Roundtable: Most Disappointing Players

Updated: May 10, 2010, 12:09 PM ET
ESPN.com

JohnsonScott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty ImagesJoe Johnson will soon have a lot of time to reflect on his subpar performance in the playoffs this year.

Two rounds of the playoffs are nearly complete. Who have been the postseason's biggest disappointments so far? Our experts weigh in.

Abbott

Henry Abbott, TrueHoop

1. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas
It's not fair. It's hard to imagine what he could have done better, but with how many different big-budget teammates, and with how many different coaches, will this man lead teams that shock with playoff underperformance?

Even when Dallas made it to the Finals -- a high point for most teams -- Nowitzki's team somehow managed to lose four straight to squander a 2-0 lead and become a tale of sadness. Dallas has now also lost in the opening round as the West's first (2007) and second (2010) seeds. Whether that says something about Nowitzki's game, leadership or fortunes, I don't know, but it's hard not to think these losses could come to define him.

2. Brandon Roy, Portland
He rushed back from knee surgery to help his Trail Blazers for the final three games of the season, and may have helped to hasten their demise. In three gimpy games, Roy was literally one of the least productive players in the entire playoffs (player efficiency rating: 4.5). You can't blame him for trying, but you can admit that he was playing with a remarkable absence of athleticism.

A lot of Blazers fans wondered why players like Jerryd Bayless, Dante Cunningham and Martell Webster were in the game, and the answer was because in a world in which Portland coach Nate McMillan had to count on older players like Juwan Howard, Marcus Camby and Andre Miller, those youngsters -- and not Roy -- provided much-needed bounce, hustle and energy. Roy's fruitless 4-of-16 play in Portland's season-ending Game 6 will haunt all summer.

3. Tim Duncan, San Antonio
The Phoenix Suns don't have an Achilles' heel. They have an Achilles' half-acre.

With Robin Lopez out, it's fair to ask if there has ever been a playoff team so unprepared to stop a quality big man in the paint. The Suns are terrible when Jarron Collins is on the floor, and Channing Frye and Amare Stoudemire play mainly for their offense. So with one of the most favorable matchups any NBA star has faced in the playoffs, Duncan should have been dominating.

Instead he was merely solid on offense, and a liability on defense. (Compare Duncan's offense to, say, the Hawks' Al Horford, who is playing against the defensive player of the year, and one of the NBA's best defenses. Horford has a much better true shooting percentage and a better rebound rate to go with lower usage and turnover rates.)

In Duncan's 12th postseason, he slipped badly. Steve Nash made layup after layup, and the vast majority of the time -- because of injury, age or something -- Duncan didn't even have the wherewithal to jump, let alone block the shot. Although Duncan did manage to briefly slow Nash with an inadvertent elbow to the eye in Game 4, Duncan's defensive shortcomings proved a key factor in one of the NBA's best teams bowing out in a second-round sweep instead of vying for a title.


Adande

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com

1. Joe Johnson, Atlanta
"The postseason is when players are made in this league. ... The best players step up."

Who said that? Joe Johnson, before the playoffs started. Who hasn't stepped up? Joe Johnson, the further the playoffs have gone. So far he's shooting 29 percent and averaging 12.3 points per game in the second round.

He was supposed to be a non-LeBron Plan B in free agency this summer. After this performance, why would anyone plan to spend big money on him?

2. Rasheed Wallace, Boston
Any hopes that he'd snap out of his lethargy once the playoffs arrived were quickly snuffed. It's as if he forgot the NBA has series, not single events like a college bowl game. All three of his 3-pointers and 17 of his 42 postseason points came in Game 2 of the Cleveland series.

The Celtics need to scrap to survive against the Cavaliers, and it's almost like Wallace isn't part of the fight.

3. Jason Kidd, Dallas
His points, assists and field goal shooting numbers all dropped from the regular season. When the Mavericks were in desperate need of someone to lead them in the right direction, he couldn't do it.


Arnovitz

Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop

1. Shawn Marion, Dallas
Marion voiced his displeasure with Rick Carlisle's willingness to bench him for long stretches during the Mavs' first-round debacle against the Spurs. "How can I be effective being pulled in and out like a rag doll?" Marion asked. Visit your local FAO Schwartz and you're bound to find a rag doll whose player efficiency rating (PER) exceeds 7.93, which is what Marion logged during his six postseason games.

2. Richard Jefferson, San Antonio
Jefferson was nothing if not consistent: He followed his lackluster regular season with a similarly lackluster postseason, even underperforming his regular-season averages in most categories.

The foundation of the Spurs' success over the years has always been the quality of their decision-making at both ends on every possession. Jefferson's presence on the court seemed to muddle that, and the Spurs no longer have the margin of error to absorb such damage.

3. Paul Pierce, Boston
Pierce's failures aren't for a lack of effort, but it's hard to find an area of the game in which he's helping the Celtics. He's shooting 40 percent from the field for the postseason, and against Cleveland, that mark has dropped to 32 percent, with about as many turnovers (11) as assists (12) and rebounds (12) in the series.

As much as Pierce has struggled with his trigger, the stats on the defensive end are more telling. The C's are almost 15 points better defensively per 100 possessions in the postseason when Pierce is riding the pine.


Broussard

Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine

1. Joe Johnson, Atlanta
Johnson, who was at least in the discussion as a player who might be able to get max money this summer, has fizzled not only against Orlando but, before that, was a disappointment in the last three games against Milwaukee.

2. Mo Williams, Cleveland
Mo's defensive struggles against Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo have put Cleveland in a pickle. Making matters worse, he's struggled on the offensive end as well, particularly against Boston.

3. Jason Terry, Dallas
The Mavs' second-leading scorer struggled badly in the playoffs, averaging just 12 points on 37 percent shooting and giving Dirk Nowitzki no support in Dallas' surprising loss to San Antonio.


Sheridan

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com

1. Joe Johnson, Atlanta
He hasn't looked like anything approaching a max player, which is what Johnson has been described as heading into this summer's free-agent market. And he disrespected Hawks fans by saying he didn't much care what they thought.

2. Richard Jefferson, San Antonio
RJ regained some of his bark after Gregg Popovich called him out as a "dog," but he's still the hands-down winner of the least bang for the buck ($14.2 million salary) award. Trading him helped Milwaukee's John Hammond win the executive of the year award.

3. Michael Beasley, Miami
Beasley gave about eight good minutes total in the Heat's five games, exposing how much more he's worth to Miami going forward for his cap room (if they can move him before July 8) than for his skills.


Stein

Marc Stein, ESPN.com

1. Joe Johnson, Atlanta
I don't buy that JJ has cost himself a ton of money with his postseason struggles because too many teams will have cap space this summer, virtually assuring that he'll get paid by somebody. But I'd argue that free agency would have been far more interesting if Johnson was playing well -- and not following up bad games by dissing Hawks fans to the media -- to attract a wider range of suitors.

2. Rasheed Wallace, Boston
Sheed-bashing has been a lot tougher in the Cleveland series … but I'm clearly not quite over the fact Adande, Sheridan and I all picked Sheed to win Sixth Man Award honors back in October.

3. Jermaine O'Neal, Miami
I've always been a Jermaine O'Neal backer because he's a game-changer defensively when his body cooperates. But when he averages 13.6 points and 6.9 boards for the season -- and then shoots 9-for-44 from the field over the course of a five-game series with the Celts when Dwyane Wade is so desperate for help in Miami -- there's little backing I can provide.


Thorpe

David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.

1. Tim Duncan, San Antonio
We can't blame him, after all he's done. But it's still heartbreaking to watch him play now, while remembering the superstar he's always been before.

2. Miami's starters other than Dwyane Wade
I don't even know what to say about them, other than "don't make plans for wintering in Miami just yet."

3. Jason Kidd, Dallas
Coaches and management love to go for experience in the playoffs, but Kidd is proof that it does not always pay off. It's fair to speculate that playing Rodrigue Beaubois the 41 minutes a game Kidd played could have changed the results of the Mavericks' series with the Spurs.

Check out the most disappointing teams of the postseason.