Under-the-Radar NBA Storylines That Deserve More Hype

Mike Walsh@WalshWritesCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2013

Under-the-Radar NBA Storylines That Deserve More Hype

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    USA TODAY Sports

    At this point in the NBA offseason, my grandmother knows Dwight Howard is on the Houston Rockets and Paul Pierce is no longer the Boston Celtics' small forward.

    The bigger storylines in basketball have been covered ad nauseam by a stream of bloggers, analysts and journalists. The Brooklyn Nets are spending a fortune on players next year to be contenders. It may be the final year of the Miami Heat's Big Three, and it's an opportunity for a championship three-peat. 

    However, as there are every season, there will be smaller storylines surrounding minor tweaks and low-risk signings in 2013-14 that wind up paying dividends in the long haul.

    Those items deserve a bit more press than they are currently getting. Given the mammoth amount of roster turnover that just happened, it would make sense that some items get overlooked.

    Players like Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith and Kevin Garnett are all on new teams, which can distract from some other fun storylines.


Will Dirk Nowitzki Leave Dallas After the Season?

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    The last team not located in South Beach to win the NBA title was Dirk Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks in 2011.

    Immediately after that, there were a few developments that could have signaled a rift being created between Nowitzki and the only NBA franchise he's ever known.

    First, he was forced to wave goodbye to Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and J.J. Barea, all of whom played a role in that championship. The second development was the lockout, which pitted players against management. 

    Then came the following two seasons, which finished with a four-game sweep by the Oklahoma City Thunder and a lottery appearance, respectively. Besides Dirk, the only player remaining from that title run is Shawn Marion. Both Nowitzki and Marion are free agents after the season, so there is a real possibility that this is their last year in Dallas.

    The Mavericks hired a new general manager this summer in Gersson Rosas. Normally that would be an interesting dynamic in itself. However, Rosas is so young, he's the same age as Nowitzki and Marion.

    It is a difficult NBA to picture with Nowitzki in a different jersey. But, it is one that will feature Paul Pierce in Brooklyn Nets black and white. If the Mavericks miss the playoffs again, Rosas could start putting pressure on the franchise to move in a different direction.

What If Howard and Asik Clash?

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    Dwight Howard is with the Houston Rockets now, and that storyline has been beaten into the ground. 

    However, there are avenues by which the Howard discussion can be fresh and interesting. One of those is the future of Omer Asik if things don't work out.

    Last season, both players combined to put up 1,191 field-goal attempts from inside five feet. That made up 83.5 percent of their overall shot attempts. Five feet isn't a whole lot of space to share for two guys who total nearly 14 feet and 520 pounds.

    Immediately after Howard's free-agent announcement, there were reports that Asik was unhappy with the move and didn't see how the two would work together. Since then, the rumors have quieted down, with the aid of general manager Daryl Morey, but those kind of immediate, gut reactions are always the most honest signs. 

    These are two of the league's best rebounders—No. 1 (Howard) and 3 (Asik) last season. If Asik's minutes get cut or he feels disrespected, he could could make things difficult on Houston. 

    If a 7-foot, automatic double-double becomes available, there will be plenty of suitors, and Houston may actually wind up willing to deal him. If they could clear some of his $8.37 million off the books, Chandler Parsons' upcoming payday will be easier to fit.

Just How Bad Can the Jazz and 76ers Be?

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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    There is always more attention paid to tanking accusations when the upcoming draft is highly regarded. 

    That is and will continue to be the case throughout next season. Right now the top two candidates have to be the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz. Not much attention will be given to either team, but it should be interesting to see just how bad they can get.

    The Jazz no longer have four of their top five scorers from a 2012-13 team that missed the playoffs. They made a move to acquire two massive pieces of dead-weight salary from the Golden State Warriors, bringing in Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson for a cool $20.05 million.

    Philadelphia saw Andre Iguodala go before last season and then traded away 23-year-old All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for a draft pick with an ACL injury. Doug Collins resigned as head coach in April and the team waited until mid-August to sign his replacement.

    With the top spot in next summer's lottery up for grabs, things could get impressive as teams attempt to out-bad each other down the stretch. The 76ers and Jazz have already gotten a head start.

Jason Kidd's Handling of a Crowded Roster

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    Five months ago, Jason Kidd was competing in a playoff series against Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. Now, he is responsible for deciding their and the entire Brooklyn Nets roster's playing time and offensive and defensive structure.

    This is unprecedented in the modern NBA. Kidd has been handed the keys to a $102 million car, and he won't be on the court to be sure it drives properly. Instead, he has to trust one of the league's more hard-headed point guards in Deron Williams.

    If Jerry Sloan, Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo struggled to get the best out of him, how will a first-time coach fare?

    Brooklyn has six players deserving of minutes during crunch time. Two of them, Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko, play the same position. Kidd has to juggle that as well.

    The Nets roster is stocked with talent and is getting solid press because of it. However, the real story, in the end, may be whether Kidd can coach this team from playoff contender to legitimate championship threat.


What Happens to Aldridge If Portland Misses Postseason?

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    LaMarcus Aldridge has been an NBA star for some time now. He is a two-time All-Star and has averaged north of 20 points per game for three consecutive seasons.

    However, he has been to the playoffs just three times and not since 2011. All three of those times, he failed to get his Portland Trail Blazers out of the first round.

    Portland has now surrounded him with three recent top-10 picks in Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Thomas Robinson. Along with that talent comes solid role players in Mo Williams, Robin Lopez and Nicolas Batum. The Trail Blazers have built a team that should win and be a factor in the playoffs. 

    So, if Aldridge can't get them there, while making $30.88 million over the next two seasons, do they look to part ways, possibly picking up a 2014 first-round pick to help build around that younger core?

    Aldridge is one of the best players in the league at a position that isn't overrun with NBA talent. But players of his caliber move for better situations all the time. Aldridge could be next in line if Portland misses the playoffs in a tough Western Conference.

Mystery of Andrew Bynum and Ceiling-Floor Range of Cleveland

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

    Andrew Bynum is entering dangerous territory in his NBA career. It has been more than 16 months since his last game and word out of Cleveland Cavaliers camp isn't exactly great.

    The curious case of Bynum brings up an interesting storyline with Cleveland's ceiling or floor. Thanks in part to injuries, but more so just a general lack of talent, the Cavaliers haven't won more than 24 games in three years.

    With a healthy Bynum joining Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao and a host of high draft picks, the Cavaliers could very well bust out this year and finish with a decent playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. However, given the health concerns of Bynum, Irving and Varejao, they could just as easily finish in the conference cellar again.

    The distance between their ceiling and floor is probably the largest in basketball next year. Between that and Bynum's general presence, Cleveland is more interesting than it has been since The Decision.

The Lopping off of Denver's Head

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    The Denver Nuggets finished No. 3 in a very difficult Western Conference last season. 

    Unfortunately, a first-round upset in the playoffs left management and fans with a sour taste in their mouths. 

    Less than a month after winning the NBA's Coach of the Year award, George Karl was fired by Denver. Similarly, Masai Ujiri took home Executive of the Year honors before leaving the Nuggets for the Toronto Raptors' general manager job.

    Then, the team dealt its best defensive player, Andre Iguodala, in a sign-and-trade to the Golden State Warriors for Randy Foye. 

    That is a lot of high-level turnover for a team that won 57 games last year. What happens next for Denver is up in the air. A lot of their roster is still intact, but the leadership overhaul will have to have some effect on next season and beyond. 

    With so much talent in the Western Conference, these Nuggets storylines are getting swept under the rug a bit.