NBA Training Camps: 4 Teams Already in Trouble
The NBA season is just around the corner, and for most teams, training camp is filled with hope.
Big names have a new home (Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Ray Allen), and promising young talent exists everywhere you look.
It's safe to say that the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers have bright days ahead of them. The Oklahoma City Thunder will likely contend for a title once more, and the New York Knicks will probably have drama at some point in the season.
With training camp having just begun, there isn't a team out there that doesn't envision playing in the postseason. But not everyone will live up to the hype, and some teams are likely to see their season go up in flames rather quickly.
Here are four teams that could be in trouble before the first jump ball.
1. Houston Rockets
Bob Levey/Getty Images
The Houston Rockets made one of the major moves of the offseason, acquiring free agent Jeremy Lin.
Lin was the surprise story of the 2011-2012 season playing for the New York Knicks, where the term "Linsanity" was coined after he came up with several clutch performances during a winning streak. But he also turned the ball over almost four times a game, and his scoring dropped by seven points per game from February to March.
Lin joins a Houston team without any real identity. Its leading scorer is Kevin Martin at just over 17 points per game. After Martin, there isn't a whole lot of proven talent.
Chandler Parsons had a promising rookie season, averaging over nine points and four rebounds a game, and second-year man Patrick Patterson had a decent year as well. But the question is, after Martin, who can step up and score points?
Omer Asik will man the center position, but his strengths lie mainly on the defensive end of the court.
The Rockets took forwards Terrance Jones and Royce White in the 2012 NBA draft, and they are both intriguing talents. But issues have already surfaced with White, and Jones was inconsistent throughout his career with the Kentucky Wildcats.
This group is filled with young talent, and if Lin can bring some of his Manhattan magic to Texas, the team may surprise some people. But this appears to be very much a rebuilding year for the Houston Rockets.
2. Phoenix Suns
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The Phoenix Suns are officially in the post-Steve Nash era, and the future doesn't look pretty.
Point guard Goran Dragic takes over for Steve Nash, and he averaged over 11 points and five assists per game with Houston last season. But he shoots just 33 percent from three, compared with Nash's 39 percent.
Center will be a strength for this team, as Marcin Gortat has proven to be a more-than-capable starter. And perhaps more intriguing than anyone is Michael Beasley, the high draft pick who has failed to live up to lofty expectations thus far.
Luis Scola is a solid post player with a terrific jumper, but he appears to have reached his full potential. And in a conference with power forwards such as Blake Griffin, Lamarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, Scola will have a tough time standing out.
The starting lineup on this team is solid, and both Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown should provide some much-needed depth. But unless Beasley can fulfill his potential and score 20 a night, the top-end talent just isn't there.
And with star-studded teams like Los Angeles and Oklahoma City playing in the Western Conference, having All-Star talent is a must.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
The Cleveland Cavaliers posted a 21-45 record in last year's strike-shortened NBA season. The record may improve, but this team still has many losses on the horizon.
Kyrie Irving was the lone bright spot a year ago, as the rookie averaged over 18 points and five assists per game. But after the point guard spot, the starting lineup could look like this: Tristan Thompson at power forward, Alonzo Gee at small forward, C.J. Miles at shooting guard and the ageless Anderson Varejao at center.
If you don't think that sounds like a lineup headed for the playoffs, you aren't alone. While Thompson had a promising rookie year averaging eight points and six rebounds per game, nobody stepped up the plate consistently behind Irving.
Varejao will continue getting his 10 points and 10 rebounds a game, but the Cavs' depth is shaky at best. Dion Waiters could be a spark plug off the bench, and Tyler Zeller is a skilled big man. After that, it's Daniel Gibson and a host of players with very little experience.
The question is, how big of a step forward can this team take in the 2012-2013 season? I think Irving will continue to grow, but Tristan Thompson will be the real difference between another 20-30 win season and a .500 record.
The Cavs should take another step forward after the LeBron James era, but don't expect this team to be a contender anytime soon.
4. Orlando Magic
Marc Serota/Getty Images
The Orlando Magic enter the NBA season without their perennial All-Star center, Dwight Howard, who is now a member of the Lakers.
In the long run, this is probably a good thing. The team should have a lot less drama, but there's no doubt about the kind of talent Howard brings to the court. Taking his place at the center position will be Gustavo Ayon, who averaged almost six points and five boards in New Orleans last season.
But Ayon isn't a difference-maker, at least not yet. Nor is anybody else on the squad for that matter. Jameer Nelson is a proven commodity, but no one will expect him to be an All-Star this season.
Arron Afflalo is a solid defender at shooting guard, and he's coming off a career-high 15 points per game last season with the Denver Nuggets. But the real storyline is going to be how Hedo Turkoglu bounces back from a season in which he averaged under 11 points per game. Keep in mind that Turkoglu averaged almost 20 a game back in '07-'08.
Al Harrington, Quentin Richardson and JJ Redick will provide depth for the Magic. They are solid role players, but hardly head-turners.
Orlando is a team that can make the playoffs if everyone plays up to their potential. But with Turkoglu's career winding down and Dwight Howard's absence, the Magic will struggle to keep up with teams like Miami and Boston.
New head coach Jacque Vaughn is proof that Orlando is looking to wipe the slate clean from the drama of a year ago. Young talent like Maurice Harkless should help fans to forget about Howard. But the playoffs don't appear to be in this team's near future.