The NBA playoffs are just days away, and even though the playoff picture is nearly set, all of the teams still have major questions that must be answered heading into the playoffs.
From the biggest contenders to the teams that are just squeaking in, each franchise has legitimate playoff concerns. These playoffs will either affirm those concerns or wipe away all doubts.
Here are three burning questions for each NBA team in this year's playoffs.
1. Can Devin Harris be the point guard the Jazz need?
Harris has played very well at other places in his career, but he's been a disappointment in Utah. His play may determine whether or not this Jazz team can even be competitive in a series.
2. Do they have enough experience?
This Jazz team is young, and while that is a good thing for the future, it isn't for this year's playoffs. Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are just a few of the developing young players for this Jazz team. However, they don't appear ready to win in the playoffs yet.
3. How good are they really?
This Jazz team has been fairly mediocre all season. At times, it has looked like they could compete with the West's best, but at other times they have looked pretty lost. We'll find out quickly just how good they are in the playoffs.
1. Can Andre Iguodala lead this team?
Leadership is an issue for this squad. If Iguodala doesn't step up and take that role, it doesn't appear that anyone else will. Without that role filled, this team will be an easy out in the first round.
2. Who will take the big shot when it comes down to the end?
This is a bit related to the first question, but it isn't the same exact issue. The Sixers need a go-to guy to get a bucket in critical, playoff situations. Right now, they seem to lack that player.
3. Do they have the firepower?
Defense matters, especially in the playoffs, but it does no good to stop your opponent when you can't score yourself. While the Sixers are fairly balanced, they aren't a potent offensive attack.
1. Can anyone else step up to help Carmelo Anthony?
So far, no one player has stepped up consistently in this area. Amar'e Stoudemire would seem to be the logical choice, but he has struggled in the Knicks' new offense.
2. Can these parts fit together?
On paper, this Knicks team is one of the most talented teams in the NBA. However, getting that talent to mesh has been an issue that must be solved if they are going to win even a single series.
3. Is Mike Woodson the coach for this team's future?
Woodson has done as good a job as any could have expected given the short amount of time he's had with the team. A playoff run could win him one of the most high-profile coaching jobs in basketball.
1. Can Dirk Nowitzki carry this team?
It looks he will have to if they are going to make a run at this point. We all know, though, that this year is really just time to burn before Dallas goes out and tries to score big in free agency.
2. Will this be Jason Kidd's last run in Dallas?
The fact that Mark Cuban is going after Deron Williams has been the worst-kept secret in the NBA this year, and that acquisition might push Kidd out of the big D. He could also retire, but the first option is probably more likely.
3. Any of the magic left?
Last season's championship run was a magical one, but it appears that the magic is gone this season. The Mavericks barely made it into the playoffs and are just 5-5 in their last 10 games.
1. Can they beat the big boys?
This Nuggets team is very good. However, they have had difficulties beating the best teams in the NBA. They'll have to prove that they can do that to get to the next level.
2. Who will they turn to in crunch time?
Denver is one of the most balanced teams in the NBA. The Nuggets share the ball and play extremely efficient basketball. However, they lack that one go-to guy for crunch moments. Ty Lawson might be that guy, but he'll have to show it in the playoffs.
3. Will JaVale McGee pan out?
McGee was a part of one of the biggest deadline trades of the season. He's been immature on and off the court, but Denver really could be where he'll grow into a star. He needs to show us that on this big stage.
1. Can they win without Dwight Howard?
Howard is gone for the season, and it is obvious that his play is a big part of this team's success over the past few seasons. Whether they can win without him or not will be shown in the playoffs.
2. Can they save Stan Van Gundy's job?
It appears that the franchise will be required to make a decision between Howard and Van Gundy. It seems the choice would obviously be Howard. However, if the Magic could somehow go on a run without Howard, would it convince the Orlando brass to choose Van Gundy?
It might be a long shot, but stranger things have happened.
3. Can Hedo Turkoglu lead this team again?
It was Turkoglu that led the Magic to the finals not all that long ago. Now that Howard is gone, he'll need to be that guy once again, and maybe even more.
1. Can Joe Johnson step up in the clutch?
The Hawks have had mixed success over the last five or six seasons in the playoffs. They've always been there but have never done anything that made us turn our heads. They need a leader, and with the money they are paying Johnson, it should be him.
2. Will Josh Smith stay in Atlanta long-term?
Josh Smith might be the most well-rounded player the Hawks have. However, if they lose in the first round again, he may get shipped out in a mini-rebuilding effort.
3. Will this team ever improve?
Atlanta is the fifth seed in this year's playoffs, and that's where it has hovered for the past five or six years. Time will eventually run out for this team—maybe sooner rather than later.
1. Will Zach Randolph be 100 percent healthy?
We all saw exactly what Randolph is capable of when he is at full strength. If he can get back to that for these playoffs, the Grizzlies can beat anyone they face, especially now that Rudy Gay is back and healthy.
2. Will the addition of Rudy Gay help or hurt their playoff mojo?
Despite the above question, one does realize that the Grizz played masterfully last season without Gay. He has appeared to fit back into the rotation now, but it will be interesting to see if they can still win now that their rotation has changed.
3. Will it be Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph that Memphis turns to in the clutch?
Last year, Randolph proved that he could be a clutch player that made big shots to help his team. However, Gay is back now and leads the team in scoring. He's also been considered the de facto star for this team for years. It will be interesting to see which one Memphis chooses to lean on.
1. Do their veteran stars have enough left in the tank?
Few teams can play as well as the Celtics have when three of their best four players are 34 years old or older. They've done well to get back to their old winning ways, but whether they can keep it up against younger teams in the playoffs remains to be seen.
2. Will Doc Rivers stay?
Rivers has flirted with retirement for the last few seasons. His son will soon be in the NBA, which may affect him either way. It is unclear if he'll want to coach the Celtics through the coming rebuilding project.
3. Is this the last run for the Big Three?
It appears that the Celtics will soon begin a rebuilding project. Whether that project will begin immediately in the offseason or a year down the road or longer remains to be seen. This could be the last run for the Big Three as is.
1. Are they experienced enough?
We all know that Chris Paul is the smartest point guard in the game. However, the team around him is incredibly inexperienced as far as the postseason goes, with many of the major players having never even played in the postseason. Experience usually wins in the postseason.
2. Can Blake Griffin take a playoff beating?
It has been well documented that many opponents prefer to simply hit Griffin rather than play solid defense against him. In the playoffs, where everything is taken up a notch, that could get even worse. Griffin will need to play carefully and keep an eye on his health.
3. Can they hit from beyond the arc?
It isn't discussed much, but the three-point shot is actually a huge part of the Clippers' game. It spreads the floor so that Paul and Griffin can work the pick-and-roll, keeping defenses honest. This particular facet might be the X-factor in the Clips' playoff hopes.
1. Can Danny Granger lead this team?
Granger has shown flashes of being a great NBA player during his career so far. However, he has not shown that he can truly lead a team to greatness. He'll get that opportunity this postseason against quality opponents.
2. Is this young team ready?
The Pacers are still very, very young. They've drawn comparisons to the young Oklahoma City Thunder team of a year or two ago. While that is good for their future, it may not bode well for this year's playoffs.
3. Could a deep run hurt this team's future?
That question might seem like it is mired in ridiculousness, but read me out. Roy Hibbert will be a free agent this offseason, and he has the potential to be the third-best center in the NBA. Losing him would significantly hurt this team going forward, and a team playoff run might increase his market value past what it can pay.
1. Will Kobe Bryant shoot too much?
It may seem silly after watching Bryant's clutch performance against Oklahoma City on Sunday, but Bryant does take too many shots. If he keeps his teammates involved, his team will win more easily.
2. Which Andrew Bynum will show up?
Bynum has proven that he can be a dominant force in the NBA on both sides of the court. However, he has also shown that he can be a big, immature baby at times. The Lakers' championship hopes may depend on which one shows up.
3. Can Mike Brown really coach this team?
It has been well documented that this Lakers team has not shown Brown the respect that most head coaches would get from their team. If Brown and his team can work together, it might just mean a championship.
1. Can Dwyane Wade carry this team?
LeBron James has carried this squad most of the season, while Wade has battled the injury bug. However, Wade has proven much better in clutch playoff moments. He'll need to again more than likely if the Heat want to win a title.
2. Will LeBron James step up in the clutch?
James hasn't been as bad in the playoff clutch as many have stated. However, he has come up small more often than not in big postseason moments. He may forever change his legacy if he can perform better in the clutch this year.
3. Will the supporting cast help out?
Despite having three stars, the Miami Heat also need a bench and supporting cast. If these players do not also step up and perform well by doing all the little, dirty work, the Heat will not win a title.
1. Can they execute in the half court offensively?
We all have seen the Thunder's ability to get out and run all over teams. However, the playoffs are much slower-paced and require teams to run half-court sets that actually produce. That is a weak point for OKC, and it must be fixed somewhat.
2. When will James Harden return?
After suffering a concussion via a cheap shot from Metta World Peace, Harden will sit out at least some period of time. When he'll return remains to be seen. If he does not return promptly, or if he doesn't play well upon his return, that elbow could become one of the most infamous in NBA history.
3. Will the supporting cast produce?
The bench and supporting cast of the Thunder don't get very many shots due to having to share the ball and court with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. However, they must be ready and able to produce when they get their opportunities.
1. Will a second scorer show up consistently?
Derrick Rose is a great player and scorer, but he cannot carry the offensive load alone. The Bulls need someone else to step up consistently on the offensive end. Whether it is Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer, someone has to fill that role.
2. Will Derrick Rose be healthy enough to lead?
Despite the need for a secondary scorer, Rose is still where the Bulls' offensive attack starts. If he isn't playing with a full deck of cards, the Bulls stand no chance to win a title. Period.
3. What will another non-championship run do to this team?
The Bulls are a confident bunch. However, losing again to Miami or to someone new may change that. It also could convince management that a few changes are in order personnel-wise. Not coaching or Rose changes, but maybe more minor changes.
1. Are they too old to win in the postseason?
Last season, an injury to Manu Ginobili sent this team home packing in the first round. While that seems less likely this season thanks to the rest that both Ginobili and Tim Duncan have gotten this season, it isn't impossible.
2. Will the young talent continue to produce?
Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and DeJuan Blair have played integral roles on this team all season, along with other young players. They are green as far as the playoffs go, and it will be interesting to see if they can continue to play big roles against elite competition in a playoff atmosphere.
3. Can they keep shooting well from beyond the arc?
The Spurs are a team that spreads the floor with six guys shooting over 40 percent from the three-point line for the season. That's ridiculous. If they can keep that up against the tough playoff defenses they'll face, a championship will be well within their reach.