Sunday Topic: Most Disappointing Player?
Every Sunday, HOOPSWORLD’s analysts weigh in on an NBA-related topic. Get in on the debate by leaving your thoughts in a comment. Here’s this week’s Sunday Topic.
Three weeks into the season, there are a number of players around the league who are failing to live up to expectations. Many of these players joined a new team over the summer or were expected to take on an increased role this season, but have struggled out of the gate, which brings us to today’s topic:
“Which player has been the biggest disappointment so far this season?”
“Roy Hibbert. In today’s NBA, shaped by the new collective bargaining agreement, there are a lot more players signing max-level deals who are not considered among the elite at their respective positions. After making his first All-Star appearance last season, the Indiana Pacers re-signed center Roy Hibbert to a four-year, $58 million deal.
Up until this point, the deal hasn’t paid immediate dividends for the Pacers.
Considered one of the few teams in serious contention for the Eastern Conference crown entering the season, the Pacers are off to a horrid start. The surface level analysis will pinpoint the struggles on injured forward Danny Granger’s absence in the lineup, but a deeper look points toward an absolutely brutal start to the campaign by Hibbert.
Hibbert is averaging 8.8 points and 7.9 rebounds on a woeful 38 percent shooting from the floor, and he’s connecting on just 46 percent of his free throw attempts, which is significantly lower than his 72 percent career average from the free throw line.
Hibbert’s scoring average is the lowest since his rookie campaign. Not surprisingly, the shooting percentages are the lowest of his career by a wide margin. The former Georgetown standout’s rebounding and assist numbers are also on the decline this season compared to the 2012 campaign.
For those who cherish advanced statistics, Hibbert’s PER has dropped from 19.4 last season to a below average 12.8 to start this season. The majority of Hibbert’s offensive woes can be attributed to his struggles on shots between three and nine feet. Hibbert is shooting just 29 percent on those attempts (down from 51.1 percent a season ago).
The Pacers haven’t hit the panic button and are still hovering around .500, but it’s clear Hibbert must step up if the team wants to reach the next level.” – Lang Greene
“Landry Fields. Before the Phoenix Suns sent Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers in a sign-and-trade deal, it looked like the 38-year-old point guard was heading to either the Toronto Raptors or the New York Knicks. The Raptors were trying to sign Nash and the Knicks were attempting to execute a sign-and-trade for the veteran point guard. Toronto signed Landry Fields to a poison pill contract worth $18.75 million over three years in an attempt to take away one of New York’s most attractive trade chips and remove them from the Nash sweepstakes.
The plan backfired when Nash chose Los Angeles. Now, the Raptors are stuck paying Fields $6.25 million for each of the next three seasons. The 24-year-old had a promising rookie year, but regressed significantly during his sophomore campaign.
This season, through five games with the Raptors, Fields has only gotten worse. Despite starting every game, Fields has averaged just 2.4 points and 3.2 rebounds. He’s shooting a dreadful 20.8 percent from the field and has yet to hit a three-pointer this season. This season, Fields’ usage rate is a career-low 12.4, yet he’s turning the ball over on a career-high 16.5 percent of possessions. He’s missing wide open jumpers and uncontested lay-ups. Fields’ player efficiency rating through fives game is 1.4, which is by far the lowest of any starting player in NBA and well below the league average of 15. The Raptors are actually better when he’s not on the floor, as evidenced by his -.05 estimated wins added. Not only is Fields’ 20.8 true shooting percentage the lowest on the Raptors, it’s the seventh-lowest among all NBA players. His 20.8 field goal percentage is the lowest of any starting player in the league.
The Raptors may have given Fields a big payday in an attempt to land Nash, but they also extended the offer sheet because they saw him as someone who had potential and could contribute on both ends of the court. Instead, he has been arguably the worst starter in the NBA this season. Last week, the Raptors announced that Fields underwent ulnar nerve transposition surgery in his right elbow and there’s no timetable for his return. Was the injury the reason for Fields’ recent struggles? The Raptors better hope so.” – Alex Kennedy
“Ersan Ilyasova. Last season, Ersan Ilyasova made it clear that he wanted to be paid and the Milwaukee Bucks stepped up to the plate this summer with a five-year, $40 million deal. Ilyasova had earned it. The big man from Turkey averaged 13.8 points and 8.8 rebounds and was a big reason the Bucks were in the fight for the last playoff spot in the East until the final week of the regular season.
However, since the opening night victory in Boston, it’s been one bad game after another for Ilyasova. Last year’s 49.2 percent field goal percentage has plummeted to 27.9 percent over his first seven games and, excluding his 11 rebounds on opening night, he is down to just 4.3 boards per game. Even his usually reliable three-point shot has deserted him.
Despite looking like a player who deserved more minutes since he returned to the Bucks in 2009, head coach Scott Skiles has always appeared reluctant to rely on Ilyasova. So maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise that Skiles slashed the 25-year-old’s minutes this season at the first signs of struggle. A huge disappointment for the Bucks and someone may have never had the full confidence of his coach in the first place, Ilyasova has started this season in a deep hole that may be hard to climb out of.” – Stephen Brotherston
“JaVale McGee. One of the most enigmatic big men in the NBA is Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee. At times, he looks like the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon, dominating the low post on both ends of the floor. At other times, he looks more like Hasheem Thabeet, stiff and immobile, unable to defend his own man, much less give help defense.
When McGee accepted a four-year deal worth $44 million over the summer, the Nuggets were clearly hoping to see more Olajuwon and less Thabeet, though so far this season we have yet to see McGee put together one solid game.
His best performance as of this writing came against the Miami HEAT, a game in which he scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 23 minutes of action. Otherwise, he has scored in double-figures just four times, and has scored just four points three times. He’s had one double-digit rebounding game, but has grabbed six or fewer boards five times. He’s had two three-block games, but has also blocked one or none five times.
Will the real JaVale McGee please stand up?
The Nuggets need McGee to channel his inner Olajuwon if he’s going to live up to his contract, which in turn will allow the Nuggets to live up to their collective potential. If he continues to put up a part-time effort, he will go down as the next in a long line of players who were overpaid based solely on their height.” – Bill Ingram
“Pau Gasol. On a Los Angeles Lakers super team that seemingly won the NBA championship this offseason before playing a single contest, Pau Gasol might be the biggest disappointment on the underachieving Lakers. The Lakers have already given former head coach Mike Brown the axe and the team is struggling as they try to figure out their direction, sitting at a disappointing 4-5 on the season.
With the introduction of Dwight Howard as his frontcourt mate, it was evident that Gasol’s numbers would dip this season, but the drop in his offensive efficiency has been brutal. Even though he’s averaging nearly a double-double at 14 points and 9.9 rebounds per contest, Gasol is shooting just 42.5 percent from the field over the first nine games of the season. A career 52 percent shooter, Gasol has never shot under 48 percent from the field over the course of a year so this dramatic drop was completely unexpected.
At 32 years old, there’s a possibility that this is just the natural progression and that Gasol is rounding the final lap of his NBA career with his best days behind him. However, contrary to that opinion, Gasol showed some life in dropping 16 points (7 of 11 shooting from the field) and grabbing 10 boards in Friday’s 114-102 win over the Phoenix Suns.
Gasol may still have some tread left on his NBA tires but, through the first couple weeks of the 2012-13 season, he has to be considered the biggest disappointment on the most underachieving team in the NBA.” – Derek Page
“Jeremy Lin. The most exciting player of the 2011-12 season, by far, was Jeremy Lin. Everybody in the country, even people who didn’t follow basketball at all, knew what Linsanity was. The guy was dropping 20+ points every night, hitting huge shots and embarrassing some of the league’s biggest stars. Yes, he finished the season hurt, but the flash he put in the pan before fizzling out was brighter than almost anything we’ve ever seen in this league.
The falling out with the Knicks was disappointing for him, but on a Houston Rockets team that, outside of James Harden, doesn’t have a lot of offensive fire power, Lin was expected to step in this season knock together some more heads.
Through the first nine games of the season, that just hasn’t happened. In fact, surprise contributor Chandler Parsons and the famously inept offensive disaster Omer Asik are both averaging more points per game than Lin (10.9), who, by the way, is also shooting only 35.5 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from three. His 6.7 assists per game is only 14th in the league. For the record, that’s exactly half of what Rajon Rondo is dishing out in Boston.
But Lin wasn’t particularly efficient even during his best days in New York. What seems to be gone this year is that larger-than-life feeling surrounding the kid. His confidence has come back down to earth, and since that’s where his talent has always been anyhow, his overall statistical output is looking pretty average this year.
He’s still young, and still hasn’t even played the equivalent of a full NBA season, so there’s time to grow into himself, but so far this season he’s been a bit of a bummer, especially in the shadow of Harden’s comparative greatness.” – Joel Brigham
Who has been the biggest disappointment this season? Leave a comment below!