One Thing Every NBA Team Must Work on in Training Camp for 2012-13 Season
Training camp to NBA players is like filing taxes to the rest of us, nobody really wants to do it but it's something that needs to be done.
Camp represents a lot of work, but is necessary to prepare for the upcoming season.
Some teams feature new coaches, offensive and defensive schemes, new stars, and for some, a chance to completely put last season behind them.
Every NBA team has aspects of their game they need to work on, no matter if they reside in Charlotte or Miami. With a lockout shortened season last year, this is the first true training camp for many players new to the league.
While each team will have many things to work on, here is one thing every team has to focus on to compete in 2012-2013.
Charlotte Bobcats: Forgetting Last Season
2011-2012 Record: 7-59
Key Stat: 87.0 (points per game, last in NBA)
New coach? Check.
New uniforms? Check.
New star player? Check.
New results? Ehhhh.......
Mike Dunlap brings new energy to a team that had the worst winning percentage in NBA history last season.
Helping him out will be Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeffery Taylor, Ramon Sessions and others as they look to shake off the losing mentality of last season.
Yes, Charlotte desperately needs scoring but their biggest obstacle will be shaking off last season and starting fresh. Breaking that mentality that plagued them last season will have to be the first order of business for the Bobcats to take the first step towards contention in 2012-2013.
Washington Wizards: Passing
2011-2012 Record: 20-46
Key Stat: 3.0 (Jordan Crawford's assists per game, second on the team)
Washington quietly has assembled a nice collection of talent on their team, but unfortunately struggle getting said players the ball.
John Wall has been a great point guard for them, but hasn't had a reliable backup since he got to Washington. A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack bring a combined four total years of NBA experience and neither can be relied upon when Wall needs a rest.
The Wizards need to work on their passing and find someone else who can distribute the ball. For the season, the Wizards ranked 27th out of 30 teams with only 19.1 assists per game last season, with 8 coming from Wall alone.
If Beal can play a combo guard role instead of just a shooting guard, Washington's offense should take a major step.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Interior Scoring
2011-2012 Record: 21-45
Key Stat: 42.2 (percent of Cavs field goals that went in, 29th in NBA)
Believe it or now, the Cavaliers weren't a bad three point shooting team last season.
At 34.6 percent Cleveland was tied for 13th in the NBA in shooting from deep, something that makes their interior scoring look even worse.
Next to last in the entire NBA in overall field goal percentage, Cleveland didn't have a reliable post scorer last season and lost starting center Anderson Varejao to injury just 25 games in.
Now with Tyler Zeller on the roster and a healthy Varejao, the Cavs have to establish something of an inside presence to create some easy baskets and get that percentage up.
New Orleans Hornets: Getting Open Looks
2011-2012 Record: 21-45
Key Stat: 11.8 (three point attempts per game, last in NBA)
At 45.1 percent shooting from the field last season, New Orleans actually wasn't a bad team- when they could get a shot off.
Only managing 77.3 shots per game last season, the Hornets should look to pick up the offensive pace now with Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and a healthy Eric Gordon.
Only the aging Boston Celtics attempted fewer per game last season and nobody took less shots from deep than the Hornets at less than 12 a game.
Something tells me rookie Austin Rivers will have no problems trying to make up the extra shots.
Sacramento Kings: Everything Defense
2011-2012 Record: 22-44
Key Stat: 104.4 (points allowed per game, highest in NBA)
Anyway you look at it, the Kings were an ugly defensive team last season.
Not only did they allow the most points per game of any NBA team, they also saw opponents shoot 47.6 percent from the field, the highest in the league. Over the course of the season, the Kings actually gave up over 1000 more total points than the Chicago Bulls.
Only bringing in the offensive-minded Thomas Robinson and Aaron Brooks in the offseason, Sacramento will have to see most of their improvements come from within.
Brooklyn Nets: Rebounding
2011-2012 Record: 22-44
Key Stat: 3.6 (rebounds per game by starting center Brook Lopez last season)
The Nets were pretty bad across the board in most statistical categories last season, and their record shows it.
Still, getting a healthy Brook Lopez back couple with the addition of Joe Johnson and a move to Brooklyn will likely propel the Nets into the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
One thing that could hold them back, however, is their team rebounding. After Kris Humphries, no Net even averaged more than 6.7 boards per game last season. Center Brook Lopez pulled down just 3.6 per game in the short time he was healthy and only averaged 5.9 in over 35 minutes per game the season before.
Deron Williams (40.7 percent) and MarShon Brooks (42.8 percent) provide plenty of rebounding opportunities, the Nets just have to take advantage.
Golden State Warriors: Aggressiveness
2011-2012 Record: 23-43
Key Stat: 7.4 (Free throw attempt differential between Warriors vs. opponents per game)
One could argue that Warriors training camp should be held on memory foam mattresses and have Andrew Bogut wearing a bright red quarterback jersey.
Despite their recent health concerns to star players, stats show that the W's actually need to be more aggressive and physical when on the court.
Last season Golden State's opponents attempted an average of 7.4 free throws per game more than they did.
Shoring up the defense wouldn't hurt, either.
Toronto Raptors: Establishing a Go-to Scorer
2011-2012 Record: 23-43
Key Stat: 90.7 (points per game, 28th in NBA)
The Raptors have quietly had a great offseason, trading for Kyle Lowry, drafting Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy to pair with last years lottery pick Jonas Valanciunas.
Hopefully these additions can jump start an offense that was third worst in the entire NBA last season and without a reliable scorer.
Andrea Bargnani was once again the teams leader in points per game at 19.5, but missed over half the teams games with injury. Jerryd Bayless, the teams third leading scorer, signed with the Memphis Grizzlies and Leandro Barbosa who was fourth in scoring was not resigned.
Toronto needs someone to step up and go to when the game's on the line or when they desperately need a bucket.
Detroit Pistons: Interior Defense
2011-2012 Record: 25-41
Key Stat: 4.2 (team blocks per game, tied for third worst in NBA)
The Pistons have some nice pieces, and made a potentially great pick in June's draft in Andre Drummond.
The reason for this is the lack of interior defense and shot-blocking the Pistons showed last season. Greg Monroe is a terrific scorer and rebounder down low, but is nowhere near a shot-blocking threat.
Adding the defensive-minded Drummond is a great addition for them. In one year at UConn, Drummond racked up 2.7 blocks per game thanks to his athletic 6'10" frame.
The point guard position is also an issue, but stopping teams from getting easy baskets inside should be priority number one.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Shaking off the Rust
2011-2012 Record: 26-40
Key Stat: 0 (number of games Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved played in the NBA last season)
Expectations are high for the first time in years in Minnesota, as anything but a playoff birth will be considered a disappointing season.
Kevin Love is the best power forward in the game and Ricky Rubio is quickly becoming one of the best young point guards. Adding Roy, Kirilenko and Shved were all big additions, but all come with a certain amount of risk.
Shved has never played in the NBA and Kirilenko and Roy were both out of the league last season playing overseas and on medical retirement, respectively. Rubio is also rehabbing from a torn ACL.
This Timberwolves team could be very, very good, and perhaps no NBA team needs to have a strong training camp to prepare for the season more than Minnesota.
Portland Trail Blazers: Breaking in the Rooks
2011-2012 Record: 28-38
Key Stat: 23.4 (average age of Portland's projected starting lineup)
Portland owned the sixth and 11th overall picks in the 2012 NBA draft and used them to select two new starters in Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard.
Overall the Portland roster is extremely young, with LaMarcus Aldridge being the oldest member of the starting five at only 27.
Training camp will be crucial to get the two new rookies used to their new team and the NBA game in general, especially for Lillard who played at the lesser known Weber State in college.
While both could turn out to be very good players and eventually transform the Blazers into a playoff and championship contender, for now both should just focus on playing their games and adjusting to NBA life.
Milwaukee Bucks: Balancing the Offense
2011-2012 Record: 31-35
Key Stat: 40 (percent of all Bucks points per game scored by Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings)
Milwaukee has one of the most explosive backcourts in the NBA in Ellis and Jennings, if only from a pure scoring standpoint.
The frontcourt is a little bit more of a question, with Samuel Dalembert and John Henson being more defensively steered.
If an opponent has a pair of great wing defenders, Milwaukee could very well struggle unless they can establish some inside scoring from one of their bigs.
Ersan Ilyasova is the most likely candidate with a career high 13 points per game last season. He'll need to improve on this number if the Bucks want to be a true threat to nab a playoff spot in the East.
Phoenix Suns: Filling Nash's Shoes
2011-2012 Record: 33-33
Key Stat: 2.3 (Sebastian Telfair's assists average, second on the Suns last season)
The Suns knew they couldn't replace a living legend like Nash with just one man, so they went out and got two.
Goran Dragic came back to Phoenix via free agency while the Suns also used their lottery pick on former North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall.
While Dragic will likely be the starter due to his experience and strong play with Houston last season, Marshall should see a good share of minutes as well and is probably the better overall play-maker.
Adding Michael Beasley and Luis Scola will help make life easier for the new floor generals, but even together they won't match what Nash brought to the team.
Houston Rockets: Trimming the Roster
2011-2012 Record: 34-32
Key Stat: 20 (players currently on Houston's roster)
The biggest thing the Rockets need to worry about right now is just simply who's going to make the team.
NBA teams are allowed to dress 12 players and carry 15 on a roster, which is a concern seeing as how Houston currently has enough players to field four starting teams.
The Rockets have to cut ties with five players to even make the maximum roster cut, and only Kevin Martin has a full seasons experience on the roster as a full time starter.
If Houston doesn't pull off a big trade sometime soon, cuts will have to be made.
Philadelphia 76ers: Life Without Iggy
2011-2012 Record: 35-31
Key Stat: 2003 (last year Andre Iguodala wasn't on the 76ers roster)
The No. 9 overall pick in the 2004 draft, Andre Iguodala has been a mainstay in the Philadelphia 76ers lineup for each of the past eight seasons, starting all 615 games he played in.
In five of those seasons, Iggy played in all 82 games and has only missed 25 games total since 2004.
Now in Denver with the Nuggets, the 76ers must turn to new center Andrew Bynum as their star player and go-to scorer. Bynum is easily the second best center in the game when healthy and should relish the opportunity to be the star of a team.
Without an extension at this point, the Sixers have to work on putting Bynum is a position to be successful in the hopes he'll resign with them in the offseason.
If he doesn't, then trading Iguodala will have been for nothing.
New York Knicks: Getting Raymond Felton in Shape
2011-2012 Record: 36-30
Key Stat: 205 (as in pounds, Feltons "listed" weight)
If someone wrote a book on Felton's life it could be entitled "A Tale of Two Wastelines".
First you have the Felton that played extremely well for the Knicks in 2010-2011, then you have the bowling ball that disappointed for the Trail Blazers last season.
In his first go-around in New York Felton put up career highs with 17.1 points, 9.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game. With Portland last year this numbers dipped to 11.4 points, 6.5 assists and 1.3 steals per contest.
New York played their best basketball last season when they got strong point guard play from Jeremy Lin. If they can get Felton motivated and in shape, New York could be a top three team in the East.
Dallas Mavericks: Finding a Second Scoring Option
2011-2012 Record: 36-30
Key Stat: 15.1 (Jason Terry's scoring average, now playing for the Boston Celtics)
Dirk Nowitzki is 34 years old. His Mavericks were swept out of the first round of the playoffs last season and lost second leading scorer Jason Terry in free agency.
Simply put, Dirk needs some help.
With O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and Darren Collison he may have found it, or maybe not as all were late additions and passed on by other teams.
Shawn Marion and Vince Carter are the only other Mavs besides Nowitzki to average over double digits in points, and neither are certainly getting any younger.
The Mavs need one of the new guys, likely Mayo, to turn into a reliable second scoring option for Dirk like Terry had been much of the past few years.
Utah Jazz: Three Point Shooting
2011-2012 Record: 36-30
Key Stat: 32.3 (percent of made three pointers as a team, 27th in NBA)
A front court dominated team, the Jazz proved to be an unbalanced offense last season with their lack of shooting from deep.
Only making 4.1 three pointers per game, Utah finished 27th in the league in percentage at 32.3.
While they added some skilled shooters in Mo Williams and Randy Foye, it remains to be seen who is going to get the ball into the shooters hands as Utah traded starting point guard Devin Harris to the Atlanta Hawks for Marvin Williams this off-season.
Even with talented shooters, it may not be enough without an established point guard on the roster.
Orlando Magic: Establishing Roles
2011-2012 Record: 37-29
Key Stat: 10 (new players on Magic roster for 2012-2013)
The Orlando Magic are in for a rough year.
Unlike the Cavaliers and Hornets the past few seasons, the Magic lost their star but still hold a collection of veterans and very little young talent to build around.
With 10 new players on the roster, it's up to new coach Jacque Vaughn to figure out a reliable rotation and establish players roles to maximize what talent is left on the roster. The main challenge will be to get the young players (Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, Nikola Vucevic) enough playing time to grow and develop while still keeping the veterans happy.
Orlando's best option would be to try to trade some of the veterans and their contracts (Hedo Turkoglu, Al Harrington, Quentin Richardson) to open up more playing time for the young guns and increase financial flexibility.
Denver Nuggets: Gaining Confidence
2011-2012 Record: 38-28
Key Stat: 7 (games the Nuggets pushed the Lakers to in last years playoff series)
Overlooked in the Dwight Howard/Andrew Bynum deal were the Denver Nuggets, who unloaded two bad contracts to eventually land do-it-all swingman Andre Iguodala.
Adding the versatile and Olympic Gold Medalist to a young roster featuring Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, JaVale McGee and others makes the Nuggets possibly a top four team in the West.
While this may be a big statement, the Nuggets have to believe that it's true.
Only getting better this past off-season, Denver must play every game with the confidence that they believe they can beat anybody, just like they did in their playoff series against the Lakers.
If the Nuggets can build this confidence in themselves throughout training camp, they really could end up gaining home court advantage in next years playoffs.
Boston Celtics: Offensive Rebounding
2011-2012 Record: 39-27
Key Stat: 7.7 (total offensive rebounds per game by Celtics, last in NBA)
Last year Doc Rivers had to pray his team was going to make shots, because if they didn't it was very unlikely they'd be getting the ball back.
So unlikely that it happened less than eight times a game, the only NBA team under that mark. For reference, Dwight Howard pulled down 4.3 offensive rebounds per game by himself and in total tallied 14.5, better than the 14.4 Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass averaged, combined.
Perhaps this is why the Celtics drafted Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft. Boston should be better with these two, but still have a long way to go.
Los Angeles Clippers: Free Throw Shooting
2011-2012 Record: 40-26
Key Stat: 68 (percent of Clippers made free throws last season)
The Clippers free throw situation could get worse before it begins to get better.
Already ranked next to last in the NBA in free throw percentage last season, LA actually lost three of their best shooters in Mo Williams, Nick Young and Randy Foye.
It may be elementary, but the best teams can always make their charity stripe shots when it counts. Blake Griffin certainly needs to improve on his 64 percent mark from last season, but could still probably give DeAndre Jordan (33 percent) some lessons.
Chris Paul (87 percent) once again proves to be the Clippers best overall player.
Atlanta Hawks: Blocking Shots
2011-2012 Record: 40-26
Key Stat: 4.6 (blocks per game as a team, 23rd in NBA)
Atlanta has struggled to find a reliable answer at center for years now, considering Al Horford is a natural power forward.
Part of this struggle has meant a lack of interior defense and someone to challenge shots inside. The Oklahoma City Thunder nearly doubled the Hawks block total, at 8.2 a game.
Josh Smith is the only reliable shot-blocker on the team and is entering the final season of his contract. It will be interesting to see if Atlanta decides to go into full rebuilding mode now that Joe Johnson is gone or offer Smith a long term deal.
Whatever they decide to do with Smith, the Hawks need to find an answer at center and someone who can challenge and swat away shots inside.
Los Angeles Lakers: Learning to Play with Nash
2011-2012 Record: 41-25
Key Stat: 7.6 (total assists per game by Derek Fisher, Steve Blake, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. Nash averaged 10.7)
As big of an addition as Dwight Howard is to the Lakers, signing Nash may be even bigger.
With Howard looking like he won't be ready for training camp, the teams main focus should be getting everybody used to playing with the future Hall-of-Famer Nash.
Master of the pick-and-roll, Nash helped turn Amar'e Stoudemire into a $100 million player and Marcin Gortat into one of the best centers in the conference. Kobe Bryant will no longer have to create as much and will instead get more open looks with Nash in the backcourt.
The Lakers offense should be much better than the 15th best ranking they received last year, primarily thanks to Nash.
Memphis Grizzlies: Getting Zach Randolph Back
2011-2012 Record: 41-25
Key Stat: 28 (games for Randolph last season, the lowest of his career)
The Grizzlies were terrific in the regular season last year but were knocked out in the first round of their playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers.
A big reason for this was Randolph, who has been extremely good for Memphis in his two seasons before injuries derailed him for most of last year.
Only seeing action in 28 games and averaging his lowest point total since 2002-2003, Randolph was never able to make the contribution he or the Grizzlies would have liked to see.
Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are all great players, but it was Randolph who lifted them against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2011 playoffs and out of the first round for the first time in team history.
Memphis has a nice core, they just have to work on keeping it healthy and in tact.
Indiana Pacers: Making George Hill a True Point
2011-2012 Record: 42-24
Key Stat: 2.9 (Hill's assist average last season, his first with Indiana)
Indiana is very much a team on the rise in the NBA, but that rise could quickly turn into a fall without better point guard play.
Last season the Pacers as a team averaged only 18.6 assists per game, next to last in the NBA. Last years leader, Darren Collison, has since been traded to Dallas with the starting point guard reigns handed to Hill.
While Hill has been a nice combo guard off the bench for much of his career, it remains to be seen if he can carry a team as it's starter at the point.
The Pacers gave him $40 million this offseason to prove he can be that guy for them. Let's hope their investment pays off.
Miami Heat: Adjusting to Small Ball
2011-2012 Record: 46-20
Key Stat: 6 feet, 9.5 inches (average height of Heats starting power forward and center, shortest in the league)
The Heat may be the defending champions, but their roster is far from perfect.
This small ball lineup should be okay against most teams, but Miami could struggle mightily when going up against a more traditional power-forward, center combination like that of the Los Angeles Lakers, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, or Los Angeles Clippers.
Miami's new style of play may not be the most conventional, but could turn out to be a big improvement if it can keep Joel Anthony and Dexter Pittman off the court.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Taking Care of the Ball
2011-2012 Record: 47-19
Key Stat: 16.3 (turnovers per game, last in NBA)
As good as the Thunder are, they may never win a championship if they don't do a better job of handling the ball
With more turnovers than any other NBA team last season, the Thunder struggled to take care of the ball at times and are without a reliable backup at point guard to Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook himself did a poor job of taking care of the ball, turning it over 3.6 times a game compared to only 5.5 assists.
With only 18.5 assists per game as a team, the Thunder were again dead last in the NBA. Westbrook needs to get back up around the 8+ assist mark he was at in 2010-2011 for the Thunder to make it back to the Finals.
Chicago Bulls: Getting to the Foul Line
2011-2012 Record: 50-16
Key Stat: 15 (number of free throws attempted by Bulls per game minus Derrick Rose)
Outside of Derrick Rose, no one on the Bulls attacks the rim with regularity.
Even with Rose, as a team Chicago finished 23rd in the NBA with 21.1 free throw attempts per game, surprisingly low for a team that did so well in the regular season.
Now without Rose to start the season, Chicago needs someone to step up and get to the free throw line to help get some easy points. Center Joakim Noah finished second on last years squad with only 3.2 tries a game.
Chicago has to hope newcomers Marquis Teague and Nate Robinson will help fill in for the injured Rose.
San Antonio Spurs: Creating Turnovers
2011-2012 Record: 50-16
Key Stat: 13.7 (opponents turnover per game, 24th in NBA)
It's hard to find something that the Spurs don't do particularly well, but winning the turnover war with opposing teams may be it.
Only six teams in the NBA were worse last season when forcing opponent turnovers than the Spurs, who themselves averaged only 7.4 steals per game.
San Antonio only had two players who collected more than one steal per game in Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson. As a team they need to do a better job of playing the passing lane and possibly being a bit more aggressive on the defensive end.