2023 NBA playoffs are underway, and as always, there are teams and players who are exceeding expectations and others who are failing to meet them. NBA playoffs are always full of surprises, and this year has been no exception. Injuries and upsets have made the first round more unpredictable than anticipated, including an early exit from a top seed.
In this news and data article, we will take a closer look at some of the biggest disappointments of the 2023 NBA playoffs.
2023 NBA Playoff: 6 Letdowns and Surprises
2023 NBA playoff season unfolds, we have seen several underdog teams rise to the occasion and exceed expectations. Unfortunately, the Cleveland Cavaliers were not one of those teams, as they were eliminated in the first round by the New York Knicks. Despite this disappointment, the Cavs should not be written off as a lost cause. With the right adjustments and improvements, they have the potential to make a strong comeback in the coming years. The Cavs have a young core of talented players, including Donovan Mitchell, who was acquired in the offseason, and Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, who have shown immense promise. By addressing their weaknesses and making necessary changes, the Cavs can come back stronger and compete at a higher level in future NBA playoff seasons.
Los Angeles Clippers: Overcoming Injury Card
As a basketball team, the Los Angeles Clippers have faced numerous challenges, particularly regarding injuries to their star players, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. These injuries have significantly contributed to the team's overall disappointment. Although the Clippers demonstrated some commendable effort and creativity in their final three matchups against the Phoenix Suns, the absence of their star players was undeniable.
However, relying on the injury card as an excuse for their struggles is not a viable long-term strategy. The Clippers have dealt with high-volume absences from Kawhi and PG for four years now, making it a recurring issue. Building a team solely based on the idea of being title contenders only when both Kawhi and PG are healthy is not sustainable and will not produce significant results.
The team should not blow up its roster, as that would offer little incentive. With only one more guaranteed season left on their deals (2024-25 player options), George and Leonard's markets are already complicated. Additionally, the Clippers do not control their own first-round draft pick until 2027.
On the other hand, staying the course may also be unpalatable, especially given the new collective bargaining agreement that prohibits the Clippers from using the mini mid-level exception or adding salary through trades. Making upgrades to the team will be difficult without first cutting costs.
Therefore, while injuries have been a significant obstacle in the Clippers' postseason runs, the lack of an apparent path forward is even more concerning. The team needs to find a way to build a competitive team that can withstand injuries and continue to perform at a high level.
Half-Court Offense: Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers
Both the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers have struggled with their half-court offense in the first round of the playoffs. Of the 20 teams that made the play-in threshold, they rank 18th and 19th in half-court efficiency. This is especially concerning for the Grizzlies, who should be performing better given their personnel. Desmond Bane is at 31.8 percent from downtown, Jaren Jackson Jr. is at 31.6 percent, and Tyus Jones is at 11.8 percent. Dillon Brooks' 21.6 percent clip on 7.4 attempts per game is damaging, even by his standards. Luke Kennard and Ja Morant are the only players jacking at least three triples a night and hitting more than 32 percent of them. Moreover, no team is posting a lower effective field-goal percentage on wide-open jumpers (47.3).
Kevin Huerter's Shooting Woes
Kevin Huerter, the Kings guard, is struggling mightily in the postseason. Unlike everyone else on the roster, Huerter was one of the most valuable non-star shooters during the regular season. It wasn't just that he hit 40.2 percent of his threes on nearly seven attempts per game. It's that he scored in motion and drained 41.6 percent of his off-the-dribble treys. However, that mark has plummeted to 14.3 percent in the playoffs. He is also shooting at 17.6 percent accuracy on catch-and-shoots (3-of-17) and a disastrous 7.7 percent clip (1-of-13) on wide-open threes. This is particularly puzzling given Huerter's performance in the regular season, and it remains to be seen if he can turn it around in Game 6.
Cleveland Cavaliers' first-round playoff exit
The Cleveland Cavaliers' first-round exit from the playoffs at the hands of the New York Knicks should be viewed from the right perspective. Although the team appeared to be a contender during the regular season, their trajectory was not solely focused on this season. The team has several young players who are still developing, including Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen. Additionally, the team acquired Donovan Mitchell over the summer, who is only 27 years old.
Despite their youth, there are areas where the team needs improvement. For example, their spacing could be better, and there are questions about the coaching decisions made by head coach JB Bickerstaff. There are also concerns about the offensive viability of Isaac Okoro, and Evan Mobley's shooting outside the restricted area. The team needs to address these issues in the off-season.
That being said, there is also a sense of urgency for the team to improve. Their young core won't be young forever, and Donovan Mitchell will become a free agent in two years. The team has already expended their best trade chips, so they will need to find other ways to improve.
Postseason Letdowns: Dennis Schröder, D'Angelo Russell, and Troy Brown Jr.
Dennis Schröder, D'Angelo Russell, and Troy Brown Jr. have graduated from the larger Lakers discussion surrounding postseason disappointments. While they are not suddenly going gangbusters, they have turned in redeeming moments during the first round. Russell's efficiency is in the gutter, Schröder isn't providing nearly as much interior pressure against the Memphis defense, and Brown is an offensive zero. Nonetheless, they have contributed in different ways and have helped their teams to stay alive in the playoffs.
At The Stats Balls we are going to provide a overview of NBA playoffs 2023 for most series. As the series of Kings vs Warriors reach game 7.
For previous winners and losers of NBA playoffs 2023, check the analysis here.
Overview of 2023 NBA Playoffs Round 1
NBA Western Conference Round 1
Western Conference, some of the lower seeded teams were just better than their playoff seed. The defending champion Golden State Warriors struggled during the regular season due to a combination of factors, but they are now at full strength for the playoffs and apparently using the first round to re-find their team chemistry. The Lakers were rebuilt late in the season due to some really savvy moves by Rob Pelinka, and they’re just a lot better team in April than they were in September. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies didn’t have the star power to overcome LeBron and AD with an excellent supporting cast.
NBA Eastern Conference Round 1
Over in the Eastern Conference, Milwaukee Bucks went into a late-season swoon, and their star player Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t himself in their first-round series against the Miami Heat. One player, Jimmy Butler, showed how he could elevate a decent team to excellence all by himself, just by outplaying everyone else on the court. The fact that the Knicks won easily over the Cavs was not much of an upset, but it was surprising how uncompetitive the series was.
NBA has definitely reached a level of competitive balance that has rarely been seen. There are no more super teams, and the variance that three-point shooting has brought to basketball means that any team can win or lose on any given night. The league is also filled with more talent than ever before, so the separation between the best and worst players/teams isn't as large.
NBA playoffs are full of surprises, but one thing is clear: experience and coaching matter. The teams that have both are the ones that will advance, and the ones that don't will be left wondering what could have been.
The Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers have struggled with their half-court offense, while Kevin Huerter is experiencing a dramatic drop in his shooting percentage. However, there are also players like Dennis Schröder, D'Angelo Russell, and Troy Brown Jr., who have turned in some redeeming moments despite not performing at their best. As the playoffs continue, it remains to be seen who will rise to the occasion and who will continue to disappoint.
Tell us in the comments below on the next surprises of 2023 NBA playoffs round 2.
Which teams have exceeded expectations in the 2023 NBA playoffs?
The 2023 NBA playoffs have seen some teams exceed expectations, including the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat.
Which teams have fallen short in the 2023 NBA playoffs?
The 2023 NBA playoffs have also seen some teams fall short, including the Los Angeles Clippers and the Bucks