2011-12 NBA Season Preview: 10 Questions That Aren't Being Asked Enough
With the NBA season finally set to begin on Christmas Day, there are many questions that all the fans and analysts are pondering.
How will the Lakers do without Lamar Odom and with nearly all their core players in their 30s?
Where will Dwight Howard end up?
Can Derrick Rose actually win back-to-back MVP awards?
These questions have been discussed ad nauseum and will continue to be talked about throughout the season, so I thought it would be a good idea to present some of the other intriguing questions heading into the NBA season.
Here are 10 questions that not enough people are asking right now that I believe are worth examining going forward.
Will Any Team Take a Chance on Agent Zero?
Two weeks ago, Gilbert Arenas became the first player in the NBA to be released via the brand-new amnesty provision and now he's looking for a new team.
Arenas averaged eight points, along with just over three rebounds and two assists last season with the Magic. Under his previous contract, those statistics would be horrible.
However, if Arenas is willing to park his ego and except a minimal salary by NBA standards, someone surely will add him to their roster within the first few weeks of the season.
After all, Arenas will still be getting the money from his old contract, so he has no need to be greedy and want a ton of additional cash. At least that's what conventional thinking would tell you.
Unfortunately, Arenas is not the most conventional person.
Nevertheless, here are a list of possible suitors for Arenas, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.
Will the Toronto Raptors Get to Double Digits in Wins?
The Toronto Raptors are just a mess right now and are in complete rebuilding mode. The only problem is they won't even have their first-round lottery pick from the 2011 draft in their lineup this season.
Jonas Valanciunas, who was selected fifth overall by the Raptors, has signed an agreement to be bought out of his contract in Europe, but it won't kick it until the conclusion of this season.
Therefore, the Raptors really have nothing to look forward to.
It will be another year of Demar Derozan and Andrea Bargnani scoring—but not playing defense—and it will probably be the team's worst year record-wise. Honestly, the Raptors may have been the only NBA team wishing the lockout lasted all season.
At least other bottom feeders like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards have their young prospects in the lineup to sell hope to their fans. The Raptors don't even have that to look forward to this season.
My prediction for Toronto is a nine-win season, so the answer to the question in the title is no.
How Will Ricky Rubio Do in His Long-Awaited Rookie Season?
This is a very interesting question because there are a number of different perspectives on how Rubio will fare in his first season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
On one hand, we know that Rubio has the talent to play at the highest level of basketball and we know he's NBA-ready. He showed us this three years ago during the 2008 Summer Olympics.
However, Rubio's specialty isn't one-on-one play, and the NBA is a one-on-one league. He isn't great at driving to the basket and his jump shot could still use a little more work.
Instead, he's a playmaker.
He likes to pass first and, while this isn't a bad thing, at some point he's going to have to become more of a scoring threat in order to live up to the hype. For the record, Rubio averaged 4.8 points per game last season with F.C. Barcelona in the Spanish League.
The good news is Rubio looked great in his first preseason game. Hopefully for the Timberwolves, he will bring the winning culture from his days in Spain with him to the Twin Cities (Barcelona lost just 12 games over the last two seasons).
While he won't win the rookie-of-the-year award, I predict positive reviews for Ricky Rubio in 2011-12.
Which NBA Player Will One of the Kardashians Latch onto Next?
Let's take a little escape now and look at something that has very little to do with the game itself.
I probably have more of a disdain for reality TV than anyone on the planet, but even I realize that it's probably only a matter of time before one of the Kardashian sisters winds up with another NBA player.
Kim seems to only date professional athletes and now that her 72-day "marriage" to Kris Humphries is over, it's probably a safe bet that she'll snuggle up next to another NBA player, perhaps for no other reason than to make Humphries jealous.
Khloe married Lamar Odom after the two were together for only a month, so that marriage is far from safe. I wonder if she'll even bother moving to Dallas now that Odom has been traded to the Mavericks. Look for her to be potentially back on the market within the next year.
Kourteney actually has a kid and is reportedly expecting a second child in the coming months, so she's the least likely of the three to get involved with someone else. Then again, with the way these sisters seem to go through men, who knows.
Let's get back to basketball-related questions, shall we?
Which NBA Team Will Get "Jimmered" First?
Jimmer Fredette was one of the most-followed athletes during his final season at BYU.
Then he entered the NBA draft and almost everyone forgot about him. He's one of those players that was great in the NCAA, but isn't projected to be an outstanding professional athlete.
The Sacramento Kings are happy to have Jimmer on their team, though. Fredette put up 21 points and dished out four assists in his preseason debut last weekend, so the Kings are optimistic that he'll become more than just another J.J. Redick.
Jimmer will have to earn his playing time in a crowded Kings backcourt, but it's only a matter of time before he has one of those games where he shoots his opponents to death, figuratively speaking.
If I had to pick a game when Jimmer might go off early in the regular season, I'm going with the Kings' fourth game against the lackluster defense of the New York Knicks. This is a home game as well and it's also on New Year's Eve.
Who wants to ring in 2012 with a Jimmer Fredette three-point parade? I do!
How Will the Suddenly "Aging Veterans" Odom and Carter Fare in Dallas?
I laugh at the notion that Vince Carter and Lamar Odom are aging veterans, but apparently they are, at least according to this editorial that refers to Odom as such.
Considering the 32-year-old Odom is two years younger than Carter, I guess that makes V.C. a dinosaur by comparison (no Raptors pun intended).
So how will these two former stars that appear to be well past their prime perform on a team filled with fellow veterans that just won a championship?
Carter's stats are still decent, but they've been on the decline over the past four seasons. If he's healthy, which is far from a guarantee given his past, look for him to average anywhere from 12 to 15 points per game, while picking up around four rebounds and a couple of assists per game as well.
As for Odom, he might drop below the 10-points-per-game average for the first time in his career. With Dirk Nowitzki already cemented at the power forward position, it might be hard for Odom to get decent minutes, at least at the position where he's most comfortable.
Look for Mr. Kardashian to average between eight and 10 points per game, while also chipping in with seven or eight rebounds per game.
Will There Be an NBA Version of Shea Weber's Trick Shot?
For those NBA fans that don't pay any attention to hockey, you can watch the trick shot I'm referring to by Nashville Predators All-Star defenseman Shea Weber in the video I've posted with this slide.
The only difference is that Weber's shot was real, and while it's obviously not as difficult to put a puck in a hockey net from that distance, it's still impressive.
Which of the Three Hyped Rookie Point Guards Will Flourish the Most?
There will be no one in the 2011-12 crop of rookies as dominant as Blake Griffin was last season. However, there are three prominent rookie point guards that many fans will have their eyes on.
Kyrie Irving is the most hyped of the three and he was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brandon Knight was picked eighth overall by the Detroit Pistons and Kemba Walker was taken with the very next pick by the Charlotte Bobcats.
While Irving is the easy choice to have the best season of the three, I'm picking the older Walker to have the better rookie season.
After all, Irving played in just 11 games in his one-and-only season at Duke due to a toe injury that kept him out of action for more than three months, whereas Walker led his UConn Huskies team to a national title.
Of course, this doesn't mean everything, and Irving might have a bigger upside, but I'm going with Walker to put up better numbers on a Bobcats team looking for scorers and playmakers, at least in the 2011-12 season.
Will Steve Nash Finish the Season in Phoenix?
He's old school like that. However, Nash is also 37 years old and time is running out for him to win a championship.
We've seen situations like this before in sports. There have been plenty of athletes that initially say they want to stick with their team that end up giving in to the temptation to play for a contender, which the Phoenix Suns are not.
No one in Phoenix would think any less of Nash if he did this, and the Suns will want to get something in return for Nash before he potentially leaves as a free agent next summer.
This is why I'm predicting Nash will be dealt to a contender before the March 15th trade deadline.
Which contender? Well, that's a different question for a different time.
Can Richard Hamilton Put the Bulls over the Top?
This year their key acquisition was a player who has also flown under the radar over the last few seasons, Richard Hamilton.
The 33-year-old Hamilton began to lose the attention of most fans at around the same time the Detroit Pistons fell off the map as a playoff team. That doesn't mean he can't be a strong contributor on a Bulls team that desperately needs a starting shooting guard, though.
Hamilton is certainly an upgrade over the Bulls' 2010-11 shooting guard combination of Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer, and he should be able to improve on his 14-points-per-game average from last season with Derrick Rose at his side in Chicago.
He probably won't help win the Bulls a title this season, but he'll get them to the East finals once again. Perhaps in 2013 Rip can help bring home Chicago's first championship since M.J. stepped aside.
This is just one of the many questions that will be answered during the abbreviated 2011-12 season.