One Burning Question Every NBA Team Must Answer in 2012-13 Training Camp
Every NBA team has one burning question that needs to be answered in training camp.
The 2012-13 NBA season is just around the corner, and each of the 30 franchises has important questions that need to be answered. The questions vary from team to team. Some are as simple as "Who's going to start at small forward?" Some questions are much more complicated. When your franchise just completed one of the worst NBA seasons of all time, there are several questions that need to be answered.
How each team answers its one burning question in training camp often establishes the flow of its season.
Question: How Will the Boston Celtics Replace Ray Allen?
Everybody has predictions as to how they think Ray Allen will perform as a member of the Miami Heat. What's often left out is how the Boston Celtics will replace Allen, a sure first-ballot future Hall of Famer.
Replacing Allen in the Celtics offense may not be as difficult as it seems. In the offseason, the Celtics signed Jason Terry and executed a sign-and-trade for Courtney Lee. Both guards are good three-point shooters, so the absence of Allen shouldn't hurt the Celtics' backcourt shooting. Then there's Avery Bradley, who will need as much playing time as possible after he returns from injury.
The Celtics will have a harder time replacing Allen off the court. Allen was a fan favorite, and it's always tough for a fanbase when a longtime player leaves. But on the court, there's a good chance the Celtics are better off without Allen.
Question: What is the Brooklyn Nets' Identity?
The inaugural Brooklyn Nets team is completely different from the one that left New Jersey. The roster experienced an accelerated rebuilding process in the offseason in order to start the franchise off on the right foot in Brooklyn. There's no denying the Nets made headline moves, but were they smart moves?
Joe Johnson, C.J. Watson, Reggie Evans, Mirza Teletovic and Andray Blatche add up to an interesting team on paper, but how will they mesh with the rest of the roster? Johnson and Deron Williams both need shots, but will those shots be available?
The Nets need to establish an identity in training camp, or else they'll be just another expensive mess that resides in the state of New York.
New York Knicks
Question: Will the New York Knicks Have Enough Youth?
The New York Knicks roster is filled with guys who were great players back in 2006. Deadspin said it best—the Knicks' current roster would be an amazing NBA Live 06 team.
What are the odds Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace make it through a full NBA season healthy? Too many old players usually results in a long injury report. The Knicks need youth badly.
The Knicks' core of Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler isn't young either. With Iman Shumpert sidelined with an ACL tear, the Knicks don't have a player in their top-10 rotation that is under the age of 27. To think that J.R. Smith is the breath of youth for the Knicks is scary.
The Knicks are built to win now, which is why they signed so many old geezers in the offseason. The question the Knicks will find themselves needing to answer in training camp and throughout the season regards health. With so much age, staying healthy is going to be a real problem for the Knicks.
Question: Do the Philadelphia 76ers Have Enough Talent on the Bench?
There's no question the Philadelphia 76ers have assembled a talented starting lineup. Their question marks lie with their bench, which looks barren. Nick Young, Dorell Wright, Thaddeus Young and Kwame Brown are the 76ers' best bench players, and that can either be a problem or a sneaky good combination.
Thaddeus Young and Wright will produce. Both players are reliable bench options. Nick Young is the biggest question mark, because you never know what kind of production you're going to get from him. Some games he'll catch fire, and then the next he can't hit the ocean.
As for Brown, the 76ers better hope Andrew Bynum doesn't go down with any injuries. Brown is an OK backup center, but if he has to play any extended minutes, the 76ers could be in serious trouble.
Question: Will Amir Johnson or Ed Davis Step Up?
The arrival of Jonas Valanciunas should make for an interesting frontcourt paired with Andrea Bargnani. If either Ed Davis or Amir Johnson could step up in 2012-13, there's a very realistic possibility the Toronto Raptors could be a surprise team.
There's a lot to like about the Raptors roster. Terrence Ross was a 45 percent shooter his last year in college. He may struggle early, but Ross is a great piece to add on the wing. DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon are still in town, and the addition of Kyle Lowry will give the Raptors one of the NBA's best 1-2 point guard combinations.
If only the Raptors had a reliable bench option in the low post. Davis and Johnson were each supposed to be that guy (actually, both were supposed to be much more than bench players when they arrived in Toronto), but both have disappointed. If one of the two is able to take a leap in his game, he'll give the Raptors a huge advantage.
Question: How Will the Chicago Bulls Replace Derrick Rose?
This question may be the most obvious out of every team in the NBA, but it's still a serious issue. The talent drop-off from Derrick Rose to Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague is enormous. The Bulls did a good job playing without Rose last year in the regular season, but that duty deemed to be impossible in the postseason.
There's no way to replace a player of Rose's caliber, so the Bulls are going to need to do the job by committee. Teague, another John Calipari product, will be called upon early to play often. Maybe if the Bulls are lucky, Teague will develop quickly. That will take the pressure off Hinrich early and give the Bulls a embarrassment of riches once Rose returns.
The key for the Bulls is still defense. If the Bulls continue to defend, they'll be fine just in time for Rose's return.
Question: Will the Rest of the Roster Develop Around Kyrie Irving?
There's no denying how special a player Kyrie Irving was in his rookie season. Irving's individual greatness was a distraction from how poor the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers roster was.
Irving will certainly show improvement from year one to year two. The question with the Cavaliers is the rest of their roster. Will Tristan Thompson show signs of improvement? Is Alonzo Gee the answer at small forward? Was picking Dion Waiters at No. 4 a reach?
The Cavaliers have so many roster questions besides Irving that one has to wonder how they will develop around him. There are a lot of question marks on the Cavaliers, but at least the franchise is heading in the right direction.
Question: How Far Can Greg Monroe Take the Detroit Pistons?
Greg Monroe has quietly turned himself into the DeMarcus Cousins of the Eastern Conference. Many are expecting Cousins to make a leap into his game. If Cousins can take the next step in his game, so can Monroe. Monroe can score and rebound, and he also has a higher shooting percentage than Cousins.
The lower seeds of Eastern Conference playoffs are wide open. The Detroit Pistons may not have enough talent to earn a playoff spot unless Monroe goes buck wild, which isn't out of the question. Monroe has the skills to be a franchise player and, along with Brandon Knight, could end up taking the Pistons far in 2012-13.
Question: Will Paul George or Danny Granger be the Indiana Pacers' No. 1 Option?
This may sound ludicrous at first, but think about it—how far can the Indiana Pacers honestly go with Danny Granger leading the way? The second round of the playoffs? That's cool. Unless Paul George can emerge as an All-Star player, this Pacers team will be stuck in mediocrity, especially after tying themselves up with the Roy Hibbert contract.
Granger is a fine player, but he has limitations. George, on the other hand, has the build of a young Tracy McGrady. It's only a matter of time until he's the Pacers' No. 1 option.
Question: Who Will Play Center for the Milwaukee Bucks?
The centers on the roster for the Milwaukee Bucks are Samuel Dalembert and Joel Przybilla. Both are over the age of 30 and on the downside of their careers. Ekpe Udoh could fill in, but otherwise the Bucks have one of the worst center situations in the NBA.
Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings will be as exciting of a backcourt as there is, but this team won't make it anywhere if it doesn't receive any production from the low post. Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova and the rookie John Henson will all earn playing time at power forward. If Dalembert and Przybilla struggle, one of those players will need to step up and help out at center.
Question: Who Will Replace Joe Johnson?
No one is paying attention to the Atlanta Hawks, but they should. Josh Smith and Al Horford are still in town, and the additions of Anthony Morrow, Lou Williams, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver and DeShawn Stevenson make the Hawks intriguing.
The No. 1 question the Hawks will face is replacing Joe Johnson. Johnson may have been seen as a disappointment for the Hawks, but he was still one of the better shooting guards in the NBA. Either Lou Williams or Anthony Morrow will need to step up to replace him.
While the two players may not be able to replace Johnson in terms of individual production, the Hawks are without a doubt a deeper team without him on their payroll.
Question: How Will the Charlotte Bobcats Erase the Losing Culture?
First off, no, the Charlotte Bobcats will not finish with a winning record. They are still a few seasons away from assembling a roster filled with enough legitimate NBA talent to compete on a nightly basis. Although the Bobcats will continue to be bad, they will be much better than the season before.
The main question the Bobcats need to answer is what direction are they heading in. Last season they were one of the worst NBA teams of all time. With the moves the Bobcats made in the offseason, including selecting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, the franchise seems to be heading in the right direction.
The Bobcats need to establish a winning culture in Charlotte. That process starts now in training camp.
Question: How Will Ray Allen Fit into the Miami Heat's Offense?
Ray Allen's shooting ability will always make him a hot commodity. When Allen signed with the Miami Heat instead of returning to the Boston Celtics, he must have felt wanted.
On the Heat, Allen has a defined, important role in the offense. We may not know exactly what that role is quite yet, but once the season starts we will. On the Celtics, Allen's role would have been decreased.
LeBron James is the key to making the Allen acquisition work for the Heat. His ability to play power forward will let Dwyane Wade slide to small forward as Mario Chalmers and Allen handle the backcourt.
James makes basketball easier for everybody. Playing with Allen will be a dream come true for him. As James charges towards the lane and the defense collapses on him, Allen will be waiting out by the three-point line ready to be the sharpshooter that he is.
Question: Who Will Be the Team Leader Now That Dwight Howard Is Gone?
No more Dwight Howard likely means no more playoffs for the Orlando Magic. The post-Howard roster in Orlando is a barren wasteland. Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu are still on the roster, but the Magic's best player is probably Arron Afflalo.
The Magic desperately need to find a new identity. They have a new head coach, a new general manager and obviously will have a new best player.
Afflalo is the early pick to be the go-to guy for the Magic, but don't sleep on Glen Davis. Davis has stepped up in the past when you would least expect it. The Magic will need Davis to play well, or else this could be one of the worst teams in the NBA in 2012-13.
Question: How Will the Washington Wizards Play Without John Wall?
If you have not yet heard, John Wall will likely miss the start of the 2012-13 NBA season because of a stress injury in his right knee.
This is a huge setback for the Washington Wizards because the team has enough talent to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. If the Wizards start off the season on a poor note due to Wall's absence, their playoff race could be over before it ever truly started.
The Wizards could start rookie Bradley Beal in Wall's place or look to the seldom-used A.J. Price. As long as the Wizards can endure the absence of Wall, this team could be in a position to surprise some foes.
Golden State Warriors
Question: Can the Golden State Warriors Stay Healthy?
Obviously this is a season-long question, but it does start in training camp. The Golden State Warriors have a strong roster, but health is a serious issue for them. Their top three players (Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut and David Lee) are all injury-prone.
Starting the season healthy is paramount for the Warriors because eventually they will run into injuries. If that injury bug hits before the start of the season, the Warriors will once again be in for a long season.
Los Angeles Clippers
Question: Who Will Be Relief for Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan?
The Los Angeles Clippers traded for Lamar Odom in the offseason hoping they would be getting the 2010-11 Lakers' Odom. If the 2011-12 Dallas Mavericks' Odom is the real Odom, then the Clippers will have a difficult time backing up Blake Griffin.
Odom was beyond terrible last season. His lack of production last season could be the result of a series of distractions or simply a decline in skill.
The backup center position is potentially worse for the Clippers. Ronny Turiaf was a non-factor for the Miami Heat last season. Why would he do any better on the Clippers backing up DeAndre Jordan? Expect Ryan Hollins to get some run at center.
Los Angeles Lakers
Question: How Will Dwight Howard React to Being the No. 2 option?
You could argue Dwight Howard will end up being the No. 3 option behind Pau Gasol, but he certainly won't be the No. 1 option. He'll likely end up settling in as the team’s No. 2 option. This will be the first time in Howard's career where he won't be "the guy," and you better believe that it's going to take some time to get used to it.
Team hierarchy is often overstated, but with the Lakers it's a unique situation. Howard is clearly the Lakers' best player, yet Kobe Bryant's will is all over this team, so it won't matter. The Lakers are Bryant's team. It's the same situation LeBron James was in with Dwyane Wade during his first year in Miami.
Howard has said all the right things early, but that's because the regular season has yet to start. As long as Howard is good with his new role, the Lakers will become one of the most overpowering teams in recent NBA history.
Question: What Is the Phoenix Suns' Identity?
The Phoenix Suns have once again assembled a team filled with role players. Their roster is similar to the Sacramento Kings in 2007-08: good enough to compete and barely make the postseason, which is great if you want the ceiling of a No. 7-8 seed.
Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley, both Minnesota Timberwolves castoffs, will presumably start. Former Houston Rockets castoff Luis Scola will likely start at power forward. The Suns are a team of misfits, minus Goran Dragic, who they originally traded in 2011.
This team needs to find an identity. It doesn't have any renowned defenders, and offensively no one has ever been a No. 1 option. There will be growing pains unless the Suns figure out what kind of a team they are early.
Question: What Will Be Tyreke Evans' Role?
It wasn't long ago that Tyreke Evans was considered a franchise player in the NBA. Those days have come and gone, and now DeMarcus Cousins is "the guy" in Sacramento.
Evans wasn't a good fit at point guard, and adjusting to small forward has been a difficult process for him. Evans is used to having the ball in his hands, but he abused that power at the point because of his over-dribbling habits and unwillingness to pass. Evans is not a great jump shooter, so it will be interesting to see how he plays at small forward.
This is a make-or-break year for Evans. He has freakish athletic abilities, but if he is unable to find a niche in the Kings offense, he may find himself on a new team in 2013-14.
Question: How Will the New Faces in Dallas Match Up with Dirk Nowitzki?
Dirk Nowitzki continues to be the star for the Dallas Mavericks, but most of his teammates from the 2010-11 NBA championship team are gone. Instead of jumping into the rebuilding process, the Mavericks decided to patch things up by bringing in Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand.
Brand will be a good addition because the Mavericks won't ask him to do too much. Mayo and Collison were both looking for a fresh start. If the two can learn to complement Nowitzki's game, they will both benefit greatly.
Kaman is far from a sure thing for the Mavericks. He puts up statistics, but relying on Kaman too much could be bad. Military veteran Bernard James will be Kaman's primary backup.
There are a bunch of new faces in Dallas. The quick work to reload may be a short-term solution. Nowitzki is on the downside of his career, and none of the Mavericks' additions were game-changers, just placeholders.
Question: How Will the Houston Rockets Get Royce White from Game to Game?
The top news with the Houston Rockets this past week had nothing to do with Jeremy Lin, but instead regarded travel arrangements with one of their rookie players. The Rockets' No. 16 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Royce White, has an anxiety disorder that makes him afraid to fly.
The Rockets and White agreed to an arrangement with that will allow him to travel by bus to some games. This plan will probably work great in the preseason, but it may prove to be more difficult to keep up once the regular season begins.
Hopefully everything works out for White. He has the potential to be an explosive player for the Rockets.
Question: How Will the Memphis Grizzlies Utilize Marc Gasol?
The Memphis Grizzlies have one of the better big threes in the NBA when everyone is healthy. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay give the Grizzlies a huge frontcourt. Their size will always give them a chance against the giant Los Angeles Lakers because they can match up with them in the low post.
Despite having such a solid big three, the Grizzlies continue to woefully underutilize Gasol. He's one of the better centers in the NBA, yet he averages only 11 field-goal attempts per game. There aren't many centers in the NBA that can guard Gasol one-on-one.
Unless the Grizzlies can integrate Gasol more into the offense, they will continue to be the Gay and Randolph show. So far that has gotten the Grizzlies nowhere.
New Orleans Hornets
Question: Who Will Start at Point Guard for the New Orleans Hornets?
Right now the two point guards with a chance to start for the New Orleans Hornets are Greivis Vasquez and Austin Rivers. Vasquez got a run as the starting point guard for the Hornets in 26 games last season. The results were so-so. Rivers, on the other hand, is a luxury to go along with 2012 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis.
Rivers may not be ready to start, but the Hornets are not ready to go anywhere. It may be smarter to start Rivers so he can get the experience.
Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis will ease the process for whoever wins the starting job. Since the Hornets are still a work in progress, there seems to be no downside to starting Rivers. It will be his job in due time.
San Antonio Spurs
Question: Where Is This San Antonio Spurs Team's Head?
The San Antonio Spurs need to think about this season in the big picture. It's easy to count out the Spurs because every year they do the same thing. They've become the Groundhog Day team of the NBA.
The No. 1 reason to count out the Spurs is the fact that their three best players are old. It's not like the Spurs are ancient though. They simply need to regroup.
The Spurs need to use the same strategy as last season to get to the playoffs, and then it becomes a game of chess. They have a deep roster that will allow them to compete at a high level on a nightly basis. As long as they are not too rattled by the beatdown they received from the Oklahoma City Thunder last postseason, then they should be good.
It's never wise to count out the Spurs, especially when their head is in the right place.
Question: How Will the Denver Nuggets Utilize Andre Iguodala?
Andre Iguodala is the perfect Denver Nugget on paper. He's ultra-athletic, a lockdown defender and an efficient offensive player. The up-tempo Nuggets fit Iguodala's playing style perfectly.
The question isn't if Iguodala will play well for the Nuggets; rather, how will the Nuggets use Iguodala to give other teams fits? He's almost the perfect player to give head coach George Karl.
The Nuggets have lacked a leader since Carmelo Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks. They now have a true-grit leader who actually knows a little something about defense.
Question: How Will the Minnesota Timberwolves Play Without Ricky Rubio?
Kevin Love is clearly the Minnesota Timberwolves' best player, but it wasn't until the arrival of Ricky Rubio that the Wolves actually began to look like a promising young team.
Rubio will probably be out due to his ACL tear until December. No Rubio will mean either a lot of Luke Ridnour or J.J. Barea.
Both players have proven in the past that they are reliable options, but the Wolves are also in win-now mode. A slow start could easily sink their season before Rubio is even available to play. They'll need to survive without him early on, or who knows if this team will ever be able to compete at a high level?
Oklahoma City Thunder
Question: What's the Proper Amount of Russell Westbrook?
Russell Westbrook is a LeBron James type of athlete: a human specimen that is physically more gifted than nearly everyone he plays against. Unfortunately for Westbrook, he's on the same team as Kevin Durant, the second-best player in the NBA.
Since Durant came first, he's clearly the Thunder's franchise player. He's the guy in the middle of the team pictures, while Westbrook has been billed in the Scottie Pippen role. The only issue with this typecast Westbrook has received is it doesn't fit his personality. Westbrook has a "go-to guy" mentality despite not being the go-to guy. This sometimes hurts the Thunder.
If the Thunder can't find a healthy portion of Westbrook, they may struggle to beat out the Los Angeles Lakers for Western Conference supremacy.
Portland Trail Blazers
Question: Is This a Rebuilding Year for the Portland Trail Blazers, or Are They Competing for a Playoff Spot?
The Portland Trail Blazers were incredibly fortunate that the Brooklyn Nets traded their top pick in the 2012 NBA draft with only a top-three protection attached to it for Gerald Wallace. With two first-round draft picks, the Blazers selected Meyers Leonard and Damian Lillard.
This will either be the quickest rebuilding process ever or just the beginning of one. The Blazers have two highly coveted players in LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Batum. If Lillard is as good as scouts are predicting, then the Blazers could wind up making the postseason again. If he experiences some growing pains, the Blazers will be one of the worst teams in the Western Conference.
Hopefully the Blazers won't overestimate their talent. If they are a year away, play for next season.
Question: What Will the Utah Jazz Do About Their Low-Post Situation?
The Utah Jazz have quietly assembled a very favorable low-post situation. But could too many solid options in one area be a bad thing? The Jazz's starting power forward-center combination last season was Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Off the bench were Enes Kanter (sometimes) and Derrick Favors.
Favors emerged strongly in the playoffs, and it's clear he needs more playing time. But where will that playing time come from as long as Millsap is on the team? Millsap is almost too good to bench, but the prospects of Favors is enticing.
This will be Favors' third season in the NBA. He needs more playing time, or else what is the point of having him?