Answers that matter most won't arrive until the regular season.
But training camp provides the takeoff point, establishes the direction where it all will head over the 82 games that count and then the additional games that count even more.
So with camps opening this week, a look at 10 issues that will define the NBA in coming weeks.
1. Are the Nuggets losing their luster?
By the end of training camp, it is possible Denver finds itself in rebuilding mode.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
But the longer this Carmelo Anthony thing lingers, the longer the Nuggets go without an identity.
If a move needs to be made, if things can't be made right when it comes to a long-term outlook with Anthony, then a sooner-rather-than-later approach would be preferable, if only to allow a more seamless shift into rebuilding mode, a mode that might not prove to be in George Karl's best interest.
If the Anthony issue is resolved through a trade, then the Chauncey Billups issue can be addressed. There is no need for a veteran floor leader who won't be around when whatever players are acquired for Anthony are developed.
2. Are the Heat ready for boot camp?
There were two ways the post-July 9 summer could have gone for the Heat:
Plan B will be the approach at Eglin Air Force Base, as the Heat plan for a season of counterattacks.
While the focus will be on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the supporting cast has created its own swagger. Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard & Co. are convinced the team has more than enough in reserve to support Wade, James and Bosh.
How big has this Heat thing gotten? Big enough to convince national media that the Florida Panhandle is the place to be the final week of September.
Who knows, you might even catch Rachel Nichols at the Waffle House.
3. Will the clouds of a potential lockout detract from the bright-skies outlook in camps?
If the collective-bargaining agreement wasn't coming to a close June 30, there arguably would be more patience around the league when it comes to extensions.
Instead, October could be particularly touchy with those eligible for either rookie-scale extensions or rookie-scale options. And that doesn't even get into the veterans such as Atlanta's Jamal Crawford, who would like extensions in advance of what could be a July 1 Armageddon.
A nuclear summer almost assuredly is on the way. The question is whether that creates a toxic October.
With the public yet to move past the bad taste of this summer's free agency, the last thing the league needs are players going through camp grousing about contracts.
A new CBA won't be completed in October, but those negotiations will hover like a ominous cloud.
4. Is the northern exposure diminishing?
While there are no indications that the Toronto Raptors are anywhere near a move similar to the one that took the Grizzlies from Vancouver to Memphis, there already is a referendum-like feel with the league's only remaining franchise north of the border.
Not only did the Raptors lose Chris Bosh in free agency for nothing in return beyond a package of draft choices, but it's not as if Toronto did much in the way of reloading, save for the addition of Linas Kleiza.
The fan support at Air Canada Centre is undeniable. Toronto remains a passionate sports city.
But the Raptors desperately need to create a buzz, to serve some type of notice that they aren't going anywhere, that they can survive in the absence of Bosh. Whether it is Andrea Bargnani or DeMar DeRozen or Julian Wright, someone has to step forward, soon, to fill the void left over the years by the likes of McGrady, Carter and Bosh.
5. Does Doug Collins have the patience?
Is Doug Collins the latest used-to-be-somebody presence offered up in a desperate bid to keep the 76ers relevant, sort of this season's Allen Iverson?
Or can Collins, along with Rod Thorn, make this thing right again?
It is, to say the least, an odd mix in Philadelphia, what with Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young all at their best at small forward.
And then there is the case of the disappearing Elton Brand, who looms more as a contract than a post presence.
The 76ers have plenty of pieces, plus an intriguing coach. This is a team that needs to create preseason buzz, if only to shake itself out of a malaise that otherwise has the look of another lottery season.
6. Can the Celtics hold it together?
Kendrick Perkins is coming back, not soon, but should be over his knee concerns by midseason.
How Doc Rivers holds it together before that will be intriguing.
Beyond Door No. 2 is Diva No. 2, Jermaine O'Neal.
Both have ambitions to be the fill-in until Perkins re-emerges, and then to slide into the primary backup role at center. Yet neither is the type to push through mundane training-camp drills or even inconsequential exhibition games.
Did Rivers really need this headache?
Camp will prove to be absorbing when it comes to whether the professionalism of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce can rub off on the two oversized arrivals.
7. Are the Spurs dormant or done?
Gregg Popovich is talking up his team's chances entering camp. And he never does that, or at least never has seen the need.
But the Spurs are at a crossroads. Tony Parker will be a free agent in the offseason, with Eva offering LaLa-like hints about a fascination with New York.
Then there is the plan to break out the next big thing, Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter.
Yet if Manu Ginobili can stay healthy, if Splitter thrives in tandem with Tim Duncan, there is hope.
You tend to write off the Spurs at your own risk. Camp could offer telling hints about whether one more run is at hand.
8. Is Yao Ming again the next big thing?
The year without Yao was about enduring. In the interim, coach Rick Adelman got his team to play at pace, featured Aaron Brooks, acquired Kevin Martin.
But the thought was that Yao eventually would be back the same as ever, as an imposing big-minutes presence.
Now we're being told that Yao's new reality is a limit of 24 minutes per game, sitting out the second nights of back-to-backs. And that changes everything.
Dual identities rarely work in the NBA. You can't play post half of the time, at pace the rest. That makes camp particularly interesting in Houston. Does Yao become someone who has to fit in? Or will the Rockets actually try to bide 24 minute per game while maintaining a post focus?
Signals could be offered in coming weeks.
9. Could something actually go right for the Clippers?
Yes, Blake Griffin still qualifies as a rookie, legitimate competition for John Wall when it comes to postseason hardware.
Yet for a team that entered the offseason with enough cap space to be considered part of the LeBron derby, surely more could have been mined than Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes and Brian Cook.
It could come down to the backcourt, where Eric Gordon thrived this summer with USA Basketball, while Baron Davis remains an enigma.
Factor in Chris Kaman, and playoffs could be a reality.
But it has to happen early, with an imposing opening schedule against Portland, Dallas, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Especially for a team with its own, engraved cloud of doom.
That makes camp meaningful, because a strong start to the season will be meaningful.
10. Are the Thunder the next big thing?
Now Kevin Durant has gone and done it, put a target on his back as a leading candidate for MVP. Can the Durant Rules be far off when it comes to opposing defensive schemes?
Oklahoma City no longer can carry the banner of underdog darling. There are very real expectations here. Is coach Scott Brooks up to it? Is Jeff Green? Or Nenad "Chair Throwing" Krstic?
No need for swagger here, but the Thunder have to come out prepared for a greater level of challenge. Durant and Russell Westbrook proved up to it at the World Championships. But there also are several new pieces that have to be indoctrinated. That makes camp meaningful with the arrivals of Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, Royal Ivey and Mo Peterson.
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