The 2013/2014 regular season is winding down and many fans are poised to enjoy the upcoming playoffs. One of the main themes of the season has been the imbalance between the Eastern and Western Conferences, with 9 out of the top 11 records being held by Western teams. Many observers have complained about the performances of Eastern Conference teams and have lamented that a Western Conference team with one of the best 11 records in the NBA will miss the playoffs. Given the imbalance in records, one would expect most of the disappointing teams to be in the East and the great stories to be in the West. While the playoff push of the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns have been refreshing, there have been a number of disappointing teams out West.
This article lists the five most disappointing NBA teams so far. Two of these teams play in the Western Conference and one of them will surely play in the playoffs. This list is subjective and it took into account the expectations surrounding these teams before the season started. The worst team in the NBA this season has been the Philadelphia 76ers, but most observers expected them to have the worst record in the NBA. Their over/under for wins this season was 16.5 and they are pretty much where the odds-makers expected them to be and, thus, are not on the list. Teams that have been accused of tanking or under any suspicion have also been omitted from this list as have teams that lost significant players for extended periods of time through injury. The records and statistics in this article are valid as of April 2nd, 2014.
5. Golden State Warriors
The most surprising and exciting team of the 2013 NBA playoffs had to be Golden State. The Warriors were last season’s sixth seed and upset the Denver Nuggets in the first round in five games before narrowly losing to the San Antonio Spurs. Last season’s playoffs showcased how exciting the team was and how good a player Stephen Curry had developed into. The following summer the Warriors signed Andre Iguodala and had David Lee return to full health after being injured in the playoffs. Most prognosticators believed the Warriors had a punchers chance to win the 2014 NBA title and at least expected them to challenge for the Western Conference championship.
Unfortunately, the Warriors have not lived up to those expectations. They currently lie in sixth place in the Western Conference with a record of 45-28 and are a safe bet to make the playoffs. However, any early season belief that this team would challenge for the NBA title have been extinguished and they are only two games ahead of the ninth placed Memphis Grizzlies. The team is only 24-13 at home despite enjoying one of the best home courts in the league. They routinely find themselves in large deficits in games and have a penchant for turning the ball over carelessly. There also has been some turmoil behind the scenes and most observers believe head coach Mark Jackson will not be the coach next season. This was a team many expected to have a chance at getting to the Western Conference Finals, but it would be a surprise if they made it out of the first round.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves have one of the NBA’s best players on their roster in Kevin Love. Love is averaging 26.0 PPG and 12.6 RPG this season. Yet the team is only 36-37 and has been virtually eliminated from playoff contention. This season actually is an improvement for the Timberwolves as they have not won more than 35 games since the 2004/2005 season when they won 44 games. Yet despite the All-Star play from Love and the addition of wing scorer Kevin Martin, the Timberwolves are destined to miss the playoffs again. Another reason the Timberwolves have been disappointing this year is they have actually been statistically good. They have the ninth best point differential in the league which is higher than the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns, which are the teams directly above them in the standings. Their coach is Rick Adelman who has made two NBA Finals appearances and has won over 1000 regular season games.
Last season, observers expected the team to make the playoffs but they only won 31 games as Love missed the majority of the season. This season he has been healthy and productive, which makes their plight somewhat surprising. In the NBA, having one dominant player is often enough for a team to make the playoffs or at least come close. The Timberwolves are the exception to this trend and Love has never even finished with a .500 record in his career and may not do so this season.
3. New York Knicks
The 2013 NBA season was a highly successful one for the New York Knicks. The Knicks posted a 54-28 record, won the Atlantic Division title and managed to win a playoff series for the first time since the 2000 NBA playoffs. After the season, several key veterans such as Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas left the team. Their key off-season move was trading for Andrea Bargnani. Most observers expected the Knicks to take a step back as other Eastern Conference teams such as the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers were expected to challenge the Miami Heat for a place in the NBA Finals. What nobody expected was the Knicks to be struggling to make the playoffs in a really weak Eastern Conference.
The Knicks currently sit in ninth place in the conference with a record of 31-43. Their season has been marred with turmoil. Their owner James Dolan put unrealistic expectations on the team by stating he expected them to win the NBA title this season. Head coach Mike Woodson has been rumored to be fired throughout the season. The team’s second best player, J.R. Smith, has been inconsistent and at times insubordinate. In their desperation to turn around the direction of the franchise and keep free agent Carmelo Anthony, the team decided to hire Phil Jackson as their President for $12 million a season. Even if the Knicks make the playoffs, they would have to face the Pacers or the Heat in the first round and will most likely be eliminated.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
The 2013/2014 season was expected to be a positive one for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team had just landed the number one overall pick in the 2014 draft and selected Anthony Bennett. Bennett was expected to join a young core of high draft picks including Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and all-star guard Kyrie Irving. Some observers went so far as to say that if the the Cavaliers had a good season and showed promise, they could be a potential destination for LeBron James in free agency. Implicit in all these projections was the expectation of the Cavaliers making the playoffs.
The Cavaliers are currently tenth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 30-45 and have had an ugly season. Their chemistry has been off from day one and rumors have surfaced of infighting within the team. At one point the team was trying to trade Dion Waiters because he and star guard Kyrie Irving did not get along. The effort of the team has been inconsistent and has been questioned multiple times by head coach Mike Brown. For most of the season their number one pick seemed like he did not know how to play basketball and they also fired their general manager, Chris Grant. Even if the Cavaliers manage to sneak into the playoffs, there is little chance LeBron James will return to the franchise. It is more likely disgruntled star Kyrie Irving leaves when he reaches unrestricted free agency.
1. Detroit Pistons
This season’s most disappointing team has to be the Detroit Pistons. Before the NBA season started almost every pundit or analyst expected the Pistons to make the playoffs. Their was a feel good factor around the franchise with the hiring of new coach Maurice Cheeks and the acquisition of free agents Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith. Coupled with the development of young big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, the Pistons would not have surprised anyone if they were the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
The only positive thing to take out of this season is the play of second year center Drummond who has emerged as one of the leagues best young big men and is second in the league in rebounding with 12.8 RPG. Far from being the sixth seed, the Pistons currently lie in eleventh place with a record of 27-47. The team has had trouble stopping opponents from scoring at will, and allow the fourth most points per game this season. Their key off-season signings, Jennings and Smith, do not seem to enjoy sharing the ball and have been amongst the most disappointing players this season. Maurice Cheeks got fired after just 50 games. The Pistons are 5-18 since he was replaced and sunk to a new low when they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers on March 29th, a team that had lost its previous 26 games.