Last season: Third in the East (50-32), made it to the conference semifinals, losing in six games to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This season: 33-32 so far, 8th in the East, with a slightly better win percentage than number 9, the Detroit Pistons.
So what happened? Besides injuries, which are a daily routine for the Bulls? Thibodeau was fired and Fred Hoiberg hasn’t been able to bring his offensive touch from the Iowa State days into something that works consistently in the NBA. The team wasn’t changed, with everyone re-signed, no one traded and just Bobby Portis coming through the draft. Joakim Noah is out for the season. Too many big men, and a squad with very little balance. Even if they make the playoffs, the Bulls need to make some changes, maybe in the front office as well.
Last season: 5th in the East (46-36), made it to the conference semifinals, losing there to the Atlanta Hawks. This season: 31-35, 2.5 games behind 8th spot in the East.
So what happened? Is it all Paul Pierce leaving while Otto Porter Jr. not living up to expectations? No, not just that. Their defense has been inconsistent, Nene got old, John Wall struggles in turning into an outside shooting threat and the attempts to juggle a lack of power forward they’re happy with and different versions of small ball haven’t been successful. Miss the playoffs or even make them; this feels like Randy Wittman’s final season in D.C.
Last season: 6th in the East, 41-41, lost in the first round to the Chicago Bulls. This season: 29-39, 5.5 games outside the playoffs. Not over, but they’re probably not going to make it.
So what happened? There are rumors of Jason Kidd once again letting success get to his head and fighting the owners on more control regarding personnel. But on the court, the Bucks inability to find or develop a point guard to help facilitate their inside and outside talent took a toll all season long. Turning Giannis Antetokounmpo in recent games into a point forward might be the answer, but it’s a bit too late it seems.
Last season: 2nd in the West, 56-26, lost in the conference finals to the Golden State Warriors. This season: 34-33, 7th in the West, two games above the black line which means missing the playoffs.
So what happened? Somewhere along the lines of dreaming to build a three-star team with James Harden at the center of it, someone forgot to account for personality and how players react to the team’s best player not giving a damn on defense. Kevin McHale was fired less than a month into the season despite last year’s achievements, and the Rockets have been inconsistent ever since, while looking terrible defensively most of the time. While they might still make the postseason (on pace to be in), it’s a team that needs some work done, including some big names leaving, like Howard opting out and hitting free agency.
New Orleans Pelicans
Last season: 8th in the West, 45-37, lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors. This season: 24-42, 9.5 games behind 8th in the West. Out of it completely.
So what happened? The Pelicans didn’t have the luck of running against an injured OKC team this year, while their own injuries pulled them down. But it’s not just injuries. Alvin Gentry talked big after playing a role in the Warriors winning a championship, but couldn’t turn Anthony Davis into an even better version. The defense has been atrocious and in short, it was one of those years that might have pushed the Pelicans back more than just one season of missing the playoffs, unless they do well in the draft and the offseason.