Most Underachieving NBA Teams of the 2020/21 Season

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Jan 30, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) looks for an opening around Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the fourth quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations and reality are two different things. When it comes to the NBA, you can never know what to expect. Still, most of us expected bigger things from these squads in the 2020/21 season. Instead, we got the most underachieving NBA teams.

Washington Wizards

May 3, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook (4) and Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) sit on the bench in the final seconds of the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Once the news broke, and Russell Westbrook was a part of the Wizards fans’ expectations immediately started growing. Unfortunately, it seems as if the Wizards never met those expectations.

After having issues with Covid protocols and several players missing games at the beginning of the season, Washington needed some time to bounce back. That’s how most underachieving NBA Teams started their struggle. However, things began to turn in mid-April. The Wizards went on an 8-game winning streak which increased their chances to make the playoffs significantly.

Russel Westbrook took the ball in his hands and started ballin’. He has been averaging 23-14-14 in the last 30 days. Those numbers can tell you how eager he is to make the playoffs. But typical for this season, injuries are a problem. Beal has missed some games, and we don’t know will Russ have any help before the playoffs.

Currently, Washington holds the number 10 spot in the East. That means they are probably going to be in the play-in tournament. That’s when they are likely to play against the Indiana Pacers or the Charlotte Hornets. To be in the playoffs, they need to beat them both.

New Orleans Pelicans

Dec 29, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2), forward Zion Williamson (1), forward Brandon Ingram (14), center Steven Adams (12) and guard Eric Bledsoe (5) against the Phoenix Suns at Phoenix Suns Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When your team has two of the brightest young stars in the game, you expect them to make it to the playoffs, right? And when they have veterans like Steven Adams, JJ Reddick, and Eric Bledsoe to surround those stars? What if you add the 2017 #2 draft pick playing his best season so far? The New Orleans Pelicans are on the most underachieving NBA teams list for a reason.

Zion Williamson had a decent first season. He did exactly what the scouting reports told us he is going to do. Zion dominated the paint. Unfortunately, the Pelicans’ big man only played 24 games in his rookie season. This year, Williamson played more games and averaged more minutes. So, he used those minutes to do more of the same – dominating the paint. Sadly, Zion has a fractured left ring finger, and we won’t see him play again this regular season.

Brandon Ingram’s stats are remarkably similar in the last two seasons. Still, 24-5-5 are decent stats. We can’t say the same thing for the current Pelicans’ record (31-39). New Orleans is holding the 12th spot in the West right now, and with Zion and Ingram out, it seems as if they gave up. Two losses in a row don’t work to their advantage either.

It looks like the Pelicans are missing this year’s playoffs, and there is a lot to work on for next season. First off, defense. It’s no secret that the Pelicans have some pretty offensively potent players. But, if you aren’t Brooklyn, don’t expect to make the playoffs when your team is 23rd in defensive rating. There is a lot of room for improvement, and we’ll see what New Orleans has for us next season.

Boston Celtics

Apr 27, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) reacts after a play against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the fourth quarter at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics aren’t that bad. They are the 7th seed in the East with an even.500 record (35-35). But, at the start of the season, most Bostonians expected their team to be way above .500. And why wouldn’t they? The Celtics have Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker. That’s a big three right there. Looking at their roster, they should be better placed in the Eastern Conference.

The lack of improvement is what most people hold against the Celtics at this point. A few years ago, it looked like this squad will dominate the NBA in the next couple of years. At the moment, Boston’s team record isn’t reflecting any development so far. Tatum and Jalen have stepped up their offensive game this year, and it’s pretty visible they are the future of the franchise. However, the team isn’t doing that well.

Nobody in Boston is happy that New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks will be in front of the Celtics at the start of the playoffs. But that’s the situation right now.�

Most analysts point to defense when they attempt to explain Boston’s struggle this year. Not only has it not improved, but it seems to have gotten worse this year. The defensive stats aren’t as bad as the visual component. It doesn’t look like we get to watch too much grit and grind at TD Garden this year.

To add to Boston’s troubles, their second-best player is out for the rest of the season.�Jaylen Brown had wrist surgery which won’t allow him to help his team in the playoffs.�Can Kemba and Tatum step up and make a run for the title? It doesn’t seem likely.

Los Angeles Lakers

Apr 17, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Utah Jazz forward Juwan Morgan (16) and guard Jordan Clarkson (00) defend Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma (0) as he drives to the basket in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Sadly, it looks like injuries will determine this season’s champion. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Unfortunately for some fans from LA, their team is nowhere near the spot everybody saw them at before the season started. The Lakers are currently claiming the 7th spot in the West. Even though LeBron was firmly against it, we’re probably going to watch the Lakers in the play-in tournament.

Lebron James played only 43 games this season, and the Robin to his Batman, Anthony Davis played even fewer, just 34. And it’s no secret this duo carried the team to the championship last year. Still, it might not be too late for the Lakers to step it up a gear when the play-in starts.

We saw last year what a healthy James-Davis duo can do and how far they can go, but can they stay fit for the length of the playoffs? If not, can they rely on Kuzma and Schroder to get them a championship? Those are the players that got the Lakers on the most underachieving NBA teams list. The future doesn’t look so bright when you look at how the team played without their stars this year.

The young guys haven’t proven that they’re ready for the grand roles, and the leaders can’t stay healthy. Are we getting a new champion, or can the Lakers make it work just in time? We’ll find out soon.

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