The One Key to Every NBA Team's 2012-13 Season

Kyle Ramos@Kyle_RamosCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2012

The One Key to Every NBA Team's 2012-13 Season

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    Every team in the NBA wants success and it takes a full team effort to achieve it. However, the level of success a team can attain during the course of a season also relies on several specific factors.

    These factors can make or break a season for any team, and they are also what people look back on in reflection of how successful or unsuccessful. Some teams are able to figure out what important factors they need to focus on early in the season, and some realize it a little too late into the year. In any case, every team has a key to success and finding it early can determine whether their season ends in April or in June.

    With that being said, let's go around the league and look at the key factor for each team in the 2012-2013 season.

Atlanta Hawks: The Return of Al Horford

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    Last season, the Hawks were able to make the playoffs despite the long-term absence of their starting center Al Horford.

    When Horford was able to play in the postseason, it was too little and too late for the Hawks to avoid being eliminated by the Boston Celtics in six games.

    Now that he has had a full offseason of recuperation, Horford can now become a contributor to Atlanta once more as one of the most talented big men in the NBA. His rebounding and scoring touch will go nicely with his front court mate Josh Smith and could give Atlanta another chance at possibly making a deep run into the playoffs.

Boston Celtics: Jeff Green

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    This may be a surprising selection to some, but the fact is that Jeff Green is still a young talented player who caught a bad break with his heart surgery forcing him to miss all of last season.

    Now that he has recovered, Green could become one of the biggest contributors for the Celtics and their deep bench. His versatility to play both forward positions as well as his scoring ability will make him one of the better options for Boston when their aging starters of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are getting rest.

    The younger players on the Celtics will definitely be making a difference this season, since Pierce and Garnett will probably need to take more breathers than they are used to. Green may very well be a part of the youth movement in Boston alongside Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger.

Brooklyn Nets: Team Defense

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    There's no doubt that the Nets will be able to post some points on the scoreboard this season, but to live up to their growing expectations, they will have to play better team defense.

    Luckily, the Nets do have some pretty good defensive players in the lineup with Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries, but their individual efforts won't be enough to sustain the team. Instead, Brooklyn must work on communicating and helping out their teammates on the defensive end.

    As the season progresses, the Nets will continue to mesh their team together and they should continue to improve chemistry, which will help them in their struggles. Until then, Brooklyn will have to go through some growing pains in order to reach the success that they are expected to have this season.

Charlotte Bobcats: Patience

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    The Bobcats had a laughably bad season last year, but are hoping to bounce back from it and gain some respect back in this year's campaign.

    Though much hasn't changed on the roster besides the additions of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Ramon Sessions, the Bobcats must remain patient as they develop their younger guys into a core that they can build around.

    Players like Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker, and Bismack Biyombo can become good if given the right time and Charlotte might as well give them some, considering the Bobcats won't be making any playoff appearances anytime soon.

Chicago Bulls: The Return of Derrick Rose

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    All Chicago can think about these days is when will Derrick Rose be back in uniform and ready to lead the Bulls once more.

    The timetable is not solidified for Rose's return, but the Bulls' season and foreseeable future all rely on him being able to bounce back from his devastating ACL injury. Whether he can come back for some of the regular season is still up in the air, and the Bulls are also hoping that they can earn a postseason berth without their superstar leader.

    Should the Bulls make the playoffs, that at least will give Rose more time to get back on the court, and it would be an important time for him to return as Chicago would probably be unable to advance anywhere past the first round of the playoffs without him.

    Until he comes back, Chicago continues to hold their breath and hope that they can hold on till then.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving

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    The hurt of LeBron's departure from Cleveland was alleviated a lot last season when Cavs fans were treated to witnessing Kyrie Irving's very impressive rookie campaign.

    Now that Irving has established himself as a big part of the Cavalier's future, he is also the key to any sort of success that they can hope to attain this season. While there isn't much help around Irving, he will still find a way to post great individual numbers of his own.

    As a result of the lack of depth and overall talent on the Cavs, Irving may be stuck with another pretty ugly season in Cleveland, but he can rest assured that he remains the primary focus of the team and his performances will decide just how well Cleveland does this season.

Dallas Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki's Knees

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    After an offseason knee surgery, Dirk Nowitzki has still not fully recovered and his progress will be vital to the Mavericks in their 2012-2013 season.

    With the lingering injures surrounding Nowitzki and his bothersome right knee, Dallas will have to rely on the help of the newly acquired O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman and veteran Shawn Marion to possibly pick up the scoring hole that Nowitzki usually fills.

    When Nowitzki is back to full health, his ability to bounce back from the injury will determine the success of Dallas this season and may give the Mavs a chance to see just how much gas he has left in the tank.

Denver Nuggets: Depth

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    Though the Denver Nuggets do seem to lack a true superstar, they make up largely for that with their great depth at seemingly every position.

    Their starting lineup is strong with the likes of Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala but the players coming off the bench could even be starters in their own right. Players like Wilson Chandler, Andre Miller, and Cory Brewer are all great reserves off of the bench and will give the Nuggets the ability to be a dangerous team even while the starters get a breather.

    Through their depth, the Nuggets will be able to wear some teams out during the course of the season and can pick up a lot of wins in the process.

Detroit Pistons: Front Court Tandem

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    The Detroit Pistons took a chance on the raw talent of Andre Drummond and may have made something special happen in the process.

    Drummond is a strong, physical big man who likes to get to the basket and finish. Alongside him is the Pistons' starting center Greg Monroe who complements him with his more, do-it-all finesse style of play.

    Together, the two can develop into one of the best front court pairings in the league and can make going in the paint on both ends a living nightmare for opposing teams. These two big men will also be keys for the Pistons, who are looking to get out of their rebuilding funk and move into a new era in Detroit.

Golden State Warriors: Staying Healthy

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    The Warriors are looking like a possible playoff team for the 2012-2013 season, but in order for them to reach these expectations, they will need for two of their star pieces (Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut) to maintain their health throughout the year.

    If both Curry and the newly-acquired Bogut can stay on the floor for at least most of the season, the Dubs have a good chance to surprise some teams in the Western Conference.

    Curry continues to develop as a great shooting point guard and overall scorer and he can facilitate the other offensive threats of Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes on the wing. Down low, David Lee and Bogut will team up to form a solid defensive front court that will be crashing the glass hard.

    Overall, Golden State can make a run at the playoffs if their team stays off of the injury report and on the court instead.

Houston Rockets: Integrating New Pieces

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    The Houston Rockets look almost completely different than the team they were last season.

    With the new faces of James Harden, Jeremy Lin, and Omer Asik joining the mix of their 2012 rookie class of Royce White, Terrence Jones, and Donatas Motiejunas, there's reason to hope for a successful season for the Rockets.

    However, before you can start tallying up the win total for Houston, they must quickly learn how they are going to make all of these pieces fit together on the fly, since they didn't have their best player (Harden) for the vast majority of the offseason.

    If they can figure out how to integrate their new players and do so effectively and in a timely manner, Houston could compete with some of the better teams in the tough Western Conference.

Indiana Pacers: Bench Performance

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    Indiana has assembled a nice starting lineup of strong players who could be a part of long-term success for the Pacers.

    However, the Pacers also lack a whole lot of reliable depth on the bench and it may decide just how far this team can go this season. Tyler Hansbrough, Ian Mahimni, and D.J. Augustin will anchor the second unit for Indiana, and those names don't exactly scream "contender" to anyone.

    If the Pacers can manage to at least get a decent contribution from their shaky bench, it could pay dividends for the team as a whole since they have starters that are more than capable of winning games on their own.

    At the end of the day, Indiana will need depth to get far, but they will have to hope for the best with the reserves that they have right now.

Los Angeles Clippers: Vinny Del Negro

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    The Clippers certainly have plenty of talent to consider themselves amongst the best teams in the Western Conference, but the man who decides the best way to utilize all of this talent will be the biggest key for a team looking to establish a reputation for being winners.

    Vinny Del Negro is that man, and the head coach at the helm for Los Angeles, who will be looking to establish a funcitonal rotation that works best for a team filled with both youth and savvy veterans.

    His leadership is crucial to this team that must be coached the right way if they hope to advance any further than the second round of the postseason. If Del Negro can earn their full trust right away and be consistent with minutes distribution, there's no reason to think that this Clippers team can't put their name up there with other elite squads.

Los Angeles Lakers: Steve Nash's Facilitation

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    This offseason was rather eventful for the Lakers who managed to snag two superstars in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, in addition to their resident star Kobe Bryant.

    Now, the Lake Show will be faced with the fun task of getting these three to work together efficiently in order to begin their expected domination. Fortunately, they have a master of facilitation in their new point guard, Nash.

    He is a player who has a tendency to make others around him perform exceedingly well and his time in L.A. should prove to make this ability of his stand out even more. Though the starting lineup is pretty heavy in talent already, having Nash to work with the somewhat shaky bench of younger players will be beneficial for the Lakers as well.

    The starting lineup will also enjoy Nash's presence and passing ability and it will be key to the Lakers becoming a team and not just an All-Star game lineup.

Memphis Grizzlies: Making a Big Move

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    It's been like Groundhog Day for the Grizzlies, who can't seem to get out of their loop of being just another playoff team and nothing more.

    Memphis does, however, have hope to break out of this rut with their talented core of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol. However, their strong team chemistry and familiarity with each other can only make up for so much and it won't help them necessarily get past stronger, more talented teams.

    Therefore, the Grizzlies will have to make the jump on their own during this season and if that means making a move to nab a superstar and blowing up their core, then that's what it will have to be in order for Memphis to ever be true contenders in the West.

Miami Heat: Staying Aggressive

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    It's really easy to be relaxed and content after a championship season, but the Miami Heat don't have that option, especially with the lofty expectations that arose ever since LeBron James came to town.

    Instead, they will have to continue to be an aggressive juggernaut, destroying teams in their path to maintain their reputation as the alpha dog of the NBA.

    The Heat can't afford to give up any ground as the best team to the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder or L.A. Lakers, seeing as how they are both the biggest threat to their NBA crown. If Miami can manage to stay hungry and on the attack, there's a good chance that they will be back in the NBA Finals to defend their championship.

Milwaukee Bucks: Back Court Duo

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    After sending off former franchise centerpiece Andrew Bogut, the Bucks got a player in return with Monta Ellis, who will now pair up with Brandon Jennings to make for an exciting and explosive back court.

    Both Ellis and Jennings are proven scorers that can play both on and off the ball on offense and they can be even more dangerous now that they have begun to develop chemistry over the offseason.

    The Bucks will have to rely heavily on these two for their scoring needs throughout the year, and it's a good duo to put that responsibility on. Milwaukee isn't the strongest team in the Eastern Conference, but the scoring output from Ellis and Jennings alone can give them a shot at the playoffs in 2012-2013.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Getting and Staying Healthy

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    The Wolves were dealt a bad blow last season when they lost their starting point guard Ricky Rubio to an ACL injury. Now Minnesota is also faced with an injury to All-Star power forward Kevin Love, who broke his hand during an offseason workout.

    Having to start the season without both of these players is a tall task for this team, but once they are both 100 percent, the T'Wolves can return to form as a dangerous team in the Western Conference. Minnesota will also have to keep an eye on their wounded stars, however, as they can't afford to see them re-aggravate their previous injuries.

    Staying healthy will be a big deal for the Timberwolves, especially with their new addition of Brandon Roy, who has a sketchy past of knee injuries. If they do keep their best players on the court, though, expect a run at the playoffs for Minnesota.

New Orleans Hornets: Breaking in the Rookies

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    The Hornets have made a rather nice recovery since being forced to deal Chris Paul away to the Clippers.

    Now equipped with first-overall pick Anthony Davis and tenth-overall pick Austin Rivers, the Hornets have surrounded their star Eric Gordon with some great help and can now look to make an impact in the league.

    In order to start getting back on the winning track, the Hornets must break in their rookies with some quality playing time to get them quickly acclimated to the NBA-style of basketball. By doing so, New Orleans can hopefully expedite the development of their young players and help them mature into a solid core.

    If this is the case, the future is looking bright for the New Orleans Hornets moving forward.

New York Knicks: Keeping Up with the Youth

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    The Knicks do have a lot of talent on the roster, but they also have plenty of age racked up as well.

    With the additions of Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby, and Rasheed Wallace, the Knicks have become the oldest team in the league with an average age of 31.2 years. These guys can still contribute, but it may not be as much as they are used to, especially as the NBA continues to evolve with its younger players.

    New York will have to hope that their extra-seasoned reserve players can still keep up with the young guns, or they will be faced with a lot of teams out-running them and the situation could get ugly for a Knicks team expected to make the playoffs as a high seed in the East.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Working Kevin Martin into the Offense

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    After a shocking James Harden deal, the Thunder were not left empty handed as they got a quality scorer in Kevin Martin in return for their former sixth man.

    Now with Martin coming off of the bench for OKC, he will be expected to fill the void that Harden left and, in terms of scoring, he is definitely more than capable. However, Martin isn't exactly an expert at shot creation and will have to learn his way around the Oklahoma City offensive scheme in order to fully thrive in his new role.

    With time, though, Martin can pick it up and run with it, making the Thunder a dangerous team, even if they lost some chemistry by trading Harden.

Orlando Magic: Arron Afflalo

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    Possibly the only bright spot for the Magic in their post-apocalyptic looking roster lies in the addition of Arron Afflalo from Denver.

    Afflalo may be on the brink of a breakout season and is certainly one of the main offensive options for a Magic team lacking much talent. His performance will be key for the Magic, if they hope to maintain a little dignity in the early stages of their rebuilding project.

    Without Afflalo, Orlando may be left helpless on offense and defense, making them candidates to compete against the Bobcats for the worst team in the NBA.

Philadelphia 76ers: Re-Signing Andrew Bynum Early

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    Andrew Bynum came over to Philadelphia as a part of the blockbuster Dwight Howard deal, but now the Sixers are focused on getting him committed to staying long-term as a franchise centerpiece. 

    This year will be the last on Bynum's current contract and Philly will undoubtedly be focused on keeping him, and the sooner the deal gets done, the sooner they can focus fully on the season at hand. If the talks drag on, the 76ers may be faced with a disaster of Bynum leaving in free agency and the team looking for a new cornerstone.

    As long as Philadelphia can get a quick deal done, they remain a prospective playoff team in the East, especially with the contributions of an Andrew Bynum that will be the primary focus of an offense.

Phoenix Suns: Finding the No. 1 Option

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    Phoenix isn't looking too bad after the Steve Nash departure, but they still don't quite have a hold on who will be taking the reins of the team.

    Will it be Luis Scola? Michael Beasley? Marcin Gortat? Goran Dragic? There's no clear answer for the Suns, who have enough talent to get by, but not enough to hang with the elite teams of the West. 

    Phoenix should use this season to experiment and figure out who should be the focus of the team, and once that's sorted out, they can continue to build their franchise around him. It's anyone's team right now, and the Suns will be on the lookout for who will step up to the challenge.

Portland Trail Blazers: Developing Quickly

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    Portland may have found their new core through their offseason work in drafting Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard and re-signing Nicolas Batum. 

    These guys, along with LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, have the makeup of a young team with a high ceiling and the Blazers are certainly hoping to find out just how good they can be as soon as possible.

    After missing the playoffs last year for the first time since 2008, Portland is hoping that their youth movement can propel them back into the playoff hunt in the West. Therefore, this season is reliant on the fast growth of their young talent as the Blazers hope to return to the postseason.

Sacramento Kings: A Consistent Rotation

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    The Kings are not lacking in quality talent, but how to fit it all together to make it work has been their real problem over the past few playoff-less seasons.

    Now that there is some stability in the coaching staff and the roster, maybe this could be season that Sacramento puts a winning team on the court. At the guard spot, the Kings have options with Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Thornton, and Aaron Brooks. 

    Head coach Keith Smart will be tasked with seeing which lineups work best and which players complement each other in the back court and turning that knowledge into a good starting five and bench rotation.

    If he can figure that out, you can expect some good basketball to come out a possibly surprising Kings team this season.

San Antonio Spurs: Kawhi Leonard

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    Over the years, the Spurs have maintained a strong core with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. However, the days are numbered for this aging group of veterans.

    Taking their responsibilities will be the youth of the Spurs, and one player in particular could be key in making this transition a little smoother. This young man is Kawhi Leonard, a second year player from San Diego State who made his name known as a semi-starter in San Antonio last season.

    The Spurs are still a contending team, but the key to them playing against forces like the Lakers and Thunder will be the defensive presence of Leonard who will be forced to guard tough match ups like Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.

    Leonard may end up being the difference maker for where the Spurs season ends up and may also be a big part of the franchise's future.

Toronto Raptors: Playing Better Offense

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    A lot of people are pegging the Toronto Raptors to make a splash in the East this season, but if they want to accomplish that, they will have to make some improvements on offense.

    Last season, Toronto ranked third-to-last in the league with a meager 90.7 points per contest. Now that they have new additions like Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, and Landry Fields, perhaps they can alleviate that.

    While it won't be an easy task, it's certainly possible for the Raptors, who will also enjoy the return of their starting big man Andrea Bargnani, who missed 35 games last year due to injury.

    If Toronto can make the improvements on offense, expect to see them in the hunt for a postseason berth in 2012-2013.

Utah Jazz: A Strong Front Court

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    In terms of overall quality and depth, the Utah Jazz may have the best front court in the entire league.

    Having veterans Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap starting with the young Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter behind them makes for a lethal group of guys for Utah, who will need to exploit their strengths in a tough Western Conference.

    Though Jefferson and Millsap are in contract years, the future looks bright and secure for Utah who will not hurt too much if either choose to depart in free agency.

    This season, though, the Jazz can enjoy their dominance down low as Kanter and Favors continue to develop and it can give them a fighting chance against teams with great big men of their own.

Washington Wizards: John Wall

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    The Wizards have a possibly bright future with the addition of Bradley Beal in the draft this summer to pair up with fellow high draft pick John Wall.

    However, Washington also saw the progression stall a little bit last year for Wall, who to his credit, was not playing with the highest amount of talent around him.

    Still, the facts remain, John Wall is coming off a knee injury and will have to prove his worth as a star in the NBA and not just another starting point guard. If he can do that, the Wizards and their future will be in really good shape. If he continues to post average numbers even with an increase of help and support around him, questions about his ability to be a star may start to arise.