NBA 2013-14: The 3 most surprising and disappointing teams of this season
Every season has teams either stepping up to the plate, surprising everyone with their performances as well as those who crumble under the might of expectations and fail to deliver the goods.
As training camp begins towards the end of September, articles on team previews start to show up, predictions for the league standings are released and so on. However it’s a 30-team league and you are bound to get it wrong for more than one team.
So with just a couple of days left for the grinding 82-game regular season to come to a close this would be a safe time to name the top teams under categories of failure and surprise for this season.
With the personnel at Head Coach Jeff Hornacek’s disposal on the roster and to achieve the success that they have this season certainly makes them deserving of the top spot in this category. Though they might miss the Playoffs if the Memphis Grizzlies hold on to the last spot in the West, a record of 47-33 is a huge leap from last season’s conference worst 25-57.
The back court of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic have been the leaders behind the Phoenix Suns making such a giant leap in the standings. Credit also needs to be given to their head coach for keeping them focused and motivated even when Bledsoe was out with a knee injury in January and February.
At one time in the season they were going toe to toe with the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder for the best record in the West, but fatigue and injuries seem to have led to an inconsistent past two months. The roster has been more or less the same as compared to last season and that is precisely the reason why fans across the league are surprised to see them so far up in the standings, battling for home court advantage.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, the duo of the early season MVP candidate and last season’s Rookie of the Year, has been the combo who, along with the all-round play, have been key behind the transformation of the Trailblazers.
Unlike the Trailblazers, the Toronto Raptors had major roster changes with the departure of Andrea Bargnani in the off-season, and the trade of Rudy Gay mid-season, but their success after November has been quite consistent.
Their success can’t be attributed to one person, or a duo or a trio, it has been a movement in the right direction for the franchise from every dimension. There is no All-Star in their roster, although DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry certainly deserved to get a nod in the reserves. Head Coach Dwane Casey’s coaching deserves a lot of applause.
Casey has been a huge reason behind the Raptors’ success, although he isn’t alone behind their turnaround, because the contribution of General Manger and 2013 NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri cannot be taken lightly. He has got them the right pieces on the roster for a positive chemistry in the locker room while at the same time achieving much needed cap space for the following off-season.
New York Knicks
Touted to be one of the four teams who would challenge the Miami Heat this season, the New York Knicks were never able to recover from a disastrous start and them missing the Playoffs sums up their struggles this season.
The Knicks were dealing with multiple injuries to key players, chemistry issues and the constant rumors surrounding Carmelo Anthony and his possible departure with free agency coming up this summer.
They had a great run in the final few weeks of the season, but its tough to not call the Knicks a disappointment after their performance in last season’s Playoffs and the expectations it led to for this season. Phil Jackson, the new President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks, could be the bearer of a brighter future for them. Let’s wait and watch.
The expectation of playing in the big market of New York is the only factor that puts the Timberwolves behind the Knicks in this category. The Timberwolves had, and still have, a formidable starting line-up to make it to the Playoffs for the first time since 2004, however the team has finished the season with only a 40-40 record in a competitive Western Conference leaving them with nothing but another empty season despite having a roster capable of making a long run in the Playoffs.
The next year doesn’t seem too bright either for the Wolves as the league is talking about Kevin Love’s free agency decisions rather than his performances on the floor.
Another team that quietly brought together valuable pieces to Detroit in the off-season, though based on their performances, the choice of players does not seem too bright now. Joe Dumars, the general manager of the Pistons, resigning from his position leaves the Pistons in more of a mess than they already were prior to this season’s tip-off.
A tall starting front line with Andrew Drummond and Greg Monroe forces Josh Smith to play the 3 spot, not his natural position. Brandon Jennings hasn’t been half the player he was with the Milwaukee Bucks, while Chauncey Billups, a veteran point guard, has spent more time on the bench than in his jersey.