10 Burning NBA Questions (Player’s Edition)
Posted by shawnintheflesh on October 8, 2013
With the preseason underway and the regular season beginning in about three weeks, the NBA will be in full bloom once again after a long, long offseason. This season promises to be as fascinating as the last, and, as always, there are pressing questions that will determine everything from action at the trade deadline to entire championships when answered. The following are the 10 questions that I’m looking forward to being answered the most this season. This will be a two part series, and the second part will focus more on the teams as opposed to the players.
Will this be the year Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan form a great defensive unit?
“Down goes Lob City! Down goes Lob City!” The subtraction of Vinny Del Negro and subsequent addition of Doc Rivers may be the most important coaching change of an offseason where almost a third of the entire league employed new coaches, and he seems to have already inspired the Clips’ big men to finally be serious about making strides on the defensive end of the floor. Although they’ve both created their fair share of posters (I’m still mourning the tragic death of Brandon Knight), they have also underwhelmed in terms of rim protection (especially with their athleticism in mind), something that has reared its ugly head in their last two premature playoff exits. If last season taught us anything, it’s that a team won’t survive in the playoffs without a legitimate rim protector unless they happen to have Lebron James in his prime. They have upgraded their shooting on the wings, and a healthy Chris Paul almost ensures that they’ll have a top flight offense again, but Griffin and Jordan dedicating themselves defensively will be what ultimately pushes them to the top of a Western Conference with no clear favorite.
Will Anthony Davis make the case for an All-Star bid this season?
After a quietly stellar rookie season that was undermined by injuries and Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis wowed everyone this summer with a display of his expanding skills during the USA Men’s National Team minicamp. He stood out among the crowd of young stars with a mixture of speed, length and grace that is rarely seen in big men, and even showed range out to 19 feet, which will be really helpful when facing up on the perimeter. He now finds himself with a talented (even if the pieces may not fit) roster and an All-Star PG as his P&R mate. If Davis can carry his momentum into this season and continue his progression into a terrifying defender, then don’t be surprised if he’s playing on Sunday during All-Star weekend.
Are Rajon Rondo’s days in Boston numbered?
Despite what Danny Ainge says publicly, and reports of Rondo and new coach Brad Stevens being BFFs, Boston has clearly transitioned into rebuilding mode, and Rondo represents the last remnant of the old era. It’s no secret that Rondo isn’t a fan of a full rebuild after spending most of his career on championship caliber teams, and he will let this be known again when the losses start piling. Rondo is still recovering from the ACL tear he suffered last season, so we still won’t see him on the court for a while, but one has to wonder if he’s just auditioning for other teams when he’s healthy again.
How many more elite seasons can Tim Duncan possibly have left?
If we’re going under the assumption that Duncan is completely human (the jury’s still out), then Duncan’s time as an All-NBA player should be coming to an end pretty soon. He’s 37, and although he has lost more weight to take pressure off his knees and Pop will properly handle his minutes during the regular season…he’s 37. As long as his body holds, Duncan can still be a solid player into his early 40s based on his intelligence alone, but Father Time is undefeated, and Timmy is no exception to this rule. Hopefully, this reverse jinx works as well as planned.
Is Demarcus Cousins ready to be the “man” for the Kings?
This will be a very interesting year for Sacramento’s new $60 million man. The decision to max out DMC has been called everything from brilliant to idiotic, and it will be up to him to play up to that contract. Despite his well-documented flaws, Cousins is still an elite rebounder and has had absolute monster games that showcased his considerable talents. I’m firmly in the “Cousins is misunderstood” camp, and believe that most of his problems (shot selection, P&R defense, immaturity, etc.) are correctable with time and added responsibility. These contracts are projecting what a player could be instead of what they currently are (right, Mike Conley?), and it will be fascinating to see whether Cousins rises to the occasion on a nightly basis.
Will anyone seriously challenge Lebron for MVP this season?
By my count, there are 8 guys who can plausibly win MVP this season: Bron (the runaway favorite), Durant (the runaway favorite in a Lebron-less world), CP3, Rose, Harden (the dark horses), Parker, Curry and, Paul George (the relative longshots). Due to voter fatigue and the media’s love of fresh narratives, the combination of a slow start for Miami enroute to preparing for their three peat and someone else on that list propelling their respective team to the top of the standings could very well prevent Lebron from winning his fifth MVP in seven years. The voters were actually ready to give the MVP to Durant last year before Miami won 27 straight games and Lebron went on a once-in-a-generation tear, so I wouldn’t be shocked if the same thing happened this season.
Are OKC’s youngsters (Daniel Orton, Perry Jones III, Jeremy Lamb) ready to contribute major minutes this season?
I went into depth about the Thunder’s bench here, so I’ll spare going into too much detail. But with Kevin Martin in Minnesota and Westbrook’s injury keeping him out until January, it will be absolutely vital for Lamb, Jones III, and Orton to contribute immediately on the big stage. Even going 12-8 instead of the 15-5 record that they’d normally have with Westbrook can make the difference between a 2nd and 5th seed in the bloodbath otherwise known as the Western Conference, and Durant, as great as he is, will need someone else to score consistently. Their timely emergence would make OKC’s life a lot easier until Westbrook returns to the lineup.
What will Philly do with Evan Turner?
With the stripped-down Sixers attempting the most brazen tanking effort in recent memory, Evan Turner suddenly finds himself as their best player. With him likely playing 38 minutes a night, Philly, along with the rest of the league, will be watching to gauge how good he really is. While he hasn’t lived up to his status as the #2 pick, he can still be an effective role player on the right team, and I’m sure contenders will be looking to add him before the trade deadline.
Will the young studs on the Magic (Tobias Harris, Nic Vucevic) make another leap?
Remember when everyone (myself included) thought the Lakers made out like bandits in the Dwight Howard trade two years ago? Good times. Now with promising rookie Victor Oladipo, along with Harris and Vucevic, in the fold, Orlando finds themselves with a very talented, interesting young core that can find themselves contending for a playoff spot sooner than later. If you find yourself at a sports bar in Milwaukee, do not, under any circumstances, mention Tobias Harris to them. The results will not be pleasant.
Is there any way for Josh Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe to share the court effectively?
The Pistons will be an entertaining team to watch this season, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. The athleticism that Detroit can put on their frontcourt is absolutely scary, especially on defense. The only problem is that would destroy their spacing on offense, since all three players are at their best around the basket. I’m very interested to see how long Mo Cheeks goes with this starting lineup, and how effective it is when teams inevitably decide to cram the paint against them. For the record, the 1990-91 Nuggets hold the modern record for offensive rebounds as a team with 18.54 per game. Not that I’m implying anything.