The NBA is nearing its halfway mark, which is the point where teams are supposed to have some kind of identity for their future. Unfortunately, there are a few of teams in the league that have no clue what’s going on. Those teams have entered what I like to call “The Panic Zone.”
Oklahoma City Thunder: DEFCON 3
The Thunder haven’t been winning games. The excuse was that early injuries to their stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, set them behind but when they returned the Thunder would surge back to a championship caliber team. That just hasn’t been the case.
One problem the Thunder face is that outside of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, they have no consistent offensive options. Kevin Durant is averaging close to 30 points in his last 10 games. Westbrook is averaging over 21 points in his last 10 games. Before the addition of Dion Waiters the next highest scorer on the Thunder was Serge Ibaka who is averaging 15.5 in his last 10 games. After that is Reggie Jackson at 10.7 points per game in his last 10 games.
The next problem the Thunder have for a few years now is they don’t have a low post presence on offense. Every time the Thunder have gone to the playoffs they have run into some of the greatest big men in the NBA like Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tim Duncan, Lamarcus Aldridge or Dirk Nowitzki. The Thunder have Serge Ibaka who has fallen in love with his mid-range jumper and either Steven Adams or Kendrick Perkins who don’t scare any of the best big men in the league.
A trade with the Brooklyn Nets had the potential to bring Brook Lopez to the Thunder – who would be an enormous upgrade over any of the big men the Thunder currently have – but the trade talks fell through.
The Thunder are in one of the toughest fights in sports, the race to the eighth seed in the Western Conference. If the Thunder continue down the same road they’re on, don’t be surprised to see them miss the playoffs with a .500 record and Scott Brooks lose his job.
If you’re a Thunder fan, just hope that Dion Waiters continues averaging 14 points and 2 steals per game, while shooting 40% from the floor and 35.7% from beyond the arc.
New York Knicks: DEFCON 4
When the NBA’s biggest franchises in the Lakers, Celtics and Knicks, are losing, the entire NBA is losing. The Knicks are one of the three that have zero answers.
Carmelo Anthony came back in the offseason… it didn’t work. They brought in Phil Jackson to attract players… it didn’t work. They brought in Derek Fisher to play the role of Phil Jackson’s coaching puppet and run the triangle offense… it didn’t work.
If people weren’t sure before when questioned if Carmelo Anthony is a perennial loser, this year is your proof. He may be one of the league’s best offensive weapons, but he is not the same caliber of player as LeBron James or Kevin Durant.
The Knicks are so bad this year that ESPN took any future Knicks games off of their programming schedule.
The Knicks have started to make moves in the right direction by clearing as much cap space as they can. They started by waiving Samuel Dalembert and trading away J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. By clearing cap space and rumors swirling that Carmelo has agreed to restructure his contract to take less money, maybe the Knicks will be able to change their losing ways.
Just when there seems to be hope for the Knicks, memories of all of the great decisions Knicks owner James Dolan has made surface in my mind. From head scratching trades – like that Andrea Bargnani episode – to odd head coaching hires in Derek Fisher, the Knicks just won’t win with James Dolan at the head of the operation.
For the Knicks it may be time to part ways with Carmelo Anthony and restock through the draft. Melo had a good run, but things just aren’t working out.
Hopefully Phil Jackson has some tricks up his sleeve, and the Knicks will surprise everyone by winning more than 10 games next year.
Brooklyn Nets – DEFCON 5
What happened in Brooklyn? Just three years ago they were supposed to be the biggest and meanest team in the Eastern Conference that would take down the Heat. The Nets had a young, billionaire owner that spent so much on the team that he made Mark Cuban look humble.
Now it looks like the big name players on the Nets got their talents stolen through a basketball possessed by alien technology. The Nets are trying to give away Brook Lopez, as seen in the almost-trade with OKC. Kevin Garnett is minutes away from retiring. Joe Johnson is nowhere near as explosive and fun to watch as he used to be. Deron Williams, who used to be in the conversation for best point guard in the NBA with Chris Paul, can’t even get playing time over Jarrett Jack or Darius Morris.
Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson are still on the payroll for a combined $62,711,663 for next season. With such astronomical salaries and insignificant performance from those three players, they are virtually immovable and that means the Nets are stuck with them for another year.
The cherry on top? Owner Mikhail Prokhorov decided he’s done and wants to sell the team.
General manager Billy King’s job didn’t get easier. He can’t move his highest paid players because they’re not worth anything, his team is in a close battle to make the 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs, and his owner is trying to get the hell out of Brooklyn.
Poor Brooklyn. Hey, it’s still better than being in the armpit that is New Jersey.