The Biggest Question Each NBA Team Must Answer in Training Camp

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2013

The Biggest Question Each NBA Team Must Answer in Training Camp

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    Training camp. 

    Doesn't the phrase just automatically make question marks start dancing through your head? Doesn't it fill you with both uncertainty and excitement as we truly start gearing up for the next NBA season? 

    Training camp is a time for teams to evaluate the talent on their roster, figuring out the upside of certain players, the looks of the rotations and the systems that new coaches might think about employing. 

    Each team certainly has an abundance of questions that it must answer before the 2013-14 season tips off, but one inquiry still stands out above all the rest for each of the Association's 30 squads. 

    Some answers won't be found for quite a while, but the solutions will be sought after as soon as training camp gets underway. 

    No team is safe from questions.

Atlanta Hawks: Can Jeff Teague Take on a Bigger Role?

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    Jeff Teague has been able to hide in the background throughout his career with the Atlanta Hawks. While he'll occasionally come through with a big game, the Wake Forest product has yet to truly assert himself as an on-court leader. 

    Early in his career, Joe Johnson was unquestionably "the man" for Atlanta, and Josh Smith also played a prominent role. After that, Smoove and Al Horford ran the team. 

    Well, both Smith and Johnson have departed. And with the shot-blocking, shot-jacking power forward now doing his thing for the Detroit Pistons, the Hawks must find a way to replace his production and place in the offensive system. 

    Paul Millsap is one option, but so too is Teague, who finally has a chance to step up in a big way and prove that he's more than just a complementary point guard. If anything, he'll need to in order to hold off the inevitable challenge he receives from Dennis Schroeder. 

    Teague's per-36-minute numbers have steadily climbed throughout his days in the NBA, but now it's time for him to maintain those rates while filling in a larger role for his team. 

Boston Celtics: Who's the 3rd Scoring Option?

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    The Boston Celtics must find a way to put up points after losing Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets. 

    During the 2012-13 campaign, five players averaged double figures for the C's: the aforementioned trio, Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green. Obviously only two of the five remain. 

    So, who did Boston bring in to replace the lost points per game? Phil Pressey, MarShon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Donte Greene, Keith Bogans, Kris Humphries, Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani. Three of them didn't play in the NBA last year, and not a single player on the list averaged more than 10 points per game for an Association squad in 2012-13.

    Unless Boston is planning on having one of the most balanced scoring rosters in the history of this league, a third scorer must emerge.

    My money is on Brooks, a promising young player out of Providence who drew Kobe Bryant comparisons before getting locked into a bench role for the Nets.

    The Celtics have to figure out who the tertiary option will be during training camp, because too much experimenting throughout the regular season isn't exactly conducive to success. 

Brooklyn Nets: How Fresh Will the Starters Be?

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    Training camp definitely isn't going to tell the Brooklyn Nets how well their aging roster will stay in shape, but the group of starters with an average age of 31.6 years will have to see rotations implemented at some point. 

    Jason Kidd's first season as the head coach is going to be fraught with difficulties. The new signal-caller has to manage the minutes of a number of aging players (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and even Deron Williams, to some extent), all while figuring out how much he should play the talented bench standouts. 

    That process can't be allowed to develop organically. The phrase "the early bird catches the worm" seems to come into play here, even if the Nets aren't one of the many sports franchises with an avian nickname. 

    Right from the get-go, Kidd has to do everything possible to figure out who plays when and how much. There are just a lot of "W word" questions to deal with. 

Charlotte Bobcats: Did Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Develop a Jumper?

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    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has to start spreading the court if he's going to become a successful NBA player who does more than just function as a defensive stopper. 

    As a rookie out of Kentucky, the talented small forward averaged 9.0 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting from the field, but the numbers weren't so pretty when you break them down further. According to Basketball-Reference, he shot 14.3 percent from 10 to 16 feet, 30.9 percent from 16 to 23 feet and 22.2 percent from three-point range. 


    As Synergy Sports (subscription required) shows, MKG was one of the absolute worst spot-up shooters in professional basketball. He averaged 0.64 points per possession, the No. 351 mark in the league. 

    Figuring out how much he's turned around this aspect of his game is of paramount performance. The early indications from summer league weren't too promising, but more time has elapsed since that experience, and Kidd-Gilchrist is still only 19 years old. 

    He has plenty of time to start living up to his potential, and it's up to the Bobcats to understand just how quickly he can make good on his lofty draft spot. 

Chicago Bulls: What Can Derrick Rose Give Them?

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    Everything revolves around Derrick Rose in the Windy City. 

    The Chicago Bulls have plenty to figure out during training camp*, but it's still all about the point guard. If he's ready to play on opening night against the Miami Heat, Rose should be practicing with the team and starting to show off what he can do. 

    Tom Thibodeau and the rest of the coaching staff want to figure out how his jumper looks, especially since it typically improves for young players coming off ACL tears. They need to see whether or not he's regained his explosiveness and jaw-dropping athleticism. They have to determine whether he can still break a defender's ankles with his crossover. 

    Chicago will go as far as Rose can take it, and it all starts with training camp. For a player who's missed an entire season, it's especially important for him to get off to a good start. 


    *Who will be the backup wings? Was Marquis Teague's breakout real? How ready is Tony Snell? What should the rotation look like at power forward? 

Cleveland Cavaliers: How in the World Does the Frontcourt Rotation Look?

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers have one of those good problems. 

    They just have too many quality players in the frontcourt, and they must figure out how and when they use each of them. 

    At power forward, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Earl Clark are all quality players. At center, the same can be said about Andrew Bynum, Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller. But when was the last time that a team used six big men in the rotation on a consistent basis, evenly splitting time between them? 

    Training camp is the first time these guys will have an opportunity to earn their spots. Thompson and either Bynum or Varejao should have the advantages going in, but they're by no means guaranteed to have the starting jobs. 

    There will be multiple battles in Cleveland, and they'll last for a long time. But again, this is a good problem, and it's yet another reason that the Cavs seem likely to earn their first playoff berth since LeBron James left for the Miami Heat.  

Dallas Mavericks: Does Defense Win Championships?

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    The Dallas Mavericks better hope that the answer to the question posed in the headline is a rather definitive "no," as they aren't set up to be a particularly successful defensive team. 

    Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis will form one of the most porous backcourts in the NBA, and that's not a promising start to the new season in Dallas, one that's important because it's essentially a recruiting pitch for Dirk Nowitzki

    According to Basketball-Reference, the Toronto Raptors allowed 2.3 more points per 100 possessions when Calderon played, and the Detroit Pistons allowed an additional 4.9. As for Monta Ellis, his Milwaukee Bucks gave up an extra two points per 100 possessions when he wasn't sitting on the bench.

    That's not a recipe for success, especially when the defensive stopper on the roster, Shawn Marion, is aging and can't provide the same level of impact that he could in his prime. The Mavericks may score a lot of points—especially if Nowitzki doesn't decline at all—but they're going to hemorrhage buckets out of the backcourt as well.



Denver Nuggets: What Do Brian Shaw's Systems Look Like?

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    Brian Shaw is in a tricky spot with the Denver Nuggets. 

    While he's dealt a hand that features a ton of talent—both established players (Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Nate Robinson) and those yet to actually realize most of their potential (Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee and Evan Fournier)—he still has to figure out the best way to maximize it. 

    Last season, Denver notoriously struggled to make perimeter shots, and Shaw must figure out a way to get his team some easier looks. 

    Basketball-Reference reveals that the Nuggets made the 20th-most shots from behind the three-point arc, and they were even worse when you look at the percent of downtown attempts they knocked down. Only the Charlotte Bobcats, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves shot a lower percentage. 

    Shaw's first priority has to be establishing an offensive method that frees his perimeter shooters for open looks from the corners. It's the only way that Denver can start living up to its potential. 

Detroit Pistons: Does Floor Spacing Matter?

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    In order for the Detroit Pistons to achieve as much success as they're looking for during the 2013-14 campaign—and early indications make it seem like a playoff spot is the ultimate goal—they will have to figure out the whole floor-spacing thing. 

    There are two options here.

    First, the Pistons could attempt to find consistent jump-shooters. But that seems rather unlikely, unless Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has an abundantly large role during his rookie season. Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith are just too inconsistent for this to be realistic. 

    The second choice is to see if they can create a system that doesn't rely on spacing at all. Instead, they can use training camp to teach their players how to pass the ball into tight windows while in traffic, relying on lots of action right around the basket. 

    There's enough athleticism and skill on the roster that it could definitely work, although things would be greatly aided by smart shooting on the part of the two aforementioned shot-jackers. 

Golden State Warriors: Who Gets to Start?

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    Andre Iguodala may be the one sitting down in this picture, but it's Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes who will be taking a seat on the bench at the start of games during the 2013-14 season. 

    The acquisition of the fantastically versatile swingman does a lot for the Golden State Warriors, but it also means that one of the young studs has to serve as the sixth man. Training camp will be a good indication of who gets to take on that less-glamorous role. 

    Golden State might be hesitant to break up the Splash Brothers, as the Stephen Curry-Thompson pairing was quite dangerous thanks to their amazing ability to hit three-pointers more than any other tandem in the NBA. However, moving Barnes to the bench limits his growth, and he looked like the team's next star throughout the surprising postseason run. 

    It's a good problem to have, though, as Golden State is sure to have at least one stud coming off the pine to lead the second unit. 

    There's also a third option: play Iggy, Barnes and Thompson at the same time while David Lee comes off the bench to put an end to the small-ball tendencies of the starting lineup. 

    Mark Jackson is going to have a lot of fun messing with lineups throughout training camp. There are no bad choices. 

Houston Rockets: Do They Have to Play a Power Forward?

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    The Houston Rockets are completely set at point guard (Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley), shooting guard (James Harden), small forward (Chandler Parsons) and center (Dwight Howard and Omer Asik). But the power forward spot is still giving them a little bit of trouble. 

    Right now, the three-headed monster of Greg Smith, Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones is set to fill in at the 4, but none of those options are ultimately appealing. The trio is filled with inexperience, and the Rockets aren't in a position where they can afford to have young players learn on the job that often. 

    One workaround would be playing Asik and Howard together, and that will be a focus of training camp. 

    I don't think the two can function together, as they're redundant players whose paint-bound bodies would get in the way of the bearded shooting guard's assaults on the basket. But Kevin McHale could figure something out, and doing so would allow the Rockets to maximize the level of on-court talent. 

    If he can make the two work together, Houston will be a bona fide title contender. 

Indiana Pacers: What to Do with the Wings?

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    The Indiana Pacers are yet another team that has to make rotation decisions. This time, the positions in question are the wings. 

    During the 2012-13 season, Paul George broke out as a superstar. When you go head-to-head with LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals and hold your own to the point that you earn a respectful high-five from the MVP, you definitely qualify as such. 

    George is guaranteed a starting spot, but we don't yet know whether it will come at shooting guard or small forward. That depends on what the Pacers do with Lance Stephenson and Danny Granger. 

    The former played quite well as Indiana's lead 2-guard last year, using Brian Shaw's tutelage to emerge as a standout defender. Sure, he could get a little overly confident in his offensive game, but the plays that made you shake your head tended to be overshadowed by positives. 

    Granger, on the other hand, may as well have sat out the entire season with injuries. When he did play, he received few minutes and was completely ineffective. 

    But the small forward is healthy and raring to go now, and we're only a season removed from when he led the Pacers in scoring. He's absolutely a candidate to start once more, and he'll have to prove that during training camp. 

Los Angeles Clippers: Who Can Play Defense in the Frontcourt?

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    Someone in the Los Angeles Clippers frontcourt must emerge as a quality defender. Otherwise, the team that I'm picking to emerge as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference will have a fatal flaw coming back to bite it in the playoffs once again.  

    The candidates are Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Antawn Jamison, Ryan Hollins and Byron Mullens. 

    We may as well eliminate Mullens (incapable of playing good defense), Hollins (bad instincts) and Jamison (hasn't shown defensive effort for years) right off the bat, which means one of the two starting big men will have to be the one who steps up. 

    Right now, Griffin is the best frontcourt defender, scary as that statement may be. He's improved throughout his career, and while his T-Rex arms prevent him from becoming too much of a rim protector, he's made nice strides in terms of positioning. 

    Jordan is the more intriguing option, simply because he possesses boatloads of athleticism. However, the Clippers allowed 6.4 more points per 100 possessions last year when he was on the court, according to Basketball-Reference.

    That has to change, and it all comes down to the center making better decisions and understanding that he doesn't have to swat away everything in his general vicinity. 

Los Angeles Lakers: What Does Steve Nash Have Left in the Tank?

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    There are plenty of intriguing questions surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers, including, but by no means limited, to Kobe Bryant's status following his Achilles injury. However, the most important question—since we know that Kobe is eventually going to play and may even be ready for the start of the year—deals with how much Steve Nash has left in the tank. 

    Nash almost seemed like a non-factor during his first season in purple and gold. He failed to leave an indelible impression, and he was often relegated to an off-ball role as a spot-up shooter. That can't happen in 2013-14. 

    Instead, Nash has to create more looks for his teammates than ever before. This Lakers squad is inherently limited by a lack of scoring talent, so the Canadian floor general has to do what he's always done: make players look better than they actually are. 

    If he can turn his teammates into offensive studs by creating open looks for them throughout each and every game, L.A. will surprise quite a few people this year. 

Memphis Grizzlies: Who Can Hit 3-Pointers?

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    The Memphis Grizzlies made only 382 three-pointers last year. 

    To put that in perspective, the Chicago Bulls finished 29th with 446. That gap of 64 triples is almost as large as the separation between the Bulls and the Detroit Pistons, who finished No. 22 in the three-point leaderboard. In other words, it's a big difference. 

    Someone on this squad must emerge as a solid three-point shooter, and the options are rather limited. In fact, the bulk of the production from behind the arc should come from one of three players. 

    Mike Conley could take on a much larger offensive role, although he hit only 1.3 three-pointers per game while shooting 36.2 percent from downtown in 2012-13. Mike Miller, who was acquired after the Miami Heat amnestied him during the offseason, could be the sharpshooter, but only if he stays healthy. 

    My favorite option is Jamaal Franklin. The rookie out of San Diego State has already become quite the sleeper after he slipped in the draft and then missed summer league with some minor nagging injuries. If he can emerge as a legitimate rotation wing player during training camp, the Grizz will become a much more dangerous team. 

Miami Heat: Was Greg Oden Worth It?

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    Let's turn to the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman here: 

    For the most part, expect it to be mostly a no-go when it comes to information on the progress of Oden. The Heat seemingly are going out of their way to minimize expectations, yet to formally introduce a player they signed over a month ago. While there have been many sightings of Oden working out at AmericanAirlines Arena, this will not be a situation with daily or even regular updates.

    To a degree, this will be like the Heat's efforts with Eddy Curry two seasons ago: When he is ready to be put on display, if he is ready, he will be put on display. Otherwise, Greg likely will remain as much a mystery under contract as he was during his three seasons away from the game.

    The Heat were not necessarily pleased about the media conference Oden held in Indianapolis a month ago declaring he was finished rehabbing and cleared to play. Now that he is under the umbrella of the Heat's cone of secrecy, expect few such proclamations going forward. But, yes, we're asking and will continue to ask.

    The Heat simply don't have too many questions to answer, unless you want to talk about Dwyane Wade's knees ad nauseum. Instead, the focus should rest with Greg Oden, who will get a chance to show what he can do during training camp. 

    As Winderman reports, Oden has claimed that he's cleared to play, and that means he'll be suiting up before the season starts. Erik Spoelstra has to figure out the type of role he'll have on the defending champions, but don't expect too many updates along the way. 

Milwaukee Bucks: Is John Henson Ready to Start?

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    The Milwaukee Bucks must eventually find a way to get John Henson onto the court in a more prominent role, and they'll be looking to see how quickly that can happen during training camp. 

    Henson impressed during his first season out of North Carolina, but he's still blocked from the starting lineup by Ersan Ilyasova. Right now, it would be tough to justify starting the big man over his Turkish counterpart, but Henson could force the Bucks' hand. 

    We could see Ilyasova moved in a trade, or we could watch as he became the sixth man. But it all depends on how quickly Henson develops. 

    He was a dominant rebounding and defensive force throughout the last portion of his rookie season, and he's shown signs of a versatile, stretch-4 game. A consistent jumper and more of an ability to bang around on the blocks would go a long way as Milwaukee starts trying to figure out which pieces are part of the long-term plan, assuming there is one. 

Minnesota Timberwolves: Who Will Emerge as the Backup Center?

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    Most of the Minnesota Timberwolves' depth chart is fairly established, but the backup center spot is still up for grabs. 

    Nikola Pekovic is certainly the starter, but there are plenty of candidates to come off the bench first whenever he needs a rest. 

    Rotoworld lists them in the following order: 

    1. Gorgui Dieng
    2. Ronny Turiaf
    3. Chris Johnson
    4. Bojan Dubljevic

    It's highly unlikely that Dubljevic actually plays in the NBA this season, as he was viewed as a draft-and-stash prospect leading up to the 2013 NBA draft. But the rest of the spots could be shaken up at any minute. 

    Dieng was the first-round pick this year, and his defensive abilities are outstanding enough that he could very well earn the backup role. But he's extremely inexperienced, and there are quite a few weaknesses that should prevent him from holding the job over Ronny Turiaf. 

    The former Louisville standout is ultra-aggressive around the rim, and he has to focus more on his rotations. He's also an offensive liability at the moment, and that has to change early on if he's going to play major minutes in the rotation. 

New Orleans Pelicans: Can the Guard Trio Work?

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    The New Orleans Pelicans underwent a lot of changes during the offseason. 

    Not only did they change their nickname from the Hornets to the Pelicans, but they also added two All-Star-caliber players to the guard rotation: Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. They kept Eric Gordon as well.  

    So, can all three of them work together? Let's take a look at the trio's PERs for and against at each position during the 2012-13 season, courtesy of (note that players must have used at least one percent of a team's minutes at a position in order to qualify): 

    PlayerPoint guard

    Shooting guard

    Small forward

    Jrue Holiday16.716.1N/AN/AN/AN/A
    Eric GordonN/AN/A15.
    Tyreke EvansN/AN/A18.816.916.615.0

    It's pretty clear that Holiday has to play at point guard and Gordon needs to line up at shooting guard. He played some at the 3, but that was't a very successful experiment. 

    That means that it's all up to Evans. For the Pelicans, a primary goal of training camp must be figuring out whether their newly acquired stud can capably (and happily) play small forward. 

New York Knicks: Who Steps Up as the No. 3 Scorer?

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    The New York Knicks have two established scorers: Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. But even Smith has some question marks surrounding him between the knee injury and the five-game suspension that will keep him out at the beginning of the season. 

    Beyond that, the offense is filled with uncertainty. 

    Who's going to function as the No. 3 scorer for the Eastern Conference fringe elites? 

    Someone has to emerge, or else 'Melo will inevitably have to shoulder too much of a burden. And that's not a good thing, because it leads to inefficient play and an early postseason exit. 

    Will it be Iman Shumpert, who is almost universally expected to take a massive leap forward during the 2013-14 season? What about Amar'e Stoudemire, who was productive in limited action last year? Or is it going to be Andrea Bargnani, the new power forward acquired at the expense of Steve Novak and a few more assets? 

    The "who" isn't really important. What matters is that the Knicks find a solution. 

Oklahoma City Thunder: Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb?

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    Either Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb must become the sixth man for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the winner of the job will be counted on to provide about 14 points per game. After all, that's the production that the team lost when Kevin Martin bolted for the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

    Both young guards are filled with scoring potential, but neither is even remotely established. Below you can see their per-game performances last year and during summer league: 

    Jackson/Regular season5.
    Jackson/Summer league19.
    Lamb/Regular season3.
    Lamb/Summer league18.

    While small sample size and summer league warnings have to come into effect here, it appears as though Jackson has the early lead. But he's by no means safe in the race for sixth man. 

    Lamb will be gunning for him throughout training camp, and it's one of the top battles to keep your eye on before the season starts. 

Orlando Magic: Can Victor Oladipo Really Play Point Guard?

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    The Orlando Magic are trying to figure out whether Victor Oladipo is a point guard, a shooting guard or just a guard. 

    Personally, I view him as a primary 2-guard who shouldn't be used to run the show, but I'll leave this one to general manager Rob Hennigan and the rest of his crew. They experimented with playing the Indiana product at the 1 during summer league, and the results were rather stellar. 

    Oladipo averaged 19.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game on 37.5 percent shooting over the course of four contests, but he did so against admittedly weak competition. 

    Training camp will be the next opportunity for him to show off his skills and prove that he can play either position. If he can successfully do so, the Magic have a lot more flexibility, as they can run out Oladipo and Arron Afflalo together with Jameer Nelson moving into a sixth man role. 

    Everyone will have their sights on Oladipo during training camp, and not just because he's an athletic specimen ready to produce highlights in the blink of an eye. 

Philadelphia 76ers: Who's Even Worth Keeping?

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    I really can't say it any better than Bleacher Report's Dan Favale

    There are 28 other teams [not including the Miami Heat] seeking that same championship. I say "28" only because rumor has it the Philadelphia 76ers are actively trying not to win a title. Chances are the Heat don't beat out every single one of them. 

    This season is not about winning. In fact, winning is a bad result, and there should be more celebration for every loss than for even a single victory. If the Sixers can somehow go 0-82 without being penalized for obvious tanking, that would be the perfect result. 

    Right now, it seems as though there are two goals: landing Andrew Wiggins and evaluating the current talent. 

    The second goal begins when training camp starts. Coaches will have their eyes on all the young players, trying to figure out who joins Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel as a prominent part of the future plans. 

    That's really all that matters. 

Phoenix Suns: Will Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic Work Together?

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    Plenty of teams have experimented with two-point guard sets, but this one is a bit different. 

    Neither Goran Dragic nor Eric Bledsoe is a complete player, which makes it tougher for them to coexist with one another. And at first glance, their skills might not be all that complementary. 

    Dragic isn't big or athletic enough to play shooting guard, and Bledsoe doesn't have the consistent outside shooting to provide the offense that normally goes hand in hand with that spot in the lineup. 

    However, it's workable. 

    Bledose is a fantastic defender, and while he struggled against opposing 2s last year, he has enough tools and potential left that he could easily learn how to shift his style of play. His athleticism will compensate for any lack of size. And as for his scoring, he'll make up for the inconsistency downtown by honing his off-ball cuts and explosions to the basket. 

    The Phoenix Suns have to learn whether this duo can coexist in their long-term plans. Training camp will see them start to figure it out on the court instead of just on paper. 

Portland Trail Blazers: What Is C.J. McCollum's Role?

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    The Portland Trail Blazers know that C.J. McCollum is going to have a prominent role during the 2013-14 season, as he's a high-quality scoring talent even as a rookie. However, they don't know where he'll play quite yet. 

    McCollum could become the primary backup for Damian Lillard, allowing last year's Rookie of the Year to play less minutes instead of being close to leading the league. It would be a nice fit for him, as his offensive game is pretty similar, so his teammates' playing styles wouldn't have to change all that much. 

    The Lehigh product could also be a shooting guard, ether coming in for Wesley Matthews whenever the "three and D" wing needs a rest or eventually starting over him. 

    No matter what position he plays, McCollum should essentially be a sixth man. He can play as a full-time combo guard and keep settling into a more firm position as his career progresses. 

Sacramento Kings: Everything?

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    There's only one certainty for the Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins will be starting at center. 

    Literally everything is up for grabs. 

    Either Greivis Vasquez or Isaiah Thomas could start at point guard. They bring very different skills to the table, and it's possible that they could jump in and out of the starting lineup throughout the year. 

    Can Ben McLemore win the starting shooting guard job by beating out Marcus Thornton during training camp? The Kansas product is clearly more talented, but he's raw and struggled during summer league. 

    The small forward battle isn't as glamorous, but both Luc Mbah a Moute (all about defense) and John Salmons (not all about defense) could start. A similar situation unfolds at power forward, where Carl Landry, Patrick Patterson and Jason Thompson will all be fighting for their spots on the depth chart. 

    It's going to be a fun training camp in Sac-Town. 

San Antonio Spurs: How Quickly Will Marco Belinelli Catch On?

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    There really wasn't much change in San Antonio. 

    All the major pieces were brought back, and the only major addition was Marco Belinelli, who came over from the Chicago Bulls after a fairly successful season of growth under Tom Thibodeau. Now he gets to learn another intricate system, this time from Gregg Popovich. 

    Because he's the biggest new face in the lineup, it's only natural that the primary question revolves around him: How quickly can he adapt to Popovich's system? 

    Expect Belinelli to start looking for corner threes with high frequency, something that he really didn't do with the Bulls. Between that and learning the defensive system, the 2-guard is going to have to work hard in order to earn a prominent rotation spot. 

    Popovich just won't play him if he isn't ready. 

Toronto Raptors: Who Wins the Backup Point Guard Job?

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    The Toronto Raptors are another one of those teams that actually have most of their rotation spots figured out before training camp even begins (although they'll probably say the politically correct thing and claim that every spot is up for grabs). 

    As a result, the biggest competition comes at point guard, where D.J. Augustin and Dwight Buycks will be competing for the right to back up Kyle Lowry. It's an important job, given Lowry's lengthy injury history, one that hasn't faded away as his career has progressed.

    Augustin, while he struggled with the Indiana Pacers, is unquestionably the more established NBA talent. But Buycks offers more intrigue and upside, especially since he only earned a roster invite thanks to his breakout performance at both Orlando and Las Vegas Summer League.

    Now it's time to see if that breakout was for real.  


Utah Jazz: How Ready Are the Young Guns?

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    The Utah Jazz's season is all about evaluating young talent. Even if they exceed the expectations (which I suspect will happen) and don't find themselves right at the bottom of the Western Conference with the Phoenix Suns, winning still isn't the No. 1 goal. 

    Just as is the case with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Jazz's primary concern is figuring out which young guns are ready for bigger roles and which don't belong as part of the team's long-term plans. 

    But unlike the Sixers, Utah has a lot more options. 

    Trey Burke has the potential to become a franchise point guard, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward both have the ability to emerge as high-quality starters and Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter could eventually form one of the league's best frontcourt duos. 

    There's a lot to like, but there's also a lot to evaluate. That process will start in training camp. 

Washington Wizards: Is Nene Hilario Healthy?

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    Don't worry, Nene. We really don't know either. 

    But we'll have a much more solid idea after training camp comes and goes. 

    So far, CSNWashington's J. Michael has asked both Washington Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Randy Wittman about whether or not the Brazilian big man will face minute restrictions as he attempts to come back from a foot injury that limited him to 49 starts in 2012-13. 

    Of course, the responses were varied. 

    First, Grunfeld's: 

    That’s something that we’ll talk about. We did monitor his minutes early in the season this year and even later in the season.  He never played the high, high minutes. He never played over 40 minutes. It's something we'll talk about with our medical staff.

    Next, Wittman's: 

    He got in town Aug. 30. He's been on the floor. He feels good. He's had a whole summer where he didn't have to worry about the pounding and the stuff he did last summer having the injuries he did and having to play on the (Brazil) national team and never gave his body a chance to recover. He's feeling good. He looks good. I'm pretty pleased with that. I anticipate him being ready to go. When did we play our last game? Five months ago? He's done a lot of good work this summer, not only from a rest standpoint but from physical therapy. He's built his strength back up. I anticipate we'll head into the season with no restrictions.

    Well, we'll find out who's more correct during the season, but the evaluation process will focus rather heavily on training camp.