There's a tremendous amount of anticipation for each NBA team this season-whether it be to see if their youngsters will develop into top-notch players or to see if the team has what it takes to compete for a championship.
In just a few days, those questions will begin to be answered.
One team with numerous questions is the Denver Nuggets. Finishing with 57 wins and earning a top-three playoff seed last season, the Nuggets were upset by the Golden State Warriors in the first round. They also lost arguably their best player in Andre Iguodala during free agency, plus scorer Danilo Gallinari for the first few months of the season to injury. The quality and depth of the Western Conference doesn't help their cause either.
Possibly the biggest question mark for Denver surrounds Kenneth Faried, the highly productive and athletic power forward. Faried, while nearly averaging a double-double in his second NBA season last year, was the subject of trade rumors as far back as draft night.
His name popped up again in more rumors this week.
In light of those rumors, Jeffrey Morton and Nate Timmons of Denver Stiffs, an SB Nation companion blog, wrote about both the pros and cons of trading Faried. Both acknowledged his commitment and hustle, but both also spoke to his unique size and skillset - a combination that may not quite fit what new head coach Brian Shaw is working towards.
In the argument in favor of trading Faried, Morton compared the situation to Utah's recent signing of Derrick Favors. The 22-year-old recently inked a four-year, $49 million extension with the Jazz. Morton's main point was if it cost some $50 million to keep a comparable player like Favors on Utah's roster, should the Nuggets be spending that type of money on Faried? Furthermore, should they spend it on someone that may not even fit into the style Shaw wants to play?
"As it stands right now, with a dramatically new offensive approach, and the financial commitment that could potentially be due - the Nuggets need to make a move," Morton says while making the argument to trade Faried.
Like Denver, this season could and probably will be one of hard decisions, especially with a highly-rated draft class looming in the future. Franchises like Boston, Atlanta, Minnesota and Los Angeles are all teams either on the fringe of the playoffs or out-of-the-running with All Star level players.
The Portland Trail Blazers can be grouped into this category of fringe playoff teams that could be making hard, Faried-like decisions as well. While making the playoffs is the goal, it certainly isn't a guarantee. LaMarcus Aldridge is the figurehead of the debate, but with so many players on short contracts, tough decisions are on the horizon.
There are two ways you can look at the position Portland is in. The first is similar to Denver: Find out who fits into the long-term plan, and quickly cut loose those who don't.
However, there could be a second option for the Trail Blazers.
In the Gerald Wallace acquisition back in 2011, the Blazers ended up trading last year's draft pick. However, the pick was protected through the top 12, allowing the team to keep it and draft CJ McCollum at 10th overall. However, if the team makes the playoffs this year, they wouldn't keep their pick in a 2014 draft heralded as the best in a decade.
With the possibility of teams like Denver selling on top-talent and Portland in playoffs-or-bust mode, the Blazers could very well be in a position to be a buyer this year.
So much of the conversation among analysts and fans over the offseason was directed toward the first option for the Blazers: Blow it up; it's obvious this isn't a championship team, and with young talents like Damian Lillard, Thomas Robinson and others, losing in the short term will lead to development and potentially winning in the long term.
What's clear from the Denver Stiffs column, though, is that Portland isn't the only one in this type of situation. If anything, they might even be in the majority, not minority.
That being said, you have to think Neil Olshey is wondering how he can score a top-tier player when others are chasing after a top draft pick that he probably won't have.
Doing so would certainly turn the narrative on its head.
There are tough questions Portland faces with top talent, just like Denver faces with some of their best contributors.
With the importance of making this season a successful one, it wouldn't be out of the question that the Blazers look to make a splash from a team like Denver cutting a highly productive player loose.