For many, the return of NBA action on Christmas Day is the best present they could have wished for. The lockout is a distant memory. Fans just want their basketball fix again.
As usual, the NBA regular season opens with no shortage of intriguing storylines. Every team has questions that need to be answered. How will Kobe's divorce and injury impact the Lakers? Can Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts fill the shoes of Lamar Odom? Is Mike Brown in over his head?
No, the Lakers are not the center of the NBA universe. Actually, maybe they are.
I'm just making a point. As good as the Lakers are, look at all the question marks. Everyone of those issues threatens the success of their team.
All 30 NBA squads have similar unknowns facing them. No team, with the exception of maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder, is without serious questions that need answering.
One such question is, "Who is our most important player?" Not the best player, but the most important. They might be a defensive role player or a scoring spark off the bench.
Maybe it is the best player. It's different for every team.
This player will have the biggest impact on his team's success, similar to a linchpin—or a keystone.
Without this player, the team would fall apart.
I've focused this article on the NBA's Eastern Conference. Here are my picks for the players that will have the biggest impact on their respective team.