Thirty story arcs for 30 NBA teams

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By LARRY FLEISHER
XN Sports

The NBA season is upon us and the next six months will see teams position themselves for good playoff matchups or good draft picks. Each team has a story arc that will be a key component of their season for better or worse.

Here are story lines for each of the league's 30 teams:


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30 story arcs for NBA teams
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Thirty story arcs for 30 NBA teams

ATLANTA HAWKS: The Hawks made the playoffs in spite of 38 wins and then put a scare into the top-seeded Indiana Pacers. They played their 60 games without Al Horford, who was lost for the season with torn pectoral muscle. It was the second time in three seasons that Horford’s season had been cut short due to injury. At the time of his injury, Horford was averaging a career high 18.6 points and shooting a career best 56.7 percent. He’s in his prime, a strong finisher and effective mid-range shooter. He just needs to stay healthy.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

BOSTON CELTICS: The Celtics are in Year Two of their rebuild following the trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Year Two could see the end of Rajon Rondo‘s time in Boston. Rondo could be out the first few weeks but is a free agent and has been rumored in trades since last year. The Celtics used their sixth overall pick to get Marcus Smart to play in the backcourt alongside Avery Bradley. Both players have the quickness to get by unsteady defenses but whether they can actually run the Celtics will be worth watching.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

BROOKLYN NETS: The talk of championship dreams is gone but the league’s highest payroll remains. Gone is Jason Kidd, who torched his way out of Brooklyn and in is Lionel Hollins. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez were the keys to the team two years ago and how their health remains is the indicator how many wins the Nets can get no matter how many big shots Joe Johnson hits.

(Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE HORNETS: The name change is enough but the team formerly known as the Bobcats is interesting, especially after making its second playoff appearance. The previous incarnation has memories of Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson. Will Lance Stephenson, Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Al Jefferson be able to create their own set of memories? If they can, perhaps the Hornets can improve on their 43 wins.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

CHICAGO BULLS: Derrick Rose‘s health is always something to watch. He has played 49 games since the end of the 2010-11 season and it figures to be slow going early on but an encouraging sign was Rose scoring 30 points in a preseason game against the Cavaliers and also played well defensively against Kyrie Irving. Joakim Noah is always worth the price of admission or league pass as he is the heart and soul of the Bulls, just ask Net fans who watched Game 7 two years ago. He is the best defensive player in the league and is a really good passer for a big man, becoming the first since David Robinson to lead a team in assists. The Bulls added Pau Gasol and Doug McDermott but Noah and Rose are the ones driving the ship.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: LeBron James is reason enough as he returns to Cleveland after going away to Miami for four years. Then there’s Kevin Love who will get his shots and also help facilitate many of James’ shots. The Cavaliers were a chic pick to make the playoffs last year when they were led by Kyrie Irving. Now Irving is the third part of the wheel and doesn’t have to do it all. How quick of a start the Cavaliers get off to is another reason besides anything James does.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

DALLAS MAVERICKS: Dirk Nowitzki enters his 17th season and that means more famous one-legged fadeaway jumpers. The exact number of shots he’ll make is unknown but Nowitzki’s .497 shooting percentage was his best since the championship season and it marked the 13th time he averaged at least 20 points. Since winning that championship over Miami, Nowitzki has not had much help but now he has Monta Ellis back for a second season to go along with bigs Chandler Parsons, who can stretch the floor and Tyson Chandler, who is back for a second chance to defend the paint while getting paid by Mark Cuban.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

DENVER NUGGETS: The Nuggets fired George Karl after winning 57 games in 2012-13 and then plummeted to 36 wins. Perhaps the one thing that kept some watching once it was apparent that the Nuggets were a mess was Kenneth Faried. Faried turned his best season into a $50 million contract from the Nuggets after a summer of making big plays for Team USA’s run to the Gold Medal in the FIBA championships. That might not be enough to get the Nuggets back to the playoffs but watching Faried ply his trade should keep it interesting.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham /NBAE via Getty Images)

DETROIT PISTONS: It has been 10 years since the Pistons played the right way under Larry Brown into a surprising championship victory over the Lakers. The Pistons have a new regime with Stan Van Gundy in charge as Joe Dumars was moved to an advisory role. The Pistons have an interesting frontcourt of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe who will now be coached  by Van Gundy. Watching Van Gundy’s painful reactions every time Josh Smith takes a bad shot will be entertaining but the Pistons still have a ways to go to replicate that 2004 run.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: Mark Jackson coached the Warriors to heights not seen since the days of Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway. Now it’s Steve Kerr who gets to coach Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry and the rest of the Warriors. Thompson and David Lee were mentioned in trade rumors for Kevin Love that did not materialize. Thompson is an expiring contract and how he plays in a walk year as is the case of Draymond Green, whose scrappiness will earn him a big contract — scrappiness is code for good at many things but not great. Is that enough for the Warriors to ante up in a year when they’ll look to re-sign Thompson?

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 24: James Harden #13 of the

HOUSTON ROCKETS: Year Two of James Harden and Dwight Howard begins with league General Managers naming them the best at their respective positions. Statistically the duo was effective and the Rockets won 54 games but there were times when they weren’t in complete cohesion and that seemed to surface during the first-round loss to the Trail Blazers. The Rockets were good offensively but in year two of Harden and Howard, seeing if they can improve on their average defense will be something to watch.

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INDIANA PACERS: The Pacers were the team for the first four months of the season and still were good enough to earn the top seed in the East but no team’s fortunes have changed as dramatically as this group’s. Paul George won’t play and Lance Stephenson is in Charlotte. That puts more of the focus on David West and his reliable mid-range jump shot. West will keep putting in the work and now it’s up to the rest of the Pacers to follow suit, especially Roy Hibbert.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: Lob city is back for a fourth season with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and this time without the distraction of Donald Sterling’s unacceptable behavior and attitudes. Griffin is the best power forward in the game and his mid-range jumper is an evolving process. So is his attitude towards those who commit hard fouls on him. Matt Barnes complained about doing someone else’s dirty work in scrums but this year appears different making the Clippers even more difficult to contend with.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Juan O'Campo /NBAE via Getty Images

LOS ANGELES LAKERS: There’s Kobe Bryant and not much else. Bryant played six games last year and then has seen negative comments by unnamed agents about playing with him. With all the time off, how rusty will Bryant be and to what lengths will he go to prove he can still show? And finally how will that go over with teammates such as Carlos Boozer and Nick Young? The Lakers may be among the worst teams in the league but Kobe Bryant remains the reason to stick around and watch.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: The grinding style of the Grizzlies still exists and while it may not please those looking for more offense, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol could care less. In a league that is getting smaller, the sheer force of this duo will drive one of the few teams that still emphasizes intense physicality in the low post and throughout other parts of the court.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

MIAMI HEAT: In LeBron James’ four seasons, the Heat were an NBA finalist each time. Now that James is gone, the remaining cast is out to prove they can still be good without him. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade should be enough to reach the playoffs but more people will need to play better most notably Mario Chalmers.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

MILWAUKEE BUCKS: A year ago, 11 new players were supposed to lead the Bucks to being in postseason contention. A year later it resulted in the No. 1 pick in Jabari Parker and a new head coach Jason Kidd, whose attempt at a power grab landed him in Milwaukee. Watching Kidd coach the youthful duo of Parker and an improving Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom some call the “Alphabet” is compelling enough. If it results in a playoff appearance, then it’s even more of a reason to tune in.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: The last two well-known and hyped rookies for the Timberwolves were named Kevin as in Garnett and Love. The new one is named Andrew as in Wiggins. Wiggins began life in the NBA with Cleveland but was acquired in the deal that ended Love’s tenure in the Twin Cities. Wiggins faces the pressure of trying to step into Love’s shoes and eventually get a team into the playoffs where it has not been in a decade. Will Wiggins be a rookie on an awful team or will he be the centerpiece of a turnaround that fans have been seeking?

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: Two years ago, Anthony Davis arrived on the big stage by leading Kentucky to the national title. Even as he worked around injuries, Davis has shown he might be better offensively than originally given credit for. That might turn into a transformation that makes Davis one of the league’s best players and still that might not be enough for the Pelicans in a loaded Western Conference.

oto by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

NEW YORK KNICKS: The word of the day is triangle. Actually the word of the hour, minute and day will be triangle as in the offensive system employed by Phil Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles to a combined 11 championships. The Knicks don’t even have one since Jackson played for them and now he is running the team trying to get it back. They won’t win one this season even with Carmelo Anthony back in the fold but you’ll hear a lot of things like the triangle is a process, a word too familiar to Nets fans from the Jason Kidd coaching era.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: Is the countdown to Kevin Durant‘s free agency underway? Durant will be a free agent following next season and will miss the first six weeks of this season meaning Russell Westbrook is in charge. The Thunder have been perennial contenders but something has always gotten in their way on the way to the finals since getting there in 2012.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

ORLANDO MAGIC: Year Three A.D. (After Dwight) begins and the Magic have a number of young players. Among those on a 23-win team is Victor Oladipo, who joins rookies at different ends of the spectrum. The Magic used the fourth pick to select Aaron Gordon and then there’s mystery man Elfrid Payton. Some people went “who” when Payton was picked by the 76ers and then moved to the Magic. He was the national defensive player of the year at Louisiana-Lafayette and perhaps you think anyone with the last name of Payton might be good at getting steals and playing overall defense. Seeing if that is indeed the case is worth tuning into a Magic game from time to time.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA 76ers: Nerlens Noel makes his long-awaited debut so that should be fun. Michael Carter-Williams figures to get better and the mystery of Joel Embiid will emerge. The rest of the team is relatively unknown and probably not very good but there will be nights when the 76ers swipe a victory such as last year when they began 3-0. It figures to be another year of getting a high draft pick but watch the three they have develop is interesting.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

PHOENIX SUNS: Nobody expected anything of note from the Suns but then they became the surprise of the league in Jeff Hornacek‘s first season as a coach. Goran Dragic turning defenses into a blur, the Morris twins, all fun stuff. Not to mention a full season of Eric Bledsoe. The Suns were darlings of the remote last year. Now that there are good expectations can they live up to them?

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: If it’s a close game and Damian Lillard has the ball in the final minute of seconds, that’s what’s known as a League Pass alert. It’s a situation no opposing defense ever wants to find itself in on nights when they play the Trail Blazers. Another instance opponents don’t want to encounter is LaMarcus Aldridge in the zone, as in NBA JAM he’s on fire. That’s what he did to the Rockets during the playoffs and seeing if he can turn that domination in April and May into a six-month thing is compelling enough viewing.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Juan O'Campo /NBAE via Getty Images

SACRAMENTO KINGS: Rudy Gay has been in the league eight years and the criticism was he shoots too much in Memphis and Toronto. Overshadowing Gay’s prime years is DeMarcus Cousins, an evolving talent in the low post and in the attitude department. The Kings aren’t likely to be playoff bound but Cousins and Gay serve as an entertaining duo and their combination of moves could prompt play-by-play announcer Grant Napier to frequently say “If you don’t like that, you don’t like NBA basketball."

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

SAN ANTONIO SPURS: The godfathers of the NBA, every time you think they’re out, they get back in. Tim Duncan is another year older, Man Ginobilli and Tony Parker are getting older but the Spurs remain good. The Spurs are the champions for the fifth time because of their trio and complementary parts. They don’t get the national TV hype of other teams but at the end of the year they’re often still alive and watching them get there in the marathon is compelling.

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TORONTO RAPTORS: Maybe things would have been different had the Raptors actually traded Kyle Lowry. Instead they won the Atlantic Division came within a point of facing Miami in the second round and re-signed Lowry. The Raptors were fun as a surprise team with Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and others. Now that they have the playoff experience that everyone craves and watching them turn that into a second straight division title will be fascinating.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)

UTAH JAZZ: The Jazz lost their first 13 games last season prompting talk of tanking. Their reward for winning 25 games was Australian point guard Dante Exum. The NBA is a step up from the competition he faced in Australian high school and watching him navigate the higher caliber of play while competing with Trey Burke at the point will be fascinating and more so than watching Gordan Hayward and Derrick Favors.

Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON WIZARDS: The Wizards are back for more after knocking off Chicago and losing to Indiana in the second round. They’ll be without Bradley Beal for a while but watching Marcin Gortat is fascinating and so is the continued improvement of John Wall. There’s a lot to like and that includes the addition of Paul Pierce. The Wizards appear primed to seize control of the Southeast Division after the Heat lost LeBron James and watching them attempt to do will make for fascinating theater.

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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