3 Biggest Concerns Facing All 30 NBA Teams Before Training Camp

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2012

3 Biggest Concerns Facing All 30 NBA Teams Before Training Camp

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    In a little less than three weeks, NBA teams report for training camp, which means it's time to start looking at the season at hand.

    A few teams need a few tweaks, but most have a glaring hole, an obvious problem or just a lack of cohesiveness that needs to be fixed.

    Some teams are looking at completely overhauling their roster, meaning training camp is going to be pivotal. Others are just trying to squeeze one more player into an already effective rotation.

    To get a good feel for how each team is doing, let's take a look at the three biggest concerns each has as the Oct. 2 start of training camp approaches.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Putting Together New Pieces

    Atlanta went through fundamental change this offseason, trading Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams and getting back Devin Harris and a huge chunk of a team that lost twice as many games as it won.

    That, plus the addition of Lou Williams, means the Hawks have a lot of work to do.

    It doesn't seem like the team's style of play is going to change. It's more a question of who takes over what role. Nobody's going to be shooting the ball as much as Johnson did (if Josh Smith does, then the season's going to be a loss). So it's going to be a lot of figuring out who gets his touches.

    Direction of the Team

    It's hard to say for sure, but the Hawks seem better in the long run without Johnson, but worse in the short term with the roster they have. There's not much to convince anyone that they'd be any better, let alone as good as they were last season.

    It looks as if Kyle Korver and DeShawn Stevenson will play small forward, while Smith at power forward and Al Horford at center continue to play out of position. A lot is going to be determined by what the Hawks learn in training camp.

    Josh Smith's Contract Year

    The biggest question coming into this season is what happens with Smith. It's doubtful he re-signs with the Hawks, and it seems even more doubtful that the team would keep him instead of seeing what it could get in exchange. Trade rumors probably won't spring up this early, but they could emerge soon after the start of the season.

Boston Celtics

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    Is Age a Real Concern?

    Boston is considering a lineup that will give heavy minutes to two 34-year-olds in Paul Pierce and Jason Terry and a 36-year-old in Kevin Garnett. It's a question we've asked for a few years now, but is relying so much on players that age going to be a problem ?

    Our first look at whether the team tries to trend younger will come in training camp and in Boston's international series, as it has games against Ulker Fenerbahce and EA7 Emporio Armani in early October.

    Unhealthy Youth

    The only thing more frustrating than relying on old guys is hoping that the young guys are going to be healthy enough to pick up the slack.

    Right now, there are injury concerns about Jared Sullinger's back and Avery Bradley's shoulder. Bradley hopes to return to the team in time for training camp.


    In terms of actual real, physical basketball, Boston has one glaring need. The Celtics gave up nearly 300 more rebounds than they pulled down last season, giving them a sizable disadvantage in every game they played. The worst part is, almost every one of those were offensive rebounds.

    As last year's worst rebounding team, Boston is going to have to hope the addition of Sullinger (who was a good rebounder in college) and Fab Melo (who was mostly just a large man in college) will give them help on the boards.

Brooklyn Nets

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    Knitting Together a Playoff Team

    Despite going 22-44 last season, it seems like this is going to be a playoff-or-bust kind of year for Brooklyn. The Nets are fielding a team that spent untold millions this offseason moving to a new city where fans are historically impatient.

    The beginnings of a playoff team will be planted in training camp. The first few looks at how their lineup is going to work will be seen there as well.

    How Might the Bench Shake out?

    Brooklyn has a starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. That much is obvious. Otherwise, questions abound.

    It's looking like MarShon Brooks will fall into a sixth-man role. But after that, it's a toss-up for the rest of the minutes. Reggie Evans will see some man-time minutes. Mirza Teletovic will get time after being brought over from Russia. The rest seems like a plug-and-chug, spray-and-pray method.

    Frontcourt Defense

    What seems like an issue in the making is the defense the team will get from the frontcourt. Well, I suppose Wallace will be on lockdown like normal, but Humphries and Lopez are going to be a trial at times.

    Humphries isn't a terrible defender, but when he's paired up alongside Lopez, he's not good enough to overcome Lopez's deficiencies. Otherwise, the team is going to have Evans' bulldog approach and Andray Blatche's bullish, well, lackluster approach.

Charlotte Bobcats

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    Extreme Youth

    Charlotte will come into training camp with its hopes pinned on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a guy who will just be turning 19 when the team reports. Otherwise, the Bobcats can point to Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo as two guys who will be a part of their future.

    The rest of the team is filled with mediocre role players masquerading as starters who probably shouldn't even be in the league.

    Scoring Efficiency

    Charlotte had an amazingly bad 43.9 effective field-goal percentage last season, worst in the league. Is it really surprising the Bobcats won just seven games?

    This team needs to take better, higher-percentage shots and start getting the ball to the guys who aren't going to chuck up 20-footers.

    Flat-out Lack of Talent

    As much as anyone tries to sugarcoat it, the Bobcats don't have enough talent to make them even close to decent this season. When your team boasts Gerald Henderson as its top scorer, there are going to be problems.

Chicago Bulls

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    The Point Guard Issue

    The Bulls are without Derrick Rose for the time being, although he may be able to come back in the latter half of the season. But, that's all still to be determined.

    In the meantime, the question remains, how will the Bulls proceed at point guard after replacing John Lucas III and C.J. Watson with Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague this offseason? Hinrich is going to see the bulk of the minutes, but are they really going to lean heavily on Teague off the bench? 

    Who Fills the Hole Left by Derrick Rose?

    The Bulls did a good job of playing without Rose last season. But, without him in the playoffs, they were a lost cause.

    This season, if the Bulls want to be competitive, they need other guys to step up and be leaders. They need guys who can take some of the shots that Rose would normally take, and they need guys who won't waver without him.

    Carlos Boozer

    There are few teams that have one player as a main concern, but Carlos Boozer is that guy for the Bulls.

    He's overpaid and underperforming, the fans don't like him and he has nothing on which to blame his decline except his advancing age. That being said, it's not too late for him to turn it around. The talk about using the amnesty provision on him is a little premature.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Scoring Efficiency

    Next to the Charlotte Bobcats, the Cleveland Cavaliers were the most inefficient scoring team in the NBA. Even still, they were leaps and bounds better than the Bobcats with an effective field-goal percentage of 46.3.

    The injury to Anderson Varejao hurt quite a bit, as they were without a reliable post scorer and lacked a true inside-outside game. So, his return should certainly help. However, the team needs to take better shots as a unit to solve this problem.

    Helping Kyrie

    It's not a secret that Kyrie Irving was the team last season. Amid injuries and guys trying to work their way into Byron Scott's system, Kyrie was basically all they had in terms of reliability.

    The Cavs are going to need guys like Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller to establish themselves in training camp, and upstarts like Alonzo Gee need to continue to score.

    Player Development

    The biggest question from year to year with young teams like Cleveland is how much their young players improve.

    More so than any other player, the Cavs need to see marked improvement from Tristan Thompson this year. It would also be nice to see Irving make a leap in his passing numbers.

Dallas Mavericks

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    A Lost Season?

    Last season was a bit of a lost season for the Dallas Mavericks. They had a championship hangover and set their sights on signing either Dwight Howard or Deron Williams. They went from champions to cobbling together their roster and saving money for this offseason, when, well, nothing substantial happened.

    The big concern now is that another lost season is coming, with most of the guys on Dallas looking at one-year contracts in hopes that the team can land one of next year's big free agents.

    Piecing Together Another New Lineup

    With O.J. Mayo, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones and a few rookies coming into town, Dallas has a lot of work to do settling on a lineup.

    Whether it's a permanent change in style or just a few tweaks here and there, it seems obvious that this team isn't going to run as it did a year ago.

    Post Defense

    It's frightening to think that Kaman will start at center alongside Dirk Nowitzki. The two are going to be monsters in the post on offense, creating a compelling inside-outside game, but they are going to struggle to defend the paint. They're going to need a lot of help from Elton Brand and just hope that, at times, crossing their fingers works out the best for them.

Denver Nuggets

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    Setting a Rotation

    Denver goes 10 players deep, possibly 11 or even 12 if a few key guys improve and Evan Fournier turns out to be something special. Why is that a problem? Well, there are only 240 minutes to spread around, and you can't hope to dole out an effective number of minutes to 10 guys, let alone 11 or 12.

    Denver needs to figure out its top eight, create a few position battles on the depth chart, and then figure out what they're going to be working with going forward.

    Player Integration

    Andre Iguodala, Anthony Randolph and Fournier need to be integrated into the lineup and introduced to George Karl's system, while Wilson Chandler needs to be reintroduced to the system and plugged back into the team.

    It's good to have so many players coming in who can play effective minutes (yes, even Randolph), but it's a bit tough to quickly get that many players all speaking the same language as the rest of the team.

    Ball Security

    Denver topped the NBA in assists last season, but it was also near the top of the league in turnovers.

    The Nuggets' frenetic pace and how often they pass the ball can only be blamed to an extent. At some point, they need to do a better job of taking care of the ball and make safe, smart passes rather than dazzling dimes and alley-oops.

Detroit Pistons

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    Cooking the Raw Talent

    It seems like Detroit has had a lot of raw talent for a few years now, but nobody has gotten around to developing it. Now that the Pistons have added even more in Andre Drummond, that needs to end.

    He's not their only project, however. Greg Monroe needs to work on his offensive efficiency, and Brandon Knight needs to assert himself more as the team's point guard if he wants to play more than Rodney Stuckey.


    Monroe pulled down just under 10 rebounds a game for Detroit, which is great for a second-year player. But, the team's next-best rebounder, Jason Maxiell, grabbed just five rebounds a game. This made the Pistons the fourth-worst rebounding team in the NBA last season.

    Don't count on Drummond turning the Pistons into a great rebounding team by himself. He's not a very physical rebounder. Rather, they need a change in attitude, getting every player to commit to hauling in rebounds over anything else.

    Team Identity

    It's hard to say what's going on with the Detroit Pistons. On one hand. they're a team with young talent, but they're also tied up in terms of cap space.

    They need to decide what they're going to be, so they can either feature young players or a mixture of youth and veterans once the season starts.

Golden State Warriors

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    Who's Healthy?

    The big health questions are about Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut. But with the luck the Warriors have had in the past few seasons, it might be best to cloak everyone in bubble wrap for training camp.

    While Curry should be ready for training camp, Bogut could be out through the preseason. His integration back into the lineup will be key to their success.

    Small Forward Battle

    It's a lot to ask of a rookie to start from Day 1, but that seems to be the best option for the Warriors.  Harrison Barnes is expected to battle Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush for the small-forward spot, and he's probably the front-runner.

    Jefferson is still on the team because his contract is too huge to unload. Rush would probably be best served as a backup at shooting guard and small forward.


    Like most teams that run a fast-paced offenses, rebounding has been a problem for the Warriors. Not only do they pull down the third-fewest rebounds in the NBA, but they give up the most to their opponents.

    If they are going to center their offense around Bogut, Golden State will have to adjust its playing style, which could mean the Warriors will become a better rebounding team.

Houston Rockets

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    The Frontcourt

    A shiny, new nickel to anyone who accurately predicts what the Houston Rockets do with the frontcourt this season, because it's a jumbled mess at this point.

    At this point, they've got enough players under contract (many are non-guaranteed deals) at three positions that they could field a second team if they wanted to. A starting trio of Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Omer Asik seems likely, but the bench is going to be a mass of confusion until training camp shakes it out.

    Rookie Integration

    Houston piled up on rookies this year, which means training camp is going to be extra important for the Rockets moving forward. They're going to need to make the most of the time to get Jeremy Lamb, Royce White, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas filled in on the Houston game and plugged into the lineup.

    Team Direction

    The biggest reason for the mass confusion surrounding the Rockets is based on the fact that they did have a huge swing-and-a-miss on Dwight Howard, which might have been for the best. They still have pieces to trade for some players, if they please, and they also have some good, young talent if they want to stick with that as well.

    Houston just needs to figure out what it's doing above anything else, as training camp nears.

Indiana Pacers

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    Roy Hibbert's Development

    The Indiana Pacers just paid Roy Hibbert as if he were a franchise player, so it's time for him to start playing like it. He's been great, so far, but that was under a rookie-scale contract. Now, he needs to do even better.

    Whether it's the best direction for the team is up in the air, but they need to get Hibbert to be more involved on offense (which means taking high-percentage shots) and more physical on defense.

    Balancing the Roster

    It seems like there was a bit of confusion in the playoffs for the Pacers last season surrounding who they were in general. They were all over the place, relying on one guy or another during different stretches of the game without a real go-to option at any point.

    Danny Granger was once that guy, but he doesn't seem to be the player we all thought he could be. Whether that player is now Hibbert or possibly Paul George needs to be shaken out.

    Getting Better as a Whole

    Indiana has shown marked improvement every year for three years. It's time to keep going in that direction and not regress, as it could be detrimental to the team's development.

    The Pacers made some key additions to the team and got a little bit better here and there. Now, they just need to key in on player development and playing better as an overall team.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Lack of Development from the Bigs

    On offense, Blake Griffin is visibly better, but where the team hoped he would be defensively isn't quite where he's at. He's still relying on athleticism over knowledge and instinct on defense, which isn't where you want to be.

    Meanwhile, DeAndre Jordan is on the other end of the spectrum. As great as he is on defense, he's so bad on offense that he can't be in games in crunch time. At least get him to work on his free throws this training camp.

    Chilling out

    The Clippers were the most wound-up team in the NBA in 2012, getting whistled more times than all but five other teams and leading the pack in technical fouls by a pretty good margin.

    They need to cut down on the complaining and the wild play they're prone to at times, so they can see that technical-foul number work its way down from the 88 they had last season.

    Chris Paul's Expiring Contract

    The team can't do anything about it, but the front office needs to really determine what Chris Paul's plans are moving forward. If it lets his looming free agency fester without some real action toward re-signing him, it could end up becoming a distraction as the season moves forward.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Putting Together a Champion

    Most teams who are cobbling together new lineups are doing so in hopes of winning 30 games this season. Still, others, like the Nets, are looking at 45 wins or so as a successful season. Los Angeles is hoping to go far beyond that.

    The start of a championship team comes in the beginning of October. Training camp needs to be a success for the Lakers, especially with the team implementing a lot of Princeton-style offense into its game.

    Feeling out the Bench

    After the starting five and Antawn Jamison, the Lakers' bench is a big question mark. Seven and eight will probably be filled out with Jordan Hill and Steve Blake, but the rest of the young'uns need to learn their role early on, so they can do their best to contribute to the team.

    Dwight's Back

    The best we're getting out of Los Angeles in terms of Dwight Howard's back injury (via Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register) is that he's "making progress" or "working toward" getting back on the court. Otherwise, nobody seems to really know when he's going to be playing.

    With the ambiguity of the Howard question, L.A. is going to have to work on filling the hole left by the big man in training camp, which will probably mean some starting time for Hill if he plays well early on.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Ball Movement

    A team with as many smart and talented players as the Memphis Grizzlies should be able to move the ball around enough to rack up enough assists to put them at least in the top half of the league. Their assist numbers, instead, were good enough for 24th in all of the NBA.

    The team needs to continue to work on getting everyone involved in the offense and creating a more cohesive unit on that end of the floor, as it is on defense.

    Three-Point Shooting

    Whether it's the fact that they lack a real, consistent three-point threat or just that they have guys taking unwise shots from long distance, the Grizzlies shot just 32.6 percent from beyond the arc last season, putting them at 25th in the league.

    They lacked a true inside-outside threat, making them vulnerable to teams with good post defense at times.

    Offensive Flow

    What the team lacked overall last season was a real flow to its offense. It always seemed as if there was someone stopping the ball and dribbling for too long, someone not making the extra pass or someone being selfish.

    Memphis needs to develop a more comprehensive offensive plan moving forward to get everyone more involved in the offense.

Miami Heat

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    Dwyane Wade's Health

    The biggest question for Miami until he has a completely healthy season again is going to be surrounding Dwyane Wade and his health.

    Already in his career, Wade has played in 61 or fewer games four times. That's a really big deal when he's only been in the league for nine years. The Heat need to know for sure what Wade is going to be capable of in a full season going into the preseason this year.

    Half-Court Offense

    When Miami got out ahead of other teams and started running its fast-break offense, it dominated. Nobody could keep up. However, save for a few games in the playoffs when they were able to slow down against the Thunder, their half-court offense has been inconsistent.

    The Heat need to work on determining a legitimate point guard to operate in the half-court set (whether it be LeBron, Wade or Mario Chalmers doesn't really matter), so they have something to fall back on when things aren't working out.

    Post-Championship Lull

    We saw it from Dallas last season. The Mavericks were complacent after their title the year before and ended up fading out of the playoffs before they had a chance to make a real splash.

    With a focused team and a few players keeping everyone else from losing sight of the goal, Miami should be able to keep its guard up and avoid a championship lull.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Escaping Basketball Purgatory

    Milwaukee is good, but not that good, meaning it can't get the draft picks it really needs to get the talent necessary to compete for a title, meaning the Bucks will be stagnant in their current spot until they do something drastic.

    Perhaps, there's still a lot of development to be had from Brandon Jennings, and John Henson will be better than we expect. If not, we're looking at another ninth- or 10th-place finish for Milwaukee.

    Offensive Flow

    I'll be the first to admit that the Jennings-Monta Ellis backcourt is crazy fun to watch. They get into a nice flow and can compete with any team for stretches at a time.

    Unfortunately, basketball works better when most of the guys on the floor are involved in the offense, which means they're going to need to improve upon working the rest of the team into the system in training camp.

    Frontcourt by Committee

    It's not as big a problem as the Rockets have, but there is a bit of a logjam going on in the Milwaukee frontcourt. Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Samuel Dalembert and Epke Udoh are all good enough to get minutes at either power forward or center, while Mike Dunleavy continues to hang on to a bit of hope to play big minutes at small forward alongside Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Ricky Rubio's Health

    It's what everyone in Minnesota is wondering about aside from the fact that Adrian Peterson may or may not be the "$6 Million Man" after returning so quickly from knee surgery. They're all hoping that their favorite Spaniard can do the same.

    Wing Play

    It's been the bane of Minnesota for years now, but the Timberwolves might finally have a chance to get some effective play from the wing if their preowned players pan out.

    The most important thing the Timberwolves need to learn from training camp is the limitations that Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko are under moving forward and just what they can contribute to this team from the wing.

    Efficient Scoring

    It goes hand in hand with their poor wing play from the past few years, but the Timberwolves were painfully inefficient on offense in 2012, leaving them sagging in the playoff race near the end of the season.

    Their 47.7 effective field-goal percentage should see an increase with the return of Rubio dishing the ball around and more effective wing players.

New Orleans Hornets

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    Introducing the Future

    The first step in the right direction was drafting Anthony Davis. Now, it's time to take that second step, getting him the right tools in training camp.

    New Orleans is going to need him to take on a pretty big load moving forward. This is going to start with him becoming a vocal leader and one of the team's best players early on.

    Ball Security

    Whether it was indifference at times or just poor play, New Orleans always seemed prone to turning the ball over last season, checking in with the fourth-most turnovers in 2012.

    The Hornets are going to have to get some Stickum to put on their hands, or else, they're going to spend another season in the basement.

    Just Scoring in General

    It doesn't help that they had just lost their long-time point guard, and they were without Eric Gordon, who was supposed to be the big prize to replace him, but the Hornets just couldn't score last season. 

    At just under 90 points per game, they were 29th in the league in scoring, and they got those points inefficiently. Although, it makes sense that that would happen when Marco Belinelli, Jarrett Jack and Chris Kaman round out your top-three scorers.

New York Knicks

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    Controlling the Circus

    We spent the summer of 2012 hearing about the quarterback controversy between Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. Let's not spend the fall dealing with some stupid story coming from the Knicks.

    Let the papers run their stories about the budding rivalry between the Nets and the Knicks. Otherwise, ignore the circus as it rolls into town, maybe get some cotton candy or a funnel cake, and then, get on with the day.

    Shot Selection

    Last season's theme for the Knicks was "settling." They spent the season settling in on defense, settling for a mediocre playoff spot and, most of all, settling for bad shots.

    They spent last season shooting the second-most three-pointers in the league, but they made just 33.6 percent of their attempts. It was like it was 2006 all over again.

    Free-Throw Shooting

    Even worse than their errant three-point shooting was their inability to consistently knock down free throws. You would think a playoff team would have to be near the top of the league, but the Knicks proved otherwise.

    At just 74 percent last season, New York was 22nd in the league in free-throw percentage, which is unacceptable for a team that expects big things. The team could spend all of training camp shooting free throws, and it would probably be considered a success.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Staying on Track

    First, they made the playoffs, then they got out of the first round, then they made it to the Western Conference Finals, and then, they made it to the NBA Finals. There's only one way to complete that pattern if you ask me.

    The best thing the Oklahoma City Thunder can do is ignore the talk surrounding their failure last season, laugh at the Lakers as they try to construct a super-team and stare down the Heat from across the country. Stay on track and keep working hard for good things to happen.

    Ball Security

    One of the most interesting things about the Thunder is that they were so fundamentally flawed at points last season, yet they continued to be a great team.

    The biggest flaw in fundamentals that they displayed was their inability to maintain possession of the ball. They turned the ball over more than 1,000 times last year—most of any team in the NBA.

    Offensive Flow

    Other than hanging onto the ball, they need to find a real offensive flow when times are tough, rather than just relying on Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant.

    When they need a basket, it's fine to work off of just one of those guys. But if they're down by more than a few, the best way to get back in it is for the whole team to contribute, rather than one player launching a flurry of shots.

Orlando Magic

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    The Magic are without the player who made everything work for them in the past five years. With Dwight in the middle, they could be a compilation of shooters with mediocre defense. It just worked.

    Now, however, we're going to see just how important Howard was to the Magic, as they completely crumble this season.

    Only Having a 25 Percent Shot at Winning the Lottery

    It's going to be stunning if Orlando doesn't prove to be the worst team in the NBA. It's lost a guy whom everybody relied on to be the pillar on defense, and without him, the franchise is going to fall apart.

    The biggest issue for the Magic is that they don't have a better chance at getting the top pick in next year's draft.

    Fielding a Halfway-Decent Team

    After Dwight was traded away and Jason Richardson followed, the best thing they got back was Arron Afflalo, who is a third option on a good team at best. Otherwise, they see Jameer Nelson, Al Harrington and Glen Davis as players who can be positives on this team.

    Let's hope they can find some sort of binding quality that can at least make them entertaining at times.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Reforming a Team

    It may not seem like it, but Philadelphia may have changed the most of any team compared to last season. Besides adding Andrew Bynum and removing Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Lou Williams and Nikola Vucevic, Philly added Nick Young and Kwame Brown.

    That's a lot of pieces to bring in and take out and hope that something better comes out of it.

    Defensive Concerns

    Realistically, Philly traded away its best defender and released its second-best defender, which has to concern at least a few people. Brand and Iguodala were the heart and soul of a stout defense, and their leaving leaves a lot of questions.

    Bynum isn't a great defender, although he is good enough to fill a hole in the middle, but the rest of the players are going to have to fill in as they go along.

    Finding Leaders

    Along with defense, Philly lost leadership with the departure of Iggy and Brand, meaning it needs some new guys to take this team into the future.

    Jrue Holiday is an obvious choice as the team's point guard, but the Sixers are going to need Bynum to take a chunk of the leadership pie as the guy they traded for in hopes of transforming their team.

Phoenix Suns

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    What Is This Team?

    If you aren't psyched to see the Suns play ball for at least a few games at the beginning of this season, then you have no love for experimental basketball.

    With the mish-mash of playing styles coming together, Phoenix either has a crazy psychological experiment going on with its fans, or the Suns are hoping they can throw a bunch of players out on the court who will play well.

    An Offense After Steve Nash

    There's going to be a ton of pressure on Goran Dragic as he does his best to replace Steve Nash, but if the Suns are smart, they'll put him in a situation where they're not trying to replicate what they did last season.

    Run the pick-and-roll, feed the big man and let Michael Beasley try to work his own game some. Otherwise, let the rest of the offense come as it emerges.

    Making Good Decisions

    It sounds simple enough, and it sounds generic, but there isn't a team that's going to rely more on individual player decisions than the Phoenix Suns.

    There could be plenty of players feeling hopeless without Nash around, but if they decide to play on, take good shots and work hard, then Phoenix could have a fun team to watch this year.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Integrating Rookies

    Meyers Leonard might be fun to watch, but really, we're all keeping an eye on Damian Lillard over anyone else on this team near the beginning of the season.

    The Blazers got rid of the least-favorite Trail Blazer since the Jail Blazers era in Raymond Felton, leaving the offense to Lillard and Ronnie Price, which is going to be intriguing to say the least.


    With such turmoil going on in the backcourt in 2012, few people realized just how bad Portland was at pulling down boards a season ago. Marcus Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge were effective rebounders, as were J.J. Hickson when he came aboard and Gerald Wallace before he was traded. Otherwise, it was terrible.

    Portland needs to get more going on in the post in terms of Nic Batum and Wes Matthews fighting for mid-range rebounds and helping out the cause.

    Perimeter Defense

    While Batum is an effective perimeter defender in his own right and Matthews is good enough to get by, the rest of Portland's perimeter D was atrocious.

    It let opponents shoot 36 percent from three, leading to a looser defense inside and more losses than wins.

Sacramento Kings

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    Fusing Youth and Talent

    When it comes to potential compared to output, there may not be another team in the league with a higher ratio than the Sacramento Kings. Many of their players have the ability to get better, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

    Training camp is going to be focused on getting these young fellows to work together, getting personalities to gel and grow together. If that can happen, then you could see a pretty good Kings team moving forward.

    Not Letting Other Teams Score

    It sounds obvious, but Sacramento was terrible on defense last season. The Kings gave up nearly 105 points per game, which is pathetic. Needless to say, they gave up the most points per game last season.

    The worst part is they didn't seem to care that much about giving up points. At best, this team was uninterested in playing defense, more content to try to outscore its opponents than outwork them.

    Growing Up

    There's a lot of immaturity in Sacramento, but there's a lot of promise as well.

    DeMarcus Cousins is obviously the center of it all, but there's even more beyond him. The team needs to grow up in terms of putting its best product on the floor every night, which is something it hasn't been able to do yet.

San Antonio Spurs

27 of 30

    No Seriously, Are They Too Old?

    How many times can we start a season out by asking whether or not the Spurs are too old to win a title? Well, I guess that'll be as long as they look like they can win a title, so really, it's an ode to their continuous success.

    Tim Duncan's 36, Manu Ginobili is 35 and Tony Parker is 30. At some point, they have to slow down, but we haven't seen it yet.

    Getting to the Line

    Even though the Spurs scored more points per game than all but one other team last season, they still only managed to get to the line an average number of times. What's worse, when they did get to the line, they were mediocre at best.

    San Antonio didn't attack the basket enough, although it didn't have a huge number of basket-attackers, so there may not be much it can do to fix this problem.

    Offensive Rebounding

    In the most Spurs fashion, San Antonio was able to play with solid fundamentals last season even after completely changing its approach to the game. The only thing that suffered was its offensive rebounding.

    The team ranked 24th in the league in offensive-rebounding percentage, which, had it been better, could have led to even more points for the Spurs last season.

Toronto Raptors

28 of 30

    Weighing Talent

    Toronto has a heavy task to undertake in less than a month once the team is all together. The Raptors have a new center coming in who is supposed to transform their team, along with a winger who could potentially start.

    They're going to have to figure out where these guys are on the talent spectrum and insert them appropriately in the lineup.


    With a whopping 1,532 whistles blown against them last season, the Raptors topped the league in fouls called on them in 2012, meaning an endless array of unguardable free shots for their opponents.

    The only thing that's going to take that number down from where it was in 2012 is discipline, something that Toronto didn't have much of last season.


    While they were busy giving away free points last season, they themselves were scoring just over 90 points per game, putting them at 28th in the league in scoring.

    Injuries and players playing out of position were a contributing factor, so if they're able to play as a full unit this season, that should go back up.

Utah Jazz

29 of 30

    Staying Focused

    There's a lot going on with the Jazz that could cause a distraction and a subsequent missed playoff spot, if they're not careful.

    They've got a crushing first-round exit at the hands of the Spurs to remember, along with the expiring contracts of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, both of whom could be traded by season's end if the team decides to go in a different direction.

    Three-Point Shooting

    One of Utah's biggest shortcomings a season ago was its inability to hit the three consistently. Raja Bell and Devin Harris were good, but the team, as a whole, was terrible, shooting just over 32 percent, good for 28th in the league.

    It seems pretty simple to me; if you can't make 'em, don't take 'em.

    Stop Fouling

    Much like the Toronto Raptors, Utah was content to give up free points game after game at a rate much higher than the rest of the league.

    The Jazz fouled people nearly 100 fewer times than Toronto, but they were still the second-most whistled team in the NBA last season, which is not a recipe for success.

Washington Wizards

30 of 30

    Taking the Next Step

    Washington was in a bit of a strange place last season, as it didn't make real progress as a team, but still got better. Trading away the knuckleheads and bringing in professionals while grabbing a top draft pick was a stellar move.

    Now, all it needs to do is put the team together and keep moving forward, something that's easier said than done.

    Get the Ball Moving

    There was a lot of dribbling going on in Washington in 2012 and not enough passing, which, of course, led to the Wizards being one of the worst assisting teams in the NBA.

    As the 27th-best team in the league, all they had was John Wall dropping dimes at a rate of eight a game, while Jordan Crawford led the rest of the limping pack at just three per game.

    Perimeter Everything

    The Wizards sucked when it came to anything outside of 18 feet last season. They couldn't guard it, and they couldn't make it.

    On the defensive end, the Wizards allowed teams to shoot a clean 35 percent from downtown, an average rate, yet still high for the number of good, young athletes under their employ. Offensively, they made just 32 percent of their own threes, third-worst in the NBA.

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