Every NBA Team's Biggest Question Mark

Luis Batlle@lbatll1Contributor IJuly 24, 2012

Every NBA Team's Biggest Question Mark

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    The 2012 NBA free-agency period is winding down as teams begin to shape their 2012-13 rosters.

    These next few weeks are integral for teams to figure out rotations that best suit each player's skill set. Yet the biggest question teams have to answer is whether or not there's a player or issue which needs to be focused on.

    Whether it's Monta Ellis with the Milwaukee Bucks or Jason Kidd with the New York Knicks, there are a plethora of league talents who are significant question marks heading into next season. Meanwhile, other teams may be double-taking a new-look roster or unsure of certain offseason moves.

    These are Ellis, Kidd and the biggest question marks for each team.

    Note: In the particular piece, "question marks" refer to either specific players or issues that apply to each team that are especially questionable.

Atlanta Hawks: Can They Get Past the Second Round?

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    The Atlanta Hawks have made the playoffs each of the last five seasons but have failed to make it through Round 2 each time.

    During the span, the Hawks have made it out of the first round on three occasions. However, this team has gone just 2-12 in the 14 second-round games they've played. This includes two back-to-back second-round sweeps in the 2009 and 2010 playoffs.

    Whether or not Josh Smith and company push through to the conference finals is as questionable as it gets. The talent is there, but time and time again, efforts have fallen short.

Boston Celtics: Jared Sullinger

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    The No. 21 selection in the NBA draft was easily the best player for the Boston Celtics this summer.

    But that doesn't let him off the hook.

    The question truly is whether or not he can sustain the production this upcoming season.

    Sullinger's scoring and rebounding abilities were never in question in Orlando or Vegas. To finish off the summer league action, Sullinger posted three double-digit-rebound performances in four games. Not to mention, he averaged 11.2 points per contest.

    Though he put up the big-time numbers, he was also atrocious from the field. He shot a mere 30.2 percent in the five games in Vegas.

    Given the Celtics' rebound and scoring problems last season, inconsistency from the field and on the glass for Sullinger would not bode well for the Celtics next season.

Brooklyn Nets: Was Passing Up on Dwight Howard the Right Move?

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    The Brooklyn Nets got top-notch talent this summer, and no player they acquired went by the name of Dwight Howard.

    The Nets were one of the top teams in the running for the star-studded talent, but they instead elected to sign Brook Lopez to a deal. This team now boasts Lopez, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Deron Williams.

    It seems like the practical move, but perhaps Howard was the difference between a good team and a great one. The roster would indicate the Nets are going to make a playoff push.

    The addition of Howard, however, could have made this team sure-fire championship contenders.

Charlotte Bobcats: Kemba Walker

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    You've gotta love when Kemba has the rock in his hands.

    His 15.8 points and 5.8 assists per game were impressive at this year's summer games in Vegas.

    The reality of these statistics is that they were paired with horrendous three-point shooting and a poor field-goal percentage. Walker hit 7.7 percent of his three-point shots and 35.2 percent of his tries from the floor.

    He continues to try to anchor this team's offense, but the truth is, maybe he needs to share the wealth. 

Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose

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    Not one analyst with an ounce of basketball I.Q. questions Derrick Rose's talent or ability to perform.

    There is no debating what Rose brings to the table as one of the elite point guards in this game. But the torn ACL he suffered in a first-round matchup against the 76ers is something the Bulls still must fear.

    It will be integral for Chicago to allow him the necessary time to fully recover. Even if it means missing the beginning of next season, Rose's health needs to be the organization's top priority. He is a league MVP, this team's best player and the anchor for its future.

    Can Rose get back into full form sooner than later? Based on the severity of the injury, there must undoubtedly be a fair share of speculation there.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Tyler Zeller

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    If Tyler Zeller plays to his potential, there's no telling just how good the Cavaliers can be.

    Zeller was a beast on the boards as a member of the North Carolina Tar Heels. He averaged a whopping 9.6 rebounds in just 28.2 minutes per contest. The best part is, he gets to combine that talent with that of his point guard.

    Kyrie Irving proved he will be the point guard of the future for the Cavaliers. His 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game earned him 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year honors last season.

    The combination of the two could be lethal for the Cavaliers next season. There is a reason Cleveland went out on a limb and traded for this talent on draft day.

    If this top-notch rebounding talent comes to play, the Cavaliers can expect a significant improvement from last season.

Dallas Mavericks: An Offseason of Losses

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    Losing Jason Terry and Jason Kidd was not exactly the game plan this team should have had in mind.

    This offseason was a tough one to swallow for the Mavericks, to say the least. The 2011 champions were swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder this past postseason but lost three games by single digits. In fact, the first two games in Oklahoma City were lost by a combined four points.

    The Mavs have to be shaking their heads after failing to bring back their two star guards. Suddenly, these championship contenders look like they will be lucky to get past the first round in the 2013 playoffs.

Denver Nuggets: JaVale McGee

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    Purely based on upside, center JaVale McGee landed what was a monster contract with the Nuggets this offseason.

    According to ESPN.com, the deal is reportedly for four years and $44 million.

    To his credit, the four-year talent averaged 11.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest last season. Yet with the Nuggets, he posted 10.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in just 20.6 minutes per contest.

    With the Wizards and at times with the Nuggets, however, it seemed as if McGee came to play when he felt like doing so.

    McGee will have to be more of a consistent contributor next season on both ends to maintain a starting role.

Detroit Pistons: Corey Maggette

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    It was just a couple of seasons ago that Corey Maggette was posting 19.8 points per game on 51.6 percent shooting from the floor.

    The 32-year-old talent is every bit capable of getting back to this level of the play and will have the chance to do so next season.

    The Detroit Pistons ranked No. 27 in scoring last season and have to be looking to Maggette to improve the team's offense.

Golden State Warriors: Mark Jackson

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    The spotlight only burns brighter on Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson.

    The former NBA analyst with ESPN is as knowledgeable as any mind in the game. There is no denying that this is a guy capable of turning a franchise around.

    Last season, however, was one to forget for him and his team. They finished just 23-43 and failed to meet the expectations of their head coach defensively.

    Next season, Jackson knows he must turn things around, or else his job may be in jeopardy.

Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lin

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    Goodbye New York; hello Houston.

    The "Linsanity" surrounding Jeremy Lin has now hit Houston by storm. The team's newly-acquired PG is set to take his talents to a Rockets team in need of stronger play at the position.

    Lin had himself a remarkable, Tim Tebow-esque run with the Knicks last season. It will be integral for Lin to continue to be a leader and contributor next season as well.

    This is going to be a season where all eyes are on this young PG, make no mistake about it. He will have to perform to prove to the world that last season was anything but a fluke.

Indiana Pacers: Was 2012 What We Should Come to Expect?

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    The Indiana Pacers had the NBA-champion Miami Heat down two games to one and down eight points at halftime in Game 4. 

    Still, it wasn't enough to hold off LeBron James and company.

    It will be interesting to observe this team in a different light next season. There are now grand expectations in place for this playoff contender. Last season, there was no pressure for this team to beat the Heat.

    This season, however, will be a different story. The expectations are there as well as the talent.

Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin

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    Blake Griffin suffered a medial meniscus tear and was forced to leave Team USA for its games in London.

    It may not prevent him from suiting up for training camp this summer, but it is certainly costly. Any injury has the potential to linger on into the next season. Griffin will surely need to rest up quickly.

    They are talented without Griffin, but the Clips are nowhere near championship contenders if he is unable to play next season. Griffin should not miss any part of next season, yet there always is the possibility the injury comes back to haunt him later on if he's not fully recovered.

Los Angeles Lakers: Pau Gasol

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    Come postseason time, Pau Gasol has faded each of the last two years.

    Two seasons ago, it was rebounding woes; last season, it was a lack of offense. In the 2012 postseason, Gasol posted 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, but the numbers were especially misleading. In late-game situations, he would shy away from the moment, and it was certainly a factor throughout the playoffs.

    There is no denying how special a talent Gasol is. He has played a tremendous role in the Lakers' two titles in the last four seasons and has the ability to continue to do so next season.

Memphis Grizzlies: Zach Randolph

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    At age 31, Zach Randolph's significant drop in production last season is a major cause for concern.

    After posting back-to-back seasons with at least 10 rebounds per game, Randolph's average went down to 8.1. He was also showing signs of playing more fatigued, slower basketball.

    There are certainly indications that his game is not as strong as it once used to be. This season will be the one that ultimately determines whether or not this quality talent is past his prime.

Miami Heat: Rashard Lewis

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    According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, one of the newest members of the Miami Heat is Rashard Lewis.

    Lewis was once one of the more talented scorers this game had to offer. Today, he is a player that has failed to shoot at least 40 percent from three-point range since the 2007-08 season.

    In addition, he comes off of a season in which he shot just 38.5 percent from the field. The mark was the lowest he has posted since his rookie season in the league.

    And he's supposed to be the answer to the Heat's perimeter shooting woes?

Milwaukee Bucks: Monta Ellis

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    It's tough to ask for more than 20.4 points, six assists and 3.4 rebounds per game.

    But the truth is, this scoring talent can do even more for his Milwaukee Bucks next season.

    Monta Ellis is as dynamic a scorer as there is in the NBA. In fact, pound for pound, he may the best there is. Yet there is no question he has to be more of a leader on the floor and a voice in the locker room in order to elevate this team to the next level.

    The Bucks have still not identified a leader. And until Ellis delivers for the Bucks in this regard, there will be no winning season for Milwaukee in the 2012-13 campaign.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio

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    Prior to tearing his ACL, Rubio was at 10.6 points and 8.2 assists per game.

    More importantly, he was helping the Minnesota Timberwolves to a strong start in the 2011-12 campaign. Following his season-ending injury, Kevin Love was left helpless and without a second threat offensively.

    This season, the Timberwolves will need his top-notch PG play to compete in a highly competitive Western Conference. Rubio was the backbone for this team before falling to injury and needs to be fully healthy in order to lead this team to the playoffs next season.

New Orleans Hornets: Austin Rivers and Anthony Davis

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    It is impossible to believe that these two players won't be All-Stars in the league soon enough.

    The question with these two is whether or not they are ready to play this type of quality basketball as soon as next season.

    Davis has been impressive to say the least this offseason. Davis continues to play strong ball overseas in the Olympics and looks like a player ready to step into the league. Meanwhile, Rivers has shown his spurts but has failed to play consistent ball just yet.

    These two will have to be on the same page come next season. With time, the combination will be lethal, but until then, it will undoubtedly take adjustments along the way.

New York Knicks: Jason Kidd

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    At first, the New York Knicks made a fantastic acquisition by bringing in an experienced point guard to help lift their play at the position.

    Soon after, it was a disastrous move that is already proving to be controversial.

    According to Yahoo! Sports' Dan Devine, Jason Kidd was arrested after drinking and driving and then crashing his car into a telephone pole.

    This is not a good sign for the Knicks, who need anything but controversy in their organization. 

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant

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    The killer instinct of Kevin Durant disappeared into thin air after Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals.

    The tables had turned quickly for the scoring champion when LeBron James decided to take over the NBA Finals and bring a championship to Miami. James and company took the series by storm, taking the championship in 4-1 fashion. 

    Durant is known for his clutch gene. If there's a player that can knock down an impossible-looking jumper in the closing seconds, it's Durant.

    But in these NBA Finals, that was nowhere to be found, and it cost the Thunder the trophy. Expect Durant to bounce back stronger than ever next season. He knows he must redeem himself after the poor showing.

Orlando Magic: Jameer Nelson

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    Jameer Nelson is far too talented to not be winning more basketball games for the Orlando Magic.

    In fact, Nelson's 42.7 percent shooting last season was easily the worst of his career. The 11.9 points per contest to go with it were the third-worst of his eight-year NBA career.

    Nelson is a monster defensively, but he only gives it his all when he pleases. He is a tough player to guard defensively but doesn't always attempt to out-muscle a defender.

    Nelson's will is integral to this team's hopes to contend next season. Last season's numbers just won't cut it for this quality talent.

Philadelphia 76ers: The Elton Brand Move

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    Getting rid of the overpaid Elton Brand was the outright wrong move.

    Brand finally began to produce solid numbers for the Philadelphia 76ers. This postseason, his 8.6 points and 4.9 rebounds weren't the most spectacular of numbers, but when he was in the game, his impact was felt outside of the box score.

    Whether it was his ability to run with the team in transition or produce lockdown defensive efforts in the post, Brand did what he had to do to earn a roster spot next season.

    It will be interesting to see if abandoning this quality talent was a move the 76ers can cope with.

Phoenix Suns: Is Marcin Gortat as Good as Advertised?

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    Upon moving to Phoenix from Orlando, Marcin Gortat has certainly grown into a fine basketball talent.

    Gortat has had his opportunity to shine now that he is no longer in Dwight Howard's shadow. Last season, Gortat averaged 15.4 points and 10 rebounds per game. Both were career highs, as were his 32 minutes per game.

    The key here is that these numbers came with the help of one of the greatest point guards in NBA history. An MVP multiple times, Steve Nash beat teams to death with his pick-and-roll game with Gortat.

    No Nash in town might mean the end of Gortat's top-notch production.

Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard

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    The Weber State prodigy shined bright during the 2012 summer league and will look to carry that momentum into next season.

    However, we must also note that he is a score-first guard who might have difficulties running the point next season if called upon. 

    Make no mistake about it, his 26.5 points and 5.3 assists per game were no joke. But the reality is that shots will be significantly harder to come by, and his passing game will have to be on point.

    Is that passing skill there yet? That is really the question here.

Sacramento Kings: Which Tyreke Evans Will We Get?

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    Tyreke Evans has been in the league just three years, but he hasn't gotten any better.

    Last season, Evans posted a career-low 4.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game while shooting a career-low 20.2 percent from three-point range. Not to mention, his 16.5 points per game was also the lowest mark he is yet to record.

    The former college star is easily the most talented player these Kings boast, and he will have to step up his game next season. This lackluster play could have him out of Sacramento sooner than later.

San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan

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    We know Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili still have a plethora to offer to this team's title hopes.

    Yet a player that has taken as much beating in the block as any throughout his career, Tim Duncan may well be nearing the end of his career. The Spurs have decided, however, that he is well worth keeping around.

    According to NBA.com, Duncan and the Spurs agreed to a three-year, $36 million dollar deal.

    Can the 36-year-old still produce for three more seasons? It undoubtedly remains to be seen.

Toronto Raptors: Dwane Casey

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    Dwane Casey is three years into his coaching career and still has yet to post a winning season with a team.

    He went 53-69 in two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves (2005-07) and finished last season just 23-43. This is not to say he has had top-caliber teams to work with, but the reality is that organizations want to see wins, and they put responsibility on coaches.

    This season will be integral for Casey's career. Whether it's running more of the offense through Jose Calderon or largely integrating Landry Fields in the game plan to provide a spark, Casey must make adjustments.

Utah Jazz: Randy Foye

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    The Utah Jazz may have just found the answer they were looking for.

    According to ESPN.com's Ric Bucher, the stud shooting guard has agreed to a one-year deal with the team.

    Last season, Foye averaged just 11.2 points per game for the L.A. Clippers and hit just 39.8 percent of his shots from the field. It marked the second consecutive season that Foye shot below 40 percent.

    The Jazz need a scoring boost this season, and they will be depending on Foye to deliver.

Washington Wizards: John Wall

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    All eyes will be on John Wall like glue next season.

    Washington will finally figure out if Wall is capable of taking this Wizards team to the next level.

    The first two seasons of Wall's career have been tough to swallow for Wizards fans. He has yet to be given the proper pieces around him to deliver for this team the way he is capable of.

    Now, the Wizards have a powerful rotation. Last season, they traded for Nene, who has proven to be a valuable asset to this team. In this past offseason, they acquired Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets.

    For the first time in his young career, Wall has the talent to win games. Whether or not he comes through is the question.