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January 23, 2012
Underperformers
Largest Projection Declines

by Kevin Pelton

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After looking at the early season's biggest surprises on Friday, today we look at the players who have most underachieved their projections through the season's first four weeks. You might look at this as the more depressing half of the series, but I actually see it the opposite way. For the most part, these players cannot possibly continue to play as poorly as they have, which is good news for their teams.

For the technical details on how these in-season projections combine preseason SCHOENE projections and performance thus far (now updated through Saturday), see last Friday's introduction. As a reminder, I've also used this same method to come up with projected end-of-season leaderboards for the per-game stats. Now, on to the list.

1. Shawne Williams, New Jersey (.524 projected, .389 updated, -.135)
Ah, New Jersey, where small forwards go to die. Actually, Williams has played far more power forward this season, but seems to have been infected nonetheless. After making 40.1 percent of his triples in 2010-11 in New York to establish himself as a premier stretch four, Williams is shooting just 21.2 percent from downtown. His 33.3 percent accuracy on two-pointers has been equally problematic, and Williams' rebounding and shot blocking are down too. Williams missed time this week due to shin splints, but that can't explain why he's struggled so badly.

2. Jamaal Magloire, Toronto (.355 projected, .254 updated, -.101)
Magloire had the worst projection of anyone on this list, which reinforces just how poorly he's played. Magloire has shot 6-of-19 from the field and committed 10 turnovers, which has been compounded by missing 10 of his 12 free throw attempts. Yet improbably, the Raptors have actually been better with Magloire on the court, per BasketballValue.com. Magloire is a veteran defensive presence on the back line, but he's unlikely to continue to be a positive presence, at least on the floor.

3. Toney Douglas, New York (.577 projected, .476 updated, -.101)
The opening month has basically answered to everyone's satisfaction whether Douglas can be a starting point guard. A 1.19 assist-to-turnover ratio isn't going to work. Douglas can still be plenty valuable as a source of offense off the bench, presuming his shooting is more along the line of the 37.3 percent he shot from three-point range last season than the 23.9 percent he's mustered thus far. Douglas made nearly 39 percent of his triples as a rookie, so the overwhelming likelihood is that he will get it going. As for the step forward SCHOENE projected, that may not be in the offing.

4. Patrick Patterson, Houston (.520 projected, .428 updated, -.092)
Patterson returned from ankle surgery just at the start of training camp, putting him behind in terms of conditioning when the season began. That's shown up throughout his stat line. Patterson is making just 46.7 percent of his attempts at the rim, per Hoopdata.com (he was at 67.8 percent last season). His rebound percentage is down from 13.1 percent to 9.4 percent. Patterson has had two good outings in his last three games and may be turning the corner.

5. Austin Daye, Detroit (.508 projected, .417 updated, -.091)
Daye is suffering through a perplexing slump from the field. He's missed all 14 three-point attempts this season and hasn't been a whole lot better inside the arc, shooting 33.3 percent. As Rob Mahoney noted last week, Ben Wallace vocally encouraged Daye to keep shooting rather than trying to take the ball to the hoop. Such forays are largely responsible for Daye's turnover rate more than doubling in the early going. Daye's projection hasn't fallen off as much as the players ahead of him because he's played just 140 minutes after nearly 1,500 last season, a sample more than sufficient to indicate Daye's true skill. It's seemingly a matter of him finding his confidence, but nobody knows when that might happen.

6. Damion James, New Jersey (.367 projected, .297 updated, -.071)
While it's gotten less attention than Brook Lopez's fractured fifth metatarsal, James' bone has been more problematic. He initially fractured it in December 2010 and has played just 15 games since then. James will have to undergo a second surgery to replace the screw inserted into the bone to improve its stability after his foot caused him problems again this season. When he has been on the floor, James has struggled to make shots. He's still looking for his first career three-pointer in 576 minutes. All the time James has lost due to his foot has hampered his ability to make the transition from college four-man to NBA three.

7. Landry Fields, New York (.520 projected, .450 updated, -.070)
A few different factors are at play with Fields' regression from his promising rookie year. First, there's the inevitable shooting slump; Fields is 8-of-39 from three-point range and will surely improve his accuracy. He's also playing a different role, in part because the Knicks are so short on ballhandlers, meaning Fields is doing more playmaking. Both his assists and his turnovers are up substantially. The arrival of Tyson Chandler has also meant New York has less need for Fields' ability to rebound from the wing. In sum, the Knicks need to make better use of Fields' skills, but that ranks low on the list of problems at Madison Square Garden.

8. Mehmet Okur, New Jersey (.515 projected, .446 updated, -.069)
Sadly, the end of Okur's NBA career may be near. After glowing reports from Utah training camp suggested Okur looked more like the starter he was before rupturing his Achilles during the 2010 Playoffs, the reality in New Jersey has been far less impressive. Okur's net plus-minus (-29.5 points per 100 possessions) is comically bad. He's making 46.3 percent of his two-point attempts and has been a liability on the glass. Okur's size will always offer some value, but he will have to improve to continue as a regular.

9. Tyrus Thomas, Charlotte (.555 projected, .496 updated, -.059)
After missing time due to a sprained ankle and fatigued legs early in the season, Thomas hasn't remotely been himself. No matter what else, Thomas has always been reliable for copious rebounds and blocks, but he's not getting those so far. Thomas is rebounding like a below-average small forward, his block rate is the second-lowest of his career and he's shooting just 36.7 percent from the field. Thomas is likely to bounce back but will have to play better to carve out a regular role in a Charlotte frontcourt that is suddenly crowded.

10. Glen Davis, Orlando (.401 projected, .343 updated, -.058)
Davis narrowly edges Magic teammate Jameer Nelson for the last spot on this list. For reasons that remain mysterious, Davis is using a career-high 22.5 percent of Orlando's plays. About 40 percent of Davis' shots have been long two-point attempts, on which he is shooting 31.0 percent. That's down from his career mark, but only marginally. Davis has also given back last season's improvement at the rim, which has resulted in him shooting worse than 40 percent on two-point attempts. Davis especially suffers in comparison to the fine play Orlando has gotten from starting power forward Ryan Anderson, which--along with Dwight Howard--helps explain Davis' dismal net plus-minus (-17.1 points per 100 possessions).

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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