NBA Eastern Conference Finalists a year ago, the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have shocked basketball pundits with their poor showing this season. It’s been months since the 2020-21 campaign started and yet these two teams have failed to impress.
But the Heat and Celtics aren’t the only teams who have disappointed both fans and critics.
5 Teams that have failed to impress in the 2020-21 NBA season
While ballclubs like the Utah Jazz (35-11) and Phoenix Suns (31-14) have surprised us in a good way, various other squads have (or had) the personnel to compete for a playoff spot but are now on the outside looking in.
Here are our 5 most disappointing NBA teams so far this 2020-21 season.
5. Washington Wizards
When the oft-injured John Wall was traded for the disgruntled Russell Westbrook, it was regarded by many as a lopsided deal in the Washington Wizards’ favor. By replacing the five-time All-Star with the 2017 NBA MVP, the Wizards were expected to be a playoff contender after pairing him with a scoring machine in Bradley Beal.
Instead, coach Scott Brooks and his team are 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 17-28 record. The Wizards are 21st in offensive rating at 109.2, even with the NBA’s scoring leader (Beal, 31.3 ppg) and the second-best assist man (Westbrook, 10.2 apg) in tow.
Washington can score (114.4 ppg, 10th best) but they are a middle-of-the-pack shooting team (46.7% overall, 15th) and lowly 3-point marksmen (34.8%, 26th).
Defensively, they give up an NBA-worst 119.4 points per game to the opposition.
4. New Orleans Pelicans
Coach Stan Van Gundy was supposed to be the one move in the offseason that would catapult the New Orleans Pelicans to the playoffs. Plus, Brandon Ingram was fresh off his first NBA All-Star selection with Zion Williamson living up to expectations as a rookie. They were supposed to be in the thick of the fight for a postseason berth this season.
Instead, the Pelicans have a 21-25 record (12th in the Western Conference) and are in danger of not making the playoffs if they don’t address their defensive issues. Currently, they are 28th in defensive rating (115.5) and are giving up 114.7 points (25th) to the opposition. That’s not the mark of a postseason team, much less one that will go deep in the playoffs.
The good news is that their offense is among the NBA’s finest which could eventually turn things around for them.
3. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets retooled their roster in the offseason with the acquisitions of John Wall and Christian Wood as well as the signing of DeMarcus Cousins. These were supposed to be the latest supporting cast members to James Harden, the undisputed franchise player.
But everything unraveled after the 2018 NBA MVP decided he’d had enough of losing in the postseason in a Rockets uniform and wanted a change of scenery. This set off a series of unfortunate events:
- Harden speaks out against the team
- Rockets trade Harden for draft picks, Caris LeVert
- LeVert traded for Victor Oladipo
- Cousins is bought out
- Wood sprains right ankle twice
- Oladipo rejects Rockets extension
- John Wall injures knee in practice
- Rockets go on a 20-game losing streak
- Oladipo traded for Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, 2022 pick swap
There are many minor details that have been left off the summary above but you get the picture. Instead of making the NBA playoffs, Houston is languishing near the bottom of the standings with a 13-33 record, saved only by the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 11-36.
2. Boston Celtics
After making the conference finals last season and being the only Eastern team that was able to defeat the Heat twice in the playoffs, the Celtics were supposed to be better this year.
What raised expectations was not just the signing of NBA champion Tristan Thompson and veteran guard Jeff Teague in the offseason. It was also the fact that their core of Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum would be playing together for another year.
But Walker missed the start of the new NBA season and Marcus Smart was injured for a lengthy period, causing the Celtics to stumble and lose their footing. They are a game below .500 with an embarrassing 23-24 record and a defensive rating worse than 20 other teams despite having excellent individual defenders on their roster.
1. Miami Heat
The Heat’s improbable run to the 2020 NBA Finals propelled the expectations for their 2020-21 season. They were projected to be one of the top four teams in the East, with some thinking they could hold a top-two position by season’s end. With more than half the season gone, the Heat are far from being the NBA’s Beast of the East.
Coach Erik Spoelstra experimented early in the season with different starting lineups on an almost game-by-game basis, resulting in an inconsistent performance by his team. After 21 games, they had a 7-14 record that left them out of the NBA Playoff picture during the first week of February.
Twenty-six games later, the Heat have improved but are still barely hanging on to the eighth spot with a 23-24 mark. They are the exact opposite of the Pelicans, in that they are great defensively (7th in defensive rating) but are terrible offensively (25th in offensive rating).