It's been barely a month since the new NBA season started, but some teams already have underwhelming starts led by struggling stars. These are five players who are having a disappointing season so far.
5. Michael Porter Jr.
Porter Jr. had a terrific postseason last year, which earned him a massive extension from the Denver Nuggets. Much is expected from him this season, filing up the production missed by Jamal Murray, who is still recovering from his injury. However, with these numbers, it's clear MPJ's performances as of late need to improve: 10.7 points, 34.5 percent shooting on the field, and a measly 23.3 percent from the rainbow territory.
The Nuggets sit on the 6th spot in the Western Conference standings. There is no timetable yet for Murray's return, and if the Nuggets want to make it in the playoffs, they need Porter Jr. to play like a $145 million star. Denver fans and the management are hoping Michael could get out of his slump soon to help shave the pressure off Nikola Jokic's shoulders.
4. Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid's numbers are still decent if he is not named Joel Embiid: 21 points per game, 8.7 rebounds, and 43 percent shooting from the field. The Ben Simmons drama in Philadelphia might have been a factor for Embiid's slow start, but with increased pressure and scrutiny from fans, he must regain his old form soon.
There's still no timetable for Simmons' return, and until he is back in the lineup, the task of leading the team on both ends of the floor falls on the 4-time All-Star. Fortunately, the new addition Andre Drummond fits in well. The Sixers need Embiid to get his numbers up, especially his shooting from the field if they want to keep their playoff dreams alive. It will be an interesting stretch of road games next for Philadelphia with Tobias Harris entering the NBA's safety protocol, Simmons still missing, and Embiid's early-season struggles.
3. Devin Booker
Booker is averaging 22.6 points per game while shooting 41.6 percent from the field and 26.6 percent shooting in the 3-point area. These numbers are disappointing for a player with Devin's caliber. He almost led the Phoenix Sus to a championship last year, and his struggles in the first few games would only make the bashers think that their finals run was a fluke.
At the 10th spot in the stacked Western Conference, the Suns need to bounce back in a big way. The situation with DeAndre Ayton's contract extension is not helping. As a streaky shooter, Booker needs to be more accurate, especially in his 3-point shooting. As someone who has played in the finals, D-Book knows how to bounce back, and fans hope it happens sooner than later.
2. James Harden
The media paint Harden's struggles as a result of the NBA's rule change on foul-baiting. Numbers show that The Beard has indeed attempted free throws fewer times this season. Kyrie Irving's return is still uncertain, or if he returns to play this year at all, and Harden and Kevin Durant are expected to bring the Brooklyn Nets to the promised land.
Harden's averages this season are 18.6 points on 39.8 shooting from the field. He is only making the trip to the charity stripe three times per game this year, compared to 11.8 free throw attempts per game in the 2019-20 season. The lefty All-Star needs to recalibrate his approach to the game and change his notion of what a foul is. James should get back to his old lethal scoring self. If he just let it fly or continue to attack without attempting to get fouled, the Nets will be in a better position in the playoffs.
1. Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard, this season is anything but Damian Lillard we know from the past. He is only averaging 18.6 points per game, with 34.9 shooting from the field and 23.1 percent from the 3-point area. If he continues to misfire from the rainbow arc, there will be no Dame Time for the Portland Trail Blazers in the regular season, let alone in the playoffs.
Dame might still be adjusting to new coach Chauncey Billups' system, or he could be silently forcing his way out of the team. Despite the adjustments they made this year, Portland is still not considered a contender for the title. With Lillard insisting his persistence to win in his city and not join a super team could haunt him one day, fans are feeling sorry both for their team and the All-Star point guard whose performance has plummeted quickly after just seven games. CJ McCollum can't do it alone. Dame needs to bounce back soon, or the management should pull the trigger on a rumored trade deal for Ben Simmons.
As former player Gilbert Arenas claims, scorers often struggle at the start of the season because they still carry the defensive mindset from offseason training camps. Star players have an immense responsibility to deliver because of their massive contracts. It's normal for players to get in a slump once in a while, but these five players cannot afford not to play like their old selves.