This year, lots of teams have revamped rosters, and signed players for their fanbases to get excited about. Teams that weren’t taken seriously last year could now be contending for titles, and vice versa. However, almost (if not) every team has at least one thing wrong that could hinder them from success this season. We’ll be looking at what that flaw is for every NBA team, breaking it down into three parts with 10 teams in each part. Let’s get to it.
Atlanta Hawks: The Eastern Conference just got a lot stronger
Atlanta has kept its core of John Collins, Trae Young, Clint Capela, and Kevin Huerter together after making an amazing run to the Eastern Conference Finals that no one could have predicted. The team clearly works well together under Head Coach Nate McMillan, and as Steve Kerr noted to the press, it takes two years for a team to really understand the coach’s system and have their best season together. We are coming upon McMillan’s second year in Atlanta (he was at first the Interim Head Coach once Lloyd Pierce was fired). However, their biggest problem will be getting that far in the playoffs again. Not only do they have to worry about championship contenders like the Nets and Bucks, but they now have to worry about the +Kyle Lowry Miami Heat, the new look Chicago Bulls, and the New York Knicks, who are itching for revenge. They also have to worry about playoff and play-in teams, such as the Philadelphia 76ers (once the Ben Simmons drama gets resolved… or if), the Boston Celtics, the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, and maybe the Toronto Raptors. It’s going to be a much tougher path to the ECF this year, and their chances of making it that far again aren’t high.
Boston Celtics: Stars trying to do it all/lack of a third All-Star
This might seem counter-intuitive, but in reality these problems go hand in hand. When Boston lost to Chicago on Monday night, Marcus Smart, one of the team’s point guards, said that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were trying to do it all, and weren’t passing enough to their teammates. Alleged selfishness and chemistry may be a problem for the Celtics, but another is what the team has to have realized by now: without a third All-Star or near All-Star, the Celtics aren’t a title contender or Eastern Conference contender. To get that good, they need to acquire a star via trade… even if that means giving up some assets they like.
Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving‘s absence
With the Nets’ Big Three entirely healthy, almost everyone has them as their favorite to win the NBA title. However, even with two MVPs in James Harden and Kevin Durant, people aren’t giving them the same odds without their All-Star point guard. As I previously mentioned, the Eastern Conference is stacked this year, and although the Nets came close last year, they simply weren’t a match for the Milwaukee Bucks, who beat them while Harden hobbled around the court. The NBA’s new rules have not been kind to Harden, and it’s taking him some time to figure out how to score when the game is more physical and he’s not allowed to hook people’s arms. If Irving doesn’t get the vaccine and return, another year of Harden and Durant’s prime could diminish with no ring and no cigar.
Charlotte Hornets: Age
Unlike some other teams that will be mentioned later, I see the Hornets biggest flaw for this season as age. The team has an incredibly young core with LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, PJ Washington, Kelly Oubre, Jr, and James Bouknight. They have some veterans, like Gordon Hayward and Mason Plumlee, but they simply aren’t a contender; perhaps not even a playoff team. The lack of experience showed last year when the Hornets failed to make the playoffs in the play-in tournament, and until they become a more hardened, determined team, I think they will be fun to watch, but won’t win as many games as other teams around them.
Chicago Bulls: Lack of depth at the center position
It’s extremely difficult to find a weakness in this Bulls team. They have great point guards in Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso1, an All-Star shooting guard in Zach LaVine, and depth at the forward positions highlighted by Demar DeRozan and Patrick Williams. At center, the Bulls have an All-Star center in Nikola Vucevic… but then what? When all the starters are on the floor, they play great, but the Bulls only have two other centers on their roster: Tony Bradley and Marko Simonovic, both 23 and 22, respectively. They haven’t established themselves in the NBA yet, and can’t match the production of Vucevic both inside and outside the paint. The team will suffer when Vucevic doesn’t play, and he’ll have an absurd number of minutes, which will lead to great production but could increase chances of injury. Without an All-Star big man I think everyone can agree the Bulls aren’t Eastern Conference contenders.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Too many big men/Collin Sexton
The Cavaliers have a very deep team, and their roster looks the most promising since LeBron James left the team in 2019 for the Los Angeles Lakers. They have two young point guards in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton; although the last of those two has had some problems with his teammates. Many Cavaliers have anonymously called out Sexton, citing his attitude as a problem. If enough of his teammates don’t like him, there will be a trade (personally I think in the right situation, Sexton has more potential then Garland). However, the bigger problem in this case is the amount of power forwards and centers the team has. On their roster is Jarrett Allen, Ed Davis, Tacko Fall, Evan Mobley, Kevin Love, Lauri Markannen, and Dean Wade. It’s good for a team to have depth, but this may be a bit too much depth. It’s clear Allen is the Cavaliers go-to center for now, and Mobley has shifted from playing the five to the four, in order to form one of the tallest front courts in the NBA. The best possible option I can think of for the Cavaliers is a trade. The team doesn’t need Davis, and they want to be rid of Sexton and Love… there are lots of teams that would give up a star player in exchange for Love, Sexton, Davis, and a pick. The only problem would be finding an All-Star (probably a small forward) who is unhappy and matching team salaries. Perhaps the Bulls, in need of a backup big man, could make a trade with the Cavaliers work?
Dallas Mavericks: Three-Point Shooting
With Rick Carlisle at the helm, the Mavericks had an incredible offense, one of the best in the league. In fact, during the 2019-20 season, the Mavericks scored 115.9 points per 100 possessions, the most efficient any team in the history of the NBA has ever been (Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis were more efficient then Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal‘s Lakers, as well as the 2016 Golden State Warriors). With Carlisle now coaching in Indiana, the Mavericks are led by their former star point guard, Jason Kidd. With Kidd being a defensively minded coach, the Mavericks now have one of the best defenses in the league, but one of the worst offenses. They rank towards the bottom of the NBA in three-point attempts, and Kidd has made it clear that’s how he wants the offense to run. The Mavericks are 5-3 right now with Kidd’s new defense in place, but imagine if they put Carlisle’s offense and Kidd’s defense together. That would be scary, and the Mavericks might be a title contender.
Denver Nuggets: Injuries
The Nuggets are without their star point guard, Jamal Murray, to start the 2021-2022 NBA season. They still have their MVP center, Nikola Jokic, and a great supporting cast, but the team simply isn’t the same without him. Michael Porter, Jr, is a candidate for Most Improved Player, and he and Jokic will have to work to keep this team afloat. In a stacked Western Conference with many title contenders, Denver sits at 4-4, and in last year’s playoffs they showed they couldn’t make it all the way without Murray, losing to the Phoenix Suns in the second round. Murray is expected to make a comeback in April, and it’ll be interesting to see how Denver fares as the season continues.
Detroit Pistons: Lack of good players (they suck)
I’m sorry if this seems harsh Detroit fans, but let’s look at the facts. The best player on the team’s roster is Jerami Grant, who leads the Pistons in points (16.8), steals (1.7), and blocks (1.2). The next best players are Saddiq Bey and Kelly Olynyk. They’re good players, but there is no way that this team would even be a play-in contender with these guys as their best players. Cade Cunningham is having a slow start to his NBA career, and while I fully expect him to pick it up, his impact isn’t going to be enough to transform Detroit. Aside from Cunningham, they have four other point guards, including Killian Hayes, the 2020 Lottery Pick who has proved that he needs a few more years of development before he’s ready for the NBA. The Pistons’ best bet will be to try and get a generational talent next year, like Chet Holmgren or Emoni Bates.
Golden State Warriors: Rookie Development
The Warriors have been far from disappointing this season, going 6-1 to start the season. Stephen Curry has been playing like an MVP, Jordan Poole has emerged as an MIP and 6th Man of the Year candidate, and wings off the bench, such as Otto Porter, Jr, Andrew Wiggins, Andre Iguodala, and Nemanja Bjelica have all been doing great. I don’t see anything wrong with the Warriors as they wait for Klay Thompson to come back, but if I had to point to something, it would be the rookies from the 2021 NBA Draft. Moses Moody hasn’t been productive, and is averaging around six minutes per game, while Jonathan Kuminga has only appeared in two games so far. Gary Payton II has been better, playing in more games and having a 23 PER, good for 30th in the league. If the rookies had turned into studs, Golden State could have been even better then they already are, but instead, they will have to wait a few years and do their best to develop them into future All-Stars.
Part 2 will be coming soon, so stay tuned, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!
1: I know Coby White also represents a problem for the Bulls, but there could be a remedy for that in the trade.