Reporters from throughout the nation (and some in Toronto) will get the opportunity to ask a ton of questions of players, coaches, and front offices this month since NBA teams all across the league are conducting media days.
What is the guiding principle for this season? What did you do over the offseason to get better? However, there is one question in particular that is more crucial than any other for each of the 30 clubs in the league. Or to put it another way, the results of each team’s 2022–23 season will be best predicted by the answers to the questions below.
What issue is most pressing for each of the 30 teams in the league? Find out by scrolling down.
Atlanta Hawks: How Do Trae Young and Dejounte Murray Coexist?
The top five players in the league from 2021 to 2022 when usage percentage and assist % are combined are Luka Doncic (83.4), Trae Young (81.1), Nikola Jokic (74.5), Dejounte Murray (67.9), and Ja Morant (67.8).
Young and Murray are currently teammates. The adage “there’s only one ball” needs to be taken into account. Both of these athletes are accustomed to planning almost all of their teams’ offensive plays. Both or one of them must retreat offensively. Although they can make it work, their passing prowess (and willingness to pass) implies that they can.
For Young, more off-ball catch-and-shoot opportunities might increase his scoring effectiveness. And the focus Young demands with the ball may create opportunities for cutting and slicing that are broader than anything Murray has ever seen.
Having a top-tier perimeter defender available to protect Young on that end is obviously a huge plus. These two are intelligent enough to figure things out, but there may be a few weeks (or months) of growing pains.
Boston Celtics: Does Al Horford Have One Bigger Season in Him?
Every superteam requires a glue player, and Al Horford is one of the best ones the Boston Celtics have. Basketball Reference’s Hall of Fame probability model indicates that he has a 15.2% chance of being inducted and 15 years of experience.
He can handle switches onto the perimeter, make plays for teammates, guard the rim, and shoot threes. His contributions to the Celtics in 2021–2022 were many and little, but they added up to a considerable improvement in the team’s net rating (plus–9.4 points per 100 possessions when he played, and plus–5.2 when he didn’t). He averaged 29.1 minutes per game, which was extremely long for a player in his age-35 season.
Brooklyn Nets: What Is Ben Simmons?
In the 2021 postseason, Ben Simmons was famous for avoiding shots in the fourth quarter and was compared to a 6’11” Rajon Rondo. That was the last time we saw him really playing NBA hoops.
He has since missed the entirety of a season due to back and mental health issues. He appeared to be about to play on several occasions, but in 2021–22 neither the Philadelphia 76ers nor the Brooklyn Nets had him on the court.
Will he return to the Nets after all that time off with a new aspect of his game (like, say, a jump shot)? Will he return as the same floor general, perimeter defender, and transition weapon? Does he play at a lower level than that player?
Charlotte Hornets: Can Gordon Hayward Stay Healthy?
This year, Gordon Hayward will earn over $30 million, and in 2023–2024, he will earn over $31 million. He should be expected to make progress because he is the highest-paid member of his team. But in each of his two seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, he was only able to make fewer than 50 appearances.
Charlotte is considerably thinner up front than it was a year ago because Miles Bridges is embroiled in a criminal case for felony domestic violence that is still in the early stages of litigation. Hayward must perform and live up to his high pay if the Hornets are to make a postseason run this year. Hayward was an All-Star with the Utah Jazz in 2016–17, which is now five seasons ago.