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New Year's resolutions for every NBA team - - The Now Legacy/CBS Sports

Every single NBA team has something it can hope for in 2021


By Michael Kaskey-Blomain, Sam Quinn, & James Herbert


As the calendar flips from one year to another, people often come up with resolutions -- things they would like to accomplish or do better, in the new year. Similarly, NBA teams also have resolutions, and while each would like to win a ring, that's not a realistic goal for all of them. For a handful of teams, it is. For others, their resolution could be something simpler, like staying healthy or developing young talent.

The thing with resolutions, though, is they don't always come to fruition, and that will likely be the case for many of the resolutions listed below. But hey, there's nothing wrong with starting the new year with some optimism. With that said. here's a look at the 2021 New Year's resolutions for every NBA team.


Atlanta Hawks

New Year's resolution: Find balance

So far, the Hawks have been everything we hoped they would be … on offense. On the other side of the floor, early returns have not been as encouraging -- they're not forcing turnovers, they're fouling too much and they're getting hurt in transition. Atlanta can make a jump in the standings through sheer firepower, but if it is going to be the best version of itself, it needs to find a better balance. The good news is the defense should improve when Clint Capela settles in and Onyeka Okongwu gets healthy. The bad news is that Kris Dunn just had surgery on his ankle. -- James Herbert


Boston Celtics

New Year's resolution: A healthier lifestyle

Boston is fortunate that Jaylen Brown has made a leap and that rookie Payton Pritchard has fit right in. In the new year, though, they need Kemba Walker to return from his knee injury refreshed and rejuvenated. The Celtics won't rush him back this time, and, once he's back on the floor, they're counting on him staying there. Walker's playmaking is even more essential now than it was with last season's roster. -- James Herbert


Brooklyn Nets

New Year's resolution: Stay free of chemistry issues

After a season's worth of anticipation, we finally got to see the duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving suit up for the Nets. The early returns have been extremely promising, and the Nets look like they could become the best team in the Eastern Conference. However, continued chemistry could be a concern, especially given Kyrie Irving's history of, um, mood swings. Things have started smoothly for Brooklyn, but how will the team respond when adversity hits? Just last season we saw a Clippers team with title expectations implode due to a lack of chemistry. These things happen. Brooklyn certainly has the talent to get to the NBA Finals, and potentially even win a ring. In 2021, it will be extremely interesting to see if the Nets will be able to continue to live up to its on-paper potential, or if they will be knocked off track by chemistry issues. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain


Charlotte Hornets

New Year's resolution: Continue to develop young talent

The Hornets aren't going to contend for a title this season as currently constructed, but they are set up well for the future -- as long as they continue to develop all the young talent they have amassed. In Devonte' Graham, P.J. Washington, Miles Bridges and LaMelo Ball, the Hornets have four extremely talented players who are all 25 or younger. The future of the franchise depends largely on how good those players are ultimately able to become, so their development should be central for Charlotte in 2021. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain


Chicago Bulls

New Year's resolution: Stay confident

It has been a rough start for the Bulls, but they can't waver. They must trust the new offense, establish a defensive identity and continue to believe that they are better than they showed last season. A handful of players have a chance to take a step forward, but if there is one player to watch here it's Wendell Carter Jr., a center who can theoretically anchor the defense, stretch the floor and facilitate on offense. Carter has not proven that he can do these things consistently. -- James Herbert


Cleveland Cavaliers

New Year's resolution: Lower demands on a Kevin Love trade

A staple of New Year's resolutions is honesty. Resolving to change something means accepting that something needs to be changed in the first place. Cleveland has been holding out for genuine assets in a Love trade since he first appeared on the block last season. It's not going to happen. Nobody is giving anything up for a defensive liability in his 30s that's constantly injured and has three more expensive seasons on his contract. He clearly wants to play for a contender. The organization owes him that much after he helped them win a championship. Just send him to the first team willing to eat his contract and move on. -- Sam Quinn


Dallas Mavericks

New Year's resolution: Shoot better

Luka Doncic is ice cold (a shocking 2 for 21 from deep), but he's not the only Maverick off to a rough start: Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson, and Jalen Brunson have shot a combined 17 for 57 (29.8 percent) from 3-point range, which adds up to an offense that is still good, but not near the all-time greatness of last season. Seth Curry isn't walking through that door, but there are reasons to believe this will turn around: Doncic can't struggle like this forever, Kristaps Porzingis will eventually return and the offense is generating the same amount of wide-open 3s and catch-and-shoot 3s that it did in 2020-21. -- James Herbert


Denver Nuggets

New Year's resolution: Fix the little things

Early on, the sheer number of issues plaguing the Nuggets is overwhelming: Turnovers, defensive rebounding, fouls, transition defense, the bench. They're prone to dispiriting lulls, and they've scored a miserable 85.4 points per 100 possessions without Nikola Jokic on the court. In order to address all this, they have to keep it simple: Find some lineups that can be trusted defensively and still have some playmaking punch. Stop small runs before they become big ones. Avoid silly, costly mistakes. Denver is in the middle of a natural adjustment period, but it needs to get on the solid ground quickly. -- James Herbert


Detroit Pistons

New Year's resolution: No more centers

Are the Pistons planning to add any more centers? Probably not. But we all cave on our resolutions by Jan. 5, so it's up to all of us to hold the Pistons accountable. Mason has maxed out the Plumlee quota. Jahlil Okafor and Isaiah Stewart both deserve to play. We can continue to pretend that Blake Griffin can defend modern power forwards if the Pistons just agree not to stick him next to any new centers. -- Sam Quinn


Golden State Warriors

New Year's resolution: Recapture some magic

The Warriors aren't the Warriors anymore, but at least they'll have Draymond Green back soon. That means the return of the Steph-Dray pick-and-roll, which can still be extremely dangerous if the other three guys on the court can space the floor or catch lobs from Green. Ideally, Golden State will find a middle ground between its old offensive system and the simplified one it is running right now, and this new group will coalesce into more than the sum of its parts. (It will help, too, if Green can play the kind of defense he played in the 2019 playoffs.) -- James Herbert


Houston Rockets

New Year's resolution: Try keeping James Harden happy in Houston

James Harden has made it explicitly clear that he wants a trade away from Houston, but the Rockets have also made it clear they aren't eager to trade their franchise player as they almost assuredly won't get equal value in return. Typically, when a star player decides that he's had enough of his current franchise, he doesn't reverse course, but that would be the best-case scenario for Houston in 2021. In addition to John Wall, the Rockets also added a couple of talented big men in DeMarcus Cousins and Christian Wood over the offseason and if things click, Houston could still be a team capable of making noise in the highly competitive Western Conference. If the Rockets can continue to contend, perhaps Harden will change his mind about being traded. It's not likely, but crazier things have happened. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain


Indiana Pacers

New Year's resolution: Advance past the first round of the postseason

For the Pacers, getting to the postseason hasn't been an issue; the team has secured a playoff berth in each of the last five seasons. The problem has been advancing in the postseason. The Pacers flamed out in the first round in each of those five consecutive appearances, and in three of those series -- including last season against the Miami Heat -- they were swept. This season, their goal will be to make some noise once they reach the postseason, and not just get there. With a first five that consists of tons of talent, 2021 could finally be the year that the Pacers are able to advance. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain


Los Angeles Clippers

New Year's resolution: Live up to their potential

Last season, a lot of people thought the Clippers would win the title, and they were talented enough to do so. The problem was that once the postseason rolled around, they collapsed in the second round by blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets. After the loss, reports began to circulate about the team's chemistry or lack thereof. Paul George even went as far as to blame his own on-court struggles on Doc Rivers, who the team fired after the loss. With a new head coach and a slightly tweaked roster, the Clippers are again expected to compete for the title this season. Let's see if they can stay out of their own way this time. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain


Los Angeles Lakers

New Year's resolution: Play Talen Horton-Tucker more

"Play your young player" is the NBA equivalent of you signing up for a gym on New Year's Day. It's going to hurt for a while, and then, down the line, it's going to pay off. The Lakers are five months away from a meaningful game. They have time to kill. So why not go to the gym by putting Horton-Tucker out there and seeing what happens? Best-case scenario, you've found a free asset. Worst case? At least you know what you have. If the Lakers are going to jog through the early part of the season anyway, the least they can do is make productive use of this time by developing their preseason star. -- Sam Quinn


Memphis Grizzlies

New Year's resolution: Remember the big picture

The immediate future is scary. Ja Morant is out three-to-five weeks, and the Grizzlies have been predictably dreadful without him on the court. They have to stay positive, though and remember that they are still in the early stages of building something sustainable. Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson are on the way, and maybe Memphis will be in the range of the play-in tournament when Morant recovers. In the meantime, several guys who were supposed to be part of one of the league's strongest benches will be forced into bigger roles. If this goes horribly, then all it really means is the Grizzlies will have a better chance of adding another core player in the draft. -- James Herbert


Miami Heat

New Year's resolution: Build on the momentum from impressive bubble run

The Heat was the surprise team of last season. Heading into the 2019-20 campaign, most pundits had them pegged as a playoff team, but virtually no one picked them to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals at the end of the season. Thanks to good coaching, a lot of chemistry, and solid play on both ends of the floor, the Heat were able to make their sixth Finals appearance in franchise history. Now, the team's job in 2021 -- and beyond -- is to prove the success they enjoyed in the bubble wasn't a fluke. With virtually the same roster that they had last season, the Heat should again be able to compete for a title. Now it's up to them to go do it. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain


Milwaukee Bucks

New Year's resolution: Advance out of the Eastern Conference

In each of the past two seasons, the Bucks finished with the best overall record in the NBA. They also failed to advance out of the Eastern Conference both times. In 2019 they lost to the Toronto Raptors in the conference finals, and last season they fell to the Miami Heat inside the bubble in the second round. They were able to lock reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to a long-term extension over the offseason, so at least his future with the franchise isn't hanging over the team this season -- just the fact that they've recently underachieved. They have another extremely formidable squad this season, and in 2021 anything short of an NBA Finals appearance would be a disappointment. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain


Minnesota Timberwolves

New Year's resolution: Find defense somewhere ... anywhere

The Timberwolves are ranked 23rd in defense despite playing half of their games against teams missing MVP candidates (Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard). Their roster moves continue to place an undue burden on an offense that expects too much out of Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell as it is. There isn't a proven commodity anywhere on the defense, and power forward remains a somewhat gaping hole in the starting lineup in general. By this time next season, the Timberwolves will have ideally filled that slot with a trustworthy defender. -- Sam Quinn


New Orleans Pelicans

New Year's resolution: Space out

Three-point shooting numbers should not be trusted this early in a season, but in this case, they are likely meaningful. The Pelicans' league-worst mark from long range matches preseason expectations -- if you start Eric Bledsoe, Lonzo Ball, Zion Williamson, and Steven Adams together, you're probably going to struggle from deep. Even if Ball finds the rhythm he had last season, some tweaks to the rotation and the roster could be in order. I can't help but wonder what this team would look like if it had kept George Hill. -- James Herbert


New York Knicks

New Year's resolution: Contend for a spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament


Let's be honest, the bar is pretty low for the Knicks. An argument could be made that their resolution should be a postseason berth, but that's asking a whole lot from a franchise that hasn't played a playoff game since 2013. instead, their goal should be just to contend for a playoff spot. This would be a step in the right direction. This season, the play-in tournament will encompass the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th seeds in each conference, and the Knicks should be aiming to be involved in that tournament. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain


Oklahoma City Thunder

New Year's resolution: Stay the course

Why fix what isn't broken? The Thunder have a good thing going right now. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort are developing unencumbered. The Thunder continue to stockpile draft capital. They'll only add to that pile when they eventually trade Al Horford and George Hill. Oklahoma City is exactly where it wants to be right now. There's nothing it needs to do differently in 2021. -- Sam Quinn


Orlando Magic

New Year's resolution: Fix their shot selection

The Magic outlasted the entire NBA by starting 4-0 and winding up as the league's last unbeaten team. How they did it is a complete mystery. The Magic have perhaps the worst shot selection in NBA history through those four games. They are ranked dead-last in both 3-point attempts and shots in the restricted area, but first in mid-range jumpers and non-restricted area paint shots. They're 25th in free throws as well, creating a shot profile that shouldn't even be possible in 2021. The Magic may never be the Rockets, but this is ridiculous. They're shooting like it's 1999. -- Sam Quinn


Philadelphia 76ers

New Year's resolution: Stay healthy

For the Sixers, their New Year's resolution is simple: stay healthy. For the past several years, they have dealt with a string of injury issues to key contributors. All-Star center Joel Embiid has been in and out of the rotation due to various ailments, while Markelle Fultz played a total of just 33 games with Philadelphia due to a mysterious lingering shoulder injury after the team made him the top pick in the highly-hyped 2017 NBA Draft. Last season, they were without the services of All-Star forward Ben Simmons for the entirety of the postseason due to a knee injury. Last time Embiid and Simmons were both healthy together in the postseason, the Sixers pushed the eventual champion Toronto Raptors to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The main thing that has held the Sixers back from reaching their full potential in recent years is injury issues, and they are certainly hoping that changes in 2021. -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain


Phoenix Suns

New Year's resolution: Force Deandre Ayton to shoot more 3s

Ayton is inching in the right direction. Those mid-range jumpers that limited his efficiency early on are creeping closer and closer to the basket. Yet he still refuses to take 3s at a steady clip and it's holding the Suns back offensively. Nobody is asking him to play like Meyers Leonard, but if he's going to spend as many possessions as he does doing things besides dunking, maximizing spacing for Chris Paul and Devin Booker is probably the path to maximizing those possessions. He has the shooting stroke. He just has to use it. -- Sam Quinn


Portland Trail Blazers

New Year's resolution: Free Trent

Gary Trent Jr.'s spectacular shooting display against the Lakers on Monday wasn't surprising based on his run in the bubble. His six measly minutes two days earlier was, though. When he gets over his hamstring issue, the Blazers need to find minutes for Trent however they can, even if it comes at the expense of respected veterans. Portland's defense has been atrocious so far, largely because this roster doesn't have a ton of two-way players who can tie lineups together like he does. -- James Herbert


Sacramento Kings

New Year's resolution: Push the pace

Yes, it's early in the season, and yes, the Kings look quite good, but it seems like Luke Walton is still committed to the same flaw that ruined last season. The Dave Joerger Kings nearly made the 2019 playoffs based on their blistering fastbreak. Walton took over and their pace dropped from third in the NBA to 19th. It's 19th again so far this season. Tyrese Haliburton may be helping the half-court offense, but that's no excuse to keep De'Aaron Fox from running. The Kings are wasting one of their greatest weapons so far. -- Sam Quinn


San Antonio Spurs

New Year's resolution: Embrace the youth movement

It's finally time. San Antonio has accumulated enough young talent to go all-in. DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay are all on expiring contracts. They're all in their 30s. And they all need to go. The Spurs still need a franchise cornerstone, and those veterans are limiting their chance of acquiring one on multiple fronts by both helping them win games and taking shots away from the youngsters developing underneath them. The Spurs have been putting it off for years, but the time to accept the reality of a rebuild is at hand. -- Sam Quinn


Toronto Raptors

New Year's resolution: Score!

Let's keep this one straightforward: The Raptors' half-court offense was only average last season, got worse in the playoffs and has been dismal to start 2020-21. They don't have to be elite in this area, but Kyle Lowry desperately needs some help if they're going to be halfway decent. Toronto is not getting to the rim much, not finishing well and almost never getting to the line. Making matters worse, the transition game hasn't been the dominant force that it was pre-Tampa. This team must find its offensive mojo in 2021. -- James Herbert


Utah Jazz

New Year's resolution: Dominate January

The lifecycle of the Jazz never changes. They start out slowly. They tweak the lineup. Suddenly they're a juggernaut pushing for double-digit winning streaks. Let's just skip that first part this season. Utah is already 2-1. There are no meaningful new faces in need of acclimation. Everyone knows their role. So don't mess around, Utah. Focus your energy on a hot start knowing that your second-half brilliance, and a possible top seed, await afterward. -- Sam Quinn


Washington Wizards

New Year's resolution: A good partnership between Beal and Westbrook

The Wizards shook things up in a major way over the offseason by trading John Wall for Russell Westbrook. Washington's future now hinges on the combination of Westbrook and Bradley Beal, since both are signed to massive deals for the next couple of seasons. Thus, the best scenario for the Wizards is that Westbrook and Beal form a solid partnership both on and off of the court. If they like each other, and like playing with each other, well, that would be better than the alternative. The early results for the Wizards weren't great, as the team started the season off 0-4, but hey, they can only go up from there, right? -- Michael Kaskey-Blomain


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