give it time. The starters D is fine, it cane get better but is 10th in the league right now. The bench is just atrocious on D. Still wondering why we signed BOTH Mullins and Jamison, and not one and a noted defender instead.

Voyeur
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Yeah, they're professions, but it's not something that happens overnight. I like what I'm hearing, especially from Blake. Sounds like they understand the concepts Doc is coaching, and there are times in practice it's apparently perfect. But it takes time in real game situations. I look forward to when they finally have it all together.

CP3Heliflopter
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Starters are doing fine defensively. They are doing good even but the bench is atrocious. Our bench is the worst bench in the league in terms of D.

ClipperDodger1214
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I had a feeling when we traded Bledsoe we were going to have problems creating turnovers. I had no idea we were that bad. 20th after leading the league in turnovers forced last year? That's a problem. No on besides CP3 is able to force a turnover.

Voyeur
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I'm not sure forcing TO's is a big problem. We led the league last year but stunk on toast overall on D in the playoffs. Teams like San Antonio are so solid defensively without necessarily having to force turnovers it works very well for them in the post season. As much as I loved those fast break off turnovers, I think I prefer a more solid defense. Both would be ideal, but still...

As far as others forcing TO's. Blocks count, so DJ helps. Blake averages a steal a game. Barnes has been out and remember he's pretty good with steals. Both Jamal and JJ are capable of a steal each, depending on the game. And I think Collison will get better also.

CP3Heliflopter
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Our defense was season that revolved off forcing turnovers was not a very good one and collapsed in the playoffs and down the stretch.

ohMEohMy!
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agreed.. we thrived off of turnovers last year, but didn't really have a good set halfcourt defense. That is what Doc is trying to build, and I actually see progress. I see Blake and DJ out there trying to make the proper rotations. It just happens that we are still a few steps slow, especially on "helping the helper." It's going to take a while to learn, but we'll be better for it.

Now about that bench.. that's a whole other story, but having a healthy Collison and especially Barnes will help. It would be nice if Reggie saw more playing time 'cause I think he'll develop into a solid perimeter defender.

ClipperDB
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After reading about KG, I am so glad Donald T decided not to trade DJ for KG. (I never thought I would start a sentence "I am so glad Donald T...")

Clippersfan86
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Yup, they don't dig deep enough. Clippers starters are the 9th ranked defense and still aren't gelled. It's the bench destroying our D.

fullcourt
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There is nothing wrong with our defense.

We play in the west

We have played some of the best offensive teams in the league so far in 8 games we have played 5 of the top 10 offensive teams

Our pace is way up over last year so we are going to give up more points but as Doc said the opp fg% is steadily declining we just have to improve our situational defense

I'm at the point where I'm no longer interested in a fast starter or regular season monster. I want this team to be using this time to prepare itself over 82 games for a monster playoff run .

After going undefeated last December someone questioning where our defense is at after 8 games is a head scratcher as this team will not be judged on the regular season.

ClipsGForce
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^I agree with fullcourt!

Defense will be fine in the end of season. I believe in Doc.

CP3Heliflopter
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Our defense is steadily improving but it has been pretty poor even if you are considering the fact that we went against top offensive teams. Still I am not worried. We are showing signs of improvement and like you said we did go against top offensive teams like the Heat, Wolves, GSWs, Rockets x2 so it is a bit misleading. We also had that crap game against the Lakers which was a complete joke. If we get a nice backup big we are set.

Clipswhit
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Let me start off by saying that I'm not a basketball coach or anything, but here are my $0.02

  1. Transition D - This is the area we struggle at most. Our guys do not run back hard enough on defense, and we're often faced with a 3 on 1 or 3 on 2 fast break. Even if we get the initial stop, they have more guys for the easy offensive board and put back.

Which leads me to:

  1. Defensive Rebounding - While Blake and DJ have picked up their rebound nicely, the team has often struggled giving up second, third, and even fourth chances. When an NBA team gets that many opportunities to score the basketball, its pretty much guaranteed they're going to score.

  2. Not so much an issue of effort, but a defensive philosophy. I saw a video breaking down ICE defense on the sideline pick and roll, and it makes a ton of sense. Thibs runs it in Chicago, and his defense is top notch. Basically, when there is a pick and roll on the sideline, the on ball defender forces his man to the sideline. The screeners man covers the area, giving the on ball defender time to fight over the screen without an additional defender having to come help. As it is, the screener's man hedges high on the pick and roll both either side. This is fine when the screen goes to the sideline, but when the ball goes middle and the screener rolls to the sideline, a third defender is forced to come over and help. This causes chaos on the defense, as each man has to read the defense and decide whether they're far enough removed from the play to help the helper. While I love Doc and everything he's brought to this team, I wish he would take a page from his understudy and implement ICE on the sideline p&r.

  3. Not so much an issue of defense, but pace. We're playing at an extremely fast pace, meaning more possessions for both teams. More possessions = more baskets.

  4. We've played some pretty high powered offenses so far. I think we've had one of the toughest opening schedules of any team this season. This definitely contributes to the poor defense, but it shouldn't be this bad.

  5. Time. I think ultimately the guys just need time to adjust to the new system. It takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something, and our guys haven't had nearly enough exposure to this defense.

That's just what my inexperienced eye has seen. If anyone else has seen more, feel free to add on.

FightOnRon
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I'd say someone passed this article around during the half time last night and they took it to heart to prove it wrong.

Agent0
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Technically the Heat have struggled more on defense as they were 28th I believe and they were a finals team, a better defensive team than LAC and have more known defensive guys.

Now that doesn't mean the Clippers haven't struggled, but I think a team that already had the same coach, the same system, same chemistry, has had success, definitely has a better case of being a bigger disappointment in terms of defense. Their baseline expectation was already much higher.

bullterrierclipsfan1349
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The clips haven't put up a whole game effort on d. We saw this last night. 62 pts to the thunder in the first half, only 41 in the second half.

Silasie
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I think that is because they are still learning the system so it hasn't become second nature yet, so concentration can slip. As it become more instinctual it will be more consistent.

loyalclipfan
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we've only lost 3 games and two of those should have been wins, the Lakers and the Orlando Magic.everyone seems to forget, we use to lose a lot of close games and that isn't happening this year so far.I've watched or been at all the games and we still aren't firing on all 8 cylinders most of the time on defense a couple of times on offense we have hence the big scores. Our bench hasn't had Collison and Matt Barnes healthy and a hundred percent yet so with that in mind I think our bench defense and offense will greatly improve as time goes on. As long as we keep winning two out of three of the close matches and winning all the "should win" matches, we will be just fine as the season goes on. This team hasn't even begun to "gel"yet, just be patient and we will be smiling from ear to ear by the Allstar break!

Voyeur
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^

We also would never have won a game last year against Golden State with Curry hitting 9 three pointers.

CP3Heliflopter
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On the flip side we shouldn't lose a game with Paul basically having a historically good game. I believe 40ppg+/15assists+/5stl+ has never been recorded before(though steals were introduced as a stat relatively recently).

toohipcliptoslip
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Read Mullens, Hollins

Agent0
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I can't really say Mullens and Hollins are the biggest disappointment for the reason that they were already low end NBA players. Mullens had been by every count, tangible or intangible a bad NBA player so far, so his baseline was already to be kind of bad. He's not actually underachieving his historical NBA impact / talent level on a good team, he's just not overachieving it, so by that definition, I don't know if he's a disappointment.

I guess he's technically playing worse than in Charlotte, but I think his shooting will balance out a little too cause you can't miss that many open shots that consistently.

Hollins is still the same player, don't think any of us expected more.

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