We know that football season just started, but this is your friendly reminder that NBA training camps are just two weeks away. With that in mind, here's an introductory look at one thing each team should look to address before the regular season gets going at the end of October. We begin in the Eastern Conference.
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The Sixers need to prove that, after three years of deliberate tanking, they're actually going to try to start winning games. Ben Simmons as the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft is a great start, as is a new front office regime that seems to be done with losing on purpose. Philly needs to trade either Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor, and once the team does that, it'll be ready to move forward with a more reasonable roster construction.
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The Nets, at some point, need to establish an identity. The only players of note on the roster to begin the 2016-17 season are Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin, who signed a free-agent deal worth $36 million over the next three years to come to Brooklyn this summer.
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New York Knicks
New York traded for Derrick Rose and then signed Joakim Noah as a free agent, in order to try to make a playoff push with a new head coach in Jeff Hornacek guiding the ship. That's how things are going to go as long as Carmelo Anthony remains in place, and the Knicks will use training camp to try to make the pieces fit as much as possible.
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The Bucks are coming off a disappointing season in which many projected them to make the playoffs. They reached in the draft to select Thon Maker with the 10th overall pick, and the team must use its training camp to figure out whether Maker is ready to contribute as a regular rotation player during his rookie season.
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The Magic had a pretty random offseason when you look at the players who came and went. They moved on from Victor Oladipo, and traded him to the Thunder for Serge Ibaka, who may have passed his prime. Bismack Biyombo and Jeff Green were signed in free agency, as well. But the biggest addition might have been at head coach, where Orlando snatched up Frank Vogel (pictured) after the Pacers somewhat inexplicably cut him loose. Training camp will be more important for the Magic than it will be for most teams, considering all the new parts.
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About the only good news in Washington is that the Wizards have a new head coach. The roster remains largely unchanged from a season ago, but Scott Brooks -- who had a fair amount of success getting two stars to coexist in Oklahoma City -- now has the task of doing the same with Bradley Beal and John Wall. Brooks will use training camp to implement his new systems, and to teach the young Wizards stars that they need each other in order to succeed.
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Now that Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are with the Knicks, the Bulls are officially Jimmy Butler's squad. But as good as Butler is, he clashed with head coach Fred Hoiberg at the start of the previous season. Add in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo to the mix, and Hoiberg will have his hands full. The second-year head coach would be wise to assert himself during training camp in order to gain a firm hold on his team before the regular season begins.
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The Pistons are essentially all-in on their young core of Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris and Reggie Jackson. They have Marcus Morris on a value contract, and added former Spurs giant Boban Marjanovic this summer. Stan Van Gundy needs to develop his players during training camp, so that hanging close in the playoffs against the eventual champion Cavaliers during a four-game sweep no longer seems like the team took some kind of huge positive step.
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Frank Vogel was ousted as head coach, and Nate McMillan is the new man in charge. Not only will he need training camp to implement his systems and take charge of his new team, but he'll need to find roles for new additions like Al Jefferson and Jeff Teague. Paul George seems primed to make another leap this season, so if McMillan can push the right buttons, the Pacers could be a surprise team in the East.
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Nicolas Batum re-signing in Charlotte was huge for the Hornets, but they've lost some players whose production will be difficult to replace. Jeremy Lin and Al Jefferson have both moved on, and when looking at the roster as a whole, head coach Steve Clifford may struggle to put together a viable rotation.
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Whether or not Jaylen Brown, the thrid overall pick in this summer's draft, can contribute immediately may go a long way in determinging how good the Celtics can be. It's true they added Al Horford in free agency, but Brown's upside is far more intriguing, and could potentially have a greater impact on the Celtics for years to come.
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The Hawks essentially traded Al Horford for Dwight Howard this summer, and while we're not as down on Howard as others, he doesn't seem like an ideal fit in Atlanta's offense. The Hawks also moved on from Jeff Teague and are ready to hand the keys to Dennis Schröder at the point guard spot; that decision may work out a bit better than the first, but training camp will be an important time to get everyone on the same page in Mike Budenholzer's system.
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Is Hassan Whiteside the new face of the franchise? He got paid like it this summer, and a youth movement might be the way to go now that Dwyane Wade left for Chicago after being jerked around by management over his contract for the second straight summer. Chris Bosh is still a question mark in terms of whether he'll be medically cleared to return, but if he doesn't, no amount of training camp magic will save Miami from a disappointing 2016-17 season.
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The core is still there for a Raptors team that did about as well as it could last season with the talent on the roster. But Toronto lost some depth with Biyombo leaving in free agency, and while DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas make for an exceptional unit, no amount of training camp magic will make them better than a healthy Cavaliers team late in the playoffs.
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The Cavaliers may be the defending champs, but training camp will be important in establishing who will replace Matthew Dellavedova in the rotation. Delly may not have been noticeably stellar, but he shot better than 40 percent from three last season while averaging 24.6 minutes per game in 76 regular-season appearances.