NBA

5 NBA Players Who Need to Step it Up

| by Hoops Karma

The first couple weeks of the NBA season always bring surprises. For some, it is a pleasant surprise (the 5-0 Hornets). For others, the news is not so good (the 0-4 Rockets). So which fans are the most disappointed right now? Here’s a look at several players who have been underperforming so far, and how their decreased production has impacted their teams.

Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns

While Nash’s scoring is up a little (19.2 PPG), his assists are way down (7.2 per game, his lowest since 1999-2000), and, worse still, his turnovers are way up (5.6 per game, 2nd most in the league and double his career average). It’s no surprise then, that his Suns, Western Conference finalists a year ago, are just 2-3 and sit in 4th place in the Pacific Division (behind Sacramento). Phoenix fans will hope that Nash’s subpar play is simply an aberration, but it is possible that after 15 seasons Nash, who will turn 37 in February, may finally be on the decline. If Nash doesn’t pick it up, look for things to get really ugly in the desert. The Suns have just three true guards on their roster, and Goran Dragic is certainly not ready for a starting role at the point. There is talent on this team, but the Suns will be hard-pressed to realize their potential without an effective Nash.

Baron Davis, Los Angeles Clippers

There was a lot of talk in the preseason about how the Clippers could become a playoff team thanks to a core of Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon and the veteran Davis manning the point. So far Griffin (18.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG) and Gordon (20.2 PPG, 4.7 APG, 49% FG) are holding up their ends of the bargain, but the Clippers are just 1-5 in part due to Davis, who has played just three games due to a knee injury. His scoring (10.3 PPG), assists (5.7 PG) and shooting percentage (32%) are his lowest since his rookie season, and new coach Vinny Del Negro is reportedly upset with his conditioning. While rookie Eric Bledsoe has put up decent numbers in Davis’ stead, (17 points, 8 assists on 7-for-10 shooting in a win over the Thunder; 12 points, 13 assists on 6-for-9 shooting in a loss to the Nuggets), Davis has the higher potential this season.

Corey Maggette, Milwaukee Bucks

When Milwaukee GM John Hammond traded for Corey Maggette this summer, he envisioned that Maggette would be able to help Milwaukee on the offensive end, while defensive-minded coach Scott Skiles would encourage Maggette to become a better two-way player. Maggette has always gotten to the free-throw line well, and Milwaukee ranked 29th in the NBA that category last year. While Maggette has still averaged 6.8 trips to the line this season, his stats are down across the board, and Milwaukee is 2-4. Maggette’s minutes are down compared to his stints with the Warriors and Clippers, which helps to explain his averages in points (14.2 PPG, lowest since 2002) and rebounds (4.7, ditto). The main problem for Maggette has been the fact that that he’s shooting just 37% from the field, including just 1-for-8 from three-point range. His low shooting percentage is a major reason why his offensive rating is a career-low 98. Instead of trying to do too much off the bench, Maggette needs to become more efficient in his scoring for Milwaukee to have success.

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Richard Hamilton, Detroit Pistons

No one expected much from a declining Pistons team this year, but it has been jarring to see just how far Hamilton has fallen. His averages of 12.0 PPG and 1.0 APG are well below his career averages (17.9 and 3.5 respectively), and his 37% FG is the worst of his 12 NBA seasons. The Pistons are just 1-5, with their only victory coming over the equally-lowly Bobcats on Friday. Hamilton is nearly 33, and it looks like years of sprinting around to get open may finally be catching up to him. He still has two more years left on his deal after this season (at almost $13 million a pop), so if the Pistons continue to struggle, they may want to see if they can unload him to a contender with the belief that a more limited role would allow him to rest his legs and regain his form.

Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers

Iguodala was a member of the U.S. team that won gold at the World Championships in Turkey this summer, but so far he hasn’t put the experience to good use, as the Sixers’ “best” player is just the fourth-highest scorer on a 1-5 team. His points (13.2 PG) and rebounds (career-low 5.0 PG) are down. He’s getting to the line just 3.8 times per game (compared to a career-average of 5.3) and when he gets there, he’s shooting just 57% (career average: 75%). With number two pick Evan Turner giving Philly very little off the bench (8.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.5 APG in 26 minutes a night), Sixers fans have little to be happy about aside from a somewhat-resurgent Elton Brand. This team could be very, very bad if Iguodala fails to produce this year.