Not everyone can make the NBA Playoffs, here’s why your team didn’t.
It’s almost here! The NBA Playoffs!
With just a few days left of games, the NBA season is finally winding itself down. For roughly half of the league’s teams, that means it’s time to gear up for the playoffs. Get those banners and foam fingers out, because for NBA fans April and May are the best months of the year!
Except for you.
You, much like your team (most likely), are losers. You didn’t make the playoffs and now you have to put your banners and foam fingers away in exchange for normal wall-decorations and average sized fingers (ha, losers).
For 14 teams, this is the reality them and their fans must deal with over the next month, all while asking themselves the same question- Why?
And it’s a fair question, why did your team team miss the playoffs? For some, it’s because they’re still very much in the early stages of a much longer rebuilding process. For others, it might have been that an off-season signing went wrong and for others, the cruel hand of luck simply reached down and personally destroyed their postseason aspirations.
Fear not though, loyal fanbases. The Society is here to answer your question!
Philadelphia 76ers (10-72)
And we start with the worst team in the league, the Philadelphia 76ers!
Simply put, we should all spit on the city of Philadelphia for being here again. This is a team that hasn’t had more than 45 wins since 2003 and hasn’t been a winner since 2011. They weren’t good coming into the season, they aren’t good at the end of the season, and they likely won’t be good at the beginning of next season.
The core problems for the 76ers once again center around their backcourt, as (shocker) Ish Smith simply wasn’t enough to carry a unit consisting of Isaiah Canaan, TJ McConnell, Nik Stauskas, and Kendall Marshall. Combined, those five shot just 39.5 percent from the field, a truly horrific mark considering Marshall was the only player of those mentioned not to throw up at least five FGA’s per game.
To evenly spread around the crap on this poopy sandwich though, rookie Jahlil Okafor was at least partially a disappointment. While his reservations about playing in Philly and his defensive struggles were both well documented coming out of Duke, the third overall selection in last years draft was still seen as someone that could make an immediate major impact in the NBA. Okafor was even a heavy favorite to win the Rookie of the Year, with many just assuming he’d be able to drop big offensive numbers with the 76ers lack of surrounding talent to bite into his shot attempts.
To some extent, Okafor did put up nice numbers. 17.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and a 51 percent shooting mark — including a very nice 68 percent at the rim — are genuinely impressive numbers, particularly for a rookie. However, Okafor’s defense (opponents scored 3.2 more points per 100 possessions with Okafor on the court than with him off) as well as a series of off the court incidents (hey, remember that time he tried to use a Fake ID in Philly?) have led to many souring on the Duke one-and-done product.
With Sam Hinkie and The Process officially out, Philly might be relevant sometime soon again. Heck, Okafor might even be able to act like a star player and Joel Embiid might actually play at some point! Crazy times in Philly!
Los Angeles Lakers (17-65)
The Lakers were a bit of an odd story this year.
I mean, obviously they were awful. This was still a team that ranked second to last in offense and dead last on the defensive side, started and featured the decrepit corpse of Kobe Bryant, and was coming off an offseason in which their biggest move was trading for Roy Hibbert. No, they were not good, and no, there were few glimmers of hope all season long.
Still though, the Lakers managed to keep it interesting thanks mostly to the retirement tour of Kobe.
After announcing that he would retire early in the season (most likely after realizing “oh God, I am going to turn to dust soon”), Bryant has essentially dictated the narrative for LA this year. And don’t get me wrong, the man has been truly horrific this year, posting career-lows in virtually every major statistical category, including a magnificently awful 35 percent shooting. Still though, Kobe’s been fun to watch as he’s let his guard down throughout the season and let fans see a softer side to the normal, banner-wearing, friend-murdering version of Bryant we’d grown accustomed to.
SPEAKING OF LETTING THEIR GUARD DOWN.
The Lakers also supplied us with easily the most private, yet also must public, scandals of the season, and it had nothing to do with basketball!
Remember that time D’Angelo Russell recorded teammate Nick Young bragging about cheating on his fiancee Iggy Azalea? And then it leaked out onto the internet? In the middle of the season? So these two guys had to continue being teammates?
Man, that was great.
Hey, maybe not having your best young player in public fights with a teammates isn’t the route to go, Buss family. But at least you got Kobe dropping 60 in his career finale…So I guess something good did come out of this whole thing.
Brooklyn Nets (21-61)
The Nets are unique in this because they are maybe the most depressing team in sports.
Just a few short years ago, Brooklyn was the It-Team of the NBA, sporting a new city, new logos, and a new attitude. With Jay-Z as the public face of the team, they made massive blockbuster trades to acquire legends like Kevin Garnett, Paul Piece, and Jason Terry to play alongside proven studs like Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
About 15 minutes removed from that, none of the above players will remain on the team after this offseason, with Johnson being the last remaining relic of one of the most disappointing teams in NBA history.
The Nets are not unique (yet) in that they are very, very bad. Led by Brook Lopez and his mind-numbing fear of shooting in the fourth quarter (Lopez shot only 212 times in the fourth, steeply down from 363 in the first, 265 in the second, and 312 in the third), the Nets ranked 27th on offense and 29th on defense.
Even the Nets bright spots were bleak, as rookie wing Rondae-Hollis Jefferson broke his ankle early on and missed a majority of the teams games. Jefferson’s fellow rookie, Chris McCullough? Missed the entire first half of the season due to an ACL injury sustained in college. Nice.
You know your team is bad when you shut down it’s best two players late in the season for literally no reason whatsoever, as the Nets don’t have any draft picks this offseason and don’t really benefit from sitting Lopez and Thaddeus Young. With no draft picks this offseason and the Sean Marks era only beginning, we’ll see you next years edition of this article, Nets faithful.
Phoenix Suns (23-59)
Of the teams mentioned thus far, none were as surprisingly bad as the Phoenix Suns.
After all, this was a team that came into the season boasting the explosive backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, plus the offseason signing of Tyson Chandler. For the first time since the Steve Nash/Amare Stoudimire/Mike D’Antoni era, the Suns were supposed to be a good team!
Despite a 7-5 start to their season, Phoenix quickly ran into injury problems throughout their 82-game campaign, with both Bledsoe and Knight being sat down for the remainder of the season due to a torn meniscus and hernia, respectively. Oh and Chandler? Well it turns out that all of his screaming, yelling, and finger pointing is not the Holy Grail, as the 33-year-old center looked his age throughout the season.
A mid-season coaching change will almost always hurt a team, and the Suns decision to part with John Hornacek certainly didn’t help. But injuries to the teams best players, as well as their biggest offseason addition being something of a bust, sank the Suns this season.
But hey, Devin Booker BAYBAY.
Minnesota Timberwolves (29-53)
It feels almost like a sin to mention Minnesota amongst these losers and dweebs, but here we are.
Really, the only reason the Timberwolves aren’t only in the playoffs, but also leaders of the free world is because they simply aren’t ready yet.
Outside of Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince, nobody on this team had over five years NBA experience and it showed. While Karl-Anthony Towns looks like a Hall of Fame talent and the talented duo of Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine are certainly no slouches, they’re still at least two or three years away from taking their rightful place as God’s on Earth.
Until then, the TWolves will need to develop at least sometime of a backcourt behind their prized trio of studs. Almost every lineup featuring only one of the Wolves three big pieces was outscored by opponents. The only exception? The grouping of LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, Andre Miller, Shabazz Muhammad, and Damjan Rudez, who played a grand total of 38 minutes together this season, the 16th least used 5-man lineup the Wolves had out of 20.
This is a team that would almost have to try to fall apart in order to not be considered a winner within the next five year, but this simply wasn’t their time to ascend the Western Conference. Don’t believe me? Minnesota finished 15th in offense, above playoff teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and Indiana Pacers. Sitting at 28 on defense isn’t pretty and will need to also improve, but the groundwork as absolutely been laid on the offensive side.
New York Knicks (32-50)
Few teams were as both surprising and un-supriring the way the Knicks were this season.
On one hand, the team hopped out to a 20-20 start, was featuring the shockingly talented rookie Kristaps Porzingis, and had a star player in Carmelo Anthony playing the best ball of his career.
Fast forward a couple months and New York’s season is up, with a lot having changed.
While KP and Melo’s numbers did drop a little bit as the season came to a close, it was actually the rest of the team that hurt the Knicks the most. Those problems start and end with the head coaching position, as Derek Fisher was fired just before the All-Star break, with Kurt Rambis being named interim coach for the remainder of the season.
Fisher may have led the Knicks to a losing record at 23-31, but he at least appeared basically adept to being the head coach for an NBA team. Rambis, meanwhile, with his 9-18 record this season, has struggled throughout his time in New York. From leaking confidence to being forced to play younger players more by his veterans, Rambis has routinely shown a basic inability to coach the Knicks to anything fruitful.
The Knicks have plenty of issues, but it all started up top for this team. With a somewhat reliable coach at the helm, the Knicks at least appeared like a somewhat competent unit. Without one? Disaster.
Oh, and Phil Jackson wants to bring Kurt back.
New Orleans Pelicans (30-52)
Perhaps nothing is as singularly important to any sports franchise the way that having a star player is key to a basketball team. It’s no coincidence that every legitimate title contender has at least one main player they can go to during crunch time.
The Pelicans found themselves in the awkward position of having that star player capable of winning a championship, yet without the cast around him to support the team into the Playoffs. As important as having a title-caliber player is, you still have to add some nice pieces around him to compete with teams like the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
In New Orleans case, their star player is Anthony Davis. The big man came into the season as the favorite to win an MVP award and certainly didn’t disappoint. While he may not have had the season of say, Steph Curry, Davis once again showed why he can be a legitimate great in the league. 24.3 PPG, 10.3 RPG, and 49 percent shooting are genuinely excellent numbers, after all.
After Davis? Not a whole lot for NOLA.
While players like Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Ryan Anderson are nice pieces and can be really good players, their inability to actually get on the court hindered the Pelicans throughout the season. Anderson’s 66 games played led the trio,with Evans and Gordon combining for just 70.
The players NOLA do have aren’t bad by any stretch, but there are plenty of injury concerns for each and even when they are healthy, are they really good enough to act as a supporting cast for an Anthony Davis title run? For Alvin Gentry and company, that’s the exact question they’ll have to find an answer for because after this dreadful season, it appears to be a massive NO.
Milwaukee Bucks (33-49)
The Bucks came into the season with plenty of hype surrounding them and rightfully so. This was a team that had somehow convinced prized free agent Greg Monroe to live in Milwaukee over New York, had a returning Jabari Parker, and would feature a growing Giannis Antetokounmpo. Not to mention having another year under the belt of emerging head coach Jason Kidd, who was being discussed by some as one of the better coaches in the league.
There’s still a lot to like about the Bucks, but this was just a year to early for this group.
The extraordinary length provided by Monroe, Parker, and Antetokounmpo didn’t quite create the defensive juggernaut Milwaukee had been expected to be. While the team still has excellent potential on that end and can only really get better, they did rank only 23rd in Defensive Rating. With the Greek Freek only beginning to reach his potential and Jabari Parker hopefully working on his interior-D this offseason, there’s a lot to like there moving forward.
Much more concerning for this team was the complete lack of shooting. While they could certainly fill up the basket, with a FG% of 47 percent that ranked 5th in the league, the team simply couldn’t score away from the hoop. The Bucks neither could shoot the three point ball (35 percent shooting from deep, 21st in the league), nor did they want to (shooting only 15.5 3PA’s per game).
With the NBA continuing to move towards becoming a more shooter-heavy league, you have to at least be able to scare teams into thinking they can shoot. Post up guys like Greg Monroe and slashers like Antetokounmpo need room to operate at maximum efficiency, but a starting backcourt like Michael-Carter Williams (27 percent from deep), Tyler Ennis (32 percent), or OJ Mayo (32 percent) simply can’t do that.
If MCW is still the starter come next season and can’t find a way to improve his shot, this could become a recurring problem for Milwaukee.
Denver Nuggets (33-49)
Denver actually has some nice pieces, but that couldn’t save them for once again stumbling to a losing season in the post-Carmelo Anthony era for the Nuggets. After finding some immediate success in the two years following Anthony’s flight to New York, Denver has now had three consecutive losing seasons, although this may have been the most interesting.
That level of intrigue is somewhat surprising, as this is a team with genuine flaws.
Emmanuel Mudiay might end up being pretty good and if his second half numbers are any indicator, he definitely will be. But this season, he quite simply played like a rookie. He turned the ball over a lot (3.2 per game) and struggled shooting (36 percent from the field), both of which are often times major issues for rookies. Still though, dropping 12.2 PPG and 5.5 APG are both fairly impressive for a rookie on a bad team, especially when that team loses it’s best player halfway through.
Danilo Gallinari, the 27-year-old Italian that was sent to Denver as part of the Anthony-trade. This season, Gallinari genuinely came into his own, dropping 19.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and hitting 36 percent of his shots from deep. As someone that had struggled with injuries throughout his six year career, this was potentially the healthiest — and best — stretch of Gallinari’s career.
Apparently, it wasn’t met to be, as Danilo tore ligaments in his ankle in late February, ending his season for good and officially ending the post-Carmelo Anthony era in Denver. It’s replacement? Apparently, the Emmanuel Mudiay era.
This might not have been the Nuggets season, but with Mudiay showing plenty of potential, plus a talented core consisting of Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, and Nikola Jogic, Denver isn’t far off. It won’t be soon before they have their depth and injuries figured out and we see the Nuggets back as a perennial playoff team.
Orlando Magic (35-47)
The Magic, must like the Nuggets before them, are a team that has some excellent building blocks in place, although Orlando is arguably set up nicer for the future. With budding pieces like Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic aren’t far off from once again being a contender. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy were running wild in the Eastern Conference.
For this season, however, the team found itself on the short end of the youth stick. While the team seems to have found itself a nice core with Oladipo, Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Evan Fournier, Orlando also said goodbye to wing Tobias Harris this season in a trade with the Detroit Pistons and Van Gundy. In return, the Magic gained 26-year-old explosive point guard Brandon Jennings.
Jennings never quite managed to light it up in Orlando, shooting only 37 percent from the field in his 25 games in the black and blue after coming off of a torn achilles last season. Dropping Harris for the unproven Jennings undoubtedly hurt the team this season, as the team went just 9-17 after dealing away Tobias.
This is still a team that will need to find a consistent wing option after dealing Harris and has to figure out what role Nikola Vucevic will play moving forward, but there’s a reason this team ranked 16th in defense this season. The Magic are coming, it’s only a question of when.
Sacramento Kings (33-49)
This Kings team, man.
What an accomplishment.
And not an accomplishment in the Warriors way, where it’s a genuine incredible feat to be such a great team. No, this is an accomplishment in the way that you’re oddly impressed your cousin can eat like, 50 Chicken McNuggets without even blinking an eye. You know how disgusting and gross that is, but how much fun was it to watch!?
It’s like the Kings tried to take every single locker-room troublemaker in the league, put them on one team, and just see what happens because why not. DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay, and more all coached by George Karl, who seemingly has something of a death-feud with his star player Cousins. Unbelievably, that’s still a team with some talent and it shined through at parts of the season, with Sacramento hopping out to a nice little 20-23 start.
Still though, this was a team that battled chemistry issues all season long. Boogie Cousins and Rondo seemed to get along well and actually matched up really nicely on the court, but the constant war between Boogie and Karl seemed to sink any momentum this team could build. I like both Cousins and Karl, but it’s pretty clear those two guys shouldn’t share a locker room. Having a star player is huge, they just can’t be fighting with their head coach in a public setting.
Sacramento is in a weird spot now, much like they were all season. Do they keep the star, or retain one of the greatest head coaches ever? And what about Rondo? The Kings are in a bit of an odd spot right now, and they’ll need to find more of an identity if they want to stop their losing ways.
Washington Wizards (41-41)
What was supposed to be break out year for John Wall and the Washington Wizards never really materialized,
Well, for the Wizards it didn’t at least.
Wall may have actually put together his best season since entering the league in 2010. His 19.9 PPG and 10.2 APG were both career highs, and so were his 1.9 steals per game. Even more impressive though, was the overall maturing of the former Kentucky standout. While he can still have plenty of fun, Wall seems to be taking a more down-to-earth approach to his game these days, something that bares well for the Wizards future.
For this season though, the team essentially beat itself.
Losing veteran leader Paul Pierce in the offseason due to free agency hurt and there were plenty of times where Washington just seemed unfocused. Even worse, Wall’s #1 scoring option, Bradley Beal, played in only 55 games while starting in just 35, struggling with injuries throughout a contract year.
A healthy Beal, a quickly improving Wall, and a few offseason additions should put Washington back into the playoff discussion next season. But then again, with Randy Wittman reportedly on his way out, the future for the Wizards might not be totally clear.
Chicago Bulls (42-40)
Talk about taking a major step back.
After seven consecutive seasons making it to the playoffs under Vinny Del Negro and for the last five of those seasons under Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls said goodbye to Thibodeau last offseason. After five years under Thibs, many accused him of wearing down key assets like Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and after falling in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the decision was made to make a change.
Thibs replacement would be a shock to many, as Iowa Stae head coach Fred Hoiberg was selected to lead Chicago for the forceable future. Hoiberg’s fast paced, offensive-heavy scheme was in stark contrast to the gritty style the Bulls had grown accustomed to under Thibodeau, but was also seen as a welcome change. In a league constantly moving towards offense and with a team already carrying plenty of offensive weapons, the Bulls were thought to be in the discussion for a one seed in the Eastern Conference.
Things did not go as planned.
The odd thing about the Bulls this year was that the players genuinely each had nice seasons. Doug McDermott had an excellent rebound after a dreadful rookie campaign, shooting 43 percent from deep, while Derrick Rose looked the closest to his pre-injury self that we’ve seen. Jimmy Butler at points struggled under the weight of being “The Guy”, but still managed to drop 21.0 PPG on 46 percent shooting, all while battling through a variety of knee issues.
No, the real problem for Chicago this season was focused on the team as a whole. They ranked in the bottom half of the league both on defense and offense, and looked like they could have used the dictatorship-esk attitude of the Thibodeau era at points. Add to that the injury bug that hit Rose, Butler, and Noah at different points this season and you’ll see why the Bulls slipped out of the playoff picture. With a new rookie head coach, this was a team that needed its’ veterans to step up and be leaders, but with those guys so often injured, that became a difficult job to do.
Holberg still seems like a smart head coach and with his first year of NBA coaching under his belt, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Bulls were once again gunning for the top of the Eastern Conference next season. Until then though, they’ll have top figure out what they want to do with the old core of players they still have, as guys like Noah and Rose are only getting older at this point.
Utah Jazz (40-42)
Well, that’s a tough night for the Jazz.
Not only are they STILL from Utah, but the team also lost to Kobe Bryant in his farewell game, gave up 60 to Kobe’s ghost, and oh yeah missed the playoffs after the Houston Rockets toppled the Sacramento Kings.
It’s actually difficult to write much negative about this Jazz team. They obviously need some help offensively and will rely heavily on the continued progression of Gordon Hayward moving forward, but being ranked 7th overall defensively is a nice building block to start with. Not to mention the growth of guys like Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert, each of which seem to be very legitimate pro’s.
While the base to grow upon is certiainly there, the lack of shooting and scoring was often evident for Utah, continuing a trend that has often plagued the Quin Snyder era. While the teams 36 percent shooting mark from behind the arc was good for 12th overall, they still sat at only 18th in the league for overall field goal percentage after hitting only 45 percent of their total shots.
A major part of fixing that offense appears to be the duo of Shelvin Mack and Dante Exum, each of which come with their own unique problems.
Mack played well in his 27 games since being traded to Utah from the Atlanta Hawks, scoring 12.7 PPG on 45 percent shooting along with 5.3 assists per game. Still though, Mack’s sudden arrival on the NBA scene has many questioning his ability to be a long term solution to Utah’s backcourt instability.
Exum, meanwhile, showed a few flashes of genuine talent during his rookie season last year, but a torn ACL during preseason sank any hopes of viewable progression this season from the Australian 20-year-old. If Exum is able to overcome the ACL injury, he could be a really solid point guard for years to come and as a former fifth overall pick, the Jazz are certainly hoping he will be.
Like I said, it’s hard to knock a team that not only missed the playoffs by just one game, but also is filled with young talent just waking to take over the Western Conference.