Triple Threat Weekly: The Expectations Game

Weekly NBA Content by Back of the Jersey

In this week’s NBA Triple Threat Weekly column, Tyler and Jim check in on some of the players who may or may not have flown under the radar this season. Which guys are surpassing, living up to or failing to meet the expectations placed on them at the season’s outset?

Exceeding Expectations

Tyler

James Harden: When James Harden broke into the league, it was no secret that he had the talent to be a gifted scorer whose style and grace made it seem possible to drop 30 points without breaking a sweat.

James Harden

Image courtesy of rookie.com

What no one knew was how complete his game would eventually become. As a fan, Harden’s evolution from scorer, to great offensive player, to complete player is awesome to watch. He has improved in every statistical category this season, and more importantly, his defense has gone from non-existent to servicable. Harden’s ability to go toe-to-toe with the more well-known King James last Sunday proves the bearded man has exceeded expectations and then some. He would certainly be a rational choice for season’s MVP; we will wait and find out.

Jim

Klay Thompson: Thompson is an obvious choice here. The first time All Star has vaulted himself into the conversation of best 2-guard behind James Harden…in the NBA, not just the Western Conference. He’s increased his scoring and his APG by 18% and 36%, respectively since last season, putting up 21.8 PPG and 3.0 APG. He’s also nearly cut his personal fouls in half while increasing his RPG and STOCKS (Blocks + Steals). Oh, and there was Klay Thompson’s 37-point 3rd quarter against the Kings in January, when he converted all 13 of his field goals. On the 2nd best team in the league (1/2 game behind Atlanta for the ‘best team’ distinction), Thompson has become a bonafide star under Steve Kerr’s tutelage.

Meeting Expectations

Tyler

Greg Monroe: When the top forwards and centers are discussed, the usual suspects are often reiterated across sports radio sound waves and internet headlines: LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, the Gasols, DeMarcus Cousins, the list goes on.

Rarely is Greg Monroe on that list. Actually, pretty much never. And, I think he deserves to be. He’s averaging a double-double (15 PPG, 10 RPG), and not many across the league can say that. Monroe plays with the smoothness of a James Harden (maybe it’s a lefty thing?); a big man who hits outside jump shots, possesses a traditional back-to-the-basket game, and provides solid interior defense. Monroe is having a hell of a year, and any team would be very luck to nab him in free agency this summer. I think we can confidently say he’s meeting expectations.

Jim

Dwyane Wade: No one talks about the guy anymore but at 33 years old, he’s still one of the top 5 2-guards in the NBA. You could argue that he’s in the top 3 discussion behind James Harden and Klay Thompson. Jimmy Butler is the conversation as well. Heck, the only true 2-guard who has a higher PER than Wade’s 21.47 is James Harden, at 26.96, good for 6th in the league. Butler ranks just behind Wade with a PER of 21.31.

Although Wade has missed 17 of his team’s first 60 games, he has ratcheted up his his scoring by nearly 2 PPG and assists per game (going from 4.7 last year to 5.3 this year). The Heat are 6-4 in their last 10 games, during they have played without Chris Bosh, who out for the season with blot clots in his lung. Could you see the #7 seeded Heat being a nightmare for the #2 seed Bulls? I can. I can also see them winning that series with the Dragic-Wade-Deng trio. Wade has kept this team afloat and has the Heat positioned for a very real chance of upsetting a top seed come playoff time.

Calderon was expected to provide leadership and poise to a playoff bound Knicks team.

Jose Calderon’s tenure with the Knicks has been filled with nothing but frustration and losing.
(Photo courtesy of Knicks Daily)

Below Expectations

Tyler

Jose Calderon: When the Knicks acquired Jose Calderon back in June 2014, in a multi-player package that sent Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the lone-star state, I was genuinely excited. Knowing the long (and often painful) history of New York point guards, Calderon seemed like a great fit in the triangle offense. Seen as a definite upgrade over the injury plagued Felton, I was in for a real shock when things turned south…quickly.

Calderon’s tenure with the Knicks started on rocky ground when he was sidelined with a calf injury for the first 13 games of the season. New York’s slow start could surely be attributed to the lack of their starting point guard, I thought to myself. When Calderon returned, things never got better…they got worse. Ultimately, this stat is the most truthful: New York is just 7-35 when he plays and 5-13 when he doesn’t. Although it would be unfair to blame the Knicks woes squarely on the shoulders of the 33-year old Spanish-born point guard, he certainly has not been the positive impact on the team I had hoped. From a statistical standpoint, he’s having the worst season of his career, and his bloated contract with several years remaining makes him a liability going forward. Phil Jackson’s first big move as Knicks President failed miserably in the acquisition of Calderon, who has been unable to meet expectations more than any other NBA player this season.

Jim

Lance Stephenson: How far has Lance Stephenson fallen? For a guy that led the league in triple doubles last year (5) on the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, he now averages less than 9 PPG for a Charlotte team that is tenuously holding onto the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference (ironically, a 1/2 game up on Indiana). Every basketball fan in the NBA was incredulous when Indiana did not retain Stephenson with its 5-year, $44 million offer. Charlotte has him essentially through next season, at $18 million total ($9 million/year). The third year is a team option. Now the Pacers must be thinking that they dodged a bullet with the suddenly ineffective Stephenson.

While he’s still only 24 years old, one has to wonder that when he is let go after next season (or sooner, as he has been involved in several trade rumors), what his value is to a contending team? He’s certainly not a $10-$12 million player anymore. Wow, how much difference a year makes?

 

About Tyler Michels

Tyler is an NC State alum living in Raleigh, NC. Growing up in Northwest New Jersey, Tyler developed a love for New York sports teams, driving his desire to become a writer. In his free time, Tyler can probably be found on a golf course.

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