Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Which slow-starting team will have the hardest time getting back on track: Boston, Denver or the Lakers?
Steve Aschburner: The Lakers. Let’s not forget, they’re supposed to be on a different, higher (though not necessarily faster) track than the other two. Boston has new pieces but still needs Avery Bradley healthy in order to reach its full potential. Denver knew it faced a grueling start, with its first three games (and 17 of 23) on the road. That means 35 of its final 59 at home. But the Lakers have both a huge learning curve and stupid-intense pressure (especially on coach Mike Brown) to win 60-65 games. In terms of fitting personnel, they look like they’ll be more 2010-11 Miami than 2007-08 Boston. And key guys are older and injury-susceptible.
Fran Blinebury: I’m not ready to write any of them off so quickly, but the Nuggets have the toughest task because they don’t have veteran All-Stars or the so-called institutional knowledge that comes with having been through the wars previously.
Jeff Caplan: Boston. Look, I know a lot of you think this team can crank it up one more time and compete for the East crown. After all, they were right there last year ready to knock off the Heat. But Ray Allen knows the score. That’s why he’s in South Beach. Look at the Celts’ roster. It’s old. Jason Terry peaked in the 2011 playoffs. Avery Bradley is out. I just don’t see a ton of scoring or chemistry.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The hardest time? The Nuggets, because I have to pick someone and Denver is unable to rely on the confidence from past success. They are the most unproven of the three teams. But none of them will have a hard time getting back on track. Plenty of talent, plenty of time. The Nuggets have proven to be very resilient. That is a success all its own.
John Schuhmann: I think the Lakers will continue to have the most growing pains. First of all, Steve Nash is out and Steve Blake is Steve Blake. Secondly, it will be a long time before their offense is running smoothly. Thirdly, they’re not going to be great defensively because they’ve spent most of their practice time trying to learn their offense. And finally, I think they need to find a way to get more shooting in their rotation, so that they can properly space the floor for Nash and Dwight Howard. Still, they have the highest ceiling of the three teams. And if it all comes together, they could be dominant come May and June.
Sekou Smith: The Lakers. They’re the ones trying to make the most radical transformation. New stars. A new offense. New expectations. Mike Brown‘s tenure as Lakers coach will be defined by how he and his staff manage this transition. But they should take heed of those who have tried to manage the same process before them. It took the Miami Heat a while to get things straight when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh joined forces. Once they did, of course, they were on their way to The Finals in that first season together. The one glitch is the Princeton offense and whether or not it is the system best suited to the Lakers’ personnel. I’m just not sure it’s going to work, no matter how committed the Lakers are.