The Biggest Questions Facing Every Team In The Eastern Conference

https://basketballforever.com/2018/10/16/the-biggest-questions-facing-every-team-in-the-eastern-conference/

Toronto Raptors

Can Kawhi Leonard learn to love the cold?

We know he’s a fun guy but we also know that he’s not a fan of cold weather. If Kawhi fully embraces the surroundings in Toronto and leads his team towards a one seed in the east why wouldn’t he want to stay north of the border?

And will Leonard get on better with his new coach Nick Nurse than he did at his last stop?

 

Boston Celtics

How will all the stars mesh?

Kyrie Irving left Cleveland because he wanted his own team. He seemed happy enough to share the spotlight last season but the dynamics in the locker room may change with a healthy Gordon Hayward on deck.

If Jayson Tatum takes another leap towards stardom and Jaylen Brown is getting lost in the shuffle there will be rumblings internally. No one doubts Brad Stevens’ basketball mind but his people management skills could be put to the ultimate test this campaign.

 

Orlando Magic

It’s all about Mo Bamba

Can the hyped rookie impress coach Steve Clifford enough to break into the starting lineup? Clifford says he will play Bamba alongside Nikola Vucevic but not until he’s ready.

Bamba is certainly ready to entertain. Enjoy.

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Atlanta Hawks

Could Trae Young break the all-time rookie field goal attempts record?

No one is disputing that the Hawks are going to lose a lot of games this season. They have a built a squad to help the tanking process along and Trae Young’s 25% 3pt field goal percentage looks certain to help. He also has the ultimate green light.

So what about that field goal attempts record? He’d need to take a little more than 28 shots per game to beat Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie mark of 2,311.

 

Washington Wizards

Can Dwight Howard salvage his reputation?

Howard put up 17 points, 13 rebounds and nearly 2 blocks a game last season yet his team had no interest in retaining him. He was traded to the least talented team in the league but they didn’t want him either.

He’s now signed with one of the most consistently dysfunctional teams in the NBA. The odds are against a revival but you just never know.

 

New York Knicks

Will the Knicks finally get this tanking thing right?

The Knicks have frustrated fans by winning a bunch of meaningless games in March and April the past few seasons, reducing their chances to win the lottery and moving them down draft boards.

One spot better in 2017 and they could’ve got Lauri Markkanen instead of Frank Ntilikina and a few spots higher in the most recent draft could have got them a player with a higher ceiling than Kevin Knox.

Kristaps Porzingis may also have something to say about it, if he wants to prove his health going into his own restricted free agency.

Philadelphia 76ers

Can Joel Embiid become a legitimate MVP contender?

Embiid showed he could stay healthy last season, a freak orbital bone fracture the only thing stopping him from playing close to 80 games.

The big question this season? Has his conditioning improved enough to put up monster numbers every night, push the 76ers towards 60 wins and move into the conversation as the game’s most destructive force.

 

Brooklyn Nets

Will the Nets try to win games to attract free agents?

The Nets haven’t had their own first round pick since 2013 and haven’t had a pick inside the top 20 since 2010!

So the natural course of action would be a tank job for the ages. But the Nets have positioned themselves to sign two max free agents this summer and it’s hard selling a star player to sign with you on the back of a sub 20-win season.

 

Chicago Bulls

Do all the parts fit together?

The jury is well and truly still out on the coaching abilities of Fred Hoiberg. He showed signs last year, and got a locker room to play together in the wake of Bobby Portis breaking Nikola Mirotic’s face in the preseason last year. That was no simple task.

This season his challenge will likely be of a more basketball variety. Can he find a way to get the most out of Jabari Parker and how NBA-ready is Wendell Carter Jr in the wake of Lauri Markkanen’s extended absence.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Can a 30 year old Kevin Love be the focal point for a playoff team?

Love signed a four year, $120 million dollar extension that doesn’t kick in until the 2019-20 season so he’s going to be in Cleveland for a while.

Rumours of his decline have been greatly exaggerated. He scored 18ppg and 9 rebounds while shooting 41% from 3 last season, although a lot of those shots were wide open courtesy of LeBron James.

Detroit Pistons

Can Blake Griffin prove he’s not the worst contract in the NBA?

Griffin has missed 92 games the last three seasons. Although he’s become a decent three point shooter (35% last two seasons) his physical dominance has always been the main ingredient for his success.

His playmaking abilities have certainly added a dimension to his game in recent years but whether he can lead a team to a winning record without Chris Paul is very much in question.

If you’re wondering he’s in the second year of a five year contract that will pay him $39 million in 2021-22.

Indiana Pacers

Was last year a fluke?

Victor Oladipo stamped himself as a top 20 NBA player last year and the Pacers got within four points of knocking off LeBron, something no eastern conference team has done in a decade.

They’ve bolstered their squad with a revitalized Tyreke Evans and an underused Doug Mcdermott this offseason, and have just extended Myles Turner for four more years. So they like their chances of becoming a contender in the east.

From year to year teams progress and regress and it’s not always obvious which ones will be which.

 

Milwaukee Bucks

Can Coach Bud do it again?

There’s not much doubt that Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the best players in the NBA and most think he will continue to get better in 2018-19.

The question here is whether Mike Budenholzer’s success with the Hawks will translate to his new team. The Bucks had the ineffectual Joe Prunty in charge for most of last year so Bud’s arrival should certainly translate to more wins. But can he make enough difference for them to challenge the 76ers, Raptors and Celtics and surge towards the top of the eastern conference standings?

 

Charlotte Hornets

Will the French Connection make the Hornets fun to follow?

Let’s be honest. There’s not much to ask here with a squad largely unchanged from a year ago. Rookie Miles Bridges is not expected to make much of an impact early so we look for intrigue from a newcomer nearly double his age.

It will be bizarre to see Tony Parker without the Spurs’ famous black and white jersey. Parker and Batum will likely have some good nights out in North Carolina. Maybe Michael Jordan will join them and really give us something to talk about.

 

Miami Heat

Will Jimmy Butler ever take his talents to South Beach?

Tom Thibodeau wants to win and keep his job. So unless Pat Riley gets generous with his draft picks this could be a staemate for the forseeable future. If Butler does head to Miami this team vaults up into eastern conference contention.

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