The Biggest Warning Sign for Each NBA Team After Week 1

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistNovember 5, 2012

The Biggest Warning Sign for Each NBA Team After Week 1

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    We're barely one week into the 2012-13 NBA season, and teams are already showing signs of vulnerability.

    Most squads aren't in a dire situation yet, but there are indicators of deficiencies and shortcomings that could severely damage their success.

    Some clubs are dealing with a new-found injury that could potentially derail the season, while others have some strategic or personnel issues to iron out. Some are just flat-out underachieving.

    NBA franchises do their best to be 100 percent prepared for the upcoming season, but the wild world of sports has its way of tripping them up.

    What's each team's biggest warning sign early in the 2012-13 campaign?

Chicago Bulls: No One Scoring More Than 15 PPG

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    Unnerving Stat: No player averages more than 14.7 PPG

    Derrick Rose's absence presents several challenges for the Chicago Bulls, but their biggest shortcoming thus far is consistent scoring.

    Save for an outburst against the inferior Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls have failed to score at a playoff-caliber clip.

    Ball distribution is not a difficulty, as the team leads the Eastern Conference in assists. But individual shot-creation is definitely an area of concern.

    Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng are the team's best all-around scorers, but they still aren't advanced ball-handlers or good pull-up shooters. Rose isn't returning anytime soon, so scoring in the low nineties could become a regular problem. 

Indiana Pacers: Sloppy Play

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    Unnerving Stat: 20.7 Turnovers Per Game

    Starting the season 2-1 doesn't seem like a bad thing, but the Indiana Pacers have the most unimpressive 2-1 record in basketball.

    Their two wins were over Sacramento (in overtime) and Toronto, while their loss was at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats. Upcoming games against San Antonio and Atlanta will provide a real test for Indiana.

    A mountainous pile of turnovers is hindering the squad's overall production, as it has already racked up 62 turnovers compared to just 57 assists.

    If they continue to play inefficiently, they'll be hard-pressed to win 45 games.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Personnel Not Ready for Prime Time?

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    Unnerving Stat: Tyler Zeller and C.J. Miles each average less than five PPG

    The season started off well enough for Cleveland with a win over the undermanned Washington Wizards.

    But back-to-back losses against Central Division foes have Cavaliers fans wondering whether the club has the talent to prevent contenders from running them out of the gym.

    The Chicago Bulls put on a clinic against the Cavaliers, a game in which the Bulls scored 115 and not a single Cleveland player had a positive plus/minus. Then, the Cavs lost a heartbreaker to Milwaukee that included a total of 15 points from the bench.

    Kyrie Irving is the only upper-echelon player on this team, and it shows.

    Anderson Varejao is the only above-average rebounder on this team, and it shows.

Milwaukee Bucks: Not Enough Production in Post

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    Unnerving Stat: Mike Dunleavy leads team in rebounding (nine RPG)

    No disrespect to Mike Dunleavy's all-around skills, but his team-leading nine rebounds per game isn't a good sign.

    The Milwaukee Bucks must raise their game in the paint or hope that John Henson's return from a knee injury is successful.

    Even when Henson does return, the Bucks might struggle all season to produce at the power forward and center positions. Aside from Larry Sanders, none of the Milwaukee bigs are producing.

    Ekpe Udoh, Samuel Dalembert and Joel Przybilla are collectively playing 42.5 minutes per game, but they're registering just 8.5 points and six rebounds. That is less than half the production that the team needs out of that trio.

Detroit Pistons: Owned in the Paint

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    Unnerving Stat: Giving up 51.3 points in the paint per game

    Rookie Andre Drummond is a great shot-blocking addition, but he alone can't slow opponents down. The Detroit Pistons are getting steamrolled in the paint so far this season.

    Lawrence Frank's bunch has been outscored in the paint in each of its first three games.

    Sunday night's 108-79 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers was the worst performance yet. The Pistons' back line of defense looked like a NBADL team against Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill.

    Not every team's frontcourt is going to be as imposing as the Lakers', but Detroit still has a lot of improving to do in the post.

Toronto Raptors: Landry Fields Quiet Thus Far

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    Unnerving Stat: Landry Fields has three field goals in three games.

    There's no need to hit the panic button, but the Toronto Raptors would like to see Landry Fields find his place in the team's offense in the near future.

    The newcomer who signed a lucrative contract hasn't hit his stride yet and hasn't scored more than five points in a game. Head coach Dwayne Casey isn't fretting, but he'd like to see more out of his $19 million man:

    "We probably need a few more points from him but just get him in transition, running the floor and a bit more cutting" Casey told the Toronto Sun. "We gave him a few post ups and he has to be productive on those. But we’re not over-reacting at all."

    If the Raptors want to sneak into fourth place or (heaven forbid) third in the Atlantic Division, Fields must find the bucket more often.

New York Knicks: What If Three Ball Isn't Falling?

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    Unnerving Stat: 31.5 three-point attempts per game

    Considering that Amar'e Stoudemire is on the bench and there were a lot of new faces to fit into the rotation, the New York Knicks got off to an excellent start.

    Shellacking the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers must have felt good for Carmelo and company, as they buried 30 triples over the weekend.

    But what happens when things aren't so rosy and the three ball isn't falling?

    That's when the absence of Amar'e and the lack of additional post offense will hurt New York. Aside from Carmelo Anthony, there's no one who can supply inside-the-arc offense.

    We'll see what happens the first time the Knickerbockers go cold from deep.

Philadelphia 76ers: Too Dependent on Bynum in Paint?

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    Unnerving Stat: 32 points in paint per game

    While Andrew Bynum's knee takes its sweet time to recover, the Philadelphia 76ers are feeling the pain on the court without him.

    Power forward/center Spencer Hawes is a solid all-around player, and Thaddeus Young is a force when he's active, but neither can provide the consistent low-post presence that Bynum can.

    The Sixers have been ineffective on the interior to start the season, scoring just 32 points per game in the paint.

    That's leaves too much pressure and production for the guards to compensate.

Boston Celtics: Overdependent on Rondo, Pierce and Garnett

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    Unnerving Stat: Scored less than 90 against Milwaukee and Washington

    On paper, the retooled Boston Celtics seemed like a Eastern Conference title contender before the season began, but they didn't look like it through the first week of play.

    The defense should get a mulligan in the first game against Miami, as the new personnel was adjusting to the defensive system and was facing the defending champions. But the club shouldn't get a pass for losing to the Bucks and then eking out a win over the inferior Washington Wizards.

    Part of the problem is that the veteran returnees are still accounting for more than half of the team's total offensive creation, and the newcomers haven't pulled enough weight.

    On the glass, Jared Sullinger, Chris Wilcox and Darko Milicic are grabbing a total of 6.5 rebounds per game. That's not much help to Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass.

Brooklyn Nets: Small Forward Injuries

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    Unnerving Stat: Jerry Stackhouse and Tornike Shengelia are behind Gerald Wallace and Josh Childress on the small forward depth chart

    While Josh Childress is still nursing a sore ankle, Gerald Wallace is day to day after spraining his ankle against the Raptors Saturday, according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York.

    These aren't panic-worthy issues for the Brooklyn Nets this early in the season, but the health of the small forwards is critical to the team's playoff hopes.

    Avery Johnson has the keys to a talented club with all the interior and perimeter pieces necessary to thrive in today's NBA. However, it's not an extremely deep team at forward, and replacing Wallace's multifaceted contributions would be difficult.

Washington Wizards: Overdependent on John Wall

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    Unnerving Stat: Averaging 85 PPG

    We knew that Washington would struggle without John Wall, so this shouldn't be a shock.

    But in case you had any hopes of the crew holding down the fort for the next month, here's a sobering reality: The Wizards are led in scoring by Kevin Seraphin. He's a competent post player, but he's not scoring-leader material.

    Bradley Beal isn't quite ready to pick up the scoring slack, and although A.J. Price, Jannero Pargo and Jordan Crawford are doing a magnificent job of facilitating, it's not enough.

    It's difficult to duplicate the efforts of a dynamic playmaker such as Wall, as he creates so many open looks for himself and others every game.

Charlotte Bobcats: Suspect Perimeter Defense

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    Unnerving Stat: Opponents Converting 11.5 three-pointers per game

    Despite a notable improvement on the roster in the offseason, there are several problems that plague the Charlotte Bobcats.

    Chiefly among those problems is defense. The Bobcats are giving up boatloads of points so far, including 69 points on three-point field goals in their first two games.

    New head coach Mike Dunlap doesn't have the most efficient offense yet, but he has enough playmakers to keep things interesting.

    But those playmakers won't give themselves a chance to win if they can't stop opponents from raining open jumpers.

Orlando Magic: Frontcourt Reserve Woes

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    Unnerving Stat: 11.5 PPG from frontcourt reserves

    Everyone's expectations for the post-Dwight Howard Orlando Magic were low, so starting the season off with back-to-back double-digit wins was pleasantly surprising.

    However, something that might hurt the club's chances for sustained success is the lack of confidence the reserve post players have earned from Jacque Vaughn.

    Gustavo Ayon, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn and Josh McRoberts are combining for 11.5 points per game off the bench.

    Sure, they aren't high-scoring types of players. But it would be nice to see more than a dozen points from a group of four guys.

Miami Heat: Trouble on the Boards

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    Unnerving Stat: 19 offensive rebounds in three games

    The Miami Heat are struggling on the glass to start the season, and those mediocre rebounding results might be the only thing keeping the squad from obliterating the Eastern Conference in 2012-13.

    Chris Bosh and LeBron James are holding up their ends of the bargain, combining for 18 rebounds per game.

    Here's the predicament: No one else is rebounding, and James can't always be counted on to be in the post to crash the boards. When he steps out on the perimeter to facilitate or shoot, the Heat are a one-man (Bosh) rebounding crew.

    Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and Josh Harrellson must step up.

Atlanta Hawks: Kyle Korver out of Place

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    Unnerving Stat: Kyle Korver has 9.2 PER

    When Josh Smith's ankle heals and he returns to his rebounding and scoring self, many of the Atlanta Hawks' woes will be cured. 

    Hopefully it will also help out newcomer Kyle Korver, who is 1-of-7 from downtown.

    The veteran sharpshooter has contributed minimal offense to the Hawks in the early going this season, and he's hardly a defensive presence. For 17.5 minutes per contest, he brings little value.

    It's quite possible that Chicago was a better fit for him than Atlanta will ever be, but that answer will come in due time. In the meantime, Korver must work to chip in as much as he can while he's on the court.

San Antonio Spurs: Not Controlling Glass

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    Unnerving Stat: 39 rebounds vs. Oklahoma City

    Much like the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs are a championship-level program that's having trouble rebounding early on in 2012-13.

    With Tony Parker and Tim Duncan still directing traffic, the club can compensate with efficient offense and disciplined defense.

    But a greater rebounding effort could separate them from the pack.

    Take the Oklahoma City game, for example. Parker's heroics made everything alright, but if the Spurs had rebounded better, that game wouldn't have been close. The Thunder outrebounded San Anonio 48-39.

    Boris Diaw (4.7 RPG), Tiago Splitter (3.7 RPG) and DeJuan Blair (4.0 RPG) need to give Duncan a hand.

Dallas Mavericks: Giving Opponents Second Chances

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    Unnerving Stat: Giving up 16.7 offensive rebounds per game

    The Dallas Mavericks sans-Dirk Nowitzki are constructed to score by committee and try to limit the damage on the other end of the floor.

    Considering the face of the franchise is sidelined, the new-look squad is flourishing offensively and is not desperately in need of their German superstar.

    But they are in need of some help on the defensive boards, where opposing offenses are chewing them up and getting second-chance opportunities. Foes have already snagged 50 offensive rebounds in just three games.

    Aside from Brandan Wright, the Mavericks' post players aren't athletic at all. They could be in for a rough season if younger, more agile teams take advantage in the paint.

Houston Rockets: Relying Too Much on Three Ball?

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    Unnerving Stat: 83 three-point attempts in three games

    Who knew one beard could fire up a franchise so much? James Harden has electrified Houston fans so far, but can he and the Rockets survive being so perimeter-based?

    Harden, Chandler Parsons and Carlos Delfino are hoisting up a truckload of triples every night, and as a team, Houston is only converting 28 percent of them.

    The Rockets' 95-85 loss to Portland is a perfect example of what happens when the three-pointer is relied on too heavily. They tossed up 26 threes, made just five of them and as a result, they ended up with a college score total.

    Houston's low-post personnel aren't ideal, but they must find ways to get high-percentage shots from a closer distance. Otherwise, they will live and die by the long ball all season.

New Orleans Hornets: Eric Gordon's Knee

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    Unnerving Stat: Zero chance of Gordon playing soon

    This was supposed to be the year that New Orleans would finally get to see Eric Gordon, but that's looking less likely by the minute.

    He might miss a massive chunk of the season. The remaining damage to his surgically-repaired knee has him out indefinitely, according to Jimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

    The swelling and soreness in his knee could be the difference between New Orleans winning 45 games or 25 games. He's that good of a facilitator, shot-creator and shot-maker.

    Gordon's absence would not only hurt the team on the court, it would also put a damper on the excitement surrounding the franchise for the 2012-13 season.

Memphis Grizzlies: Subpar Bench Production

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    Unnerving Stat: Marreese Speights averaging 3.5 RPG off the bench.

    Memphis should stay competitive in the Southwest Division in 2012-13, but if it wants to secure a playoff spot, the bench needs to step up in a hurry.

    The Grizzlies' bench was significantly outscored in both of its games thus far. Against Golden State, it wasn't as critical, but against a full-strength Clippers club, the weak reserve effort was fatal.

    Wayne Ellington and Jerryd Bayless have chipped in so far, but they've received almost no help from their fellow substitutes.

    Marreese Speights has been particularly disappointing, scoring just 5.5 points and grabbing 3.5 rebounds in his role as primary post reserve. He must pick up the production in order to give Memphis the depth it needs to contend.

Sacramento Kings: Alarmingly Inefficient Offense

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    Unnerving Stat: Your choice of the following statistics...

    1.The Sacramento Kings have an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.0.

    2. Collectively, they're shooting 38 percent from the field.

    3. They lost by 12 to a Minnesota team minus Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.

    4. No King averages more than 3.7 assists per game.

    5. Thomas Robinson: 4.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG

    The result is a club that's not on the same page offensively, sitting at 0-3.

Golden State Warriors: Andrew Bogut's Health

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    Unnerving Stat: Andrew Bogut will see less than 20 minutes per game until December

    The USA Today reported that the Golden State Warriors will be limiting Andrew Bogut's playing time to less than 20 minutes per game until December (at the earliest).

    His injured ankle has already severely affected his court time this season, and therefore has affected the team's effectiveness in the paint.

    Luckily, David Lee and Carl Landry are able to pick up the slack for now. But if the Warriors want to mix things up in the Pacific Division, they'll need his size and defensive prowess. He's dependable for a dozen points, 8-10 rebounds and consistent post defense every night when he's healthy.

Los Angeles Lakers: Steve Nash's Leg and Point Guard Situation

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    Unnerving Stat: Steve Nash and Steve Blake each have 9.9 PER

    Dwight Howard and company calmed the nerves of Los Angeles by thrashing the Detroit Pistons at home, but the point guard situation is still up in the air.

    A fracture in Steve Nash's left leg could keep him out for four weeks, says Los Angeles Times columnist Mike Bresnahan.

    The Lakers will survive without him, but will they thrive without him? And when he comes back, will he struggle to fit into the offense and be a liability defensively?

    Kobe Bryant will make sure things work out, but Nash's injury and delayed chemistry-building hurts the team's chance to dominate the Western Conference.

    For now, Mike Brown must settle for playing Steve Blake and Darius Morris much more than he anticipated.

Phoenix Suns: No True Star

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    Unnerving Stat: 22 percent on three-pointers

    Phoenix did an admirable job rebuilding after the departure of Steve Nash, adding talented players like Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Michael Beasley.

    No matter how many points those players account for, there's something about having a legitimate superstar that's irreplaceable. No one on the current roster has been in an All-Star game since 2007 (and only Jermaine O'Neal has been an All-Star).

    There's no single player the Suns can count on to carry them in crunch time, go toe-to-toe with opposing stars or lead them through the playoffs. In that sense, they will miss Nash greatly.

    Nash also set up the entire team for success, putting his teammates in position for high-percentage shots. Now, the team's spot-up shooters and pick-and-roll post players don't have it as easy.

Los Angeles Clippers: Lack of Depth in Post

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    Unnerving Stat: Lamar Odom averaging three PPG and three RPG

    Beyond Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Los Angeles Clippers don't have much low-post weaponry at all.

    That is, unless Lamar Odom can expand his role.

    Off the bench, Vinny Del Negro will be calling on Ryan Hollins and Odom this season, and if the two keep pitching in a combined 5.7 points and six rebounds, the Clippers are toast.

    No one is expecting Odom to be the Laker version of himself, but more aggressiveness on the glass and with the ball would be appreciated by the Lob City faithful.

    Until then, Los Angeles will be frequently outrebounded and outscored underneath.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Defensive/Offensive Inconsistency

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    Unnerving Stat: Gave up 57 points in second half vs. Atlanta (without Josh Smith)

    Just when we thought the Oklahoma City Thunder were starting the season off strong defensively, they let Atlanta run wild in the second half on Sunday.

    The Hawks, without Josh Smith, engineered a high-scoring comeback predicated on aggressiveness and dribble penetration. Oklahoma City allowed far too many points off the dribble, allowing Atlanta's guards all the way to the tin.

    The Thunder also coughed the ball up 20 times, thus hamstringing its ability to thwart the Hawks' comeback.

    Scott Brooks must figure out how to compensate for the loss of James Harden as a defender and facilitator off the bench.

Portland Trail Blazers: 7-Man Rotation

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    Unnerving Stat: Only seven players get double-digit minutes

    Portland is turning some heads out West with its budding dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

    The Trail Blazers are also raising some eyebrows with their thin rotation of players.

    Four players play at least 38 minutes per game, and another three play 18 or more. After that, it's all single-digit court time for the benchwarmers.

    New head coach Terry Stotts has a young lineup to work with, but can the rotation stay effective and fresh for 82 games? He's certainly pushing the envelope so far.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Love's Absence Damaging Playoff Hopes

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    Unnerving Stat: Andrei Kirilenko leads team in field goals, J.J. Barea leads in scoring

    Two games into the 2012-13 season, we're already wondering whether the Minnesota Timberwolves lack the firepower to stay competitive.

    With Kevin Love out until December with a broken hand and Ricky Rubio still rehabbing from ACL, the reserves must step up.

    If they continue their current offensive shortage, they might not win enough games in the stars' absence to put the team in position for a late run.

    Brandon Roy has yet to hit his stride, Derrick Williams has yet to live up to his draft billing, and no one is emerging as a premiere facilitator.

    That's not the way Rick Adelman drew it up for Northwest Division contention.

Denver Nuggets: No Road Warrior

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    Unnerving Stat: Defeated by Orlando 102-89

    The Denver Nuggets should be much better than the Phoenix Suns in 2012-13, but they too might suffer from a lack of superstardom on their roster.

    If any team can deal without a star, it could be Denver, but even George Karl might not be able to make a deep run in the spring with the current roster.

    Someone needed to step up offensively and defensively against the Magic on Friday, and no one did. Danilo Galinari inefficiently shot his way to 23 points, the team was outworked and it lost.

    The close loss to the Heat on Saturday also highlights the superstardom theme. Miami had Chris Bosh step up for them and drop 40, and it was enough to get them over the top.

    A Western Conference finals or NBA Finals appearance is the goal for this club, but it might not be attainable unless someone like Ty Lawson rises to superstardom.

Utah Jazz: Backcourt Defense

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    Unnerving Stat: Opponents shooting 47 percent from three-point range.

    Defensive shortcomings are rarely one person's fault, and as a unit, the Utah Jazz must commit to tightening things up.

    Opponents are lighting them up on the perimeter, shooting 23-of-49 (47 percent) on three-pointers. Something must change, or they will be outgunned by every efficient offense in the league.

    Veteran guards Randy Foye and Mo Williams don't have a track record of being great defenders, and the injured Earl Watson won't make a huge impact upon his return, so a collective effort is crucial. Rotations and communication are paramount.

     

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