This list was the hardest I have done in years. It's always easy to point out players on poor teams like the Wizards, Kings, Nets, etcetera. But you realize even if those players were playing out of their minds, it wouldn’t make a great difference so you back off. I tend to target players that, in my estimation, would be the difference in wins and losses. I often try to avoid rookies because, quite frankly, I have never expected much from them. It wouldn't be fair.
I also will not list players I believe have had to make a serious transition and are playing in a system not conducive to the success of their individual games. Jamal Crawford, along with a few others, come to mind, but no one will resonate more in my comment section than Carmelo Anthony. Well, I think the 3-0 record since Mike Woodson took over the Knicks is why he is not on the list. I can’t think of any superstar in the NBA that is a wing player and doesn't get touches consistently on the offensive end. That's what Melo encountered with Mike D’Antoni. If you are going to pay Amare Stoudemire and Anthony mega millions, well, you have to give them the ball and function through them. So because of early season injuries and system, I will give him a pass and see if the Knicks continue to flourish with a style structured towards his strengths.
So here are my Top 10 disappointments so far this season. I emphatically state there is a gap as wide as the Grand Canyon between No. 1 and No. 2.
10. Jose Juan Barea, Minnesota
Barea has not lived up to his play of last year in the Finals. He is shooting a poor 37 percent from the field and showing poor leadership skills. Arguing on the bench with the hardest working player in the league? Come on. He will need to step up and help replace Ricky Rubio for the Timberwolves to make the playoffs.
9. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
I have high expectations for Dirk because I believe he has the best array of shot-making skills ever in a 7-foot player, but what has always impressed me about him has been his ability to be in great shape and produce every night. The way he put the Mavericks on his back last year has been done by only one player over the last 20 years – Hakeem Olajuwon. I was disappointed when he openly admitted he was not in great shape to open the season and had to take a number of games off. That had a domino effect on a team that should be riding high from winning a championship last year. Nowitzki has since raised his level of play to expectations, but will it get them back to the Finals?
8. Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City
When the Thunder acquired Perkins last season, they expected a Bill Russell-type of player, but Perkins has not lived up to expectations. He needs to spend more time working on completing high-percentage shots in the paint and blocking shots and less scowling at opponents and officials.
7. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
I heard a Clipper announcer joke when Jordan scored his first basket ever outside the paint in the NBA this season. His teammates made fun about it. His response was, “I have scored because I have made free throws.” Oh really, so he boasts about making 49 percent of his free throws? Jordan should have been embarrassed and gotten into the gym determined to build on something that should already be a part of his arsenal. I would expect a player with freakish athletic skills to at least make progress outside of dunking the ball and blocking shots. Jordan is stagnant and seems to be content, which is disappointing.
6. Raymond Felton, Portland
What has happened to the player that seemed to be headed towards numerous All-Star berths? Felton seems to be a shell of himself since he exploded in a New York Knick uniform and continued his fine play in Denver. Now Felton is shooting a poor 39 percent with Portland while showing subpar leadership on a team that looked like a lock for the playoffs. With a new coach and teammates, all eyes will be on Felton to see if he can actually lead a team on a consistent basis.
5. Metta World Peace, Los Angeles Lakers
I have no problem with the name change, but I do have a problem with him continuing to submit and become content with subpar performances. Just a few years ago, World Peace was one the best players in the NBA and arguably a Top 5 defender. Age no doubt has had an effect, but he is still in tremendous shape and I believe he has lost the confidence that allowed him to be a beast on both ends of the floor. It would be easy to blame Kobe Bryant and the Lakers' system, but you don’t expect that to happen to a player that was viewed to be as physically tough on the court as any in the league. No way he should be shooting 34 percent from the field and averaging less than a steal a game.
4. Jameer Nelson, Orlando
The Magic scored 59 points against the Bulls the other night and the finger is pointed squarely at Nelson. He has a plethora of scorers at his disposal, but has not been able to consistently keep them involved. Nelson, a one-time All-Star, has always been a shoot-first point guard who thrives when he is making shots. But if the Magic are going to finally have a chance to win a championship and keep Dwight Howard in town, Nelson can’t keep shooting 42 percent from the field and dishing out only 5 assists per contest. I realize he is actually above his 4.9 career assist mark, but he has the ability to average 8-plus a game with the offensive talent around him.
3. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
There is no doubt Griffin is a monster you have to deal with every night. He works extremely hard and because of that he will consistently put up All-NBA numbers. But there are two characteristics in his game that will need drastic improvement for the Clippers to have any chance of winning a first-round playoff series. I watch Griffin shoot free throws and I cringe at the poor mechanical execution from beginning to end. There is no way he should be shooting 55 percent from the line with his athletic ability to change it. Also, we highlight and boast about his tremendous dunks, but he averages less than one block and steal a game. The Clippers will go into the playoffs with the most dominant in-the-paint finishers in DeAndre Jordan and Griffin, but will not run a play for them because they can’t shoot free throws.
2. Danny Granger, Indiana
This one hurts me because I love Danny Granger as a basketball player. If I picked any player that played like I did, it would be Granger. He is old school personified with a crafty and efficient below-the-rim game, but his struggles this year will undoubtedly short-circuit a tremendous playoff run by one of my favorite squads. Rule of thumb should be this: If you are going to take five shots more per game than any other teammate, especially if those teammates are proven All-Stars like Roy Hibbert and David West, then you should be shooting a good percentage. Granger is shooting a career-worst 39 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc. I am not in the Pacer locker room, but I don’t have to be to know that it is a recipe for discord when it comes to post players wanting more touches. Granger needs to tone down the shot selection and concentrate more on making his post players a weapon. Then he will find out the contested shots on the perimeter he takes now will open up and raise his percentage and points per game.
1. Lamar Odom, Dallas
Granger is No. 2 on this list, but he is so far removed from No. 1 that Odom is an article all by himself. When you think a player has an opportunity to finally show his worth, Odom shows us why he was traded. I am appalled that he has the gall to be upset he was moved to a world champion when he, more than most, understands what it takes and feels like to become a champion. He has acted like he was traded to the worst team in the league. I am disappointed in Odom mainly because young players are viewing a grown man who has won championships, had success as an individual player and gets a chance to rejuvenate himself on the defending champion and he pouts and plays as if he was back in high school. I have always been an admirer of Odom’s skills as a 6-foot-10 basketball player, but I have no explanation as to how he can shoot 34 percent from the field, 58 percent from the free-throw line and grab just 4 rpg when we have seen astronomical numbers from him.
I know Nowitzki is kicking himself for not reporting in great shape because now he can't criticize a player that he knows can help him repeat for a championship this season.