The Biggest Worry for Every NBA Team Heading into the 2012-13 Season
The NBA offseason is spent by teams compiling new talent and improving current players to give themselves the best shot at achieving the ultimate goal of a championship.
No team in the NBA is perfect, and there is room for improvement even if you are coming off of a championship season. Because of the never-ending amount of changes and evolutions the teams in the league go through, it's important for teams to continue to improve each offseason to stay competitive.
Although teams would certainly welcome an overall improvement, there are certain areas that each team face and it is those areas that they must deal with directly if they wish to accomplish their goals.
With that being said, let's take a look at each NBA team and what their biggest concern is going into the 2012-13 season.
Atlanta Hawks: Small Forward Situation
As it stands right now, the Hawks may be in the market for finding a serviceable starting small forward. No disrespect to Kyle Korver, but he's not versatile enough to be an effective starting 3 for the Hawks, but he may be all they have to work with.
After several years of patiently waiting for previous starter Marvin Williams to break out and reach his full potential, the Hawks ended the project by trading him and his large contract to the Utah Jazz. Now that they are feeling more relief in the salary cap department, spending their money on a quality small forward may be their first item of business.
Whether it's waiting till next summer in the offseason or dealing for a player at the trade deadline, the Hawks must address their current lack of a good wing player.
For the time being, Atlanta will have to suck it up and see how well Korver can do in an expanded starting role, something he hasn't had since his first few seasons in Philadelphia.
Boston Celtics: The Championship Window Is Closing
The Celtics' days of being a major contender in the Eastern Conference could be over sooner rather than later.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have racked up a lot of mileage on their legs and their game may start to reflect it as early as this season. What the Celtics can take solace in, is that they are still contenders and that their productive offseason may have even made them better than the last few seasons.
The additions of Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, and Jared Sullinger may all factor in to another shot at a championship for Boston, who pushed the eventual champion Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
Though the future is not very clear for Boston, they must focus on the present in order to have a chance at upsetting the Heat for the Eastern Conference crown.
Brooklyn Nets: Playing Better Team Defense
The Nets made plenty of headlines with their big re-signing of star point guard Deron Williams, as well as the acquisition of combo guard Joe Johnson.
While the Nets have bolstered their offense, their defense has much to be desired.
Brooklyn head coach Avery Johnson expressed his distaste for the Nets' defense and physicality recently, and pointed it out as an area of weakness that must be addressed.
Having Gerald Wallace playing small forward for a full season will certainly help Brooklyn, as Wallace is one of the better defenders in the NBA and most likely the best on the Nets' roster. As a whole, however, the Nets must mesh better as a team and learn to communicate on defense in order to complement their talented offense.
Charlotte Bobcats: Overall Improvement
It couldn't have been much worse for the Charlotte Bobcats last season, but with some new talent suiting up, there's nowhere to go but up from here.
Charlotte has to come into this season aggressively, as there are plenty of teams who will not take them too seriously in their matchups. If the Bobcats come out and play poorly with minimal effort, the fear of regression would come into play.
Though it's hard to regress from the worst winning percentage in NBA history, the Bobcats need to improve this season if they hope to shed their title as one of the biggest laughingstocks in the NBA. They do have some new players to help them out this season (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Ramon Sessions), but it's dire Charlotte to begin the road to redemption in their 2012-13 campaign.
Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose's Health
The status of Derrick Rose's injury recover is, and is going to be, the talk of the town for the Bulls, as their star and MVP is in danger of missing the entire 2012-13 season.
Though we won't fully know how close Rose is to returning until he progresses in his rehabilitation, we do know that Rose will miss a significant amount of time either way.
In the meantime, Chicago will be worrying about who will be taking the scoring load that Rose usually handles on offense. There are offensive options like Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, but the Bulls are much more defensively minded.
Therefore, Chicago will have to look to convert its strong defense into some offense in order to maintain its status as a playoff team.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Lack of Quality Depth
The Cavaliers are still in a rebuilding phase in their post-LeBron era and a lot of their roster really reflects it.
While they have found a new star and centerpiece to build around in point guard Kyrie Irving, Cleveland has a lot to work on in the players around him. Trotting out a starting lineup with Irving featuring Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, C.J. Miles and Alonzo Gee, doesn't exactly scream "threatening."
If that wasn't underwhelming enough, fear not, for the Cavs have an even less impressive bench unit featuring some very average role players (Daniel Gibson, Omri Casspi and Luke Walton) and unproven young talent (Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller).
While there is time for the young guns to develop, don't expect to see any fireworks from Cleveland with its current roster.
Dallas Mavericks: How Much Does Dirk Have Left in the Tank?
After leading the Mavericks to their first NBA Championship in franchise history two seasons ago, forward Dirk Nowitzki was bothered by a combination of injuries and a lack of conditioning last year, as the Mavs were swept out of the first round of the playoffs.
This season, Dallas is being extra cautious with Dirk's injuries and want to make sure he is 100 percent before he gets back on the floor, as he is still the franchise's centerpiece.
How much longer, however, can Dirk keep it up?
Going into his 15th NBA season, the 34-year-old Nowitzki has been playing big minutes for much of his career and time may finally be catching up with him. Though his numbers were not much worse last season than years past, the Mavericks still have to wonder if he can keep performing this way for the next few years.
This season will certainly be a gauge to see if Dirk has still got it, but if he shows some signs of wear and tear, the Mavs may be on the search for a new superstar.
Denver Nuggets: Who Will Step Up?
There's plenty of great talent on the Denver Nuggets, who also recently acquired swingman Andre Iguodala in a trade this summer.
However, no clear star has emerged from this group of great players, which has given the Nuggets difficulties in their pursuits to become an elite team in the Western Conference.
In big games, Denver hasn't found a reliable go-to player to lead it, even with its plethora of talent like Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, and Kenneth Faried.
The question remains: Who is going to step up for the Nuggets? Will it be Lawson? Will it be Iguodala?
Denver has some soul-searching to do in order to find the man they want to center the team around, and until they do, they may be stuck in limbo as just another playoff team being eliminated by the true contenders.
Detroit Pistons: Getting Their Front Court in Sync
Detroit may have something very special on its roster with center Greg Monroe being paired up with rookie Andre Drummond at power forward. However, this duo may take some work before they can reach their maximum potential.
Monroe is a very versatile big man who can do just about anything you could want a big man to do. He rebounds, posts up, and even has a nice shooting touch from mid-range.
Drummond, however, is still very raw in these aspects and relies mostly on his freakish size and athleticism to get to the rim and finish easy buckets. That may seem like a great plan, but Drummond will soon find out that getting to the hoop is much harder with the big boys of the NBA and will have to adjust accordingly.
This is a chance for Monroe to really mentor Drummond in the aspects of being a great all-around big man, and if he does a good job of this, these two could become an intimidating force to be reckoned with.
Golden State Warriors: Keeping Their Best Players Healthy
The Golden State Warriors are being talked about as a possible surprise team this year after acquiring center Andrew Bogut via trade and also forward Harrison Barnes in the draft this summer.
However, Bogut and the Warriors' other star Stephen Curry, have both shown a lot of vulnerability to injury in recent seasons, which could be a concern as they are two of the biggest keys to success for Golden State.
Both players have had issues with their ankles and the Warriors are taking no chances in rushing them back to the court. Golden State is hoping, though, that when the pair is fully healthy, that they will lead the Warriors back to the playoffs.
There will be plenty of help for Curry and Bogut, with Klay Thompson and David Lee also in the starting lineup to make the Warriors one of the more dangerous teams in basketball on both sides of the ball.
Houston Rockets: Fitting the Pieces Together
There are a lot of new faces for the Houston Rockets, who have erased a lot of the memories from the Yao Ming era.
Through some wheeling and dealing, the Rockets were hoping to throw their name in the hat for a possible Dwight Howard deal by offering a platter of first-round draft picks to go with some players, but their attempts fell short.
So the Rockets decided to use their money on the signings of New York sensation Jeremy Lin and a defensive-minded center in Omer Asik. With the draft picks that they kept, Houston also drafted the services of Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones.
With these young faces, there is certainly a lot of potential for the Rockets to be a respectable team in the NBA, but it's going to require some shuffling around to see where these new pieces fit the best.
So consider this year an experimental year for a rebuilding Rockets team looking to establish a new core of young talent.
Indiana Pacers: Figuring out Their Rotation
Last season, the Indiana Pacers opened some eyes after an impressive stand in the postseason against the Miami Heat.
This year, they will be looking to firmly establish themselves as contenders in the Eastern Conference and they will have to solidify their team to do so. This means finding a rotation that works, including reserves who will step up and play quality minutes off the bench.
While there's already a locked-in starting five for Indiana featuring George Hill, Paul George, Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert, there still remains some competition to see who will be backing up George in the shooting guard spot.
Among the possible options are Gerald Green, Lance Stephenson, and rookie Orlando Johnson. Green may be more suited at the small forward spot as the primary reserve for Granger, meaning the Pacers may have to pick between two unproven players to play some big minutes in big games against elite teams.
Stephenson does have the advantage for now, but he has shown that he needs to improve on his maturity, giving Johnson a possible window to sneak in and take his place in the rotation.
Los Angeles Clippers: Distributing Playing Time
The Clippers have a plethora of great players on their team, but there are only so many minutes in a basketball game.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will most likely consume around 36 or 37 minutes per game each, meaning that head coach Vinny Del Negro has a tall task to give out the rest of the minutes to his team full of both veterans and young talent.
Possible non-starters like Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom and Eric Bledsoe, have all shown that they could be getting starter minutes on several NBA teams, but they may have to settle for a little less than they desire, since they will have to serve as backups for the Clippers.
Fortunately, Del Negro is dealing with a lot of veterans who understand what it takes for a team to be successful and win games. So, cutting back on their minutes may not be as difficult as it would be with younger players who want and need the in-game experience.
Los Angeles Lakers: Living Up to Expectations
Expectations are always high in Los Angeles and the Lakers players who have been there for a while have grown accustomed to their lofty goals.
However, the Lakers have two special newcomers this year who haven't been in the bright lights of Hollywood yet and it's key to the team's success that they adapt immediately.
Steve Nash and Dwight Howard are these two special newcomers, and though they are new to L.A., they certainly know what is expected for the Lakers this upcoming season.
Therefore, the Lakers' primary concern for their 2012-13 campaign will be to reach their expected goal of an NBA championship, even if it means they have to go through two of the best teams in the NBA (the Thunder and the Heat) to do so.
If Los Angeles fails to reach its objectives, the fans will let them know, and the Lakers will have to go back home knowing they came up short of their high expectations.
Memphis Grizzlies: Lack of Progress
In recent seasons, the Memphis Grizzlies have not been a bad team by any means, but it's safe to say that they are stuck in a category of being a fringe-contender without any hope of advancing past that in the near future.
They aren't waiting on young talent to develop or waiting for an important player to get back from injury. The Memphis Grizzlies are simply caught in a rut.
The core of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley is a good base for a team, but they are still not good enough to ever contend against some of the NBA's best teams to compete for a championship. Also, these players are already pretty developed and we may have already seen some of them reach their ceilings, so the possibility of one of them growing into a bona fide star.
With the vicious cycle of making the playoffs and getting low first round draft picks, the Grizzlies are in need of a special transaction to push them from pretender to contender. Until then, don't expect a run at the Finals with this current Memphis team.
Miami Heat: No Quality Depth at Center
After a championship season like last year, there isn't much to worry about for a Miami team that may have only improved this offseason with the acquisitions of Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, and Josh Harrellson.
However, the Heat still do have a lack of depth at the center position, where they will likely start Chris Bosh, and in turn play LeBron James at power forward. Behind Bosh is Harrellson, who is a lethal three-point specialist, but one-dimensional nonetheless.
Then you have Joel Anthony who is often cited as an underrated defensive force down low, but he may be out of some minutes with Harrellson's arrival.
Either way, the Heat have two decent choices at back up center, but neither of them will blow the opponent out of the water with their skill sets.
Milwaukee Bucks: Finding the Right Power Forward
As of right now, the Bucks' concern isn't finding a good power forward, but instead, picking the best one to start.
Drew Gordon is currently the front runner for the starting spot, but he is certainly not without competition. Vying for his spot are the likes of Ersan Ilyasova, Ekpe Udoh, Larry Sanders and rookie John Henson.
While some of these players could also shift over to play in reserve for Samuel Dalembert at center, there's still a chance that the younger guys could out-perform the veteran Drew Gooden and earn a starting spot in the process.
A possible option would be Henson, a rookie with a lot of similar size dimensions to first-overall pick Anthony Davis, who can also space the floor nicely with his shooting range. Ilyasova may also make a splash with his shooting touch and size for the position.
Whichever direction the Bucks decide to go, there are plenty of options if one doesn't work out to their liking.
Minnesota Timberwolves: The Health of Their Stars
Much like Golden State, the Timberwolves also have some wounded stars that are key to their success.
Starting point guard Ricky Rubio tore his ACL last season and is still in the recovering process to get back onto the court. If that wasn't bad enough, two-time All-Star forward Kevin Love broke his hand during a recent workout and could be out for up to eight weeks.
This isn't good news for a team touted to make a run at the playoffs this year behind Rubio and Love, but they at least have some talent to hold the fort down with the recently acquired Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko.
While the Wolves lick their wounds, the rest of the team and the fans will have to wait patiently and hope that these injuries do not turn into long-term issues for their stars.
New Orleans Hornets: Getting the Rookies Quality Experience
With the two top-10 talents of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers now suiting up in New Orleans, a new era is beginning for the Hornets who may have found their new stars in their post-Chris Paul era.
Davis will certainly be a day one starter for NOLA, but Rivers may have to earn his way into the starting spot at point guard. Either way, it's crucial for the Hornets to give both of these young players good experience in their first NBA season.
Though the Hornets may be a season or two away from getting back into the playoff picture, they need to let Davis and Rivers grow naturally by letting them play big minutes in big moments of the game. By doing this, the Hornets will plant the seeds for the mental toughness and fortitude necessary for players to perform well under pressure, which is every single playoff game.
Therefore, New Orleans should focus this whole season on seasoning its rookies and getting them prepared for a possible era of playoff runs with the rest of the Hornets' talented core.
New York Knicks: Making Melo and Amar'e Finally Work Together
We all know that, individually, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire are great players who can carry a team by themselves on offense, but the Knicks are still figuring out how to best utilize them to start winning more games.
Jeremy Lin kind of complicated things last season with his emergence, but the Knicks don't even have to factor him in anymore as he has found a new home in Houston.
Nonetheless, Melo and Amar'e have yet to find a consistent way to play well with each other but the Knicks are hoping that the many veterans that they acquired could remedy this situation.
Most notably, New York may find its answer in point guard Jason Kidd, who has proven himself to be an expert in facilitating offenses, but this may be the most firepower he has had to work with.
If the Knicks are able to successfully generate some team chemistry, they could emerge as a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Facing the Miami Heat
Oklahoma City had the second-best season in the NBA last year, and were only topped by the team that beat them in the NBA Finals: the Miami Heat.
There's undoubtedly a bitter taste in the Thunder's mouth after coming so far and so close to NBA immortality, only to fall short by just a few games. Now the focus is shifted onto this season for OKC, who is only concerned with the very same team that bested them this last summer.
Say what you want about the Lakers' improvement, but the Thunder's biggest target remains in Miami, the only team virtually standing in their way of claiming the first NBA championship for Oklahoma City.
It won't be an easy path back to the Finals for either team by any means, but if there ends up being a rematch of last year's series, expect the Thunder to be extra hungry for gold this time.
Orlando Magic: No Long-Term Building Plans
The remains and rubble of a team known as the Orlando Magic following the Dwight Howard trade are less than promising.
There's really nothing left but aging veterans and questionable younger players for a team that was in the NBA Finals just a few seasons ago. Now the Magic will have to find a way to rebuild their franchise after blowing it up in a matter of a few months. It's not the Magic's fault that they were taken hostage, but now they will have to deal with the damage sustained in the Dwightmare.
It doesn't look good for a team featuring a starting lineup that would be a supporting cast for other teams, including the lack of a young player to build around.
Orlando will have to make do with what they have and hope that this next offseason can be fruitful for them in the draft and free agency. For now, however, they will have to accept their fate as a team destined to finish near the bottom of the standings.
Philadelphia 76ers: Keeping Andrew Bynum
The 76ers got a piece of the pie in the blockbuster Dwight Howard deal by acquiring one of the best young talents in the NBA in center Andrew Bynum.
This may pay off to be a great move for Philly, who also parted ways with longtime 76er Andre Iguodala in the deal. The payoff, however, will only come if the Sixers manage to convince Bynum to re-sign and stay long-term with them.
His contract expires at the end of the season and Bynum has the freedom to be an unrestricted free agent and sign where he pleases, making this quite a gamble for Philadelphia.
However, they hope to woo the seven-footer with a quality team built around him and even maybe a deep run into the postseason.
Therefore, you can be sure that the 76ers' main focus within their organization is doing anything within their powers to keep Bynum in their red, white and blue uniform.
Phoenix Suns: Finding an Identity
It's no easy task to try and move on from a departing Steve Nash, but the Suns will have to deal with just that this upcoming season.
Phoenix reeled in some good talent during the offseason with Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall, but they will have to use that talent to find an identity this year in order to return to relevance.
As a traditionally uptempo squad in the Mike D'Antoni/Steve Nash days, the Suns may be shifting away from that with their current team and may experiment with some different offensive sets.
With the mixed bag of players on the roster, the Suns have some options to play with, but it's going to take some trial and error to find the best game plan for the team, and that will most likely be their primary focus for their 2012-13 campaign.
Portland Trail Blazers: Making the Playoffs
There have been a lot of changes in Portland, but it has mostly been for the better.
With the departures of head coach Nate McMillan and former franchise cornerstones Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, the Blazers have a new look moving forward and are hoping to move on from their painful experiences with what could have been a great era.
Now, LaMarcus Aldridge is the centerpiece in Portland and surrounding him is the quality young talent of Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, along with rookies Meyers Leonard and Damian Lillard. The Blazers, once thought to be possible contenders, are now fighting to re-establish their reputation in the league.
In order to do so, the Blazers must make a run back into the playoffs to affirm their return to relevancy. Easier said than done, however, especially in a Western Conference that is as tough as ever.
Therefore, getting back into their groove might take some time, and this year may unfortunately be another season in the lottery for a developing Portland team.
Sacramento Kings: Staying in Sacramento
It has been a tumultuous past couple of seasons for the Sacramento Kings, on the court and off.
Besides being faced with a slow rebuilding process, the Kings have also been on the brink of relocation and appear to still be faced with that possibility after their owners, the Maloof family, backed out of a tentative deal for a new arena in Sacramento.
Now that the team looks to be shaping up a little bit better, the questions remain about how much longer they will be taking the floor in Sactown.
While the team will keep playing through the rumors, it's hard to believe that they won't still be aware of how uncertain the team's future is in Northern California, and it may end up having a negative effect on the Kings' upcoming season.
San Antonio Spurs: Keeping Up with the Youth
The Spurs have defied the obstacles of old age for the past few seasons, overcoming doubters saying that they are too old to contend anymore. Even through the adversity, the Spurs made it all the way to the Western Conference finals last season, but were bested by the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games.
Now, the Spurs face much of the same criticism as before, but unfortunately, the criticism may finally hit San Antonio this year.
Two of the staples for San Antonio are in the twilight of their careers. Tim Duncan is now 36 years old, Manu Ginobili is not far behind at 35 yearsold and even Tony Parker has eclipsed the 30-year mark.
These older guys may still be able to produce at high levels, but it's going to take a lot more energy than it used to from them, and during the long stretch of an 82-game season, they may not have it in them to keep that energy up for the playoffs.
The young teams like the Thunder may be evenly matched with the Spurs towards the beginning of the year, but when the later part of the regular season comes around and into the postseason, they may have more trouble keeping up with such a fast team.
Therefore, the Spurs must focus on keeping their players fresh and well-rested this season, as they try to make one last run at a championship in their Tim Duncan era.
Toronto Raptors: DeMar Derozan's Shooting
It may seem like a minor issue to pick at, but it could make all the difference for a Toronto Raptors team that is seemingly destined to spring back into relevance this season. But the issue remains, starter DeMar DeRozan is a shooting guard who just can't shoot all that well.
DeRozan is more of an aggressive slasher, who creates offense closer to the basket, but without a consistent shot, his game will continue to plateau at his current level.
Now that the Raptors have also added Terrence Ross through the draft, they seem prepared to push DeRozan to the small forward spot if he doesn't develop a little faster.
With a shooting touch, DeRozan's game would open up as he could keep the defender guessing and therefore open up more opportunities for him to score. His contributions will be important for a team that looks to be a playoff threat in the coming season with the talents of Kyle Lowry, Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas in the mix.
If DeRozan can improve his jump shot, he will have helped the Raptors to become a more versatile team on offense and an even more legitimate threat to do some damage in the 2012-13 season.
Utah Jazz: What to Do with Their Big Men
This concern for the Jazz could shape the future for Utah as they have some contract questions looming around its current starting front court of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.
Both big men have their big contracts expiring at the end of the season and the Jazz have to decide whether to keep one, or both of them, or to get rid of both of them and let their apprentices step into the spotlight.
The apprentices I speak of are Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, two very young talents poised to replace Millsap and Jefferson if they do end up departing.
Alternatively, the Jazz have an option of trying to deal either Jefferson or Millsap in hopes of getting something in return rather than cap space. If they do find some value in a possible trade, Utah may pounce on the opportunity to bolster its roster and give the younger guys a chance in the process.
Washington Wizards: The Development of John Wall
Former first-overall pick John Wall has been a part of two forgettable season in Washington and has unfortunately not made much progress himself.
After a great rookie season, teams began to figure Wall out and his lack of progress reflected it. Now that Wall has some other quality players around him (Nene, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, Bradley Beal), this could be his season to prove his worth as a franchise star.
However, Wall will have to do so after he recovers from a recent knee injury that will leave him sidelined for the early portion of the regular season.
The Wizards are still hoping, though, that even with the injury, the talent they acquired can facilitate Wall's growth and in the process propel him to superstardom and success for Washington.
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