10 Burning Questions Every NBA Fan Is Asking Before 2012-13 Training Camp
While television personality Skip Bayless is busy pondering whether LeBron James and Kevin Durant have gotten a little too close for his comfort, fans around the league are likely considering an altogether different set of questions.
Those questions are taking on ever greater urgency with training camps set to begin Oct. 2 and the race to displace the Miami Heat commencing soon thereafter.
From roster moves to chemistry qualms, fans will be watching and listening intently for hints of things to come. Seasons aren't won or lost in training camp, but they're certainly shaped for better or worse. And hey, NBA junkies haven't had much going on since the Summer Olympics came to a close, so even a hint of movement on the basketball front is cause for excitement.
Here are 10 questions sure to spark some lively debates as our favorite teams get back on the floor and begin practicing officially.
These questions may not yield final answers for some time, but that's never stopped a good discussion.
Did My Team Do Enough This Summer?
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While heavyweights like the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat added some star power to already exceptional rosters, other contenders had far quieter summers.
The San Antonio Spurs re-signed Boris Diaw, Danny Green and Patty Mills, but failed to make any significant additions via the draft, trades or free agency. The Oklahoma City Thunder decided to roll the dice with center Hasheem Thabeet and may have gotten a steal drafting Perry Jones with the 28th-overall pick, but they too had an uneventful summer when compared to others in the title chase.
Some teams, like the Indiana Pacers, made some minor adjustments while the jury remains out in terms of whether those adjustments will actually make the team better.
Almost every fan will take issue with something their favorite team did (or didn't do) this offseason, some have more reason to be anxious than others.
On the other hand, there's something to be said for patience—maybe the road less traveled will pay off for the clubs who kept their cores together.
Okay, We Got Better, but How Much Better?
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Up-and-coming teams and contenders alike will be wondering just how much they improved over the summer.
After all, in a competitive context, improvement is always a relative thing. It's one thing for a team to get better, but it's not as if it's the only team getter better. You can think of this as the "Detroit Pistons" complex—yes, Detroit's roster has improved in each of the last two summers but only marginally.
It may very well pay off over the long term when youngsters like Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond come into their own, but for now, the Pistons aren't improving as rapidly as others in the Eastern Conference (like the Toronto Raptors or, obviously, the Brooklyn Nets).
Teams like the Washington Wizards pose an especially interesting case study. Washington is in the midst of a roster overhaul, adding tested veterans like Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza even as it brings rookie Bradley Beal in to play alongside John Wall in the backcourt.
There's no question the Wizards will be better. The question is by how much.
Can We Beat the Heat?
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If your team was in the 2011-12 playoffs, the most natural question to be asking is whether they can beat the Miami Heat?
There's no better benchmark for determining whether your team has a legitimate shot at the title, at least until the Los Angeles Lakers prove they're as good as they look on paper. There's also a practical dimension to this question given the chances taking home this season's title will require your team to actually beat Miami.
At times, the Heat look absolutely unstoppable. But at others, we've seen this club look just mortal enough to lose a seven-game series.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be older and wiser while the Lakers and Celtics both made varying degrees of improvement. At the very least, those three clubs will feel pretty good about their chances.
But who else belongs in this particular conversation?
Could the San Antonio Spurs or Denver Nuggets off Miami? What about the New York Knicks or new-look Philadelphia 76ers? Maybe the Indiana Pacers will have a better shot after another season of building some confidence.
Of course, this is a pretty open-and-shut question for Heat fans.
Is It Too Late to Add Some Firepower?
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For teams that didn't make dramatic improvements via free agency, there's precious little left worth any significant investment.
But for a few veterans like Kenyon Martin, Tracy McGrady or Derek Fisher, the remaining free agents are a hodgepodge of unproven names and castaways struggling to keep their NBA careers rolling. With a reservoir of emerging talent in the Development League, organizations are all the more willing to wait things out and add minor pieces on an as-needed basis.
In short, there is indeed a bit of talent still available, but any significant upgrade at this point will require some out-of-the-box thinking or exploring the trade market.
For clubs with money burning holes in their pockets (e.g. the Cleveland Cavaliers or Houston Rockets), spending that money on anything worthwhile will probably have to wait until next summer.
Will My Team Be Active at the Trade Deadline?
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There are a few clubs that reason to be active at the trade deadline, if only because they leave the offseason with some unfinished business.
The Houston Rockets reason to be among those teams thanks to Kevin Martin's expiring contract, a 2013 first-round pick from the Toronto Raptors and a handful of promising young prospects that could build some trade value with quick starts to the season.
And of course, teams that look to be on the verge of something more after a couple of months may be on the lookout for pieces that would complete the puzzle.
That could include the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder after their quiet summers, and it could certainly include the Denver Nuggets given its wealth of young talent that could return a more proven veteran.
The Memphis Grizzlies appear destined for another first or second-round exit, so they could be looking to make adjustments.
In the East, keep an eye on the Indiana Pacers. Their core has remained more or less the same for a couple of years, but it could be in need of tweaking if the team doesn't prove early on that it's capable of building upon last season's hard-fought second round against the Miami Heat.
Someone like Danny Granger or David West could be on the move if there's a chance to land a young difference-maker to pair with Roy Hibbert and Paul George.
Will the Los Angeles Lakers Mesh?
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Since the Los Angeles Lakers added Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison while exchanging Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard, there has almost certainly been no question asked more frequently than: Will this work?
In theory, it absolutely should. Kobe Bryant is at the stage of his career in which he'll happily accept the extra help, and there are plenty of Xs and Os kind of reasons to believe this unit will mesh—from pick-and-roll possibilities to improved interior defense.
Of course, where Lakers fans would prefer guarantees, there are the inevitable risks instead. Any number of things could go awry and derail this experiment before it really gets started.
With the exception of Howard, this team's score is aging. And it hasn't even been the core for all that long. It should gel in plenty of time for the postseason, but the fact that there's so much gelling to be done is a reminder that we still have no clue just how good this team will be.
Is This the Year of the Bull?
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The Chicago Bulls have a solid roster with or without Derrick Rose, but they don't have a remote chance at a title without Rose back and in rhythm.
Rose could be back on the court by March, so there's every reason to believe he'll have enough time to get back into the swing of things before Chicago makes its postseason run.
Still, anything beyond a second-round showing would be pretty improbable given the strides made by the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics this summer—to say nothing of the very real possibility that the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets will all be vying for the NBA Finals.
Should Rose engineer a title run amidst that kind of competition, his return would be one of the most compelling NBA stories in recent memory.
For now, though, it's a wide-open question.
Can We Finally Make It Back to the Playoffs?
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After winning just 33 percent of their games and "boasting" the league's worst defense in 2011-12, the Sacramento Kings will soon begin wondering just how long this rebuilding process will take.
The roster is still far too young for anyone to begin panicking, but this club hasn't made the postseason since 2006. Fans can only take so much optimism before some fatigue starts to set in, fatigue that could grow worse amidst the franchise's uncertain arena situation and its implications for the future.
Meanwhile, teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors are looking to put an official end to their own rebuilding projects and begin making the most of young stars like Kevin Love and Stephen Curry.
There's a pretty good chance at least one of them claims a low seed out West, and that probably means the Kings won't.
Will Brooklyn Be All It's Cracked Up to Be?
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No team has undergone more transition over the last couple of years than the Brooklyn Nets.
A new arena awaits the the franchise formerly known as New Jersey, and a re-built roster will come along with it.
Gerald Wallace only spent half of the 2011-12 season with the Nets, and Brook Lopez was injured for almost the entire campaign. For all intents and purposes, this will be the first full season in which they play alongside one another and centerpiece Deron Williams.
Meanwhile, the Nets also traded for All-Star shooting guard Joe Johnson and signed free agents C.J. Watson, Andray Blatche, Reggie Evans and Josh Childress to round out a bench that will also feature up-and-coming second-year shooting guard MarShon Brooks.
Add all of that (plus starting power forward Kris Humphries) together, and what do you have?
Well, a better team than the one that took the floor last season, but that's really all we know. The starting unit doesn't pack much defense outside of Wallace, and the second unit has some guys (Blatche and Childress) who have plenty to prove.
The Nets reason to be a playoff team, but whether they're the kind of playoff team that can win a championship is in serious doubt.
Are the Knicks Contenders?
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The New York Knicks looked pretty solid at times last season, especially after Mike Woodson took over for former head coach Mike D'Antoni.
But with injuries to Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert changing the configuration of its already-stiff first-round challenge against the Miami Heat, NYC didn't look anywhere close to a title.
This Knicks will head into their 2012-13 campaign with a re-tooled backcourt and a much-improved second unit. While Knicks fans will be happy with the adjustments they see on paper, the bigger concerns will have to do with this team's core and what it can expect to get out of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire.
If they both play like franchise players (and do so at the same time), the Knicks could quickly change the title discussion and steal some attention away from the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.