The 2012-2013 NBA season is just around the corner, and with it comes optimism for all 30 NBA teams.
With this optimism comes the realization that everything might not quite go as planned. Injuries, inconsistent play, poor coaching or outside distractions always seem to find their way into a team's season at one point or another.
Whether it's deserved or not, it seems the blame always falls on a single player or coach.
Assuming every team is going to hit a rough patch at one point of the season or another, here's a best guess at who every fanbase's finger is going to point to first.
Put the Blame On: DeMarcus Cousins
Now entering his third pro season, many believe Cousins is already a Top Five NBA center.
The Kings' second leading scorer last season (18.1 points per game), Cousins led the team in rebounding (11.0), steals (1.5) and blocks (1.2) per game.
After a well documented feud with then head coach Paul Westphal at the beginning of last season, the Kings decided to stand by Cousins and fire Westphal after a 2-5 start.
While maturity has been a pressing issue with Cousins, he should now be looked upon as a team leader.
He won the battle with Westphal and now must prove himself with Kieth Smart.
Cousins is the most talented player on the Kings, and should now be counted on to carry the team with the help of Thomas Robinson, Tyreke Evans and others.
Put the Blame On: Goran Dragic
The Suns' new $34 million man gets the unenviable job of taking over for a legend in Steve Nash in Phoenix.
The likely leader of a new crop of players that includes Luis Scola, Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson, Dragic has a lot of work to do to live up to his new contract.
Whether fair or not, the point guard is the quarterback of the basketball team and generally receives the most praise in wins and criticism in losses.
With Dragic it will be no different, as he attempts to fill Nash's shoes while keeping the Suns in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Put the Blame On: Blake Griffin
This was a toss-up between Griffin and Chris Paul, but Griffin wins out for a couple of reasons.
First off, Paul is a cemented superstar in the NBA. The league's best point guard, Paul could take a high school junior varsity team to the NBA playoffs.
Griffin is an enigma in the NBA world, with many people torn between Blake as a superstar or merely an over-hyped dunker.
Because of this indecision and the amount of time he must spend doing Jenga commercials, Griffin is under the microscope in L.A. even more so than Chris Paul.
Another reason is the contract. Fans can't be too critical of Chris Paul, technically he's a free agent after this season and would devastate the franchise if he left.
Blake's already signed his extension, and has 95 million reasons to feel pressure to succeed.
Put the Blame On: Bob Myers
As team general manager, Myers will be under the microscope for the huge trade he pulled off last season.
Sending dynamite-scorer Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut certainly raised some eyebrows around the league.
Bogut is a fine player when healthy, but has missed 150 games in his seven-year career due to various injuries.
Reports say Bogut will be ready for opening night, but just how effective will he be coming off ankle surgery remains to be seen.
If Bogut stays healthy and brings some defensive swag and a playoff spot to Golden State, Myers looks like a genius. If Bogut once again can't stay off the trainers table while Ellis excels in Milwaukee, Myers' decision to trade the former franchise star may cost him his job.
Put the Blame On: Kobe Bryant
Who else could it be?
Not only has Bryant donned the Laker uniform since 1996, he has made it clear to everyone who's still king in L.A.
Not only is Bryant the highest-paid player on the Lakers, he's the highest earner in the entire NBA at nearly $28 million this season alone.
Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol were all brought in the last few years to appease Bryant and provide him with additional help. Management has continually done an excellent job of surrounding Kobe with talent who understands that it's Kobe's team, like it or not.
Bryant is the unquestioned leader who is currently only one ring away from matching Michael Jordan's total of six.
Lakers win the title? Give Kobe the credit.
Lakers fall short? You already know who's to blame.
Put the Blame On: Brandon Jennings
C'mon Brandon, it's time to step up your game.
With the flurry of young point guards in the game today, Jennings name often gets overlooked.
People gush about Kyrie Irving, Ty Lawson, John Wall and others being the best young points in the game, but what about Jennings?
To be fair, the three-year veteran has raised his game a little each year, but his future in Milwaukee is uncertain as he enters the last year of his rookie deal.
If Jennings wants a max or near max contract, he'll have to take the next step in 2012-13 which may mean leading the Bucks to the playoffs.
Monta Ellis will help take some pressure off, but it will be Jennings to blame if Milwaukee flounders this fall.
Put the Blame On: Danny Granger
Despite his seven successful years in Indiana, why does it feel like the Pacers secretly want to move their star?
Granger's minutes, shot attempts and scoring have all gone down each of the past three seasons. His 18.7 points per game was the lowest total he has had since the 2006-07 season.
While Granger is still the team's leading scorer and longest tenured player, Indiana essentially has a younger, cheaper, more athletic version of him in Paul George.
Indiana has very high expectations for the first time in years, and if Granger continues his downward trend, expect the Pacers to foot him with the blame.
Put the Blame On: Dion Waiters
Waiters has a couple things going against him as he starts his tenure with the Cavaliers.
First off, there's not a soul in Cleveland who doesn't love Kyrie Irving. If the Cavs start off 0-10 with Irving averaging 11 turnovers a game, it will have to be someone else's fault.
Second, few in Cavs land were very happy when Cleveland selected Waiters with the fourth overall pick. Many wanted Irving's buddy Harrison Barnes instead.
With Irving having such a terrific rookie season, fans will be expecting the same from Waiters, who has already been benched in preseason for not knowing the plays.
Waiters should eventually be a dynamite player in the NBA, but any early struggles by he and the Cavs will result in fans calling the former Syracuse star out.
Put the Blame On: Rodney Stuckey
Stuckey needs, needs, needs to have a big 2012-13 season.
A player who at one time seemed like an All-Star guard in the East took a step back last season, seeing a decrease in minutes, points, shooting percentage, rebounds, assists and steals.
With so many young players like Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight beginning to establish themselves, Stuckey should try to be a great example for them to look up to.
Tayshaun Prince has been with the team longer, but his ceiling as a player was never as high as Stuckey's appeared to be.
With only two years left on a deal that will see him hit free agency at age 28, Stuckey needs to prove himself as a leader on this young Pistons team.
Put the Blame On: Carlos Boozer
While Boozer actually hasn't played poorly for Chicago, most Bulls fans can agree the star forward leaves something to be desired.
Chicago's $80 million man has been a fun one to pick on as of late, as his disappointing playoff performances culminated with a three point, one for 11 shooting game in the elimination game against the Philadelphia 76ers last May.
With team leader Derrick Rose out for the start of the 2012-13 season, Boozer now becomes the primary scorer in the Bulls lineup.
You can believe fans will expect more from Boozer than what they saw against the 76ers in May.
Put the Blame On: Tony Parker
No offense to Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili, but Tony Parker is the best player on the San Antonio Spurs.
A legitimate candidate for league MVP last season, Parker had a career year with 18.3 points and 7.7 assists per game with a PER of 22.04.
As Uncle Ben stated in Spider Man, "With great praise comes great responsibility and later, a great deal of blame." Or something like that.
The Spurs can only remain an elite team in the NBA for so long. At 30 years of age, Parker is the youngest of the big three and is the most reliable with Duncan's age and Ginobili's recent string of injuries.
This is no longer Duncan's Spurs, and instead it will be Parker who will carry or collapse the team.
Put the Blame On: Eric Gordon
Play nine games and get rewarded with $58 million.
Not a bad gig, if you ask me.
The Hornets' newest max contract player certainly has some catching up to do to justify the money he'll be making the next four years. Stating your heart is in another city probably isn't a good way to start.
If I'm a Hornets fan, I'm a little ticked off at the the way Gordon has treated the city so far. Coming in as the main centerpiece in the trade of Chris Paul, all Gordon has really done is played a handful of meaningless games and tried to sign with another team.
Anthony Davis is being viewed as a godsend and won't be expected to carry New Orleans to the playoffs by himself.
Gordon better get used to playing his butt off for the Hornets, because that's what they're paying him a lot of money to do.
Put the Blame On: Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph
Randolph and Gay should both be blamed for any of the Grizzlies' poor play this season.
Together, the pair average over 35 career points per game and will make a combined $33 million in 2012-13.
While there's been talk in the past about splitting up the two stars, the fact is Memphis needs both playing at a high level to take the next step in their rise in the Western Conference.
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are nice supporting players, but ultimately Memphis will live and die by the play of Randolph and Gay.
After an early exit in last year's playoffs, both carry increased expectations for the upcoming season.
Put the Blame On: Jeremy Lin
Fair or not, you asked for this Jeremy Lin.
It was cute when you used to come off the bench and do your whole Superman thing in New York, but now comes the real work.
A $25 million contract and a new starting gig on a team the same age as most college squads will certainly test Lin and his ever-growing fan base.
Many still believe his play with the Knicks last season was just a fluke, and now with a less talented supporting cast Lin will struggle mightily.
He seems like a nice kid, so we should give him the benefit of the doubt for now. After a few losing months in Houston and a few hundred turnovers later, though, and fans may not be quite as forgiving.
Put the Blame On: Mark Cuban
You can't blame a man for expanding his horizons and dipping into different business ventures, but sometimes one can go too far.
While filming an episode of "Shark Tank" in Los Angeles, Cuban missed out on a pretty important meeting back in Dallas.
This summer's biggest free agent, Deron Williams, said in the New York Times that Cuban's absence from the meeting had an impact on him spurning his hometown Mavs in favor of the Brooklyn Nets.
“A lot of the questions that me and my agent had for them really didn’t get answered that day — you know, pertaining to the future. And I think if he was there, he would have been able to answer those questions a little bit better. Maybe would have helped me.”
Ouch. Obviously the show is important to Cuban, but having opportunity to pair Williams with Dirk Nowitzki should have been priority number one for him on that day.
Darren Collison, the new Mavs starting point guard, is nice but can't carry a team like Williams could.
When things go bad in Dallas, Cuban will have no one to blame but himself.
Put the Blame On: Andrew Bynum
Bynum's fresh new cut may make Carrot Top look like GQ material, but it's his game that Philly fans should really be concerned about.
Acquiring the NBA's second best center came at a steep cost, as the Sixers had to give up the heart of their franchise in Andre Iguodala.
Overshadowed in L.A. by Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, Bynum will finally be the number one option on offense and the star of a team.
Enjoying a career year in 2011-12 with 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, the pressure on Bynum is on as he's set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason.
Put the Blame On: Rajon Rondo
Reportedly feuding with teammates is never a good idea.
When that teammate has made more three point shots than any other player in NBA history, it's really, really, really not a good idea.
While we may never know what went on between Rondo and Ray Allen (or, "that guy"), it's clear the two didn't exactly see eye to eye.
And so ends the Boston Three Party, with Allen now with the Miami Heat. Since Rondo has been the better overall player than any of the three the past two years anyway, maybe it won't be such a big deal.
The Celtics are now Rondo's team, and no one will feel more pressure than the talented little point guard himself.
Put the Blame On: Jonas Valanciunas
Kyle Lowry is a close second, but Raptors fans haven't been waiting on him to start for them for 16 months now.
The fifth overall pick by Toronto in the 2011 NBA draft, Valanciunas had to wait on a buyout from his Lithuanian team before being allowed to come to the NBA.
Because of the long wait of his arrival and the realization they may finally have a capable center on the roster, the pressure on Valanciunas' seven foot shoulders grows a little heavier every day.
Think of Valaciunas like you would Andrea Bargnani, except for the fact that Jonas can rebound and even defend a little bit. Valanciunas may not possess the offense repertoire that Bargnani does, but brings a toughness to the center position that Toronto has been lacking for quite some time.
Put the Blame On: Carmelo Anthony
I imagine Anthony couldn't have been too thrilled with LeBron James and the Miami Heat winning the NBA title last June.
With James' quest for a ring finally ending, the media will need a new star player to hound and pester with questions about never winning a championship.
Playing for one of the world's most recognized sports teams, making maximum money and throwing an ex-teammate under the bus would create a little pressure for anyone.
Anthony and the Knicks will be one of the most scrutinized NBA teams until they win a Championship, something they don't appear all that close to doing.
Can Carmelo raise his level of play and capture his first title the way James did last season?
The New York media will certainly have a field day either way.
Put the Blame On: Deron Williams now, Billy King later
While the Nets have struggled recently even with Williams, a weak supporting cast was always to blame.
Now with Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace all locked into long-term deals, Williams has no excuse not to take this current Nets group into the playoffs and beyond.
Let's hope this roster gets it done too, as Brooklyn is now officially in cap space hell for the foreseeable future.
King is the team's GM, and also the man responsible for keeping Williams in a Nets jersey.
While everything seems well and dandy now, King knows he needed to go all-in now to keep Williams. This meant taking on about $89 million in Johnson's contract and dishing out another $100 million to keep Lopez and Wallace.
King better hope the current group he has can get the job done, or that superstars start accepting league minimum deals.
Put the Blame On: JaVale McGee
Poor JaVale McGee.
Such is life for the Nuggets center, who has almost been as entertaining off the court with his free food offers as he has on it with his "what was he thinking?" plays.
On a young and speedy Denver roster full of talent, it's McGee that is now being counted on to anchor a defense that couldn't match the team's talented offense last season.
Brought in on a trade that sent veteran center Nene to the Wizards, McGee was rewarded with a brand new $44 million deal that carries all kinds of pressure.
Will he deliver?
If it's anything like his burrito offers, you know McGee is money.
Put the Blame On: Mo Williams
Meet Mo, the newest man saddled with the nearly impossible task of filling Deron Williams' shoes in Utah.
Devin Harris couldn't do it, and has since been shipped off to Atlanta. Williams gets the next crack at point guard, even though his skills scream that of a shooting guard.
To be honest, the role of Jazz point guard should be an enviable one. With so much low-post talent to pass to, even Williams could look like John Stockton at times.
Something tells me the Jazz roster will look significantly different by the end of the year, as Williams, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are all slated to hit free agency in 2013.
Mo is a good guy and great shooter, but if Utah fails to make the playoffs don't expect him back next season.
Put the Blame On: Russell Westbrook
The newest fantasy basketball monster, Westbrook needs to prove he's deserving of the max deal the small-market Thunder awarded him with last season.
Turnovers have plagued Westbrook in his four-year career, as has a questionable shot selection.
Shooting an ugly four of 20 in the elimination game against the Miami Heat in last June's NBA Finals, Westbrook also struggled with his three point shot, going three of 22 in five Finals games.
Kevin Durant is still the team's best player, but OKC will only go as far as its star point guard can take it.
Put the Blame On: Ricky Rubio
Let's face it, Kevin Love is doing everything he can.
The man gives you 25 points and 15 rebounds a night, while still knocking down three pointers at a near 40 percent rate.
It's time for someone else to step up for the Wolves, and who better than their flashy Spaniard point guard Rubio?
So he'll miss the beginning of the season recovering from an ACL injury, but come spring when the Wolves are in the hunt for a playoff spot, Rubio needs to be at his best.
Likely a postseason contender last season before his injury, Rubio must prove he can come back from his injury and help lead an NBA team.
It's the least he can do for all the Minnesota fans' continued patience.
Put the Blame On: Damian Lillard
Don't look now Damian, but you're not at Weber State anymore.
The sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Lillard enters what was one of the messiest point guard situations in the NBA last year.
Raymond Felton admittedly came into the season out of shape which halted any chance of Portland becoming a competitive team.
Enter Lillard, who should be Anthony Davis' biggest competition for Rookie of the Year. The dynamic guard was co-MVP of the NBA Summer League and has already been named a starter.
With so much accomplished already, the pressure is on Lillard to do what Felton couldn't and make the Blazers a team to fear once again.
Put the Blame On: Rob Hennigan
When the Denver Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks in February 2011, they got back an impressive haul of Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, the Knicks 2014 first-round draft pick, the Warriors' 2012 second-round pick, the Warriors' 2013 second-round pick and $3 million in cash.
After waiting months and months for the right deal to move Dwight Howard, the Magic ended up with Al Harrington.
Ok, so they also got Arron Afflalo, Maurice Harkless, Nikola Vucevic and some protected first round picks.
Woo-hoo Orlando Magic season ticket holders!
Seriously, this was the best that general manager Hennigan could do? No Andrew Bynum? No early first round picks? No young potential superstar? Hedo Turkoglu wasn't included in the deal??
Very disappointing Rob, very disappointing.
Put the Blame On: John Wall
We feel for you.
Little talent on the roster last season, that awful start, playing with JaVale McGee.
Such circumstances would have taken a toll on anybody.
Good news, however, as your roster looks much improved. Veteran big men in Nene and Emeka Okafor give you solid defense and rebounding down low, Bradley Beal should be a nice second scorer and the small forward position is loaded with athletes waiting to break out.
With that being said, are the playoffs out of the question?
Did you know more people are talking about Kyrie Irving than you now?
We all expect a big 2012-13 season from you.
Wizard fans and fantasy basketball owners everywhere
Put the Blame On: Josh Smith
With Joe Johnson now in Brooklyn, Smith becomes the Hawks' best overall player if he wasn't already.
Going into a contract year, expect big things from Smith statistically speaking. A 20 and 10 season isn't out of the question, nor is five assists per game.
The real measure of Smith's value will be how well the Hawks do in the standings.
A staple in the Eastern Conference playoffs the last few years, Smith will likely have to take Atlanta back to the post season to prove to teams he's worth near or max money.
Without Johnson, it won't be easy.
Put the Blame On: Kemba Walker
Walker should be the leader of the Bobcats heading into the 2012-13 season.
He spent a large portion of his summer working on his shot, as he only converted a disappointing 36.6 percent of his field goals last season.
Now entering his second pro season, Walker must prove he can handle the role of a starting point guard for a full season.
Adding athletes in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor will help, as will the coaching change.
Walker needs to lead the Bobcats back to respectability before they can even think about playoff basketball, however.
Put the Blame On: LeBron James
LeBron was four games away from winning a title with Sasha Pavlovic, Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall as running mates, so don't tell me he won't win anymore with the current group in Miami.
Adding Ray Allen to the defending champions is a scary concept.
The best part about LeBron's game has always been his passing. For being 6'8", few in the NBA can snap off such powerful passes with such deadly precision.
Adding a sharpshooter like Allen will only help the Heat, and add more pressure for them to repeat.
James has been well-versed in receiving criticism from fans, the media, dogs, cats, hippos or anything else with a voice or that can give a nasty look.
James is no longer championship-less, that's true.
I can't help but think he'll be trying for some more.