Bad and they know it

Dwight Howard's season was full of drama and questions. AP Photo/John Raoux

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. OK, which one is it, then? When it comes to the 2011-12 NBA season, we'll look at the latter.

Our 5-on-5 crew weighs in on the dark lining to silver clouds.

1. Worst NBA player relative to your preseason expectations?

Jared Dubin, Hardwood Paroxysm: Toney Douglas. A long, long time ago, Douglas was the Knicks' starting point guard on Christmas Day against the Celtics. A lot has changed for both the Knicks and Douglas since then. His replacement, Jeremy Lin, has been out with a knee injury for weeks and Douglas still can't get on the court over Baron Davis or Mike Bibby. He's fallen far, fast.

Israel Gutierrez, ESPN.com: It would be easier to pick a rookie like Jimmer Fredette or an injury-plagued guy like Eric Gordon. But based on fair expectations and good health, it has to be Jamal Crawford. He could've been a reasonable replacement for Brandon Roy on a playoff team. Instead he's shooting his worst percentage since his rookie season on a tanking team.

Daniell Nowell, Magic Basketball: Amare Stoudemire. Plenty of players have been worse, objectively, but I'm pretty shocked at how fast he went from All-Star to albatross. His regression was the least talked-about -- and probably most significant -- reason for the Knicks' struggles this year, and his uninsured contract bodes ill for the franchise's future.

J.M. Poulard, Warriors World: After hearing numerous reports that Eddy Curry was in the best shape of his life, it was widely assumed he might give the Miami Heat perhaps 10 quality minutes per game as a decent low post option. Instead he has been relegated to the bench, appearing 13 times in a game this season for a total of 58 minutes.

Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Lamar Odom. When Dallas was gifted the reigning Sixth Man of the Year Award winner, it looked like their lackluster effort to defend the title was looking up. Instead, Odom was an abject disaster who was eventually sent home. "It's like going to war with wet gunpowder," said Mavs president Donnie Nelson about Odom's effort this season.

2. Worst NBA team relative to your preseason expectations?

I'll admit, I got sucked in by the potential of the Wizards before this season. I believed JaVale McGee would figure it all out, that Andray Blatche would "get it," that Nick Young would pass. But I was wrong. So, so wrong. Now McGee's in Denver, Young's in Los Angeles and Blatche hasn't played since January. I can only hope it gets better in Washington next year, for John Wall's sake.

Gutierrez: Even though they've worked their way into tough-first-round-opponent status, the Knicks' first half of the season was enough of a disappointment to carry them to this position. They were supposed to surpass the Celtics and annoy the Bulls and Heat. Instead, they got their coach fired and didn't come around until they became Carmelo Anthony's team.

Nowell: Portland Trail Blazers. The way Portland came out of the gate, you would've been forgiven for predicting a deep postseason run and a COY for Nate MacMillan; instead, the Blazers' stunning midseason collapse has them hunting for a new coach and hoping for a speedy reload with some deftly acquired draft picks.

Poulard: The Portland Trail Blazers came into this season with a chance to exceed last season's success and earn themselves possibly a fourth or fifth seed out West with the additions of Ray Felton and Jamal Crawford. Instead, things went south after a quick start, and they are now in tank mode.

Wade: New York Knicks. It's not that I thought this Frankenstein monster of a creation would threaten Chicago or Miami for the Eastern crown. But it shouldn't have taken a soon-to-be-D-Leaguer who was sleeping on his brother's couch to keep them out of the lottery.

3. Worst move or non-move this season?

Dubin: The Dwight Howard fiasco. Dwight's constant wavering about whether he would sign an early termination waiver, demand a trade or commit to Orlando long-term resulted in a colossal series of mistakes. Orlando's management allowing their franchise to be held hostage by Howard was just as bad. Someone should have moved on, whether it was Howard, Stan Van Gundy or Otis Smith.

Gutierrez: What's that? Another "Dwight Howard wants out" rumor? The Magic placed too much emphasis on keeping Howard home for the All-Star Game and not enough on avoiding the headaches, and backaches, he'd create. His first real injury and his continued diva-ish antics might lower his value on the trade market. And the Magic might lose a quality coach in the meantime. Fairly disastrous.

Nowell: Golden State's trade for Andrew Bogut. Look, I understood the Warriors' desire to move Monta Ellis and find somebody who fit their roster better. But however flawed Ellis is, he was Oakland's most productive and hardest-working player this season, and you simply can't trade that guy for somebody too injured to play and expect not to hear it from your fans.

Poulard: The Golden State Warriors chose to use their amnesty clause on Charlie Bell despite having Andris Biedrins on the team; a move that is still perplexing today. The Latvian center has lost his confidence and has nearly been invisible for the team all season, yet he is paid like a stud big man.

Wade: Not trading Dwight Howard. The Magic did everything they could to keep the best center in the NBA on their roster for even just one more season. How'd that work out for ya, Otis Smith?

4. Worst luck this season?

Dubin: The Hornets. Eric Gordon got injured and has played in just eight of the Hornets' 63 games. Jarrett Jack, Chris Kaman, Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry, Trevor Ariza and Jason Smith have combined to miss 132 games due to injury (and those awkward few weeks when Kaman was sent home while the Hornets sought a trade). Those are New Orleans' seven best players. Somehow, Monty Williams still got them to 20 wins.

Gutierrez: Houston had a good shot at this when David Stern ruined their trade plans for Pau Gasol, but the Rockets recovered nicely. So this distinction goes to the Sacramento fans, who not only had a disappointing collection of talent but might just lose the Kings altogether after it seemed they'd stay put. Doesn't get unluckier than that.

Houston Rockets. The Rockets seemed poised to finally make their big splash, acquiring Pau Gasol in a trade that, rumor has it, would've also allowed them to woo Nene and bludgeon the rest of the West into submission. After "basketball reasons," though, the Rockets are back to floating in their familiar late-lottery purgatory.

Poulard: The Nets probably had a news conference ready for Dwight Howard's arrival, but then watched him change his mind and choose to stay in Orlando until at least next season. Consequently, a roster already lacking talent may end up losing its best player in Deron Williams, who is probably tired of carrying a team with no chance at the playoffs.

Wade: The New Jersey Nets. They probably could have convinced Orlando to trade them Dwight had Brook Lopez not fallen to injury. Then, had Howard not shocked everyone by staying in Orlando, they probably could have signed him this summer. Now all signs point to Deron Williams leaving, and I don't think even Jay-Z can convince 2.5 million Brooklynites to root for a team led by MarShon Brooks.

5. Worst thing that has happened this season?

Dubin: Ricky Rubio and Jeremy Lin each going down for the season with a busted knee. Rubio took the Wolves to higher heights than we ever thought they could go this season, developing magical chemistry with Kevin Love along the way. And Lin simply shocked the world, vaulting from anonymity directly into our hearts. They were both so viscerally enjoyable to watch, and it's a shame they didn't get the chance to lead their teams to the playoffs. The Basketball gods can be so cruel.

Gutierrez: The lack of practice time for teams essentially ruined the quality of basketball the first half of the season. And it never allowed for the younger teams in the league to develop into anything resembling competitive. Glad we got a season, of course, but segments of it have been painful to watch.

The Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats' historic awfulness has not been discussed enough. They are poised to have a historically bad season, and the misery is almost certainly the result of the organization (not illogically) trying to bottom out to rebuild. You sure would think the league would want to rethink a system that allows a product so putrid to take the floor.

Poulard: The Dwight Howard drama has dominated NBA headlines all season: wavering between leaving and staying with the team, allegedly wanting his head coach to get fired, his evasive approach to questions and his injury have all left a bad impression about the player and the league, and led many to wonder who is in fact running the asylum.

Wade: The compressed schedule. Scoring is lower than it has been since they took away hand checks, and league-wide shooting accuracy has been erratic. But I guess it's no surprise that a league that was prepared to cancel the season over revenue issues chose to play more games and make more money over ensuring teams had enough rest and practice time to play at a high level.

ESPN.com and the TrueHoop Network
Israel Gutierrez covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Jared Dubin, Jared Wade, Daniel Nowell and J.M. Poulard write for the TrueHoop network.

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