NBA's Most Scrutinized Franchises and Their Biggest Problems
The players of the NBA are being scrutinized more than ever this season because we do not have much time to so. Within a shortened time period, fans, analysts and MVP voters are expected to pick starting All Stars, front-running MVP candidates, predict the NBA playoffs and enjoy a regular season of basketball all in one breath.
Watching closely, there are early signs of trouble in every organization, some more familiar than most. From Miami Heat’s foul-line shooting woes, to the on-and-off again battleship relationship between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, there are fatal flaws in every franchise that could cost them their postseason berths. It could even halt those truly in championship contention a chance to play in the Finals for it all.
The spots on their resume may not outlast their successes, but for right now it could definitely stale their possibilities.
No. 5 Chicago Bulls: Carlos Boozer, the Wild Card
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Carlos Boozer is a good rebounder and put-back option for the Chicago Bulls. He adds that to Joakim Noah’s dirty work demeanor and great defense in the frontcourt, so when Chicago battles under the rim consistently and successfully, there should be no problems to quarrel about.
But Boozer is such a wild card in the organization that his condition and lack of defense often places a question mark directly in the middle of his forehead. Boozer was a decent acquisition until fans realized that what you see one night might not be what you get a majority of the time from the Chicago forward-center. The regular season does not mean much to anyone these days—except for the season ticket holders vying to get their money’s worth.
Fans sitting on their couches and the men in the lockerrooms have readily realized that the only time that matters is the postseason. Getting in and getting the job done is the primary priority. Regular season games are only scrimmages up until that point and usually do not tell much about how the playoffs will play out.
They need to get the best that they can out of Boozer because when they do not, and he is forced to battle the likes of Chris Bosh, Garnett or Howard under the rim, he will need to be much more aggressive than we have seen previously. Either that or Chicago may just as well get comfortable with always ALMOST making it.
No. 4 Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
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Say what you will, but the couplet has a relationship similar to that of John and Max in Grumpy Old Men. They may not openly refer to each other as "moron" affectionately in front of reporters’ cameras, but their relationship is anything but normal between Star #1 and Star #2.
Their cohesiveness has repeatedly been questioned earlier this season with more merit than Coach Scott Brooks would have desired.
Tempers seemed to have cooled after a late-game showing from Westbrook against the Dallas Mavericks earlier in the season, in which Kevin Durant eventually hit the game-winner, further sealing their roles in the franchise as Batman and Robin.
The franchise has complimented Westbrook's skill greatly since then with a mega-extension of $80 million, only 25 percent of the team's salary cap (when they could have given him 30 percent).
Only time will tell if problems will resurface. Life usually runs smoothly if everyone is getting theirs. It is when statistics and the win column start suffering when the issues creep back into the picture.
No. 3 Boston Celtics: Danny Ainge
The Boston Celtics have a lot of what they need. Or at least Danny Ainge thought so after bringing in Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic in a trade-off of Nate Robinson and Kendrick Perkins.
Both Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen have seemed too close to the chopping block for comfort, while Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett dwindle in offensive and defensive capacity but grow in Ainge’s heart of hearts. The Perkins move may have made you think that Ainge was ready to build a championship team by any means necessary, but it is quite the contrary as we watch what used to be an ongoing legacy be crushed by age and unfulfilled potential in Boston.
Ainge’s direction seems more misguided with the past than plagued with the idea of future success with the Celtics. Had he been more concerned with success, as we all thought he was after the quick trade last season, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo would be the last men considered in a trade.
Allen’s ability to shoot behind the three-point line gives him a type of immortality in the league that is hard to find. Rondo is a great point guard with a combination of court-sight, agility, athleticism and scoring ability that should make him a steadfast fraction of what’s next for the Celtics.
Unfortunately, the front office does not see it that way and the loyalty that Ainge is showing for Pierce and Garnett may doom the Celtics for seasons to come.
No. 2 Los Angeles Lakers: All Kobe Bryant or Nothing at All
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Before the season, it was already made apparent that an All-Star effort from him would be required this season for the Lakers to make noise. But, Bryant’s back-to-back 40-point game play has only significantly resounded the fact that if Bryant is not putting up those one-hitter quitters, the squad is in big trouble.
Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are not worthless. It was a three from Gasol and a blocked shot from Bynum that assisted the Lakers in a win this season, and both have been pretty solid so far. However, Bryant has to be the dog of the team by any means necessary for the Lakers to prosper while Gasol's head is still not truly there and Bynum has potential to tread upon.
This has been the case more times than not, but at least last season he had some bench help from players like Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown to help along the process when players like Gasol and Bynum were unavailable, physically or mentally.
Odom’s absence has put an undetermined amount of pressure on the aging superstar and when it comes down to the last moments in the playoffs, with less weapons and the same game plan, one can only wonder if the Lakers will suffer the same fate.
No. 1 Miami Heat: Close Game Closure
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The Miami Heat is the best team in the league right now.
Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh account for most of the team’s offense and huge plays down the stretch. They have a solid point guard in Mario Chalmers, whether you are ready to buy into him or not. The addition of Shane Battier adds nice size and strategy to their game. Udonis Haslem is their resident tough guy.
Their bench depth has grown massively in the last few months and they are moving in the right direction, personnel-wise.
Then there are the game closing moments that are either marked by Wade or flopped dramatically.
The blame is ultimately put on LeBron because people are waiting to see him take charge in late-game situations, although he did plenty of that in last year’s playoffs against both the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics. They blow huge leads and just play plain old silly when it comes down to crunch time.
Teams are figuring out how to effectively challenge them on the perimeter, play stout zone defense and limit turnovers. When it comes down to the wire, Miami must consistently find ways to score or they will find themselves on the wrong end of the power rankings.