It’s far too early for any NBA fans to be panicking — we’re only three weeks into the season! But that doesn’t mean we should discount the start of the season entirely.
Some teams that were expected to contend for a top seed have fallen short of expectations (looking at you, Sixers, Jazz, Lakers, and Celtics). On an individual level, some players have also gotten off to a sluggish start. Here are 10 players who have struggled early in the season.
10. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies
Gasol will soon turn 34, so we had to know his decline was coming soon. Unfortunately, it looks like the 7-foot-1 Spaniard only has a couple years left in the league. He’s still getting plenty of burn (32.4 minutes per game) and his rebounding numbers (8.9 per game) are respectable, but his offensive productivity and efficiency have dropped. His scoring average has been on a gradual decline since 2016, and it’s now down to 14.4 per game. He’s shooting only 42 percent from the field, the lowest number of his career. The Grizzlies are off to a somewhat surprising 6-4 start, and they could hang around the West’s eight-seed line – but they’ll need more output on offense from the skilled big man.
NBA teams have not even played 10 percent of their regular season games this year, and there is already a rivalry brewing over which player will take home the league’s Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Derrick Rose is a great candidate for the award, as he is off to a hot start with the Minnesota Timberwolves and has shown flashes of the star player he used to be. He’s averaging 14.3 points and 4.9 assists per game with the Timberwolves following a couple of lost seasons in New York and Cleveland, and he spoke this week about how winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award is one of his goals.
D-Rose says his goal is to win the 6th man award this season
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 30, 2018
He’s not the only one gunning for the hardware, however. Clippers guard Lou Williams, who is averaging 16.7 points per game, is also campaigning for it. The same goes for Evan Turner, who’s off to a slightly less impressive start with 9.3 points, 4.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds in Portland.
Stay out that bro lol https://t.co/iDwtaFb6Zg
— Lou Williams (@TeamLou23) October 30, 2018
That’s where me gone be!
— Evan Turner (@thekidet) October 30, 2018
We can’t remember many seasons where guys were openly campaigning to win Sixth Man of the Year less than a month in, but here we are. If Rose can stay healthy, he’s probably the favorite now that he is playing under Tom Thibodeau again and dealt with so much drama over the past year or so. We’ll try to contain our excitement as the battle rages on.
Lou Williams isn’t tripping over the Los Angeles Lakers’ massive summer.
In an interview this week with TMZ Sports, the LA Clippers guard was asked which of the two teams was the team to beat in Los Angeles after the Lakers’ signings of LeBron James and Co. and responded with a bit of trash talk.
“Record-wise, the Clippers are still the team to beat,” said Williams. “I mean, the Lakers ain’t beat us since I’ve been on the Clippers. So, record-wise, yeah, we are the better team in L.A. until they prove it.”
Williams, himself a former Laker, has the receipts to prove it. The Clippers did go 42-40 last season, compared to 35-47 for their crosstown rivals. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is also a perfect 3-0 against the Lakers since coming to the Clippers last summer (the Lakers defeated the Clippers in the final game of last season, but Williams did not play due to a sprained ankle).
James can obviously flip that script real quick, especially with the Clippers losing DeAndre Jordan in free agency. But based off Williams’ comments and those that another member of the Clippers recently made, the team is hardly shaking in their moccasins at what their Staples Center roommates have done.
- Lou Williams
DeMar DeRozan is reportedly upset that the Toronto Raptors are sending him to the San Antonio Spurs as part of a trade for Kawhi Leonard, and at least one of his former teammates feels he has every right to be.
Veteran guard Lou Williams, who was with Toronto for the 2013-2014 season, wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning that DeRozan got “stabbed in the back” by the Raptors.
Na. They ain’t snake my man like that. https://t.co/NL0b1EUg40
— Lou Williams (@TeamLou23) July 18, 2018
I’m hurt bro. I’m hurt. My dog gave that city and organization his heart and soul. He was loyal to the soil and got stabbed in the back.
— Lou Williams (@TeamLou23) July 18, 2018
The Raptors reportedly met with DeRozan within the last few weeks and assured him he would not be traded this offseason. According to NBA reporter David Aldridge, DeRozan is “extremely upset” that the franchise he has spent his entire career with lied to him.
Meanwhile, @DeMar_DeRozan not backing off of claim he was lied to by Toronto regarding a potential trade, per source. Extremely upset.
— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 18, 2018
For what it’s worth, it seems like the other star player in the trade is also less than thrilled about the deal. When fans get upset with star players for leaving in free agency, they need to remember situations like the one that is unfolding with DeRozan. As cliche as it sounds, professional sports are very much a business.
Lou Williams does not seem too happy that he missed out on a spot in the All-Star Game while Jimmy Butler was selected and sat the entire thing out.
In a tweet just hours after the game on Sunday went final, the LA Clippers guard appeared to call out his Minnesota Timberwolves counterpart Butler, who failed to play even a single minute in the contest.
@JimmyButler u serious bruh? Lol
— Lou Williams (@TeamLou23) February 19, 2018
Butler, who leads the NBA with 37.3 minutes per game, was selected as an All-Star reserve and got picked to Stephen Curry’s team for Sunday’s game. He was said to be “under the weather” during the broadcast however and later gave this explanation for why he sat out, per Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:
Jimmy on why he didn't play: "Just rest, man. I got to rest my body. I know that this Timberwolves season is very, very important to me and I've got to make sure I'm ready to go when I get back there."
— Jerry Zgoda (@JerryZgoda) February 19, 2018
There is virtually no doubt that Butler deserved to be an All-Star as he has looked like an MVP candidate so far this season. But regardless of his reasons for sitting out, it would have been nice in hindsight for his spot to have gone to someone who could have actually played.
As for Williams, who is averaging a career-high 23.2 points per game, he was one of the most deserving contenders who did not make the All-Star cut. Thus, the former Sixth Man of the Year’s reaction is hardly surprising, especially since he was not pleased with being snubbed in the first place.
Maybe the Los Angeles Clippers aren’t completely tearing down the organization for a rebuild.
Even though the Clippers traded Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons last week, a report said the team was looking to extend Lou Williams. Talks on that front were heating up, according to a report from ESPN early Wednesday morning. And now The Vertical’s Shams Charania is reporting that the two sides have agreed to a 3-year contract extension. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says the third year includes a team option.
Williams, 31, is having a breakout season. He’s averaging a career-high 23.3 points and 5.3 assists per game and narrowly missed making the All-Star team.
And as positive as this news about the extension is, we still should not discount the possibility of him potentially being traded in the future. After all, the Clippers had just signed Griffin to a huge deal over the summer and dealt him in the middle of his first season after that.
- Lou Williams
The Boston Celtics seem determined to get a first-round pick in any trade that involves point guard Marcus Smart, and now we have a better understanding of why.
ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that the Celtics have been so adamant about getting a first-round pick as part of a deal for Smart because they are hoping to be able to use the pick to acquire either Lou Williams or Tyreke Evans.
The Celtics are chasing that extra first-round pick in Marcus Smart trade talks in hopes of flipping it in a deal for either Lou Williams or Tyreke Evans, league sources say
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) February 6, 2018
The Celtics are looking for an impact player who can score points off the bench, and either Williams or Evans would be a nice addition. Evans is a player Danny Ainge has supposedly been enamored with for a while. Williams is averaging 23.3 points and 5.3 assists in what has been a career year for him with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Smart seems to have fallen out of favor with the Celtics in the wake of an embarrassing temper tantrum, but Ainge has never been one to make desperation moves. If Boston can’t find a team willing to offer a first-round pick, they will probably just stick with Smart.