Every season, there are the teams that will shock you and the ones that are vastly overhyped. I plan to focus on 5 teams, that fans should have lower expectations for this upcoming season. In this article, we will discuss a team that made some beyond questionable front office decisions, a team that lacks perimeter shooting on the wings, a team that is too top heavy, a team that will struggle to score, and a team that is still too inexperienced to compete, even with a surefire, first ballot Hall of Famer leading the way.
The Grizzlies have always been a competitive and tough-nosed unit. David Fizdale was the right fit for them in the coaching department. Willing to back his team in any situation, and the players responded by competing and forcing a six-game series as the ultimate underdog against a top tier San Antonio Spurs team.
Many want to believe that they will still be a heavily competitive unit, but their identity should show that it changed this season. The Grizzlies lost that Grit and Grind style of play. Losing three of their longest tenured players in Zach Randolph, Vince Carter and likely Tony Allen.
The good news is it seems they’ve been progressing on reaching a deal with a restricted free agent, JaMychal Green. According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, “The Grizzlies were rumored to be talking about a deal in the $8-9 Mil range.” I would like to say that they should be a much improved three point shooting team next season, adding two sharpshooters in Ben McLemore and Mario Chalmers in free agency. McLemore shot 38% from 3 during the 2016-17 season and Chalmers is a career 36% three point shooter. While small improvements such as these are the way to go, it likely will not help the Grizzlies get over the playoff hump in an already loaded West. They should be above .500 though and gunning for a playoff spot.
I want to trust the process that is the Philadelphia 76ers rebuilding strategy, but can such a young and inexperienced team co-exist this quickly? There are a great amount of learning curves, new additions have to overcome. Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz have never played an NBA game yet. There will be growing pains.
Dario Saric is a good starter level player but needs to commit more on the defensive end. Will we finally get to see just how great a healthy Joel Embiid’s impact can be for the Sixers? Can JJ Redick, Jerryd Bayless, and Amir Johnson step up as the veteran leaders of this young team? Too much uncertainty to be a playoff lock just yet. Even, when evaluating the strength of the Eastern Conference.
Now, here are the 5 teams that could disappoint this season, if your hopes for them were high.
5. Detroit Pistons
This off-season for Detroit was originally tough to determine on whether it was a hit or a miss. After, much thought into the matter, it is all coming full circle. Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond are both coming off a season of regression in their respective games. For Jackson, he was only able to log 52 games last season due to injuries to his knee and thumb. After returning from those injuries, Jackson just looked like he lost a step out there. As for Drummond, he just wasn’t as dominating of a presence as he had been in seasons prior. So, banking on two bounce back campaigns is more than wishful thinking.
The Pistons seemed to take this off-season to find Jackson’s backcourt mate in Avery Bradley. Bradley is expected to be one of the go to scorers with the Pistons and they will likely need to pay him big money to keep him in the long term. Bradley is a top tier defensive player, but not a player to angle your future around. The Pistons should remain a competitive team for a playoff spot, but I feel like Avery Bradley being your go to scorer isn’t a good thing. They have a slim chance for an 8th seed, but it seems they are stuck in the middle. Not good enough to make the postseason, but not bad enough to get a top draft pick. NBA purgatory is not ideal living conditions for any franchise.
4. New Orleans Pelicans
What are the Pelicans trying to do? First trying to build around two big men, which hasn't been done correctly since the Spurs built around a combo of David Robinson and Tim Duncan back in the late 90’s. It is tough to do in today's league with the spacing being the epitome of what this league is becoming. Now, if they surrounded their best players with capable shooters on the wings. Then, it would be difficult to label them as a non-playoff team.
Guys like Rajon Rondo, Solomon Hill, and E'twaun Moore likely aren't going to give this team even acceptable spacing. I don't know what Dell Demps is doing here? I guess we will soon unravel answers to this question when the season kicks into high gear. How do Pelicans take flight, when they're wingless?
3. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz is all defense, but the offense could be hard to find in the 2017-18 season. Counting on a mostly healthy season of players like Derrick Favors and Alec Burks. Two of their possible top offensive options next season. Seems like a shot in the dark at this point.
Ricky Rubio is a great playmaker, but can't create for himself such as a guard like George Hill could. When it’s late in the game, ask the Minnesota Timberwolves how it was like playing with pretty Ricky down the stretch. It was like 4 vs 5 on the offensive end. Rubio’s shot is still a mystery to him.
Rubio doesn’t draw defense on the perimeter and can rarely hit wide open threes. The only way he can be good for this team is to be a facilitator. Drive and dish to shooters like Hood, Ingles, Johnson, and Jerebko.
Losing Gordon Hayward in a loaded West hurts more than most Jazz fans will let you know. After all, he was their only All-Star last season. It is likely Rudy Gobert makes another leap this season. I’d like to see him not completely change his offensive game, but add another layer to it. Whether it be playmaking, a mid-range shot, or even a three point shot.
Hopefully guys like Joe Johnson, Dante Exum, Donovan Mitchell, and Rodney Hood can all pick up the scoring load this season. To make the playoffs, they’ll need more than just an elite defense to get by in a loaded West. Hopefully, they are well balanced offensively. I feel they will need to be, in order to make the playoffs.
2. Toronto Raptors
I have two words to describe this Toronto Raptors team this season. Top heavy. Meaning depth extends very little beyond their starting 5. This is what will cause them to not be a contender or possibly a top four team in the East. Their starting 5 of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, CJ Miles, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas is just as good as any in the NBA.
Should be interesting to see what a full season with Serge Ibaka does for the Toronto Raptors. The problem is their second unit is up for debate. Outside of Norman Powell, is this a capable second unit? Losing PJ Tucker, Patrick Patterson and Cory Joseph definitely will hurt.
Can Delon Wright become a solid backup PG? Will Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, and Bruno Caboclo make necessary leaps in reaching their potential this season? That's a great amount of what ifs. That should be Toronto's biggest roadblock this season. Limited production from the second unit could become too apparent to ignore.
1. Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki is still a Hall of Famer when it's all said and done. Rick Carlisle is still one of the best head coaches too, but this team needs more time to grow as a collective group and figure out their identity. With a young core surrounding Dirk featuring Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry, Yogi Ferrell, Dennis Smith Jr., Dwight Powell and Nerlens Noel, wins will be unlikely in a deep West.
A very promising group, but promising doesn't always translate right away. If all goes well in the rebuild, this team will look to contend in the future, but in the post-Dirk years. That is when we should finally figure out what this franchise’s next step of progression will become. Sad for countless NBA fans hoping to see Dirk get one more trip to the playoffs. Unless the development of the young guns gets an unexpected surge this season, it can be deemed as highly unlikely.
The 2017-18 season should be one for the ages, but we need to slow our role a bit. It is reasonable to have expectations, but high expectations will cause you to be disappointed. Tell me which teams you feel will be let downs this season and explain your reasoning? Have a blessed day.