CHICAGO, February 29, 2012 – The first half of the NBA season has been full of surprises, from Linsanity to the ageless San Antonio Spurs, but alas, every positive surprise has a negative cousin lurking behind it.
The Timberwolves, Knicks and Nuggets are all squads that have the potential to be contenders in their conferences, and yet they all sit right around .500, where they’ve been for the majority of the year. Why are these teams so terribly mediocre?
Minnesota Timberwolves – The T-Wolves’ roster includes the Spanish maestro Ricky Rubio, the immensly underrated Kevin Love, the legendary JJ Barea from last year’s finals (who’s a solid 3 inches shorter than he’s listed at 6 feet tall), the disappointing yet useful Michael Beasley and the Serbian seven-footer Darko Milcic, also known as the worst draft pick ever used.
That lineup should be at least enough to be sitting as the eighth seed in the West, but the T-Wolves currently find themselves a game out of the playoff picture.
The main problem with this talented team is that they’re about as consistent as a Kardashian. Their last 12 games included a three game winning streak, followed by a four game losing streak, followed by another three game winning streak. Their schedule doesn’t help that at all, but it would be nice if these guys could consistently beat playoff teams.
Another issue is that the Wolves currently sit at 26th in assists per game throughout the league with 18.7, and that’s including Rubio’s 8.4, leaving the rest of the team about ten assists per game. In the 48 minutes of a game, Timberwolves not named Rubio pass the ball to set up their teammates a grand total of 10 times.
A tiny little red flag should be waving in your mind when a team with the league’s second best big man in Love can’t pass the ball to him.
Denver Nuggets – Carmelo Anthony’s old team started the season in great shape, staying close the the Thunder in the standings for much of the beginning of the year. Then the dreaded injury bug punched this team right in the Adam’s apple with the Nuggets dropping 12 of their last 16 games.
Key players Nene Hilario, Danilo Gallinari, Corey Brewer and Rudy Fernandez all missed at least seven of the teams 35 games so far, with Brewer missing several due to a death in the family.
The Nuggets were a team that thrived on depth; depth that was aquired in a trade that shipped away Anthony for five players and three draft picks that eventually turned into the core of their current team. The problem with living without a superstar is that when a few cogs in the machine go down, your team can’t survive without the role players and runs right into an iceberg.
You’ll neveer find Kobe Bryant mourning an injured teammate, only firing up 30 shots to fill the void.
The Nuggets should’ve used the All-Star break to get healthy, and if they did, they’ll return to the ranks of playoff teams in the west. Provided of course that their players can stay on the court and out of their doctors’ offices.
New York Knicks - This team really really needs to start winning more often, just so America will stop pulling its hair out wondering why Carmelo can’t play with Jeremy Lin on the court. Anthony and Lin have played 122 minutes together, and have averaged 96.3 points per 100 possessions.
There are only three teams worse than that rate in the league, and one of them has reached their 10th win. The others aren’t close.
What’s the issue here? The Knicks should genuinely begin to consider trading Anthony if this keeps up; the Knicks rank 24th in offensive efficiceny by scoring a paltry 97.9 per 100 possessions. Lin is a high-energy point guard that likes to score first and wrap himself in the flow of the offense; Anthony likes to get the ball, stand still, dribble for five seconds, dribble for 10 seconds, and then make sure his feet are just inside the arc before launching a jumper.
That just erodes what was a perfectly functional offense that had won six of the seven games without him.
If Tyson Chandler can even get these guys to play defense, and they still lose, you really have to wonder if Carmelo is right for the team. Ending last year ranked 21st in the league by allowing 106.9 points per 100 possessions, Chandler now has them ranked seventh while giving up 97.2 points per 100 possessions.
That’s an incredible improvement, but with Anthony playing the roll of ball-stopper as much as he can, it’s going to be tough to climb to a point higher than the seventh seed in the East.
That means a first round matchup with either the Heat or the Bulls. That’s not good for any team, even the Heat or the Bulls. The Knicks need to find a way to get Carmelo going again if they want to have any hope of winning their first playoff game in eleven years.
To contact Nick Goralka, see above to send him an e-mail containing a question, comment, or scathing insult. His work appears in Alley-oops for Touchdowns! in the Communities at the Washington Times Online.
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