2012 NBA Playoffs: Burning Questions for Each Team Already Booted

Joye Pruitt@joyethewarSenior Analyst IMay 10, 2012

2012 NBA Playoffs: Burning Questions for Each Team Already Booted

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    This year’s playoffs have been a doozy, and the first round hasn’t even concluded.

    Despite all of the injuries sustained by franchises already booted in the first round, and those strongly predicted to taste defeat soon, there have been emerging questions brought upon by those absences and the shift of spotlight.

    Now that these four teams have had their seasons end so abruptly, there are pressing matters to discuss in order for them to reach their potential in the 2012-13 season. There are huge questions facing the executives of these franchises. 

Dallas Mavericks: Will They Actually Get Deron Williams?

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    The Dallas Mavericks really did not have a chance against the OKC Thunder, and that was something unexpected for them coming into the season. As the defending NBA champs, Dallas had something to prove that fell through the cracks early on against franchises like the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets.

    Without that strong inside presence in Tyson Chandler that Dallas lost to the NY Knicks, Caron Butler on the perimeter and little man JJ Barea, the Mavericks were a shell of themselves. Mark Cuban was clearing salaries to make strides to secure some top-tier candidates in this year’s free agency, specifically Deron Williams.

    Bringing in Deron Williams will take a lot of the pressure off of Dirk Nowitzki and provide Williams with a more relaxed setting as well. Williams has already complained (per the New York Post) about having to take a higher volume of shots with the New Jersey Nets as their primary option of offense.

    Nowitzki could use a player who can create his own shot and also ensure Dirk gets the ball in his hot spots so he can expose teams with weaker perimeter defense with his fluid stroke. The pairing would be explosive and give Dallas a strong chance at teetering on a top-half seed in the 2013 Western Conference playoffs.

    There is really no indication that the Mavericks will not be able to land Williams, although they are not going to be the only franchise chasing the top-ten point guard in this summer’s free agency.

    Dallas is going to have the cap space, but the huge question is whether or not the supporting cast in Dallas is going to be attractive enough for Williams to sign on the dotted line.

    Even though Dallas is racked with age, you have to consider why they took steps back from being so dominant last season.

    It has nothing to do with age, but everything to do with the pieces they lost. Nowitkzi may be up in age, but the way he plays the game delegates that he will not be any less influential over the next few seasons with a Deron Williams-esque player than he has any other season.

    There was a heightened responsibility on Nowitzki’s back on offense, which led to his lowered shooting percentage from last season. Players like Shawn Marion, who just celebrated his 34th birthday, still has plenty of time left on their clocks.

    Of course you have Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, both of whom who will be free agents this summer and are not 100 percent secure on their future in Dallas.

    Dallas will not be selling Deron Williams a dream, but a plan for the next two offseasons to stabilize dominance in Texas. 

Utah Jazz: What Are They Going to Do with Al Jefferson?

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    Al Jefferson has been getting a lot of flack lately because of his comments (via The Salt Lake Tribune) that there was not a team that can actually beat the San Antonio Spurs. The trouble lay in the realization that the series between Utah and San Antonio was not over.

    The Jazz were defeated before they even stepped onto the court. Think about it. Tyrone Corbin’s rotation never had a chance against even San Antonio’s bench.

    Al Jefferson was going head-to-head with the combination of Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter in Games 3 and 4. Jefferson ended the series strong with 26 points and 10 rebounds. But what does Utah do with him now?

    The jury is split with this question. On one hand, fans believe that Jefferson is more of an enigma than an asset. Playing him for large quantities of time seems to put a muzzle on the rest of the team’s offense at times. It also keeps younger players like Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter from maxing out their potential in Utah.

    On the other hand, Utah needs someone at the PF/C position who isn’t as green as either of those young men. Jefferson keeps the Jazz competitive and adds a nice mid-range game to a team who doesn’t have many bright spots to speak off after the exit of Deron Williams and former head coach Jerry Sloan.

    The biggest way to determine what to do with Al Jefferson is to first answer, “In what direction are we headed for the future?” Only then will Utah figure out what they need to do with Jefferson. 

Orlando Magic: Will Dwight Howard Sign an Extension?

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    According to David Baumann’s tweets, Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins has given Dwight Howard an ultimatum:

    I asked #Magic CEO Martins if he’ll trade #dwighthoward: “We’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it…#1 goal is to get him to sign ext.”

    Magic CEO Martins told me on camera #dwighthoward needs to sign long term extension or “necessary decisions will be made.”

    Magic CEO Martins wants long term extension from #dwighthoward” so we don’t go thru a season like we went thru this year,” he told me.

    So, either Howard is all in or he’s all out and Martins is not going to give the superstar center forever and a day to decide.

    There is no way around the fact that without Howard, Orlando drops into a hole with Glen “Big Baby” Davis as their most striking player.

    The problem with that is that Davis was not brought into the organization to be a centerpiece. He was recruited to be used as a role player, and all of that changed when Howard went out. When Howard returns to 100 percent health, the Magic will have a big decision to make.

    Hopefully, they follow through on their ultimatum or NBA fans will be in for another ridiculous roller coaster ride filled with bad advice and silent protests.

    If Howard decides to sign an extension, the Magic will be able to secure more productive pieces around him. This year’s free agency is loaded with role players searching for a franchise with that front man. A dedicated Howard is an amazing bargaining chip for incoming free agents.

    If Howard decides that he does not want to continue his future in Orlando, the Magic can begin to actively shop the center and finally move forward with rebuilding the franchise. Against a top-five seeded franchise like the Indiana Pacers, Orlando held their own, proving that their drop will not land them in the pits of the league.

    However, it will be a while before they become strong contenders again in the East. 

New York Knicks: Can Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire Co-Exist?

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    The New York Knicks’ season has ended with the Knicks being tossed out of the first round for the second consecutive postseason with the duo of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.

    To be completely fair, ‘Melo played without Stoudemire for a fraction of last year’s series against the Boston Celtics and also for a game of this series against the Miami Heat due to a self-inflicted hand injury.

    However, the question still poses whether or not the Knicks can sustain any viable dominance in the Eastern Conference with both ‘Melo and Stat in the same lineup.

    If they cannot, then the solution is far more complicated than the problem. Stoudemire cannot be moved. That was proven as it appeared New York did everything but post it on a billboard that they wanted to move Stoudemire, and no one wanted to take on the hefty contract or his beleaguered performances in the league.

    Carmelo, on the other hand, is a piece that can be shopped and moved almost immediately. However, he is the golden child of the franchise. The Knicks are going to do everything in their power to ensure the purest scorer in the league keeps a starting position in their city.

    Watching them on the floor in Game 5 in the American Airlines Arena spoke volumes about the tandem moving forward and how instrumental Coach Mike Woodson may be in figuring out how to maximize each star’s potential.

    Anthony, who scored 35 points off of 31 attempts shared the court with Stoudemire, before his ejection after racking up six fouls, who scored 14 points off of only seven attempts.

    Not to say that Stoudemire is a stingy player, but he is someone who wants to get his touches and make a bigger impact on the game. That is not going to happen with Anthony on the floor, and ‘Melo’s presence has reduce Stoudemire to more of a role player than a second-tier leader.

    How long do New York fans feel this will be acceptable?

    If they can co-exist, then it is a matter of finding a coach who is able to bring that out of them equally and substantially.

    New York cannot survive with ‘Melo as the sole solid scoring option. It’s nice to have players like J.R. Smith and Steve Novak on the wing, but neither was wholeheartedly reliable in the series against Miami.

    That fact can be attributed to Miami’s strong defense, but the offense just wasn’t there.

    With Stoudemire on the court, it provides another solid scoring option that the Knicks need direly.

    In order to secure a job in New York, Woodson needs to prove that this is something that he can facilitate, or else he will be just another tick in the coaching carousel with two immensely talented players that can’t get it right.