The NBA is at a crossroads as we enter the final weeks before the February 8 trade deadline, as a lot of teams are under pressure. There are a lot of superstars going into Free Agency at the summer, and the rumors just keep piling up.
Other than those involved in trade rumors, there are teams that are underperforming despite the numerous additions to their roster. It might need a simple switch to the bench in order to motivate a player to play better overall.
Some teams are worried about the performance of their star players, and on the contrary, some start players are worried about their team going nowhere this season.
There are a lot of burning questions in the NBA right now, and we will break them down one by one:
10. Will The Rockets Spend Money For a Multi-Year Contract on Chris Paul?
The Rockets will have to make a couple of really important calls towards the end of the season, as Chris Paul, Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza are on the final year of their respective contracts. The emergence of Clint Capela will surely grant him a nice contract, and the Rockets better keep Trevor Ariza as well.
They should really find a way to offload Ryan Anderson's contract if they want to give a max contract to Chris Paul. The Harden-CP-Capela trio can be one of the most productive trios if everyone is healthy, and giving a max contract to Chris Paul should be a no-brainer for them.
9. How Can Minnesota Improve Their Defense?
Minnesota went all-in in the offseason when they brought Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague, but it seems that they can't all fit in the starting line-up. The addition of Taj Gibson was not a bad one, but bumping Gorgui Dieng to the bench hasn't favored anyone.
Maybe he needs to return to the starting lineup, considering the fact that Karl Anthony Towns has not been very strong in the defensive end. It's not that Taj Gibson is a bad defender, but Gorgui Dieng is a much better on defense than he is on offense. Considering the fact that Andrew Wiggins signed a max contract, he can't be benched, so maybe a shuffle of the deck can work miracles for the Timberwolves.
8. Is Kyrie Irving Good Enough To Lead Boston To The NBA Finals?
There is no doubt that Kyrie Irving is one of the best point guards in the league right now, and he has been the focal point of Boston's offense this season. The Celtics made a lot of significant changes in their starting five over the summer, but they have been really unlucky. Gordon Hayward signed a max contract and only played a couple of minutes before suffering a season-ending injury.
This might have opened up a lot of playing time and usage rate for other players to take advantage of, but it seriously hurt the team's chances to reach the NBA Finals. Kyrie Irving is a natural leader, and he was keen on taking such a role in a new team. If not this season, the Boston Celtics can surely make a push for the NBA Finals next year, with a healthy squad.
7. Where Will Paul George Play Next Season?
Well, this is a very good question, and there are a lot of good answers. First of all, he can re-sign with the Thunder if they can make a push for at least the Conference Finals this season. However, there is no guarantee for that. Even though it looks like a long shot, the Thunder might actually trade him before the deadline, if they feel that he will walk for nothing.
The top destination has always been the Lakers. They were really high on Paul George for quite a while now, and he himself has stated that he wants to play there. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up in with the Rockets or the New Orleans Pelicans. If either of these teams can shed a couple of bad contracts, they just might be able to become even stronger with the addition of Paul George.
6. Should Miami Trade Hassan Whiteside?
Hassan Whiteside has been both underestimated and overestimated throughout his career. He sure has tremendous physical attributes, but he isn't really a skilled player. Had it not been for his extreme physical abilities, he wouldn't even play in the NBA.
Bashing aside, Hassan Whiteside can be a dominant force in Miami's starting lineup, when he is healthy. And that's the problem right there, he just can't seem to stay healthy. This season he has only played 16 of Miami's 34 matches so far, due to a bone bruise in his knee. The Heat are still in the playoff chase, so shutting him down won't be an option. However, a trade is surely something to consider for an injury-prone player.
5. How Much Patience Do Damian Lillard and John Wall Have?
Neither the Blazers nor the Wizards have gone past their respective Conference Semi-Finals in the past decade or so. Damian Lillard and the Blazers are currently in the last playoff spots of the Western Conference, and they will most likely have to have the Spurs, Rockets or Warriors in the playoffs. They don't have the team to challenge any of these three, and Lillard will surely grow impatient at some point. Whether it will take a trade to reinforce the team, or Lillard walking out, the Blazers will surely have to up their game.
On the other hand, the Wizards have been eliminated in the Conference Semi-Finals in three of the last four seasons and didn't even make the playoffs once in-between. They are not better than the Cavaliers, and the Celtics are now really strong, so the Wizards can't get past any of the two. What they can do is to lure DeMarcus Cousins this summer, in order to reunite him with fellow-Kentucky teammate John Wall. In any case, John Wall will surely want to take a shot at the ring at some point in his career, so the Wizards better do something, and do it sooner rather than later.
4. What Will The Cavaliers Do About Isaiah Thomas' Expiring Contract?
The Cavaliers might have pulled a decent deal when they sent Kyrie Irving to the Celtics, but Isaiah Thomas has yet to make his season debut due to his hip injury. He is only earning $6,261,395 in the final year of his contract, and he has expressed the desire for a max contract since he was with the Celtics.
Now, this might seem like a no-brainer for the Cavaliers, there is always the risk of investing so much money on a player that has only played a single full season in his career. It was different injuries that had sidelined him earlier in his career, but he seems to be back to good shape lately. Regardless of what LeBron decides to do in the summer, the Cavaliers should give Isaiah the max contract he wants (and deserves).
3. Where Will DeMarcus Cousins Play Next Season?
DeMarcus Cousins was traded by the Sacramento Kings because of the overall bad vibes that existed between him, the coaches and maybe the front office. He is a different player in the Pelicans, mostly because he is much calmer. He doesn't get as many technical fouls this season, and he seems to have found a really good chemistry with Twin Tower Anthony Davis. However, the Western Conference is packed with superteams right now, and even if the Pelicans do make the playoffs, they will most likely be up against either the Warriors, the Rockets or the Spurs.
There is no guarantee that DeMarcus Cousins will actually re-sign with the Pelicans. The Lakers will most likely have room for a couple of max contracts, and if they can first sign LeBron James or Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins will be really tempted to follow. The Celtics also have a TON of assets to offer in order to lure him away on a trade, but they might not have the cap to sign him when the season ends. Cleveland might also make an offer for Cousins, as they also have a lot of players that could add a lot of depth to the Pelicans' bench.
2. Who Will Stop The Golden State Warriors?
The Warriors look like an unstoppable force right now, especially with the addition of Kevin Durant last season. However, the Rockets have also been greatly improved with the addition of Chris Paul, and they can really challenge the Warriors. The San Antonio Spurs are an ever-present danger in the Western Conference, and despite Kawhi Leonard's injury this season, they have looked pretty good.
The Thunder are also one of the teams that just might be able to challenge the Warriors this season, but they have yet to find the perfect chemistry between Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. Should that happens, combined with the emergence of Steven Adams, the OKC can surely be a handful for the Warriors. And, of course, the Cavaliers. The new era of the Cavaliers has yet to be seen, as Isaiah Thomas hasn't made his debut yet. He will be a facilitator in their offense, and they just might be able to challenge their arch-rivals.
1. Will LeBron James Stay With The Cavaliers Or Not?
Well, this is a question for the ages. One thing's for sure: whatever he chooses to do, he will be criticized. If he stays and doesn't win the title this season (or the next), people will surely doubt his decision. That doesn't mean that the naysayers are correct though. Sure, LeBron James can accept a trade, or exercise his player option and go into free agency this summer.
However, he can't be sure that he will find a better competitor than the Cavs. Maybe he will turn a good team into a great team. There is no telling what's going to happen, but expect The King to make a push for more titles as his career is slowly drawing to a close. The Cavaliers have actually built their entire roster around him, but he has expressed his frustration in the past. There is no indication that he will leave, but if he does, expect whichever team he joins to instantly turn into a contender (unless it already is).