Few divisions are as deep as the Southwest, but even amongst a collection of teams that features some of the highest scoring numbers in the league there are players that don’t live up to their billing.
A minimum of three teams will make the postseason from the Southwest Division and with Dirk Nowitzki’s return to the court for Dallas, there could be a push for four. The players listed below could make or break their team’s effort to get into the playoffs or they may be so irrelevant by the time the all-star break comes that they’ll have rendered observing their poor form obsolete.
10. Jeremy Lin-With a few solid performances under his belt in recent weeks, Lin has been crawling his way off of this list. However, his average of 11.7 points and 4 assists per game is not exactly an overwhelming return on Rockets general manager Darryl Morey’s investment of an extremely back loaded contract. At this point, Lin is a disappointment, but if he can show up more consistently with performances like he did against San Antonio and New York in recent weeks, he’ll be off the bust list.
9. Tiago Splitter-The Spurs have no center essentially, but it hasn’t mattered for some time when you have the greatest power forward of all time surrounded by a lot of really solid scorers in the back court. This season was supposed to be a year in which Splitter maybe claimed his place in the starting lineup alongside Duncan and gave the aging star some help on the boards, but he has earned himself just seven starts all season, averaging a paltry five rebounds per game in an average of 20 minutes played.
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8. Austin Rivers-Rookies usually get a pass when it comes to criticism due to the fact they are rookies, but few come into the league with the hype of being under appreciated as much Rivers did. For all the talk about how good he would be, Rivers is averaging just under 8 points and 3 assists per game. Monty Williams is giving him plenty of chances as he averages 28 minutes per game and given the Hornets record it’s hard to see him not finding room for the rookie in his lineup. Perhaps Rivers will improve, but if these numbers continue, it’s tough to see what all the talk was about and why he seemed worthy of comparisons to the Warriors’ Harrison Barnes by some analysts at the beginning of the season.
7. Boris Diaw-Brought into help the Spurs front court score some points and be another guy to assist on the boards, Diaw got off to a slow start in San Antonio last year as he tried to settle into a new team and system after being traded midway through the campaign. This year, he has had a full offseason to work with the Spurs and the team has asked him to give them an additional presence near the basket rather just the perimeter threat he can bring. Diaw has earned himself just nine starts and averages 6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 23 minutes played on average.
6. Royce White-In one of the most bizarre sagas in basketball, White has yet to take the floor for the Rockets this season after the team denied him the ability to travel by bus to road games. His anxiety about flying has kept him off the court as he continues to treat it, but for fans, it’s got to be difficult to understand why he can’t at least play in home games. White was taken with the 16th overall pick in the draft and could be a key part of the Rockets lineup should the therapy ever get him squared away with the travel. Their front court needs a player capable of what White can bring, but thus far it’s been a huge let down not to see him out there.
5. Jerryd Bayless-Making the move from Toronto seemed smart once Kyle Lowry landed there, but Bayless has been less than impressive for the Grizzlies since doing so. Averaging just 5.8 points and 3.3 assists per game off the bench, Bayless has done little to support the notion that he’s a better backup than second year guard Josh Selby. He averages 17 minutes per night for Lionel Hollins who has to be at least a bit disappointed with Bayless’ production.
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4. Elton Brand-The Mavericks are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league and without Brand in the lineup they’ve suffered even greater in that department. Brought into backup Dirk Nowitzki and start in his place while the Big German was absent, Brand found himself floundering on Rick Carlisle’s bench for the majority of a game even before Nowitzki made his return. Brand started 13 games for Dallas this season and has averaged career lows in points per game (6.6), rebounds (6.2), assists (1.3), field goal percentage (42%) and steals (0.7). Luckily for Mark Cuban, Brand is on a one year deal and can be let go as dead weight when the year ends.
3. Mike Conley-It might be confusing to some how Conley can be having the best scoring year of his six year career and be labeled a disappointment, but he is. With a former championship winning point guard as his coach and a solid complement of borderline stars around him, Conley averages a mere 13.8 points and 6.3 assists in 34 minutes played per game. Over the span of his career it has been expected that he would take that next step, become a premier point guard in a league run by point guards, but Conley has remained mediocre. His defense has steadily improved each season warranting patience, but his ability to run the pick and roll and build the Grizzlies into an offensively solid team has been a failure. Memphis ranks 19th in assists and 18th in total offense.
2. Robin Lopez-Taken 15th overall in 2008 by Phoenix, truthfully most of Lopez’s career has been a disappointment. He was traded to New Orleans last summer to give the Hornets a big man’s presence, but despite averaging a career best 11 points per game, he has failed to make the impact where it’s been needed most, rebounding. As a team, the Hornets are the third worst rebounding team in the league as Lopez averages just over 5 boards per game and the team ranks 20th in points in the paint, an area where he has never been particularly good at showing off his seven foot stature.
1. Darren Collison-After missing out on Deron Williams, Mark Cuban had to do something, but the deal that sent backup center Ian Mahinmi to Indiana and brought Collison to “Big D” has been a mistake. Collison is averaging 12 points and 5 assists per game as a starter and his defensive play is so weak that Rick Carlisle is now experimenting with Dominique Jones again. The team signed Derek Fisher in a desperate attempt to get Collison coming off the bench as a nice sixth man type option rather than its starter. Now, Fisher has decided he wants to be with his family and isn’t going to play anymore leaving Jones to save the Mavs from Collison’s ineffectiveness.
The Mavs are the third worst defensive team in the league, not entirely down to Collison and his 1.4 steals per game, but anyone who watches the team can see that opposing guards get into the paint too easily drawing bigs out and creating passing lanes to just about anywhere on the floor. That starts with the point guard’s ability to stop his opposition, something Collison isn’t very good at. It would be different if he were to offset it with Chris Paul-ish stats on the offensive end, but that hasn’t been the case despite him averaging 30 minutes per game.