NBA Vet’s Having Surprising Seasons Part II: The Disappointments
Last week I went around the league and highlighted some veteran NBA players who have been playing surprisingly good basketball. These league mainstays have elevated and adapted their games with noticeable results.
There’s a flipside to every coin, however. Some established vets in the Association simply aren’t playing as well as advertised. Thus far in the 2018-19 season, here are the players having themselves a disappointing year:
The Nic Batum era in Charlotte has always been lackluster. The immense promise he showed in Portland has stagnated and even regressed in a Hornets uniform. This season has been the peak of this dispiriting trend.
Batum is actually having a career-year shooting the ball. But the advanced analytics tell a much more alarming tale. The 11-year vet is posting his career-worst metrics in Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares per 48 Minutes, and in both cases by a healthy margin.
Batum is producing just 9.3 points per game, while earning $24 million for the season. That’s simply not enough return for a team lacking in dynamic, cost-effective talent. This is especially troubling as Kemba Walker continues to play like a bat out of hell. The franchise’s best player is soaring to new heights. Batum should be keeping pace, not shying away.
Batum is on the wrong side of 30 and has two more years left on his contract. It’s imperative he returns to form this season.
New York Post
Another former Blazer who is having a rough go of it is Brooklyn’s Allen Crabbe. I was actually under the impression he was injured this season he had made such little noise, but in reality, Cool Breeze is playing rather poorly.
Crabbe is hitting just 26.1 percent of his shots inside of the three-point line. That's an abysmal mark for a veteran who should be setting the tone for this young Nets team. His rebounding and passing have also been immensely disappointing.
With Caris LeVert sidelined for the foreseeable future, Crabbe should inherit more playing time. Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson may need to look elsewhere if the UC Berkeley product can’t get it done.
Like Batum, Crabbe makes far too much money to represent such a drag on Brooklyn’s roster. If the team is going to flirt with playoff contention, Crabbe will need to step up his game or be left behind.
The Utah Jazz are one of the NBA’s biggest disappointments. Players who were breakout stars last season have come crashing back to earth this year. Ricky Rubio in particular has not looked nearly as good as he did in 2017-18.
His field goal and three point percentages are down considerable compared to last year. Ditto his rebounding. His assist numbers are up, but his offensive and defensive ratings are at their worst marks in four seasons. He can deliver a patented Ricky Rubio no-look pass, but across the board his overall play is weak this year.
Wins are few and far between for the Jazz this season. Rubio isn’t the only player in Utah having an underwhelming or subpar season. But he has still been a major letdown regardless.
However blasphemous it may be, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is not having himself a good year. San Antonio doesn’t appear to be the same cutting-edge, adaptive team we’ve come to expect.
The Spurs defense has been perfectly adequate, but the offense is worrisome. I fear Coach Pop is leaning too heavily on the mid-range game of LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. Sure, both of these players excel in this sort of offense, but it’s an approach that is increasingly inadequate.
San Antonio has usually been at the forefront of NBA trends. Even if Popovich is vocal about his disdain for the three-point shot, in years past, his Spurs have still taken and maken threes at a very high clip. This season San Antonio seems too hesitant in playing a modern style of basketball.
It’s hard to ignore the depleted roster with which Pop has been asked to succeed. Expectations for this season ought to be lower. All the same, I wish we were seeing just a bit more dynamism from the Spurs’ offense.
The NBA season is a long one. Any of the above players and their teams have plenty of time to make improvements. As established NBA veterans, it’s essential that they do so.