Every NBA Team's Most Glaring Weakness Right Now

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2019

Every NBA Team's Most Glaring Weakness Right Now

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    With much of the NBA turned over this summer, the league and its eventual 2020 champion feel as up in the air as they have in years; perhaps decades.

    In the absence of one or two superteams, we'll now be treated to around a half-dozen or more title contenders led mostly by duos.

    Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers will be in the mix. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers should be, as well. James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Houston Rockets are going to be one of the league's most exciting experiments.

    A handful of other teams, like the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors, have the talent spread a little further down the roster. They could contend with depth.

    But all of these teams, as well as the other 22, still have weaknesses. In 2019-20, no one will be perfect. The endeavor here is identifying those weaknesses that are most glaring for all 30 teams.

    First, though, a bit of housekeeping. The teams here are ordered from worst to first, based on the average of their projections from Caesars' sportsbook, FiveThirtyEight, ESPN and Basketball Index's Jacob Goldstein.

    The selection process for the weaknesses wasn't quite as scientific. Some are more obvious than others. For plenty of teams, it's hard to settle on one. Consider this an exercise based on feel and where the teams stand today. Things can obviously change quickly in the NBA, so we better get going before something wild happens.


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    30. Cleveland Cavaliers: Lack of Wings

    Right off the bat, here's one of those teams that has so many weaknesses that it's nearly impossible to settle on just one. The Cleveland Cavaliers figure to be bad. They figure to be very bad. But there are some sources of hope.

    Though he has a ways to go as an all-around player, Collin Sexton's 40.2 three-point percentage as a rookie was a pleasant surprise. And the idea of dual-point guard lineups with him and Darius Garland is intriguing.

    Larry Nance Jr. should be a fun frontcourt complement to those two. And Cedi Osman has shown flashes of point forward ability. But more wings, especially ones with decent size and switchability, would improve Cleveland's long-term outlook.

    Of course, those players don't grow on trees. The one they might have, Osman, isn't even a sure thing. But filling out the roster between the young guard duo and Nance is paramount.


    29. New York Knicks: Inexperience on the Wings

    We could go with the New York Knicks' glut of power forwards, or the potential shooting disaster Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr. might combine for at point guard.

    But instead, we'll talk more wings. New York has a couple with plenty of potential in RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox, but neither will be ready to lead the Knicks to many wins in 2019-20.

    FiveThirtyEight's CARMELO projection system forecasts a terrifying minus-4.1 wins above replacement this season for Kevin Knox. It projects minus-1.1 for Barrett, though his long-term outlook is much better.

    They'll struggle when sharing the floor this season, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't. The Knicks should allow these two to take their lumps. Learning through experience could pay off in the long run.


    28. Charlotte Hornets: Point Guard

    For the last few seasons, Kemba Walker kept the Charlotte Hornets afloat. Since the start of the 2016-17 campaign, the team was plus-2.5 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor and minus-6.6 when he was off, giving him a net rating swing of plus-9.1.

    When Kemba went to the Boston Celtics this summer, Charlotte turned around and signed Terry Rozier to a three-year, $56.7 million contract.

    It's maybe unfair to pick on Rozier. He's a fine player. But the contrast from Kemba to him could be stark.

    Over those same three seasons, Walker averaged 25.2 points and 6.0 assists per 75 possessions, with a 56.6 true shooting percentage. Rozier averaged 14.5 points and 4.3 assists per 75 possessions, with a 50.1 true shooting percentage.


    27. Atlanta Hawks: Defense

    Make a note of this now: The Atlanta Hawks are going to provide plenty of entertainment and #LeaguePassAlerts over the course of this season.

    Offensively, Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and John Collins have the potential to give us some flashbacks of Steve Nash, Joe Johnson and Amar'e Stoudemire with the Phoenix Suns.

    On defense, though, the Hawks are going to surrender loads of points. In 2018-19, Atlanta was 27th in points allowed per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. And individually, Young was dead last in defensive real plus-minus.

    The Hawks might need one of De'Andre Hunter or Cam Reddish to become their Shawn Marion.


    26. Memphis Grizzlies: Shooting

    The Memphis Grizzlies have one of the most exciting young cores in the NBA. Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke and Jaren Jackson are a potentially seamless fit at the 1, 4 and 5. Even Kyle Anderson is only 25 years old.

    In a year or two, those could be 80 percent of one of the game's more dynamic, versatile lineups. But they may need a deadeye shooter at the 2.

    In his two seasons in college, Morant shot 34.3 percent from the shorter three-point line. Clarke was 6-of-24 from deep in his three college campaigns. Anderson's career three-point percentage is 32.4, and he's coming off a 2018-19 in which he was at just 26.5 percent.

    Jackson is a ray of hope. He shot 35.9 percent from downtown as a rookie. But sustaining that average mark doesn't feel like it's guaranteed.

    This isn't to suggest one or all of the above can't develop as shooters over the next few years. They just don't seem to be there yet.


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    25. Washington Wizards: Depth

    Bradley Beal is one of the best guards in the NBA. Aaaand, there may not be many more nice things to say about this roster.

    Sure, John Wall is there, but he's set to miss much of the season recovering from a ruptured Achilles. And there's reason for a little optimism with Thomas Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Troy Brown Jr.

    But in the short term, it's hard to see this team being terribly competitive this season.


    24. Phoenix Suns: Shooting

    The Phoenix Suns' leading scorer, Devin Booker, certainly has the reputation of a shooter. And his form and confidence suggest he will be one in the long term. But some may be surprised to learn that he shot just 32.6 percent from deep last season.

    His career three-point percentage of 35.4 is actually slightly below the league average (35.7) over the course of his career.

    Again, there's plenty of time for Booker to become more reliable from the outside. And those numbers aren't giving him any credit for volume and the generally large responsibility he carries. But he may have to figure it out sooner than later if the pairing with Ricky Rubio is going to work.

    Among the 345 players who've attempted at least as many career threes, Rubio's 43.3 effective field goal percentage ranks 345th. And defenses are well aware of his inability to shoot.

    Over the last two seasons, the Utah Jazz offense often found themselves crowded as Rubio's defender basically just played free safety and let Rubio roam around the outside. Offsetting that requires a lot of shooting from the other four positions.

    Deandre Ayton only took four threes as a rookie, so that leaves Booker and the two forward spots. He, Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges could pull it off, but two non-shooters in a lineup is dangerous.


    23. Sacramento Kings: Defense

    Last season, the Sacramento Kings finished 18th in points allowed per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. And Dewayne Dedmon should be a defensive upgrade over Willie Cauley-Stein. But there are still some causes for concern on that end of the floor.

    Buddy Hield was 78th out of the 107 shooting guards listed in defensive real plus-minus. Bogdan Bogdanovic was 66th in the same group. Harrison Barnes was 45th among 93 small forwards. And Marvin Bagley III was dead last among 90 power forwards.

    All four of those players figure to have significant roles this season, especially Bagley. If he can't figure out how and when to be in the right spots on defense, the Kings could well experience the regression seen by a lot of these league-wide projections.


    22. Oklahoma City Thunder: Depth

    Assuming Chris Paul starts the season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, they should have a heck of a starting five, despite losing both Westbrook and George this summer.

    CP3, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Andre Roberson, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams is a group that's balanced, versatile and offers a little offense and defense.

    After those five, though, the roster is nowhere near as inspiring. Nerlens Noel was good in limited minutes last season, but he's purely a center. On a team with Adams, it may be hard to find him more time.

    Then there's Dennis Schröder. His minus-2.0 box plus/minus (exactly replacement level) ranks 322nd over the course of his career.

    And after that, it feels like a lot question marks between Terrance Ferguson, Darius Bazley, Hamidou Diallo, Abdel Nader and Justin Patton.


    21. Chicago Bulls: Rebounding

    The Chicago Bulls were 29th in offensive rebounding percentage, 29th in points per 100 possessions and 28th in effective field-goal percentage last season, according to Cleaning the Glass.

    The additions of Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young, as well as a full season of Otto Porter Jr., should have a direct impact on the shooting and scoring.

    Getting a few easy buckets from offensive rebounds would help, too. Pulling that off may depend on Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. staying healthy. In 2018-19, they played 52 and 44 games, respectively.


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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    20. Detroit Pistons: Shooting

    Blake Griffin's 189 threes last season led the Detroit Pistons, and his 36.2 three-point percentage was barely above league average. He could certainly pull that off again, but relying on him to carry your team's outside shooting seems dicey.

    More minutes and attempts for Luke Kennard could help, but this team is set to give sizable roles to Reggie Jackson (33.3 percent from three for his career), Derrick Rose (30.4 percent for his career and 1-of-30 to close 2018-19) and Andre Drummond (10-of-68 for his career).


    19. Minnesota Timberwolves: Defense

    After finishing 24th in defense last season, the Minnesota Timberwolves lost Taj Gibson, one of their only reliable defenders. 

    A full season of Robert Covington should help—his defensive rating swing for Minnesota ranked in the 97th percentile—but he could be in for a lot of heavy lifting on that end in lineups that include Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

    Steps forward from the two youngsters, Wiggins and Towns, would help. One or more of Jordan Bell, Josh Okogie or Keita Bates-Diop arriving earlier than expected on that end would certainly help, too.


    18. San Antonio Spurs: Three-Point Volume

    In 2018-19, the San Antonio Spurs were 26th in threes made, but they were first in three-point percentage.

    With that kind of accuracy, San Antonio overcame a lack of volume from outside to finish fifth in points per 100 possessions.

    But as the league trends further and further outside, any slippage in efficiency from the Spurs could catch up to them quickly.

    Trading Davis Bertans (fourth on the team in threes and first in percentage among those with at least 100 attempts) could exacerbate that potential problem.


    17. Brooklyn Nets: Lack of a No. 2

    If the Brooklyn Nets are going to rise much higher than their sixth-place finish in 2019, they're going to need another top-tier scorer to step up alongside Kyrie Irving.

    In the absence of the rehabbing Kevin Durant, the obvious candidates seem to be Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. Both struggled with efficiency down the stretch of 2018-19.

    In his last 19 games, Dinwiddie averaged 15.7 points but shot just 39.2 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from three. For LeVert, in his 26games after returning from injury, he averaged 11.2 points on 39.4 percent shooting from the field and 31.2 percent shooting from three.


    16. New Orleans Pelicans: Shooting

    The New Orleans Pelicans have plenty of intriguing lineup combinations at their disposal, including Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Derrick Favors. The four from that group who were in the NBA last season combined to shoot 31.6 percent on 763 three-point attempts. Zion shot 33.8 percent from the college line.

    JJ Redick, E'Twaun Moore or Darius Miller can be mixed in to provide a little more spacing, but one or two guys from the group above will probably need to improve from the outside for the Pelicans to compete for a playoff berth.


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    15. Miami Heat: Lack of a No. 2

    Four or five years ago, the idea of a Goran Dragic/Jimmy Butler pairing would've been pretty intriguing. But heading into his age-33 season, Dragic's scoring average has dropped in each of his last three campaigns. In 2018-19, injuries limited him to 36 appearances and 13.7 points per game.

    In the absence of a trade, someone else from the Miami Heat may have to step up and be a consistent No. 2 option behind Butler.

    Last year's top two scorers, Josh Richardson (16.6) and Dwyane Wade (15.0), are gone. Dragic was No. 3. And No. 5 Hassan Whiteside is gone, as well. That may leave Justise Winslow.

    Last season, he averaged a career-high 12.6 points. And over the last two seasons, he's hit 37.7 percent of his three-point attempts. He could be ready for a bigger role.


    14. Portland Trail Blazers: Defense

    In 2018-19, the Portland Trail Blazers allowed 5.5 fewer points per game when Jusuf Nurkic was on the floor, putting him in the 91st percentile leaguewide for defensive rating swing.

    Nurkic, of course, will miss a chunk of the season recovering from a broken leg.

    The Blazers traded for Hassan Whiteside to bridge the gap between the start of the season and Nurkic's return, but Miami's defense was betterwhen Whiteside was off the floor in four of the last five seasons.

    Whiteside blocks plenty of shots, but often overselling for those highlight plays or checking out entirely hurt his team on plenty of possessions over the years.

    Playing Whiteside in lineups with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Rodney Hood, none of whom are known for their defense, could lead to loads of points being scored on Portland.


    13. Dallas Mavericks: Three-point Shooting

    The 2018-19 Dallas Mavericks had a problem that was sort of the opposite of the Spurs'. Dallas was seventh in threes made, but its 34.0 three-point percentage was tied for 27th.

    Kristaps Porzingis and development from Luka Doncic could help, but there are still concerns all over the roster.

    Incoming point guard Delon Wright shot 29.8 percent from three last season, dropping his career number to 33.2. Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dwight Powell and J.J. Barea all posted below-average three-point percentages, as well.

    Perhaps more minutes for Justin Jackson or Ryan Broekhoff are in order.


    12. Indiana Pacers: Lack of a No. 1

    Victor Oladipo will start the season rehabbing an injury. Bojan Bogdanovic is now with the Utah Jazz. Without their top two scorers from last season, the Indiana Pacers have a bit of a void to fill.

    There are plenty of decent options available, including Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren, but it feels like all three may be better suited to being second options.

    The one who may be most likely to break that mold is Warren, who averaged 18.9 points over the last two seasons and broke out with a career-high 42.8 three-point percentage in 2018-19.


    11. Orlando Magic: Shot Selection

    Other than the addition of Al-Farouq Aminu, the Orlando Magic pretty much opted to run it back this summer. And that means there's a danger the team will run its shot selection back, as well.

    Last season, the Magic were 22nd in points per 100 possessions, which seems low for a team that finished 12th in both threes made and three-point percentage.

    The problem may have been Orlando taking 34.6 percent of its shots from the mid-range, the sixth-highest percentage in the league.

    Its field-goal percentage of 40.6 from that range ranked 12th, but that's still too big a chunk of offense to devote to a shot that produces so far below one point per possession.

    Replacing a few of those mid-range looks with layups, threes or trips to the line would go a long way toward improving the Magic's overall offense.

10. Toronto Raptors: Lack of a No. 1

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    This weakness is relative to the Toronto Raptors' placement on the list.

    Pascal Siakam is surely ready to take the reins as the team's leading scorer. He averaged 19.8 points per 75 possessions when Kawhi Leonard was off the floor last season. But is he the kind of No. 1 who can lead his squad to title contention?

    "I just think his next step in progression is being 'The Man,'" Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told Yahoo Sports Canada's William Lou. "Instead of being a complementary guy next to 'The Man,' he's gotta be 'The Man'—the primary scorer and the primary option and the late-game scorer.”

    If Siakam can't rise to that level, Toronto's reign over the NBA is likely to be a short-lived one.

    Kyle Lowry is entering his age-33 season, and his scoring average has dipped from 22.4 to 16.2 to 14.2 in his last three seasons. Marc Gasol, 34, averaged 9.1 points with the Raptors. Serge Ibaka actually bounced back up from 12.6 in 2017-18 to 15.0 in 2018-19.

    But all three of those players will be free agents next summer. And none are at a point in their careers at which they can take on the leading scorer's load for a title contender.

9. Boston Celtics: Interior Defense

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    Enes Kanter puts up numbers whenever he is on the floor. Over the course of his career, he's averaged 20.4 points and 13.0 rebounds per 75 possessions.

    His new (and old) teammate, Gordon Hayward, recently gushed about the big man to reporters (h/t Yahoo Sports' Nick Goss):

    "He'll be a fan favorite. Everyone's going to love his energy that he brings. He's one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, so that's going to be a no-doubt. He's gotten really good at that half-roll area and making decisions in there. And also, in a game that doesn't have many post players, he's a bucket on the block -- he always has been. Someone you can go to for a bucket, especially if there's a mismatch."

    But if Kanter is the Boston Celtics' starting center—or even if he gets 20-25 minutes off the bench—interior defense could be a concern. In seven of his eight NBA seasons, his teams have posted worse net ratings and defensive ratings when he is on the floor.

    Daniel Theis may be the better option alongside Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Hayward, especially since he'll take fewer possessions away from those scorers.

    But even if Theis is better than Kanter defensively, he's still just 6'8". And while he has a good block percentage, having him anchor a defense against starters such as Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid might be asking for trouble.

8. Los Angeles Lakers: Backcourt Depth

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    Few rosters boast as much talent at the top as that of the Los Angeles Lakers.

    In addition to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers have Danny Green. Believe it or not, he's 71st in NBA history in career box plus/minus. His three-and-D game should be a perfect complement to the superstars' pick-and-roll stylings.

    Prior to news of DeMarcus Cousins' torn ACL, there was some excitement surrounding his acquisition, as well. And there's reason to believe Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma or JaVale McGee could offer some positive contributions.

    But after that, there aren't just concerns on the roster. Some of the guards might be downright scary to Lakers fans.

    Last season, Los Angeles' net rating was 10.9 points per 100 possessions worse when Rajon Rondo was on the floor, which put him in the 9th percentile. He's had a negative net-rating swing each of the last seven seasons. Ball dominance and a lack of shooting efficiency is a dangerous combination.

    Avery Bradley has had a difficult time making a positive impact, as well. He's had a below-average box plus/minus in eight of his nine seasons. And among the 212 players in NBA history who've taken at least as many threes, Bradley is 188th in true shooting percentage.

    The hope for some decent backup guard play could come from Quinn Cook. He has a long way to go on defense, but at least he can shoot. Over the course of his three-year career, he's knocking down 41.8 percent of his attempts from three.

7. Utah Jazz: Backup Point Guard

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    Utah made a series of moves early in free agency to overhaul a team that found success as a grinder in recent years. 

    Old-school power forward Derrick Favors is in New Orleans. Traditional point guard Ricky Rubio is in Phoenix. In place of the old roster is a more modern collection of players, including Mike Conley at the 1 and Bojan Bogdanovic as a stretch 4.

    There's a better balance overall, but at least one concern remains.

    The backup point guards on the roster right now are Dante Exum, Emmanuel Mudiay and Nigel Williams-Goss. All are unproven at this level.

    Exum has shown flashes of multipositional defensive ability, but his box plus/minus of minus-3.3 ranks 294th among the 302 players with at least as many minutes over the course of his career. Mudiay is 299th under the same criteria. Williams-Goss has never logged an NBA minute.

    If Exum becomes remotely consistent on offense, he's probably the answer. Mudiay needs to be better on the other end.

    But the ultimate answer to this question might be Donovan Mitchell. Last season, Mitchell spent 29 percent of his minutes at the 1. Perhaps he can start at the 2 and get a little over 20 minutes there while playing another 10-15 as the backup point guard.

6. Golden State Warriors: Perimeter Defense

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    The last time Stephen Curry played an entire season without Kevin Durant, he won the only unanimously selected MVP in league history and had arguably the greatest offensive season of all time.

    The 12.36 offensive box plus/minus he posted in 2015-16 is the highest on record. And the distance between his mark and second place is the same as the distance between second and 12th place. That season, Curry averaged 31.9 points and 7.1 assists per 75 possessions with a mind-boggling plus-12.8 relative true shooting percentage.

    Curry may need to reach something close to that level if the Warriors are going to remain title contenders in the post-Durant era, though. With KD in Brooklyn and Klay Thompson rehabbing a torn ACL, Golden State's defense will be tested in the opening months of the season.

    Curry finished 16th in defensive real plus-minus among point guards last year. D'Angelo Russell was near the top half of that list, as well.

    But "hiding" Curry on lesser offensive guards may not be an option out of the gate. Thompson isn't there to match up with top-tier point guards, and Russell will have to face more shooting guards.

    There's bound to be an adjustment period for both players, which puts an awful lot of pressure on Draymond Green, Kevon Looney and, once he's back, Thompson.

5. Los Angeles Clippers: Health

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    Kawhi Leonard played just nine games in 2017-18 due to a quad injury. He "load-managed" his way to 60 in 2018-19, and keeping him healthy as a Los Angeles Clipper may require a similar level of caution.

    "It was big," Leonard said of load management in a pre-Finals interview with ESPN's Rachel Nichols (h/t ESPN's Tim Bontemps). "When it got bad, we ended up taking, you know, four or five games off. And, you know, if we didn't do that, I wouldn't be here right now."

    In his introductory presser with Los Angeles, Kawhi said "the full season" was the goal for 2019-20, according to SB Nation's Robert Flom. But given his history, a see-it-to-believe-it approach may be in order.

    George, meanwhile, has his own health concerns.

    During the Oklahoma City Thunder's first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers in April, George told reporters, "Four days ago, I couldn't even lift my shoulder."

    In June, it was announced that he'd undergone surgery in both shoulders.

    "I think George will return around the start of the season on Oct. 22, give or take a couple weeks," The Athletic's Jovan Buha wrote. "The early side is probably early-to-mid October; the late side mid-to-late November. Most people I've spoken to around the league are leaning towards the latter, with George likely missing the start of the season."

    The Clippers have the benefit of great depth around Leonard and George. Players like Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Landry Shamet won't be scared to shoulder more responsibility if the stars miss time.

    But injuries and surgeries of this magnitude can't simply be dismissed.

4. Denver Nuggets: Lack of Traditional Wings

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    The Denver Nuggets are deep, young and led by a first-team All-NBA center in Nikola Jokic. But if you had to nitpick, the wing rotation might be the place to start.

    Gary Harris is solid, but he's also a little undersized at 6'4". That's not a huge deal on offense, but a couple of extra inches would be nice against bigger wings. Harris is also coming off his first below-average box plus/minus since his rookie year in 2014-15.

    Sharpshooter Malik Beasley is just an inch taller, so the size concerns probably remain, especially against 6'8"-6'9" forwards. Then there's Will Barton, who only managed 43 games as his advanced numbers tanked last season.

    Jerami Grant and Michael Porter Jr. will both be in the mix, as well, though both are better suited for minutes at the 4.

    Combine all that and you may see a little bit of a void between Harris and Paul Millsap. But again, this is all possibly nitpicky. Denver has options, even if they aren't ideal.

3. Philadelphia 76ers: Lack of Shooting

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    The form still looks plenty wonky, but Ben Simmons lit the internet up a bit this week with video of him hitting—gasp—jump shots.

    For his career, Simmons is 0-of-17 from deep in actual games—not exactly the kind of number a team would love to see from its starting point guard. His teammate, Joel Embiid, is nowhere near as shy about taking threes, but he struggles to hit them, as well. His career three-point percentage is 31.5.

    In 2019, having a top two that shoots so poorly puts you behind the eight ball offensively. And now, JJ Redick and his outside shooting aren't around to mitigate that.

    To be legitimate title contenders, the Philadelphia 76ers could use a bump up from their ninth-place finish in offense last season. And to get that, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris and Al Horford will need to be well above average from the outside.

2. Houston Rockets: Only 1 Basketball

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    How does one use a possession? Shoot the ball, turn it over or go to the free-throw line, which are three things Houston Rockets guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden do frequently.

    The top two single-season usage percentages in NBA history belong to those two. Westbrook's 41.65 percent in 2016-17 is first, followed by Harden's 40.47 in 2018-19. Westbrook also has the No. 4 season. Harden claims No. 10.

    And again, this is a measure that does not include assists, another stat both these players like to collect and one that requires some ball control.

    So, the obvious question: Can two of the most ball-dominant players in NBA history coexist in the same lineup? The Ringer's Zach Kram may have an answer:

    "Overall, 10 teams in NBA history have featured two qualifying players with a 30 percent usage rate or higher—and those 10 teams were really good. On average, they won 54 games (or the equivalent for a lockout-shortened season); five reached the Finals, and another three reached the conference finals. Only the 1980 San Diego Clippers, with World B. Free and Freeman Williams, missed the playoffs or won fewer than 50 games."

    But this duo could test the limits of that research. Both have become used to almost complete control of their team's offense, though they did cede some to Chris Paul and Paul George in 2018-19.

    Can each relent a bit in the name of contention?

1. Milwaukee Bucks: Shooting

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    In Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks have arguably the best player in the NBA. But surrounding his incredible slashing and point forward abilities with shooting is an important component to maximizing the superstar.

    Brook Lopez helps with that. Stephen Curry, Trae Young and Damian Lillard were the only players in the NBA who hit more shots from beyond 28 feet last season. Khris Middleton, of course, also helps.

    But the loss of Malcolm Brogdon could make things a bit more crowded in 2019-20.

    In each of his three seasons in Milwaukee, the Bucks' effective field-goal percentage was higher when Brogdon was on the floor. Last season alone, he became just the 11th player in NBA history to take at least 100 threes and shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three and 90 percent from the line.

    None of Brogdon's potential replacements were close in terms of 2018-19 true shooting percentage, and significant minutes with Eric Bledsoe (a career 33.6 percent three-point shooter) and 2s who can't light it up from deep could lead to some spacing issues.

    But if there's a coach we can almost assuredly trust to figure this out, it's Mike Budenholzer. And if Antetokounmpo ever becomes even an average three-point shooter, this all might be moot. If that happens, the rest of the league might just have to throw up its hands.


    All stats, unless otherwise indicated, courtesy of Basketball Reference, NBA.com and Cleaning the Glass