30 teams face pre-camp questions (cont.)
Question: How will Artest affect the team chemistry?
With Artest on board the Lakers can -- at least on paper -- play big (Bryant-Artest-Odom-Gasol-Bynum) or small (Gasol-Artest-Bryant). It will be incumbent on Phil Jackson to dole out the minutes and shots in a way that keeps all of his high priced stars happy.
Question: Will Richard Jefferson make the Spurs a running team?
The athletic Jefferson adds a new dynamic to a team that is used to having relatively unathletic players at his position. The Spurs aren't used to playing a lot in transition but with Jefferson and Tony Parker in the lineup, they can be dangerous if they pick their spots.
Question: How will the Nuggets replace Dahntay Jones and Linas Kleiza?
The departure of Jones and Kleiza via free agency left Denver with a void in the toughness department. They will try to fill that void with Aaron Afflalo, Malik Allen and Joey Graham. But is that enough?
Question: Who is the starting point guard?
Newly signed Andre Miller is the most logical choice, but don't expect incumbent Steve Blake to give his job up without a fight. That kind of competition could lead to the Blazers having quality depth at the position -- or it could tear the team apart before the season starts.
Question: Is Aaron Brooks up for a bigger role?
Brooks emerged as a rising star after the Rockets traded Rafer Alston at midseason. But it's one thing score when you are playing alongside Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Artest. It's another when your running buddies are David Andersen and Ariza.
Question: Where does Shawn Marion fit in?
Marion has been penciled in as the team's starting small forward but that will require Josh Howard to the two-guard, a position he has rarely played in his career. Rick Carlisle will have to be creative in finding minutes for Marion, Howard and '08-'09 Sixth Man award winner Jason Terry.
Question: Emeka Okafor and Chris Paul be as effective as Paul and Chandler?
There is a reason the Hornets were considered a team on the rise after the '07-'08 season. When healthy, Paul and Chandler were a devastating pick-and-roll combination. Okafor isn't as athletic around the rim but he's a more polished offensive player who should be able to ease the offensive burden on Paul and David West. Emphasis on should.
Question: How will the Carlos Boozer issue play out?
It was widely assumed that Boozer would be traded in the offseason after the Jazz committed $32 million to Paul Millsap. He wasn't. That leaves Boozer, Millsap and Mehmet Okur fighting for minutes in the frontcourt. The Jazz could decide to keep Boozer and make another run with this group. Then again, they may not want to let him walk away for nothing after the season.
Question: Is Nash happy?
The Suns have consulted Nash on every personnel move they have made this offseason and handed him a $22 million extension on top of that. But Nash may not be happy finishing his career with a team that isn't expected to contend for anything in the next few years.
Question: How will the Stephen Jackson saga play itself out?
Challenging Don Nelson publicly rarely leads to a quiet resolution and that's exactly what Jackson did when he asked for a trade this summer. But with $35 million remaining on his contract, Jackson is as tough to trade as it gets. Will Captain Jack be a distraction or will he be a good soldier for a team desperately in need of leaders?
Question: Who is the starting point guard (Take II)?
Timberwolves GM has made no secret that Jonny Flynn is the future, but Sessions may be the present. Sessions, 23, proved as a part-time starter in Milwaukee last year that he can handle the job. With the learning curve for NBA point guards being a steep one, it could be in the Wolves' best interest to give Sessions the job to start the season.
Question: Can Zach Randolph be the Grizzlies' long-lost post threat?
Memphis hasn't ahd any discernable threat in the low post since Gasol was shipped out of town. On paper Randolph fills that need -- provided he doesn't alienate his coaches and teammates with his ball hogging tendencies first.
Question: Who will emerge as the starting shooting guard?
Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green are locks to start and Nenad Krstic figures to open the season at center. Smooth rookie James Harden will eventually take over at two-guard but the Thunder love Thabo Sefolosha's versatility and his experience may give him an edge at the starters job.
Question: Is Blake Griffin ready to handle the load?
The Clippers cleared the path for Griffin when they traded Randolph in the offseason. Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman aren't consistent threats in the low post so expect Griffin's number to be called early and often. Is he ready for that kind of responsibility?
Question: Is Tyreke Evans a point guard?
Few scouts doubt that Evans will become a star -- but at what position? Evans was explosive in the open floor at the NBA's summer league but questions remain whether he has the playmaking skills to be a point guard. The question won't be decided in training camp but Evans will get a shot at earning the spot.
NBA Truth & Rumors