2010-2011 NBA Predictions: 50 Biggest Questions Facing The League This Year
The 2010-2011 NBA season is less than two weeks away, and it's time to start trying to answer the most important questions surrounding what promises to be a fantastic season.
The hype has been building ever since July when LeBron James made history.
Even with a potential labor dispute looming, NBA teams started throwing money around left and right.
The Hawks gave All-Star Joe Johnson superstar money, and the Timberwolves spent a whopping $20 million on the infamous Darko Milicic.
Elsewhere, coaching retreads like Avery Johnson look to reverse the fortunes of their new franchises.
And of course, rumors continue to surround Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul.
Will Carmelo ride the jet stream all the way to New Jersey, or will he spend the entire season toiling in the Mile High City?
Here's a look at the 50 biggest questions entering the 2010-2011 NBA season.
No. 50: Can Doug Collins Make Things Sunny in Philly?
Doug Collins knows the game of basketball—that doesn't mean he knows how to turn the 76ers around, at least not right away.
With a gluttony of guards and not enough help up front, the Sixers have a roster that could use some reshaping.
Andre Iguodala's name has been mentioned in trade talks, but his enormous contract will be difficult to move.
Barring a miracle, it looks like Collins could have a two-year rebuilding project on his hands.
No. 49: Is Vinny Del Negro the Right Man To Make the Clippers Click?
Even in an NBA season cluttered with subplots, the Clippers finally have enough talent to deserve some preseason chatter.
The talent is in place but is the leadership?
Vinny Del Negro is the man Donald Sterling wanted to help right the ship. He will need to blend the young talents of Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin while finding ways to motivate the inconsistent Baron Davis.
Del Negro learned on the fly in Chicago, surrounding himself with veteran NBA assistant coaches to help him manage minutes and egos.
It remains to be seen if his second stint on the bench will be more successful than his first.
Unless Davis brings it every night, the Clippers could struggle to win 40 games this season.
No. 48: Will Eric Gordon Finally Become an NBA Star?
Gordon's strong play in the World Championships over the summer helped the basketball world see exactly what he could do.
Now, Gordon will be counted on to lead the Clippers towards respectability.
His versatile offensive game could be enough to earn him a spot on the All-Star team this year.
No. 47: Will Andrew Bogut Help the Bucks Surprise Again?
Andrew Bogut's gruesome injury last April overshadowed what was a fantastic season by the Bucks.
With exciting rookie Brandon Jennings and the underrated John Salmons leading the way, Milwaukee finished the season strong and gave the Hawks all they could handle in the first round.
Milwaukee added veterans Corey Maggette, Drew Gooden and Chris Douglas-Roberts to bolster depth.
If Bogut can play at an All-Star level and Scott Skiles can manage Maggette's ego, the Bucks should have no problem making the playoffs again.
No. 46: Is Avery Johnson a Great NBA Coach?
Avery Johnson's considerable success in Dallas was overshadowed by the epic failure in the NBA finals.
Now, he looks to turn early failures into late success as the Nets prepare to migrate to Brooklyn.
Johnson was fortunate enough to have some of the most talented teams in the NBA during his stint in Dallas, so it should be interesting to see what he can do with a collection of young role players in New Jersey.
His coaching skills would improve greatly if one Carmelo Anthony came aboard...
No. 45: How Many Games Will the Nets Win in 2010-2011?
After winning just 12 games last season, the Nets should be better this season.
But how much better?
As presently constructed, New Jersey has all the makings of a 30-win team, at best.
For that to happen, Avery Johnson will need Devin Harris to stay interested and avoid injuries.
Acquiring Carmelo Anthony would change everything, instantly making the Nets a play-off contender.
No. 44: How Long Will the Nuggets Stay Togehter?
No team has more questions heading into the 2010-2011 NBA season than the Denver Nuggets.
The franchise is at a crossroads, desperately trying to move J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin along with Carmelo Anthony.
Meanwhile, George Karl is back on the bench and unsure of what he will have to work with going forward.
The Nuggets still look like a team heavy on offense and light on defense and toughness inside the paint.
Maybe it is in fact time to start making changes...
No. 43: Will Michael Jordan Run the Bobcats into the Ground?
Great NBA players don't necessarily make great personnel decisions when it comes to constructing a team.
Michael Jordan's Bobcats should be decent, but without Raymond Felton the team's playoff hopes rest on the shoulders of D.J. Augustin and Stephen Jackson being able to run the show.
It might be a better idea to try to begin reloading the roster now before it's too late.
If Jordan stays realistic about the chances of his team, the Bobcats could make a few moves and even become serious contenders to acquire Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul.
Ever the stubborn competitor, it's possible MJ has learned that a little basketball sense goes a long way.
No. 42: Will the Knicks Make the Playoffs?
New York finally has depth and a point guard capable of running Mike D'Antoni's system.
But in a crowded Eastern Conference, the Knicks still lack a center and will once again be one of the NBA's worst defensive teams.
If Amar'e Stoudemire plays out of his mind, New York should have no problem making the playoffs.
Expecting a deep postseason run from the Knicks would be foolish at this point.
No. 41: What Will Happen to Eddy Curry?
The Knicks need a center, but it's not likely Eddy Curry will be the player capable of filling the void in the middle.
Curry has been dealing with a hamstring injury in the preseason and has spent time working with former NBA badass Anthony Mason to get into basketball shape.
If the Knicks don't find a way to include Curry in a trade package, the team will likely release him sometime after the trade deadline in February.
No. 40: Will the Cavs Win 30 Games?
The city of Cleveland is still in mourning following "The Decision," and LeBron's former teammates can't be looking forward to what many expect to be a brutal season.
Despite the opportunity for more shots, Mo Williams and the Cavaliers could find themselves struggling to play with enthusiasm while playing in front of disinterested crowds.
Expect Byron Scott to finish with around 25 wins in his first season on the bench in Cleveland.
No. 39: Which Coach Will Get Canned?
The 2010-2011 NBA season will be different from most seasons, but some things won't change.
In all likelihood, at least one coach will get canned before the end of the year.
One of the best candidates appears to be Kurt Rambis, who is still trying to install the triangle offense in Minnesota.
Rambis is rumored to have clashed with rookie Jonny Flynn last season.
Everyone knows the quickest way for a coach to get fired is by clashing with star players.
With the losses likely to pile up, Rambis will be lucky to make it through the season.
No. 38: Will the Grizzlies Keep Getting Better?
Memphis surprised the NBA by aggressively moving to keep Rudy Gay under contract after adding more depth through the draft.
Now, with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol dominating the paint, the fate of the Grizz rests in the play of Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo.
Conley played with decent consistency last season, but the Grizzlies still aren't convinced he can be the point guard of the future.
Meanwhile, Mayo's scoring fluctuated as he struggled to get shots at times with Gay and Randolph doing the bulk of the work offensively.
If Mayo expands his game and does other things, Memphis should have no problem making the playoffs this season.
No. 37: How Much Does the Great Steve Nash Have Left?
Throughout all the changes in the Valley of the Sun, Steve Nash has stuck it out and never complained.
After letting Amar'e Stoudemire walk and parting ways with Steve Kerr, the Suns are looking to stay competitive while saving money.
With Goran Dragic improving, Nash's minutes are likely to be limited even more than usual this season.
His numbers are likely to drop off, but there is no question he can still play at a high level in the NBA.
A trade to a contender might be the perfect way for Steve Nash to finish his career.
No. 36: Will Josh Smith Stop Being an Idiot?
With his nemesis Mike Woodson out of the way, Josh Smith has said he is ready to do more for the Hawks.
Atlanta actually elected Smith as a co-captain for this season, placing added pressure on one of the NBA's most talented—and pouty—players to bring it every single night.
His maturity has yet to completely manifest itself, but last season he cut back on bad shots and stopped launching his ugly 3-pointers.
Smith has more talent and versatility than most NBA players, so the sky is the limit for his game.
This could be the year he takes the next big step.
No. 35: Will Tracy McGrady Finally Hang It Up?
For whatever reason, Tracy McGrady is still a trendy topic in the NBA.
That might be about to change.
T-Mac's role as a designated scorer for the Pistons is secure for the moment, but he has yet to prove he can make it through a season without breaking down.
No matter what he says, the early indications are that his quickness and explosion still haven't returned.
No. 34: Will Yao Ming's Body Hold Up?
Yao Ming is finally back and ready to make an impact for the Rockets.
Assuming his chronic foot problems don't return, he should be able to help Houston be competitive in the Western Conference.
The Rockets are planning to be smart with Yao, limiting him to around 24 minutes per game at the outset of the season to make sure he doesn't break down.
With his NBA career nearing a crossroads, Yao needs to stay on the court and show he still can be one of the best big men in the game.
As long as he takes it slow, don't be surprised if he plays in more than 75 games this season.
No. 33: Will Carlos Boozer Help the Bulls Get Over the Hump?
For years, even before Derrick Rose came aboard, the Bulls have been a big man away from being legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Chicago hasn't had a legitimate post scorer since Elton Brand a decade ago, and Jerry Reinsdorf probably still regrets not dealing for Pau Gasol three years ago.
At long last, help arrived in the form of the $80 million-dollar man: Carlos Boozer.
Assuming he avoids any additional injuries, Boozer should be able to thrive in Chicago.
Boozer is accustomed to playing with an athletic point guard. He also has the ability to make jump shots off the pick-and-roll, something the likes of Taj Gibson and Tyrus Thomas were never able to do consistently.
Chicago still needs more help and would love to get Carmelo Anthony out of Denver in exchange for Luol Deng.
Even if Boozer plays well, don't count on the Bulls getting over the hump quite yet in the crowded Eastern Conference.
No. 32: How Much Will Shaq Help the Celtics?
Shaq's quest to win another NBA Championship continues in Boston.
With Kendrick Perkins out until around February, the Big Leprechaun will be forced to play a big role for the Celtics.
Will his aging body hold up?
If Boston finds a way to keep him under the basket and out of Rajon Rondo's way, the experiment could be success.
If not, NBA teams will be able to go under pick-and-rolls involving Shaq and Rondo without worrying about being burned by a jump shot.
Shaq still has value in the NBA, but the Celtics should be hopeful the other new O'Neal—Jermaine—stays healthy to provide more help at center until Perkins returns.
No. 31: Does Dwight Howard Actually Have Post Moves Now?
As an NBA fan, there's nothing more frustrating than watching the ultra-athletic Dwight Howard try to develop a post game.
Apparently, it's not that easy.
That's why Howard sought assistance from one of the game's greatest offensive post players, Hakeem Olajuwon, over the summer.
Reportedly, the work has paid off.
Howard's post game should be at least a little bit better, but don't look for any "Superman Shakes" this season.
No. 30: Can Andrew Bynum Get Healthy and Stay Healthy?
Andrew Bynum is still not close to returning, which means the Lakers could soon begin exploring trading options to shore up the middle.
Phil Jackson has gone on record as saying the Lakers might limit minutes when Bynum returns, something the young big man doesn't want any part of.
Could there be some drama in L.A. this season involving Bynum?
It's very possible the marriage could come to an end in the coming months.
No. 29: Will Greg Oden Ever Make an Impact for the Blazers?
Greg Oden hasn't done much besides rack up injuries and fouls since being selected No. 1 in 2007.
Now, it's time for him to show what he can do as he makes it make from his patella injury.
Oden will get plenty of chances to play this season as Portland ponders its next move.
If he stays on the court, he should still have the talent to flirt with averaging a double-double while giving the Blazers an inside presence.
It's a little too early to proclaim him as the next Sam Bowie just yet.
No. 28: Will Breaking the Bank for Joe Johnson Pay Off in the ATL?
Despite poor attendance numbers and the current cash-starved climate of the NBA, the Hawks decided to give Joe Johnson $120 million to stay put.
"The Other Decision" drew criticism from all over the NBA, especially after Johnson's horrid playoff performance.
Is he really with superstar money?
In the end, Atlanta's decision won't look good unless the franchise manages to make some major noise in the playoffs with J.J. leading the way.
The Hawks could find themselves handcuffed for years to come.
No. 27: Will LeBron James Enter The Dunk Contest?
LeBron James could use a boost in his approval rating. What better way to win back some fans than by entering the dunk contest?
Once the top attraction during All-Star Weekend, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest has become mundane and unexciting.
Without the top dunkers participating, there just isn't much reason to watch.
Don't be surprised if LeBron at least considers entering to help repair his image.
No. 26: How Good Will Blake Griffin Be As a Rookie?
After missing last season with a knee injury, the explosiveness that made Griffin the No. 1 overall pick appears to have returned.
His game is still raw, but Griffin's rebounding and athleticism should instantly make him a success at the NBA level.
Don't be surprised if he averages close to a double-double in his rookie campaign.
No. 25: Can John Wall Lead the Wizards to Glory?
After a lost season filled with turmoil thanks to the likes of Gilbert Arenas and Andray Blatche, things are looking up in D.C.
The great John Wall is the biggest reason why.
Wall's dynamic athleticism makes him a polarizing figure, even while he continues to improve what is a very poor jump shot.
His flare for the dramatic should create plenty of excitement for the Wizards this season.
No. 24: What Will Be The Biggest Non-Blockbuster Trade in the NBA?
Aside from Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, there are plenty of big names that could be moved this season.
Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas are among the best of the rest who could be dealt.
The Wizards would love to move Arenas and are likely to ask for less and less in exchange for his services as the regular season drags on.
No. 23: Who Will Be The Next NBA Superstar?
Derrick Rose is poised to take the next step towards greatness.
One of the few players who didn't exactly bow down for mighty LeBron James during his courtship over the summer, Rose made it known that the Bulls are his team by his actions.
It looks like the killer instinct many people thought he lacked coming out of Memphis is present after all.
Rose carried the Bulls down the stretch last season, taking over games and not hiding in key moments.
It looks like the NBA has its newest—and quietest—superstar.
No. 22: Will Erik Spoelstra Stay On The Bench In South Beach?
Even before LeBron James officially took his talents to South Beach, rumors surfaced that Pat Riley could be heading back to the bench.
In the blink of an eye, the youthful Spoelstra went from coaching an incomplete roster destined for failure to arguably the most polarizing team in NBA history.
Can he handle the pressure?
There are no longer any indications that Riley will return to the bench, meaning Spoelstra will likely get a season to show he can be the man.
But if Miami doesn't win an NBA title, don't expect him back next season.
No. 21: Can Dwyane Wade Stay Healthy?
Dwyane Wade hasn't had much help during his NBA career, at least not until now.
Could the wear and tear of recent seasons keep him from playing at the highest level this year?
Wade's attacking style makes him great but also exposes him to hits and the constant risk of injury.
Already dealing with a hamstring injury, don't be surprised if Wade misses a few games this season.
In the end, all that matters is his health in the postseason.
No. 20: Who Will Take The Last Shot For Miami?
A fascinating question without doubt, but one that won't be answered anytime soon.
Assuming he is healthy, Wade will get the ball in crunch time with the game on the line.
But few players have the ability to create better than LeBron, who has the ability to find the open man and see over the defense.
In the end, Wade is the better shooter and probably should be the one getting the ball and taking the final shot.
Can you feel the drama building?
No. 19: What Will Be The NBA's Best New Rivalry?
New York and Miami have had their share of tussles in the past, and the rivalry is likely to be renewed this season.
Especially if Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul head to the Big Apple.
The Knicks have the ability to score with anybody in the NBA, including the Heat.
As for who exactly guards LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, that minor detail still needs to be figured out.
The atmosphere should be absolutely electric when the Heat's world tour comes to the Garden.
No. 18: Will Kobe Be Kobe This Year?
Kobe's surgically repaired right knee appears to be looking better as the preseason trudges painfully onward.
If Kobe can sustain his production throughout what promises to be a grueling season in the competitive Western Conference, there is no reason the Lakers won't be in the driver's seat yet again.
The little get-together in Miami provided Kobe with even more motivation, something he really doesn't need.
Don't look for his career to begin a downward progression this season.
No. 17: Will LeBron James Average a Triple-Double?
LeBron James thinks he can average a triple-double, and he certainly has all the physical tools to do so.
Ultimately, accomplishing such a feat in today's NBA simply isn't going to happen.
James should be able to average around 20 points, eight or nine assists and seven rebounds for the Heat.
That's still pretty impressive.
Meanwhile, he could set his sights on another distinction: winning the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award.
No. 16: Will Amar'e Stoudemire Play Like a Champion?
Amar'e Stoudemire finally got his head on straight after the trading deadline last season and started posting ridiculous numbers.
He crashed the glass and at least tried to play defense.
Now, he represents the Knicks' alpha-dog and needs to shoulder a bigger burden than ever before.
If New York wants to make the playoffs, Stoudemire will need to play at an MVP level for the entire season.
25 and 10 should do the trick...
No. 15: Will Chris Paul Stay Happy In New Orleans?
Almost seven months after talks to sell the team began, penny-pinching owner George Shinn is still in possession of the New Orleans Hornets.
His biggest asset is saying all the right things, but there is no question Chris Paul would rather head elsewhere.
Knowing a trade is fairly unlikely, CP3 might not be willing to play the role of good soldier as the losses keep piling up in the Bayou.
Don't be surprised if Paul demands a trade behind the scenes...
No. 14: Who Will Win Rookie Of The Year?
John Wall is the early leader in the clubhouse, and he is likely to do just enough to hold off Blake Griffin and claim ROY honors.
Elsewhere, Evan Turner figures to have a nice season but might not be quite ready to make a big impact for Doug Collins.
Don't expect Derrick Favors to be much of a factor for the Nets, at least early in the year.
No. 13: Who Will Have The Worst Record In The NBA?
Depending on what happens as far as trades, the Hornets and Timberwolves are the early favorites to be among the NBA's worst.
Things aren't looking good in Detroit or Indiana either.
By virtue of playing in the Western Conference and not having Chris Paul, Minnesota could be destined for another season of futility.
When will Ricky Rubio ride in to save the day?
No. 12: Who Will Have The Best Record In The NBA?
The Miami Heat have all the makings of a team capable of challenging the Bulls' 72-win mark.
Sure, the Celtics and Lakers are slated for strong seasons. The Thunder should easily win more than 50 games.
While the Celtics and Lakers are focus more on having success in the postseason, the hot-shot Heat are ready to roll through the regular season and look great doing it.
Miami might not win 72, but there will certainly be plenty of blowout wins filled with highlights.
No. 11: Who Will Be The Most Disappointing Team In The NBA?
The Spurs have assembled some nice pieces around Tim Duncan up front, including rookie Tiago Splitter and the rugged DeJuan Blair.
At the same time, the Western Conference just keeps better and Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are getting older.
San Antonio won't be able to follow the usual strategy of pacing itself through the regular season and hoping to turn it on in the postseason
The Spurs might decide to begin rebuilding by shipping Parker out of town, ending what has been a glorious string of success under Gregg Popovich.
No. 10: Who Will Be The Most Surprising Team In The NBA?
For whatever reason, the Dallas Mavericks aren't getting much love heading into the season.
Mark Cuban assembled a deep roster with designs of matching up with the Lakers in the postseason.
Assuming Roddy Beaubois gets healthy and Jason Kidd stays healthy, Dallas has all the ingredients of a team capable of making a deep run in the postseason.
No. 9: Will The Hornets Be Sold?
Why is this question so important?
The answer is simple.
Unless the Hornets are sold, Chris Paul will have virtually no reason to stay in New Orleans. Neither will the franchise itself.
The money to re-sign him probably won't be there, and dwindling attendance could eventually force the franchise to relocate yet again.
Meanwhile, Paul would almost certainly head to New York or New Jersey.
Louisiana billionaire Gary Chouset has said he will pour his fortune into the franchise and has been hanging around since last season.
For the moment, talks between Chouset and George Shinn have hit a snag.
Keep an eye on this story as the season continues...
No. 8: Will Kevin Durant Dethrone The King to Win The MVP?
Kevin Durant is already the best scorer in the NBA and is ready to take the next step.
The 22 year-old will end LeBron's run and claim the MVP Award this season.
The Thunder have surrounded Durant with enough pieces that 55 wins seems likely. A deep run in the Western Conference Playoffs would further advance his blossoming legacy.
Expect Durant to capture another scoring title while expanding his all-around game, especially on the defensive end.
No. 7: Will Carmelo Anthony Be Traded?
Eventually, the Nuggets will be forced to face reality and lower the asking price for Anthony.
Denver has spent the last month trying to package other players with Anthony, while getting younger and saving money at the same time.
Making matters worse, the organization isn't just saying it wants to remain competitive after unloading Anthony, J.R. Smith and others.
The Nuggets are actually trying to stay competitive while unloading two of its best players and saving money.
It would take a complicated four-team trade for the Nuggets to be happy.
Don't count on that happening, and don't count on Denver coming out on top after finally dealing Carmelo.
No. 6: Who Will Be An Early Exit From The Postseason?
Without knowing the matchups, this question is difficult to answer.
The Eastern Conference is absolutely loaded at the top, while the Western Conference is still very deep.
There is one team that could be in trouble.
The Orlando Magic didn't really get much better in the offseason and still find themselves counting on Vince Carter to be a big-time perimeter scorer in crunch time.
Don't be surprised if the Magic bow out from the playoffs in the first round, with Carter serving as the scapegoat.
No. 5: Will The Heat Live Up to The Hype?
Like it or not, Pat Riley did a fantastic job putting together a complete team.
Although there are still questions surrounding how the chemistry of three superstars will filter down through the role players, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade should be able to check their egos at the door.
The Heat are likely to have the best record in the NBA and look good doing it.
That doesn't mean they will roll through the playoffs...
No. 4: Who Will Win The Eastern Conference Finals?
It's the matchup everybody wants to see.
The mighty Heat will meet the stubborn Celtics, who aren't likely to be intimidated by the mystique of two superstars trying to start a dynasty.
Boston can match the Heat's depth, but the Celtics will have a difficult time guarding both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Unless Rajon Rondo plays out of his mind, the Heat should be able to beat the Celtics in a thrilling six or seven game series.
No. 3: Who Will Make It to The Western Conference Finals?
The Lakers need Andrew Bynum, and assuming he gets healthy they are still clearly the favorites in the Western Conference.
Depending on the seedings, Dallas seems like a logical opponent in the Conference Finals.
A physical series would provide plenty of excitement, and likely end with the Lakers surviving in seven games.
The stage is set...
Who Will Win It All?
Kobe vs. LeBron...Kobe vs. Wade...Bosh vs. Gasol.
Does it get any better than that?
The most anticipated NBA Finals in recent memory will become a reality and feature plenty of intriguing subplots.
The Lakers will be better defensively, while the Heat should have a slight advantage when it comes to depth.
L.A. has the edge in experience and intangibles, but Miami has two superstars to the Lakers' one.
In the end, it could be that simple.
Miami takes the title in six games and the celebration begins, for real this time.
No. 1: Will There Be NBA Basketball In 2011-2012?
With the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NBA and the players union set to expire next June, the possibility that a work stoppage could become a reality looms over the upcoming season.
Both parties remain far apart in negotiations, and the union has disputed the league's figures of exactly how much money is being lost.
In what is shaping up to be another golden era of NBA basketball, David Stern and Billy Hunter need to play nice and work out a deal.
Keep those fingers crossed, NBA fans.