The Biggest Storyline for All 30 NBA Teams Heading into 2012-13 Season

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2012

The Biggest Storyline for All 30 NBA Teams Heading into 2012-13 Season

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    Drama—it's everywhere, including the NBA.

    Though front offices attempt to avoid it, and players tend to downplay it, the Association is a hotbed for drama, compelling storylines and imposing questions.

    From the defending champion Miami Heat down to the bottom-feeding Charlotte Bobcats, every team is on its toes as the 2012-13 campaign draws nearer; no one squad is void of an array of pressing issues.

    But what issues mean the most? What plots will continue to thicken and captivate as time goes on? What matters will ultimately impact a team's immediate future more than anything else?

    We're not talking about minor conflicts or distractions; we're talking about the chemistry of the new-look Lakers, the fight for survival in Chicago and the clock winding down for the Knicks.

    Those are the type of narratives that shape a team, that determine how successful or controversial a 2012-13 crusade will be.

    And therefore, they are the ones that invoke the greatest sense of awareness in the fans and team itself.

Atlanta Hawks: Josh Smith's Future

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    You remember Josh Smith, right?

    He's the volatile forward who should have been named to the 2012 All-Star game instead of his then teammate Joe Johnson. He's also the one who wanted out of Atlanta merely months ago.

    Now, though, he's the Hawks' primary pillar, who reportedly no longer wants out.

    But that could all change in a heartbeat.

    What if the Hawks, with all their new pieces, fail miserably? What if Smith gels with the ball-dominating Lou Williams even less than he did with Johnson? What if Al Horford goes down again and Smith tastes a type of losing he has yet to know? What then?

    For starters, trade rumors would run rampant, potentially culminating in Smith, once again, verbally expressing his discontent.

    However, Atlanta could also exceed expectations. Smith could actually improve upon his 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game last season, be named to his first All-Star team and fall in love with the prospect of being an unquestioned leader.

    Which side of the fence will Smith ultimately find himself on?

    We'll just have to wait and see.

Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo's Quest for LeBron-Like Leadership

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    Rajon Rondo is a great leader, but he has little to show for his efforts.

    Though Rondo has proven to be the heart and soul his Celtics team, he's yet to establish himself as the type of general that yields tangible results, like a championship trophy or league MVP award.

    The crafty facilitator has already proclaimed himself to be the league's best point guard, and now, it's time for him to prove it. And leading the league in assists per game for the second-consecutive season won't be enough to do so.

    What will be? Leading a drastically transformed Boston team on a championship run.

    Though the Celtics look great on paper, that means next to nothing. We won't know how cohesive this team is until it steps on the court, under Rondo's direction, and performs.

    If Boston's resourceful prodigy wishes to broach the same level as LeBron James and the rest of the league's great leaders, he has to rise to the occasion, as well as his self-imposed ceiling.

    Does he have what it takes?

    We'll know soon enough. 

Brooklyn Nets: The Return to Prominence

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    Brooklyn appears to be a legitimate title contender—on paper. Again, though, that means nothing.

    The Nets have been thrust back into the spotlight, courtesy of New York's bright lights and a busy offseason. But does this ensure they'll make a play for a championship, or even a deep postseason run?

    Though Brooklyn's roster is undeniably impressive to ponder, it's also extremely fragile. Both Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace are on the wrong side of 30, and Brook Lopez and Deron Williams have proved to be anything but durable.

    Will the Nets' return to prominence be a seamless tradition, or will this extremely talented, albeit uncertain, squad stumble out the gate and beyond?

    Brooklyn's assembly of household names suggests the former, but there's no guarantee the latter isn't actualized either. Not until we witness the team's 2012-13 march for ourselves.

Charlotte Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's Impact

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    You want to believe the Bobcats are much better off heading into 2012-13, you really do. But you can't, not entirely anyway.

    While Charlotte will depend on all of its young whipper snappers to inject some life into a lifeless team and city, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's impact is the most efficient measuring stick there is to gauge the Bobcats' potential revival or ultimate death.

    Kemba Walker may be ready to step up as the team's leader, but make no mistake the plan is for him to just warm that seat for Kidd-Gilchrist.

    The incoming small forward is the player the Bobcats opted to replace their Anthony Davis-related blueprint with; he is the pillar that this team is hoping to build the future around.

    But is he the type of player who can be used as a cornerstone? Can he be the face of the future, a symbol for hope in Charlotte?

    That's the question the Bobcats are not only pining for, but need an answer to.

Chicago Bulls: Survival

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    Derrick Rose is the Chicago Bulls, but for the foreseeable future, his teammates, the ones he helped carry to prominence, will now have to carry on without him.

    Despite posting an 18-9 record without Rose last season, that's no easy task for Luol Deng and company. Not only are the Bulls now much thinner in the backcourt, but Carlos Boozer is a perennial wild card while an authentic psychic couldn't even tell you whether the bodies of Deng and Joakim Noah will hold up.

    And yet, somehow, someway, the Bulls are going to have to persevere. This team, this city has been through too much to let injuries, specifically Rose's torn ACL, derail their quest for perpetual contention.

    But is that sense of purpose enough? Can the Bulls channel the sentiments of their critics into motivation, and then translate that motivation into measurable results?

    Rose sure hopes so, and so does the rest of Chicago, but no one will know for sure until the Bulls' Rose-less campaign begins to unfold. 

Cleveland Cavaliers: The Kyrie Irving-Dion Waiters Tandem

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    The Cavaliers were in a perfect position to place another star opposite Kyrie Irving this offseason, but by all accounts, they failed to do just that. We think.

    Not only did Cleveland have plenty of money to burn, but it had the fourth overall pick of the draft as well. 

    What were the results of such promising circumstances? Zero free agent signings worth mentioning with a side of a draft reach in Dion Waiters.

    But there's no use harping on what could have been; this is the hand the Cavaliers have been dealt, or rather, the deck they rigged themselves. And after showing so much promise last season, the outlook on Cleveland's future almost solely depends on Irving and Waiters establishing second nature-esque chemistry.

    Can such strong ties be established between these two young guards, or will Waiters' one-dimensional impact render them a tepid pairing at best?

    No one wants to skip to the end of this story more than Irving.

Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki's Waning Window

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    Dallas' offseason could have read like a book of heartbreak, but instead, the Mavericks came to serve as an inspiration.

    After losing Jason Kidd and Jason Terry to free agency, Dallas made quick work of not only filling in some of the gaps, but also providing immediate hope.

    Suddenly, Dirk Nowitzki is no longer alone, the backcourt doesn't seem so empty and the Mavericks' interior attack doesn't pale in comparison to most.

    But will that be enough? Sure, Dallas has an admirable supporting cast, but it's far from prolific, or fundamentally sound for that matter. And at 34, is Nowitzki still fit to carry a mediocre crew toward a championship?

    Like it or not, Nowitzki's window of opportunity is closing; the time for him to capture additional hardware is now, not later.

    Because once Nowitzki's window officially closes, so does Dallas'. If it hasn't closed already, that is.

Denver Nuggets: Andre Iguodala's Inaugural Campaign

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    The Nuggets had everything, except a proven superstar, until now. How well he fares in and how far he carries the Mile High City, though, remains to be seen.

    Theoretically, Iguodala should be seamlessly integrated into Denver's rotation. He's unselfish, extremely versatile and a two-way workhorse, attributes that head coach George Karl not only loves, but requires, in his players.

    That said, the Nuggets are still a young team, with plenty of athletes still in crucial stages of development.

    So while Iguodala's presence should push players like Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee to the next level, his integration could also disrupt their fluidity and overall comfort. And from there, the entire team's chemistry would suffer and the Nuggets would be well on their way to the lottery.

    Or again, his first year in Denver could be marked by championship contention.

    We just don't know yet.

Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond's Potential

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    Andre Drummond is the key to Detroit's future. Not Greg Monroe, but Drummond.

    While Monroe is a freakishly efficient athlete headed for perennial stardom, what you know you have is never as important, or potentially detrimental, than what you don't know.

    Drummond himself is an athletic beast, with immense potential on both sides of the ball. But he's also extremely raw, and borderline inept in some areas. His defense is spotty, his rebounding prowess is underwhelming and his offensive post sets are broken.

    If the Pistons come to find that Drummond is a bona fide bust, and not a future star, there's no immediate solution. Detroit will then be forced to return to the drawing board, which at that point, will essentially be a blank canvas with no guidelines in sight.

    Of course, there's still the potential Drummond proves his doubters wrong, on his way to becoming ingenuity at its best; his presence could mark the beginning of the league's most dangerous low post tandem.

    But that's the problem, we just don't know, and neither do the Pistons. And they'll continue to be in the dark, their future will continue to be indiscernible, until Drummond has the opportunity to showcase his talents.

    Or lack thereof. 

Golden State Warriors: The Chase for Resurrection

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    The Warriors are either headed for postseason actualization or disappointment beyond reason.

    Golden State completely changed the direction of its roster in a span of months, assembling the type of talent that implies a playoff run is in the organization's immediate future.

    The problem here, though, is while players like Andrew Bogut, Stephen Curry, David Lee and Jarrett Jack, among others, provide plenty of bang for their buck, hardly any of that "bang" is guaranteed.

    Both Lee and Jack are tested durable, yet Bogut and Curry are anything but. Klay Thompson has star-like potential, but he's more familiar with being hot and cold than Katy Perry. And Harrison Barnes screams scoring machine, but his frame leaves much to be desired at the profession level.

    Will everything—health, potential, chemistry—fall into place for the Warriors as the 2012-13 journey unfolds, or will this long, arduous quest for relevancy get anything but easier?

    The only surefire answer here is that Monta Ellis couldn't care less.

Houston Rockets: Search for Men Among Boys

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    The Rockets completely decimated their roster this past summer, and while they have plenty of pieces to show for it, the team is now left to fit them all together.

    Where do they start? By finding a leader.

    The easy answer here is to turn to Kevin Martin, but he's hardly the future of this franchise; the Rockets need someone they can definitively invest in and stand behind.

    But who is that? Is it Jeremy Lin? Omer Asik? Jeremy Lamb? Royce White? Terrence Jones?

    That's really the main issue with the Rockets' current dynamic—they don't have anyone to turn to long term. Nearly every player on the Rockets' docket remains vastly unproven.

    So, while a cursory scan over the roster shows there's no shortage of potential, a more committed view yields a troubling reality—Houston doesn't have a franchise face; there's no identity to be found.

    But find one the Rockets must, because until they do, the quest for redemption cannot even begin.

Indiana Pacers: The Playmaker Deficiency

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    Remember when the Pacers had an above-average playmaker running the offense?

    So does Darren Collison. The problem there is that he'll be reminiscing about such a reality from Dallas, while Indiana struggles to replace his innate court vision.

    Because when the Pacers shipped Collison to the Mavericks, it wasn't just about adding size, it was a conscious decision to put the needs of the frontcourt ahead of the backcourt.

    Do you really think George Hill, the $40 million man without a consistent playmaking bone in his body, is really going to cut it? Can we honestly say that D.J. Augustin is going to come in and light a wide-spread offensive fire within the second-unit?

    No, we can't. Though Collison was no All-Star, he knew the ins and outs of facilitating, he recognized when to develop a pick-and-roll, he understood the value of drive-and-kicks and breaking down zone defenses.

    Augustin and Hill, though? Not so much. There's hope for Augustin yet, but he's a slight project, and Hill is now an overpaid scorer. 

    So, where are the assists going to come from? Who will understand how to send a lead pass Roy Hibbert's way? Who will attack the rim to help space the floor for Granger?

    Make no mistake an answer will emerge. Whether it's a sufficient one remains to be seen.

Los Angeles Clippers: Selling Chris Paul on Lob City

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    Chris Paul is not sold on his future with the Clippers.

    I'm not saying it's because he declined to sign an extension; we all know he stands to make much more money by waiting until next summer. However, if Paul was completely sold on the Lob City dynamic, open-ended sentiments like "I'll wait until next summer to decide everything" wouldn't be coming out of his mouth.

    The fact of the matter is, the Clippers, as a collective, are unproven. Yes, Paul's playmaking abilities propelled them to the playoffs last season, but if the Grizzlies hadn't embarked on a meltdown of epic proportions, Los Angeles wouldn't have even had the opportunity to get swept by the Spurs.

    If the 2012-13 season culminates in something similar, Paul is far from a lock to remain in Hollywood.

    So it's up to the Clippers to convince him otherwise, to take the uncertainty out of the equation. Should the Clippers emerge next spring as a bona fide title contender, color Lob City safe.

    If they don't? Well, then, at least they have Blake Griffin locked in for five more years.

Los Angeles Lakers: Chemistry, Chemistry, Chemistry

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    Some might say that Dwight Howard's future is the most captivating motif purple and gold has to offer, and they could be right. Except they're not.

    Sure, Howard's future with the team is of major concern and will generate the utmost of interest, but let's face it, there is no future for Howard in Los Angeles without chemistry.

    The Lakers, essentially overnight, constructed one of the NBA's most formidable powerhouses—on (here's that pesky word again) paper. But just because the dynamic looks good on ESPN's website doesn't mean Los Angeles is destined for success.

    What it comes down to is Kobe Bryant embracing off-ball movement more, Howard learning to play alongside a legitimate power forward in Pau Gasol and Steve Nash having the nerve necessary to keep this star-studded quartet in check.

    Is Nash capable of such a task? Yes. Can Bryant still thrive without the ball in his hands? Of course. Are Howard and Gasol capable of co-existing in the low post? They're both mobile, so yes.

    But will they? Will all of these stars make the necessary adjustments to ensure they're an actual contender and not just one on paper?

    That little piece of paper won't tell us, but how Los Angeles fares during the 2012-13 campaign will.

Memphis Grizzlies: Succeeding as a Favorite

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    No, the Grizzlies aren't a championship favorite, but they're no longer an underdog either.

    Memphis used to be the best kept secret in the NBA, but unless Josh Selby develops into the second-coming of Allen Iverson, all of the team's secrets are now out. And if the Grizzlies' playoff push—or lack thereof—last season was any indication, that's a problem.

    Not only did Memphis implode on numerous occasions against the Clippers last spring, but as an acknowledged threat, borderline powerhouse, it failed to distinguish itself any further.

    The Grizzlies know they are one of the deepest entities in the league, but so does the rest of the Association. Now, Rudy Gay and company must learn to succeed as a favorite, under the weight of actual expectations.

    Most would consider that a good thing, but as we already saw, such a reality can push a team either way.

Miami Heat: The Repeat

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    In only its second year of existence, Miami's Big Three took home the Big One. 

    But can LeBron James and company do it again?

    The Heat, without a doubt, are still the NBA's best team, but that guarantees them next to nothing. Though Miami improved its roster a great deal, so did plenty of other teams. Heck, more than a few people are already making a case for the Lakers as the Association's top dog.

    So, while the Heat are more than talented enough to repeat as NBA champs, their quest for immortality and the creation of a dynasty will be anything but easy.

    Do the Miami thrice have what it takes to lead this team to a second-straight title?

    The South Beach faithful will undoubtedly say yes, but both Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant will implore everyone to think otherwise. 

Milwaukee Bucks: Compatibility of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings

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    The Bucks have two of the same players in Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings.

    Is that good? Is it bad? No one really knows yet.

    Though one could make that case that two players with such similar playing styles cannot co-exist within the same lineup, I seem to remember two athletes by the names of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade disproving that hypothesis.

    And yet, at the same time, neither Ellis nor Jennings is as resourceful as either of the former.

    But that's what makes this pairing so intriguing. Both players can attack the rim, create for themselves, come off screens and even facilitate. Shouldn't such skill sets be able to merge as one overwhelming offensive attack?

    You'd think so, but Milwaukee's disappearing act down the stretch last season makes you second guess such a notion.

    So, which is it? Are Ellis and Jennings incapable of playing off one another, or are they just in need of a good ole' fashion training camp?

    Any reality outside of the latter spells immediate trouble for the Bucks.  

Minnesota Timberwolves: Quest for a Postseason Berth

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    The Timberwolves have ambitious aspirations—they have to, otherwise it's just a matter of time before Kevin Love attempts a Kevin Garnett-like escape.

    While Minnesota took great strides toward improving its chance of snagging a playoff spot, the re-tooled docket is not without question marks.

    The additions of Andrei Kirilenko and Brandon Roy are intriguing, and have the potential to pay huge dividends, but they also stand to dismantle the Timberwolves' current dynamic. Neither player has seen NBA action in over a year, Kirilenko is on the wrong side of 30 and Roy is attempting to come back from extensive knee damage.

    Does that sound fragile to you? Well, it doesn't end there. Ricky Rubio's status is up in the air as well after tearing his ACL. 

    Will the swift and cunning floor general still have plenty of pep left in his step upon return, or will he be a shell of the playmaker we saw last season?

    Love cannot continue to carry this team on his own, and it's more than unsettling to acknowledge there's a possibility he may have to. 

New Orleans Hornets: The Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers Experiment

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    Separately, Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers are an offensive explosion waiting to happen. Together, though, they're a potential train wreck.

    As important as Anthony Davis is to the Hornets, the team's entire blueprint for success rests on a pair of shoulders in the backcourt. 

    Gordon and Rivers are one in the same, yet Rivers is being asked to make the transition from volume scorer to unbridled facilitator. Yet even if the rookie can table his shoot-first instincts in favor of becoming more of a facilitator, there is no guarantee that Gordon and himself strike backcourt gold.

    Remember, this is the same Gordon who was prepared to desert New Orleans not too long ago, the same player who has returned under the premise that this is his team.

    But how will Gordon, a crafty ball-handler himself, react to watching a rookie have the strongest say in the team's offense? Will he be amenable to taking direction from a rookie who'd prefer his job? And can Rivers even render this a successful transition to begin with?

    It doesn't take 20/20 vision to see the Big Easy isn't going to be a care free place to play by any means throughout 2012-13.

New York Knicks: Those Two Superstar Dudes

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    Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are under a wealth of pressure until further notice.

    Not only is Stoudemire tasked with attempting a successful comeback to competency, but after LeBron James' first championship ring, an ample dose of criticism and attention is being thrown Anthony's way.

    And to top it all off, there's the chemistry issue between the two to consider.

    Since Anthony's arrival, he and Stoudemire have hardly thrived while on the court together. There doesn't seem to be enough touches to go around or nearly enough space for either to operate.

    Can Anthony and Stoudemire disprove such notions? Can they work together, harmoniously, or will Mike Woodson be forced to rip apart the current rotation in search of an alternative solution?

    The answer to such questions will prove to be the end-all of the Knicks' current championship aspirations.

Oklahoma City Thunder: The James Harden Quandary

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    Surprised? Because you shouldn't be.

    What was originally the James Harden and Serge Ibaka problem, has now solely become the "Harden Quandary."

    It's no secret the Thunder would love to hold on to the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but money, as with all things NBA, is an issue. Essentially, after extending Ibaka, Oklahoma City cannot retain Harden without committing at least $85 million to its current core, which is enough dough to make even the Lakers think twice.

    What's more is the Thunder only have until October 31st work out an extension, or Harden will hit the restricted free-agent market next summer.

    So, while there is a potential end in sight, this saga has the potential to gain even more traction if Halloween comes and goes and Harden is still without a new deal.

    And to think, this will all, at least for the time being, overshadow the Thunder's quest to dethrone the Heat.

Orlando Magic: Post Dwightmare

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    The Magic have some 'splainin' to do.

    After facilitating the Dwight Howard saga for more than 18 months, Orlando pulled the trigger on a deal with an underwhelming return.

    While it's plausible the Magic could see potential in Nikola Vucevic and Mo Harkless, and even Arron Afflalo, these are hardly the only players you want in return for one of the NBA's top 10 stars. Even the draft picks hold little value because they're likely to be late first-round selections.

    So, even though Orlando finally dealt Howard, the team is far from out of the spotlight. The entire basketball world will be watching to see if this is a team has any sort of direction, any sort of hope for the future.

    If the Magic do, then great. We can move on, they can move on and it will be done with.

    Should Orlando's newly-assembled dynamic not only struggle, but fail miserably, though, questions of "what if" will run rampant and the demise of the entire franchise won't be far off.

    Simply put, the 2012-13 campaign, regardless of what fashion the Magic finish in, is going to have some serious ramifications in Orlando.

Philadelphia 76ers: The Andrew Bynum Era

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    Andrew Bynum is going to change everything in Philadelphia. Hopefully.

    The seven-foot behemoth is entering the city of Brotherly Love under high expectations; his presence is supposed to turn the Sixers into the type of force they never were with Andre Iguodala running the show.

    But is Bynum ready? The center spent seven comfortable years in Los Angeles, behind the likes of Kobe Bryant, meaning he's never had to be "the man" before.

    Becoming the first offensive option, the unquestioned leader and the team's end-all is something knew for the 24-year-old. Considering how immature Bynum has proved to be, you can't fault anyone for doubting his ability to come in to Philly and re-invent the Sixers.

    But who knows, perhaps he'll upstage us all; maybe escaping the revolving trade rumors will be just what he needs to become a true franchise star.

    Or maybe he'll crash and burn, dragging the Sixers, who are void of a proven playmaker, down with him.

    Right now, no one knows for sure. But we will.

Phoenix Suns: Life in the Backcourt After Steve Nash

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    Steve Nash is gone, and with him went Phoenix's hopes at a playoff berth. But for how long?

    The Suns made quick work of restructuring their roster after Nash's departure. They already had the best playmaker of the draft in Kendall Marshall, and were then able to sign Goran Dragic to help run the offense as well.

    But will they be enough?

    Keep in mind that Phoenix doesn't just need someone to run and direct its offense, it needs an athlete who can be the embodiment of creativity.

    Do you think Channing Frye becomes as lethal an offensive threat as he is without Nash's dribble penetration? Would Marcin Gortat still be a stud if not for Nash's ability to coordinate and execute off pick-and-rolls? Could Jared Dudley even feign competence if not for the open looks Nash created for him?

    No, three times over.

    While the Suns found some solid backcourt replacements, no one will ever truly replace Nash, not right now anyway. The key for Phoenix now is seeing just how far away they are from returning to prominence.

    And it all starts—and ends—with the recently instated point guard tandem. 

Portland Trail Blazers: Nicolas Batum's Worth

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    Portland's ability to avoid a repeat of last season comes down to how well Nicolas Batum fares in the first year under his lucrative contract.

    We all know what to expect from LaMarcus Aldridge, and much cannot be expected of rookie starters Meyers Leonard and Damian Lillard, so that leaves Batum.

    If Batum can emerge as a consistent two-way player, who exploits defenses from all areas of the floor on offense while locking down the perimeter on defense, Portland still has a fighting chance in the West.

    Should the swingman continue his reign of inconsistency, though, and Aldridge will once again stand alone. And it cannot be like that anymore.

    Both Leonard and Lillard are significant pieces to the Blazers' puzzle, but they're impact is geared more toward the future, not the present. Subsequently, Batum must rise to the occasion now, increase his point totals now and give Aldridge a worthy sidekick now.

    If he does, the future in Portland is brighter. If he can't, though, the Blazers will need to rethink their current blueprint.

Sacramento Kings: Location, Location, Location

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    Everything the Kings do will be overshadowed by the team's search for a new city.

    The Maloofs have ensured that exploring the realms of relocation will be anything but low profile, as they continue to look at any and all opportunities.

    To an extent, we must understand that it is the right of the Maloofs to move the Kings out of Sacramento. But at the same time, we cannot help being resentful for the boisterous, borderline reckless, manner they're doing it in.

    So, while the Kings should be able to focus on the development of Thomas Robinson, the impact of Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins' transition into a superstar, they can't.

    Not while the prospect of moving to Anaheim or any other city is being held over the team.

San Antonio Spurs: The Age Paradigm

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    Last season, the Spurs rewrote the book on being old.

    Despite putting an elderly product lined with sporadic youth on the floor, San Antonio easily advanced to the Western Conference Finals. But can Tim Duncan and company do it again?

    Though the Spurs played anything but their age last spring, the mini-collapse they suffered against the Thunder is of major concern. Was it a result of their inability to keep up with a youthfully exuberant dynamic, or did they simply let up at the wrong time?

    While the latter implies that San Antonio has more than a fighting chance to return to its place among the league's powerhouses, the former is especially troubling. The Spurs made little to no changes to their roster this past summer, and if age and deteriorating abilities really are the issue, they did nothing to solve them.

    So, do the Spurs have the perfect balance of youth and experience to put up another championship-worthy fight, or is Father Time bound to get the best of them during the 2012-13 campaign?

    All of San Antonio will have baited breath as the answer to that question unfolds.

Toronto Raptors: Playoff Push or Lottery Bound?

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    No one's quite sure what to make of the Raptors.

    Though Toronto made a series of additions that undeniably enhanced their potential, piecing together the puzzle will prove to be anything but a predictable endeavor.

    Kyle Lowry clearly strengthens the Raptors' backcourt, but is the triumvirate of him, Jose Calderon and John Lucas, overkill? Landry Fields adds depth at the shooting guard and small forward spots, but can he, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Quincy Acy and Terrence Ross work together to form a formidable rotation?

    And, most importantly, will Jonas Valanciunas make an immediate impact or will Toronto have to yet again make due with the shooting guard-like tendencies of Andrea Bargnani at center?

    On paper, the Raptors appear ready to contend for a playoff spot, but if their newest additions fail to mesh adequately with their returning faces, a trip back to the lottery is basically guaranteed.

Utah Jazz: The Future of the Low Post Quartet

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    The Jazz currently have the deepest interior rotation in the NBA. But for how much longer?

    Both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are set to become unrestricted free agents next summer, while Utah has team options on Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.

    Theoretically, if the Jazz desired, they could wash their hands of all four, but we know that's not going to happen; Utah is going to bring back at least two.

    But which two will that be? Will the Jazz opt for youth and plan on picking up the options of Favors and Kanter, or is the prospect of bringing back two star-caliber big men in Jefferson and Millsap too good to pass up?

    And will Utah show its hand by attempting to ship the interior excess off to another team, or will the organization opt to let this situation ride out until next summer?

    The Jazz's intentions remain truly unclear, but the 2012-13 campaign should ultimately yield the answers we've been looking for. 

Washington Wizards: Backcourt Chemistry

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    The Wizards are deceptively deep, but how far their understated depth carries them rests on the shoulders of Bradley Beal and John Wall.

    Wall has been in need of a sidekick with star potential since he came into the league, and now, he's been provided with just that in Beal. Both athletes thrive in transition and are extremely elusive.

    But can they play off one another right away?

    Though Washington's roster has the potential to contend for a playoff spot in the wide-open Eastern Conference, the success of this team depends on these two becoming an immediate dynamic duo.

    If Beal and Wall can develop any sort of chemistry, the Wizards' backcourt attack is instantly one of the most formidable in the NBA. And if that becomes a reality, the outlook in Washington is brighter, and the postseason is suddenly within reach.

    Should these two struggle to co-exist in any capacity, though, the Wizards will find themselves near the bottom of the Association's barrel once again.