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We're about three weeks from the close of the 2023-24 NBA regular season, so let's be clear: Things could still change. But with regard to the five teams I've pegged as the biggest underachievers of the season, it's not likely. 

The Phoenix Suns would be the exception, I would say. If they get red hot and finish above 50 wins, when you consider the injuries they've faced, I wouldn't necessarily call the season an underachievement. But I don't see that happening. We'll get into the Suns more, plus the four other teams that comprise the list of biggest underachievers this season. 

Here we go.

1. Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta has been the biggest disappointment in the league and it's not close. There is legit talent on this team. Quin Snyder, and his faster-paced system aimed at getting up more 3-pointers, was supposed to unlock things. It hasn't. 

The Hawks whose over/under win total was set at 42.5 to start the season, are on pace to win 35 games. Their net rating has fallen by two points from last season, a major drop. They're the third worst defense in the league, and the offense continues to rely far too heavily on individual creation and tough shotmaking, evidenced by Atlanta's 28th-ranked assists percentage. Trae Young continues to be an off-ball statue. 

The Young/Dejounte Murray duo was supposed to lift Atlanta into serious conversations. Again, it hasn't. They are being outscored by almost six points per 100 possessions with those two on the court, per Cleaning the Glass, with an offense that registers in just the 59th percentile league-wide. Simply put, it's not nearly good enough to make up for such defensive porousness. 

One of Young or Murray is likely to be traded this offseason, if not both. If Snyder didn't come with such pedigree, he'd have been fired by now. You can argue about the why, but the bottom line is the team is worse than when Snyder showed up, and that was true long before the Young injury, so don't try blaming that. 

2. Los Angeles Lakers

Like the team that will come next on this list, the Lakers' over-under win total was set at 47.5 this season. They're tracking well south of that number despite the fact that -- contrary to what feels like a canned excuse for this team -- their top guys have enjoyed remarkable health. Austin Reaves has played every game. Anthony Davis has missed four. D'Angelo Russell five. LeBron James nine. 

The Gabe Vincent signing was a bust. Vincent, Christian Wood and Jarred Vanderbilt are all reportedly out for the rest of the season, but still, if you told the Lakers prior to the season that they would get this many healthy games out of LeBron, AD and Reaves, not to mention a record-breaking campaign from Russell, and they would still be scrapping for one of the final Play-In Tournament spots with a negative point differential, they would be massively disappointed. 

All of this said, unlike the next team on this list, I would still fear the Lakers in the playoffs, if they get there. At the end of January, I picked the Lakers to return to the Western Conference Finals for a rematch with the Nuggets. I don't feel great about this take. But I'm still willing to stand by it. 

3. Golden State Warriors

Golden State's over/under win total was set at 47.5, which was probably too high, but still, this is a team that is tracking toward the low 40s after a home loss to the Pacers on Friday. The Warriors are clinging to the final Play-In Tournament spot entering play on Saturday, with a real possibility of ending up in the lottery; the No. 11 Rockets only trail Golden State by two in the loss column, and the Warriors play seven of their next eight on the road. 

The Warriors have simply gotten old. Klay Thompson is now a bench guy. Draymond Green, after clocking Jordan Poole prior to the start of last season, had a hand in screwing up the dynamics of another season with his MMA routines and subsequent suspensions. Andrew Wiggins is having the worst season of his career. Chris Paul no longer moves needles. 

Even Stephen Curry is showing signs of wear, if only from the fatigue of carrying too disproportionate of a scoring and creation load all year; he's averaging just 21 points on 35% 3-point shooting in March. 

Golden State just doesn't have that kind of leeway anymore. Curry has to be brilliant pretty much every night, and even then, its margin for error is tiny; too small, for instance, to allow for a near bottom-10 defense. The Warriors' run is over, even if they are surely fooling themselves into thinking they can still compete at the highest level. 

4. Milwaukee Bucks

Sure, at 45-25 as the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed, it's hard to call the Bucks an underachiever, but we're obviously not basing this solely on record; they fired Adrian Griffin with a 30-13 mark. Still, the Bucks are just 13-12 under Doc Rivers, and since hiring Rivers, the offense has fallen by five points per 100 possessions; from 2nd league-wide to 13th. 

Damian Lillard was supposed to make this team a juggernaut, but instead they've looked more vulnerable defensively with the loss of Jrue Holiday. Lillard has failed to make up for this offense-defense tradeoff by turning in one of the worst shooting seasons of his career. 

Milwaukee is going to win 50 games, and is probably a second-tier title contender, so we're splitting hairs here a little bit. But again, the fact is, this was supposed to be a juggernaut, and against that expectation, they've underachieved. 

5. Phoenix Suns

Look, the Suns have only played 28 games with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal all active. They are 17-11 in those games. That is a 49-win pace. The over/under for this team was set at 51.5. At present, they are tracking toward 48 wins, which basically means they've won at the same rate with Beal, Booker and Durant playing as they have when they haven't had the "Big 3" together. 

The Suns are also just 19-20 against teams with a .500 record or better. Their offensive rating with the "Big 3" on the floor registers as better than the league-leading Celtics, but the defense and depth, or lack thereof, have predictably been issues. Personally, I don't love the stagnant offense, even if they have three elite shot creators. The ninth-ranked offense and 13th-ranked defense inspire about as much excitement as this team does generally. It's a whatever situation. 

Entering play on Saturday, the Suns would have to win the No. 7 vs. No. 8 Play-In Tournament game just for the right to play, at present, the Denver Nuggets in the first round. If that happens, they're going home early and this season will officially go down as a bust. 

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