It’s still early in the NBA this season, but five teams have distinguished themselves as disappointing, either due to their record, circumstances surrounding the franchise, or injuries.
5. Golden State Warriors
What a bummer. The Golden State Warriors had a considerably lower ceiling in 2019-20 following Kevin Durant’s departure and Klay Thompson’s ostensibly season-ending ACL tear, but now injuries to Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have abandoned any hope of a salvageable season in their new arena, the Chase Center in San Francisco.
It’s going to take time to get used to the new era of Warriors basketball, one that features players like Eric Paschall, Jordan Poole, and Marquese Chriss.
In all seriousness, there are latent issues for Golden State’s longevity as a powerhouse beyond temporary injuries to Curry, Thompson, and D’Angelo Russell. The team is lacking depth following the past offseason’s purge and these players are approaching 30-plus-years-old. At 2-5, not everything is lost, but Warriors bandwagon fans are now getting acquainted to the lottery—something of which longtime Golden State fanatics are well aware.
4. New Orleans Pelicans
First off, losing Zion Williamson for essentially two months is already a huge downer. Everybody needs a little Zion in their lives.
Second, the Pelicans haven’t played too terribly without the stud rookie from Duke; Brandon Ingram just put on a show in Brooklyn and Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart (all three former Lakers) appear to be prime to set their respective careers on the right paths in a new city.
But Alvin Gentry’s team isn’t exactly where it wants to be, irrespective of Williamson’s presence on the hardwood. We could see a third-year rookie Joel Embiid impact from Williamson when he’s healthy for New Orleans.
3. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks are off to the franchise’s worst start in the last three years despite coming off a 65-loss season in 2018-19. The team added an influx of veterans via free agency last summer, like Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris, and Wayne Ellington, but most of those players haven’t been too beneficial yet. The Knicks are still getting to know each other, and second-year head coach David Fizdale continues to tinker with lineups due to various injuries, unexpected bereavement absences, and interests in particular players like rookie RJ Barrett.
Possibly the most confounding decision was benching second-year center Mitchell Robinson—an intimidating shot-blocker who made the All-Rookie second team last season—so Randle could play alongside a more offensive-minded big man in Bobby Portis.
That decision blew up in Fizdale’s face with a blowout loss at home against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, and it was slightly overshadowed by the two-time NBA champion assistant coach with the Miami Heat’s decision to keep Barrett in the game long into the fourth quarter, tallying over 40 minutes in a game decided by the third quarter.
The Knicks should not be good this season, but they should not have one win in seven games. If things don’t change soon, especially Randle playing better, Fizdale can expect his coaching seat to burn up.
2. Sacramento Kings
Speaking of the Kings, Sacramento won their second game at Madison Square Garden over the weekend but have to face the reigning champ Toronto Raptors on Wednesday. Their fortuitous landslide victory over the Knicks may assuage concerns with new head coach Luke Walton, who took over for the successful Dave Joerger. Joerger took the Kings to the ninth seed in the crowded Western Conference last season but still was axed by general manager Vlade Divac.
Divac and the Kings entered the 2019-20 season with a contract extension dispute with budding star shooting guard Buddy Hield (it was eventually resolved at $94 million over four years with incentives) and another talented, young wing player in Serbian import Bogdan Bogdanovic is frustrated with his role with the franchise.
With the way things are playing out, the Kings will not make the postseason in 2020—a goal that many thought Walton could bring to Sactown due to the talented crop of players like point guard De’Aaron Fox and big man Marvin Bagley. There are nothing but bad vibes in northern California.
1. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are dealing with a spate of injuries, including Jusuf Nurkic’s indefinite absence, promising big man Zach Collins undergoing shoulder surgery, and Rodney Hood not at 100 percent after hurting his knee against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Portland also lost an underrated amount of depth in the offseason with Maurice Harkless, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu, Seth Curry, and Meyers Leonard all gone.
It’s going to be a tougher season for last season’s third seed in the West, whose 3-4 record to start the year is indicative of choppy waters ahead.