Highlighting Every NBA Team's Biggest Weakness Entering 2012-13
NBA coaches are paid millions of dollars to exploit weaknesses. Despite the overwhelming amount of basketball talent in the league this season, every team has one.
Unless you're a team like the Charlotte Bobcats, of course, who have many.
On any given night, however, anyone could get beat if their weaknesses are exposed by the opposition.
Even the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers will not be immune to this simple fact. The other 27 teams, to varying degrees, are all included as well.
For as good as the best teams are, it could be their biggest weakness that ends up deciding the NBA championship this season.
Conversely, as the 2012-13 regular season tips off, each team has the opportunity to improve upon their own issues. That process begins, in earnest, by first identifying what those weaknesses are.
Josh Smith Trade Talk
The pain of perennially being good but not great may be over in Atlanta. Better days are coming, just not right away.
If the team is going to try to win this season, however, they will need Josh Smith.
Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams are gone. The Hawks will rely even more on Josh Smith than ever before, along with Al Horford.
Smith's name, though, will be included in trade talks all season. He could inevitably be dealt as Atlanta looks to build toward the future.
The All-Star numbers he posted last year make him a valued commodity in and of itself. Throw in that his contract expires at the end of this season, and his value only increases.
If he's traded, the Hawks won't win many games this year. But even if he isn't, that cloud hanging over the locker room this season might be too much of a distraction to overcome.
Incorporating a Whole New Bench
Often times, your biggest weakness could be turned into your greatest strength. This is one of those times for the Boston Celtics.
Assuming their starting lineup includes returning veterans Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett, along with the newly acquired Courtney Lee, the Celtics reserve unit will rely on five players who weren't in Doc Rivers' rotation last season.
Jason Terry and Darko Milicic were acquired this summer. Jeff Green is returning from a heart condition which kept him out all of last season. Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo are both rookies.
There will be an adjustment period for the second unit. How quickly they are able to overcome that will go a long way to determining where the Celtics are seeded once the playoffs begin.
Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez can all score, but the Brooklyn Nets could struggle mightily on defense.
Lopez doesn't defend the basket very well, and his defensive rebounding numbers are also particularly low for a seven-footer.
During the 82 games he played in the 2010-11 campaign, Lopez only averaged 3.6 defensive rebounds per night. While he will be helped on the glass, don't expect Kris Humphries to help him much in the team defense department this season, either.
Avery Johnson's going to need to figure out a way of changing all that—a task that would be difficult for anyone.
Lack of Overall Talent
Maybe it's because Michael Jordan wants to own a team he can still compete with at practice. Maybe it's something else entirely.
The Bobcats were the worst team in the NBA last season, and they will challenge for that title again this year.
Ben Gordon, Byron Mullens, Ramon Sessions, Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker look to be Charlotte's leaders in the scoring department this season.
That's not a good mix. It's also a rough way to ask Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to begin his NBA career.
The Derrick Rose Injury
The Bulls will have other weaknesses this season. Those weaknesses, however, will all pale in comparison to the Derrick Rose injury situation.
We all know this, but it's foolish to dig any deeper than that.
If Rose is out for an extended period of time, the Bulls will have all sorts of problems. If they can split the games he misses, and he returns to form, they will be a tough out in the playoffs.
But only if he returns.
Depth at the Wing Positions
Kyrie Irving is this team's single biggest strength. I expect him to be an All-Star this season.
With Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and rookie Tyler Zeller up front, they should be at least average.
At both wing positions, however, there are all sorts of question marks.
Dion Waiters, the fourth overall pick, will be asked to answer questions related to the shooting guard spot. C.J. Miles was acquired this summer to help in that. At the opposite wing, Alonzo Gee should garner increased playing time.
Miles and Gee are two players who are best suited as top reserves on a good team. They'll play the majority of the minutes for this team, though, along with Waiters, because there isn't really any other option.
Dirk Nowitzki's Health
The Mavericks weren't able to revamp their roster this summer, but they did retool it enough with the additions of O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison and Chris Kaman to suggest that they'd compete for the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Dirk Nowitzki just had knee surgery, and the number of games he is able to play directly relates to the amount of games that Dallas will win.
Not off to the best start there, either.
Defending the Basket
I know that JaVale McGee blocks a lot of shots. But he also has a tendency to leave the paint and jump out on a mission to track down more blocks.
He really likes blocking shots. But he doesn't help his team when he creates an opening at the basket by pursuing blocked shots over-aggressively.
He did a lot of that in Washington. He did less of it for George Karl last season. He needs to continue to improve in that area. For now, it's an issue until proven otherwise.
Kenneth Faried still has much to prove defending the basket next to him as well.
Lack of Veteran Scoring Options
Andre Drummond looks pretty good in his first NBA training camp.
Brandon Knight has an opportunity to build on a solid enough rookie season. Greg Monroe is a potential All-Star already.
Those are signs for better days to come in Detroit. Right now though, the Pistons will be still asking Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell to start.
Last season in Cleveland, for example, the Cavaliers threw Antawn Jamison in the middle of that lineup with Kyrie Irving. He shot a lot, but got you 17 points per night in the process.
These Pistons won't get that type of scoring from Maxiell or Prince. Both veterans are eight-point-per-game scorers on their career. They're both past their respective primes, too.
As a result, there will be a heavy burden on those young Pistons to score points—just about every game.
Golden State Warriors
Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry could lead Golden State to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
However, they are also both, to various extents, battling injuries.
Bogut was traded last season at the deadline and hasn't played a regular season game for the Warriors yet. Curry was scratched last week for the remainder of training camp.
How many games will they play is the No. 1 concern. If they're out there, and healthy, the Warriors could be pretty good. They are a relatively weak team if not.
Too Many Random Parts
At a glance down the Rockets roster, there are a number of players you probably wouldn't mind having on your team. There aren't really any, however, that you would necessarily love to have.
The best player on every other team in the NBA is better than the Houston Rockets best player this season. In fact, I have no idea who the Rockets best player even is.
Jeremy Lin? Kevin Martin? Omer Asik?
Okay, I'll stop. Problem is, I'm not sure that all of these guys were acquired to actually form a team in the first place. While going all-in on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, the majority may have been thought of as tradable assets.
None of them were traded, though.
Team Field-Goal Percentage
You might think with an All-Star center like Roy Hibbert, along with David West up front, that the Pacers would get a large volume of high-percentage shots.
Instead, the Pacers finished 24th in the league last season in terms of team field-goal percentage. They shot just under 44 percent on the year, and that needs to improve.
Danny Granger could be a big reason why. He shot a career low 41 percent from the floor last year. That was after a major improvement during the last two-thirds of the season.
He needs to open this season scoring at a more efficient rate. Everyone else needs to fall in line after that.
Los Angeles Clippers
Blake's Post-Up Game
This year's Clippers do many things well. They'll be an explosive and dynamic offense while also providing reasons to believe they can defend.
But in order to seriously contend in the Western Conference, Blake Griffin will need to be able to score with his back to the basket.
The playoffs inevitably become a half-court game. Or at least not the free-flowing dunking spree the Clippers are most comfortable playing. In order to compete in the half-court, the Clippers will need somebody who can post up and score inside.
That's probably not going to be DeAndre Jordan and it definitely won't be the newly acquired Ryan Hollins.
It could be Blake Griffin. But he will need to demonstrate a skill-set he's never shown before in order to get that done.
Los Angeles Lakers
Bench Support for Big Four
Kobe Bryant is questionable for the opener and the Lakers were 0-8 during the preseason.
Neither of those developments concern me too much.
Kobe will ended up playing the majority of the games this season and will himself into health somehow by playoff time. The eight games they just lost don't count, either.
But what could help the Lakers lose most moving forward is the overall weakness of their bench.
After Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and even Metta World Peace, there aren't too many dynamic NBA players on that roster.
Antawn Jamison is real old. Jodie Meeks may have been only a system jump shooter in Philly. Steve Blake and Chris Duhon are average.
It is going to be tough to score points with that group while the Big Four are resting.
Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol all working together
These three guys do not work very well together. I don't think this is as a result of anything mean-spirited, or a lack of willingness to try and make it work, but it doesn't work.
Or hasn't yet, at least.
The Grizzlies advanced to the playoffs two season ago while Rudy Gay was injured. They morphed into a different team lead by Zach Randolph in all phases of the game. He was unstoppable, until he got hurt himself.
He's healthy right now, along with Gay and Gasol. But I'm not sure there's enough shots to go around for everybody. If those three stars can blend their games together, Memphis could be a legitimate playoff team.
If they can't, Rudy Gay might need to get dealt.
The Center Position
The Miami Heat might only have one weakness. It's at the center position.
Joel Anthony is their best center, but this isn't really about him. He never asked to be anybody's best center anyway. He's just a hard-working NBA big who ended up assuming that role because there wasn't anybody else.
They added Josh Harrellson this season to help him out. Dexter Pittman's there too. But Joel Anthony is still better than both of those guys. The rest of the NBA's centers, however, are still better than him.
Covering Andrew Bynum in the Eastern Conference Playoffs will be a pretty big challenge. Dwight Howard out West is an even bigger one.
I'm not necessarily opposed to the Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings backcourt in Milwaukee.
Offensively, I continue to think that it creates a tandem very difficult to guard. I also think that both players are more of a willing passer than most people credit them for.
During the month of April last season, Ellis and Jennings combined to average nearly 12 assists per game playing alongside each other.
The biggest weakness this presents, however, is on the defensive end. Neither player has ever been a defensive stopper. This issue is only highlighted by the fact that Monta Ellis, at 6'3", will be matching up with opposing shooting guards all season long.
There's too many ways to attack that backcourt defensively, and I'm not sure what Coach Scott Skiles can really do about it.
There's so much to like about the direction the Minnesota Timberwolves are trying to go right now. Ricky Rubio is a dynamic play-maker. Kevin Love might be the best power forward in the NBA.
But both of the Timberwolves leaders are injured right now and that changes everything.
There's no specific timetable that's been identified to indicate Rubio's return to the lineup just yet. Love will be back sooner, but still not soon enough for Timberwolves' fans.
Questions about the ability of each player to stay healthy from there, once they do return, will continue to circle this team all season long. That is in addition to the questions associated with Brandon Roy's history of injuries as he enters the Minnesota rotation.
If they are all healthy, the Timberwolves will be an exciting team to watch. But that is a major if right now.
New Orleans Hornets
Point Guard Position
The New Orleans Hornets are still searching for Chris Paul's replacement.
When Eric Gordon eventually returns from injury, he will start at shooting guard. Which means that first-round draft pick Austin Rivers won't.
For that reason and others, the Hornets are asking Rivers to assume the point-guard duties this season.
By nature, Rivers is a shooting guard. That transition will involve an inherent learning curve.
The other option is Greivis Vasquez. He would be a decent enough back-up, but probably shouldn't be starting for anybody.
Inevitably, that leaves Rivers as the only real option at the position.
Expect him to struggle in that role. More than he would as a rookie shooting guard starting somewhere else in the Association.
New York Knicks
Replacing Linsanity with Felton
It will be difficult to find enough shot opportunities to keep everyone happy in New York this season.
The offense will be dictated on Carmelo Anthony's terms. Hopefully guys like Amar'e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith are okay with that. Their shot opportunities could dwindle to career lows as a result.
Managing that aspect of the Knicks' offense is point guard Raymond Felton, who played awful last season as a Portland Trail Blazer.
Felton averaged a career low in points at 11.4 per game. He shot his worst field-goal percentage since 2007, ending the year at 40 percent overall. He has also averaged over three turnovers per game during his last two seasons combined.
Felton will need to improve drastically in all areas of his game if he stands any chance of helping this Knicks team win.
I know he's looked solid throughout the preseason, and that much is encouraging. But there is still a long way to go.
Oklahoma City Thunder
James Harden's Contract Situation
It is difficult to find a weakness on the court for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Kevin Durant is the coolest guy most people ever met. He's probably the second best overall player in the game right now, too.
Russell Westbrook is a top-15 player himself, Serge Ibaka is a defensive force around the rim and Kendrick Perkins has embraced the opportunity to play a critical role for this team under the basket.
Which is why OKC's biggest weakness may come from outside the court.
Playing with James Harden, the Thunder found themselves competing for an NBA championship. Without him moving forward over the next couple years, do they even get back?
Expect those questions to hover around this team until Harden's contract is eventually resolved.
A Roster in Shambles
Congratulations, Jacque Vaughn, you worked your way into an NBA head coaching job.
Your best players are Arron Afflalo, Moe Harkless and J.J. Redick. Or maybe they're Glen Davis, E'Twaun Moore and Al Harrington. You have Hedo too, and Jameer Nelson, stop crying.
Anyways, Vaughn is charged with an impossible task that includes the following: Replace a terrific coach in Stan Van Gundy. Do so with a roster assembled specifically to lose, all while getting life after Dwight Howard off on a positive first step.
He will earn every dollar they pay him this season. Good luck.
Hoping that Bynum Is Healthy
The Sixers won last season without that one single star player.
Doug Collins' group was the embodiment of team basketball in today's superstar-driven NBA. As a result of the Derrick Rose injury, they were able to will their team to the brink of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Then they blew it up, traded for a superstar, and now have Andrew Bynum.
Which is really great if Bynum is healthy.
Or more specifically, if he is healthy come playoff time. Collins will be gearing his offensive attack around Bynum. Hopefully, for Philadelphia's sake, he's there when they need him to be.
Lack of Depth
Michael Beasley, Marcin Gortat, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and Jared Dudley would find themselves in most NBA teams' rotation.
They are each capable starters as well, depending on the circumstance.
But after Shannon Brown and maybe Markieff Morris, this Suns roster begins to flat-line. There isn't much depth at any position really, most notably the guard spot.
Sebastian Telfair is the best option at backup guard. He wasn't really as bad as you thought Sebastian Telfair would be last season, but that's still not an ideal situation.
The Suns' lack of depth will eventually keep them out of the playoff race. Even if their starters play out of their minds.
Portland Trail Blazers
Second Unit Can't Score
The Portland Trail Blazers starting unit should compete with most teams.
Damian Lillard looks poised for success on this level, LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star and Wes Matthews is a quality player.
But after you get past those guys, along with Nic Batum and possibly J.J. Hickson, the Blazers don't have any other players that are good.
I'm not trying to oversimplify things, but take a look at that roster and tell me who comes off that bench to average seven points per game. Sasha Pavlovic? Jared Jeffries? Victor Claver?
Hopefully for Portland's sake it can be Meyers Leonard, but we'll see.
DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans must somehow bring the best out of each other this season.
On paper, their games should complement each other. Cousins is probably the most gifted big man in the game not named Dwight Howard. Evans is a brutal cover individually on the perimeter.
Or at least he should be.
Evans has seen his numbers dip over the past two seasons. Last season, Cousins improved statistically.
They both need to improve at the same time this year in order for Sacramento to squeeze out a few wins. It will be really difficult otherwise if they don't figure something out.
San Antonio Spurs
Team Speed Up Front
The San Antonio Spurs will contend for the Western Conference Finals.
There's a chance they could even win it. If they are going to move past the Lakers and Thunder, however, they will need to beat two teams who can get out and run.
Oklahoma City ran past the Spurs last season on their way to the Finals. With Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, expect the Lakers to get out and go much more than they did last season too.
Tim Duncan is still a star, but he's no Usain Bolt. It could be difficult for Tim to run with those teams in a seven-game series.
Small Forward Position
The Raptors are asking a lot from Landry Fields.
They went out and signed him to a lucrative contract this offseason and are now trotting him out as their starter at small forward.
Fields plays okay defense and doesn't make mistakes offensively. But by signing him to the contract they did, Toronto is inferring financially that he can be more than that as a player.
His jump shot is limited and he will be matching up against an opposing star almost every night at the small-forward spot.
He's by far the Raptors best option there too, which isn't awesome.
Managing The Big-Man Rotation
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap will need to find a way to be effective together in the starting lineup.
After that, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter will need to be worked into the equation, too.
All four of those talented bigs cannot play at the same time. There isn't a combination of three that can be on the floor together at once, either.
Dividing up these minutes in a way that helps the Jazz win games this season while also developing Favors and Kanter for the future will be difficult.
John Wall's Injury
John Wall's injury could have a reverberating effect on the Washington Wizards season.
It's bad enough that their best player is sidelined to begin the season from a competitive standpoint. But Wall's injury also delays the opportunity for Bradley Beal to find success playing alongside him.
That development process could be the most important aspect of this season for Washington.
Beal will make his initial adjustment to life in the NBA while playing alongside someone else. Then Wall will return and he'll be faced with a whole new array of adjustments.
That trend of one challenge after another for Washington looks to continue this season as a result.
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