With training camp starting up this weekend for some teams and into next week for the other teams, it’s time to start looking at which players will be fighting for spots not just on the roster but in rotations around the league. We take a look at the Western Conference teams and what possible training camp position battles we may find this preseason.
For the Eastern Conference camp battles, .
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Jarrett Jack, , , ,
The Warriors made their magical run through the first round with next to no contributions from David Lee during the 2013 playoffs, which has lead some pundits and fans wondering if the team is better off playing small ball with Harrison Barnes at the 4. He won’t flat-out replace Lee and the $44 million left on his contract through 2016, but has Barnes improved enough to steal minutes away?
Marreese Speights vs. Jermaine O’Neal
Back in June, underwent knee surgery that should sideline him until 2014. With the team showing success with small ball, this could leave Speights and O’Neal battling for the key minutes as the backup big man. Do you go with Speights, who is much more of a scorer at this stage than O’Neal, or do you go with more of a veteran presence that could potentially provide some defense behind Bogut?
vs. Toney Douglas
With Andre Iguodala on the roster, the need for a traditional backup point guard might not be necessary unless Mark Jackson decides to employ hockey-style line changes. That could lead to the high hopes of Kent Bazemore’s defensive presence being one of the main backup guards unless Toney Douglas can show his improvement last season wasn’t a fluke.
If anything, they’re likely to be a more traditional team in terms of lineups and position players with an eye on the unconventional if things go wrong with an injury or two. David Lee was fantastic last season for them in the regular season, but it’s hard to move his contract or sit him on the bench in favor of a second-year forward. And until they have their full depth back when Ezeli returns, they’ll probably slide Speights into Landry’s role from last year (although Barnes could see time there instead) and use their size against opponents that can play both big and small. As for the Bazemore addition to the rotation, I’d imagine Douglas takes the spot early because you can trust him more with the ball and Bazemore isn’t quite a playmaker yet. But this team should evolve and adapt no matter what situation stares them in the face.
, , , , Reggie Bullock, ,
, Caron Butler, , Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom
Antawn Jamison vs. Byron Mullens
There isn’t much in the way of big men depth with the Clippers and it’s going to be their biggest issue this season if doesn’t show he can play 30+ minutes per game. will certainly be in the mix, but Jamison battling Mullens as the scoring big off the bench could be a big part of the Clippers’ training camp and preseason.
vs. Darren Collison
It’s not that Jamal Crawford is going to be the full-time backup point guard by any means. But with so much wing depth on this team, having him bring the ball up the court for a few minutes here and there may be the only way to get him proper time on the court. If Collison can’t defend anybody, might as well have the dynamic scorer out there instead.
This wing depth means one of these guys will have to take a backseat with minutes. They can go small and play Barnes at the 4, but Green is going to have to be a huge upgrade with shooting and a solid defender in order to take time from Barnes.
Shaking out the rotation and minutes of the wing players won’t be as necessary as figuring out who will play the big man minutes for this team. You can pencil in for 30+ minutes per game. Outside of that, you need Jordan to take a big step forward this season and still need Hollins or Mullens to be a big contributor inside. Even if Jamison is able to be a consistent scoring option off the bench, where does the interior defense come from?
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, Earl Clark, Antawn Jamison, Metta World Peace, , Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris
Jordan Farmar vs.
Without knowing how long will be out when the season starts, if at all, the Lakers made need a boost in athleticism in the backcourt. Old friend Jordan Farmar could end up providing that in the up-tempo system and pushing Steve Blake for time as the backup point guard. Blake was really good under D’Antoni, but the athletic boost could be big under Farmar.
Wes Johnson vs. Xavier Henry
Seriously, this is a battle for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2013-14 season. If I told you this was going to be a thing this time last year, how drunk would you think I am?
Kobe Bryant vs. timetables
As much as certain role players earning time on this team could end up being throughout the season, nothing will be more important than Kobe Bryant coming back on the early side of his initial timetable. We probably won’t really know how close he is to returning until a couple days before opening night. If he can continue to shatter expectations, then he’ll have won this position battle and then some.
There just isn’t much we can learn about this team early on until we know how healthy Kobe is and when he’s coming back to this team. If he’s ready by the start of the season, then the role players will fall into place. If he’s not ready for opening night, then you’re going to see a lot of guys trying to put up numbers in the fast pace style of Mike D’Antoni. We’ll see if point guard still has the ability to make players look better or if everything is a lost cause this season.
Eric Bledsoe, , , Archie Goodwin, Slava Kravstov, , , ,
, Wes Johnson, Jermaine O’Neal, Jared Dudley, Luis Scola, Hamed Haddadi
Eric Bledsoe vs.
You’re more likely to see these two playing together throughout the season than you are to see them competing for minutes at the point guard position. But at some point, Bledsoe has to convince the Suns that he’s the point guard of the future and that Dragic is expendable.
vs. Archie Goodwin
Brown is not only the veteran option here but he’s also the better player between the two right now. However, this team may not have a real need for veterans to be on the court much this season (see: offseason exodus of most of them, including Caron Butler). Can Goodwin steal minutes early and prove to be the better option at the 2?
Alex Len vs. draft position
No matter what the status of a player is heading into his rookie season, if he was taken with a top-5 pick in the draft, people will expect to see some kind of spark out of such a high draft selection. He doesn’t need to be a star or anything right away, but you’d love to hear a little buzz about Len in camp if you’re a Suns fan.
There is still a weird mix of veterans and young players on this team that Jeff Hornacek will have to choose from for his rotation. Will he be inclined to throw Bledsoe out there just to see if he makes a big difference? What will the balance be between playing guys like , Shannon Brown, and while still having eyes on the future of this franchise and developing young players? I imagine they’ll move toward the young players but you can’t have sulking veterans.
, , Carl Landry, , Ray McCallum,
, Cole Aldrich, Toney Douglas,
Greivis Vasquez vs.
Isaiah Thomas doesn’t want to give up his starting point guard gig without a fight because he worked his way from the last pick in the draft to a starter. Greivis Vasquez was one of the best point guards at setting other players up last season. Which one works better for Mike Malone to start games?
Ray McCallum vs.
While Jimmer Fever is still quite contagious amongst fans, Ray McCallum has all the makings of being a really good backup point guard in this league. The Kings are already crowded at that position, but it doesn’t mean McCallum can’t take Jimmer’s minutes as the fifth guard off the bench.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute vs.
John Salmons is the better all around player when compared to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but that’s mainly because of his offensive capabilities. This team is going to potentially be awful defensively and that’s where Mbah a Moute should be able to steal minutes from Salmons.
This Kings team is under a new direction now and we should hear early signs of what a refreshing culture change we have in Sacramento as camp begins. Mike Malone finally gets a crack at running his own team on the court and we’ll get to see and hear the early impressions of what he’s able to do with this young core. Welcome back to professionalism, Sacramento!
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Andre Iguodala, ,
Darrell Arthur vs. J.J. Hickson
The Nuggets have solid depth for the interior but they have a big decision to make between minutes going to Arthur or Hickson. After the defensive debacle in Portland last season, we should be done with the idea of Hickson playing center. So do you need a stat-stuffing backup 4 or do you need someone who can play a little defense in Arthur?
I’m not sure how much either player has a chance to play in the backcourt this coming season with the depth the Nuggets acquired. But before Gallinari comes back into the fold, Hamilton and Fournier have a shot to play a lot on the wing behind .
Nate Robinson vs. Randy Foye
Randy Foye has proven to be a much safer choice than someone like Nate Robinson over the past couple seasons, but he’s never shown the ability to take over games if need by like Nate has. This team went small last season with two small guards in the lineup together. Is Nate still dynamic enough to make that an option for Denver?
The biggest talk coming out of this training camp will likely be the regime change on the sideline and how much players are buying into what Brian Shaw is selling. How much of an influence will his time with Phil Jackson have on the type of coach Shaw ends up being? Will the defensive teachings of Frank Vogel in Indiana have an impact as well? How will he mend the trust issues that may have popped up with the organization and after the fallout from last season?
, Corey Brewer, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Ronny Turiaf
Andrei Kirilenko, Luke Ridnour, Malcolm Lee, , , Brandon Roy
vs. Corey Brewer
The starting small forward position will be up from grabs during training camp and the preseason. If Budinger can avoid looking like a saloon door on defense, his shooting could win him the job. Otherwise, Brewer’s defensive impact (while not huge, still greater than Budinger’s) could win him the starting nod.
Derrick Williams has been better than people assume but he’s also been much worse than what was expected out of his No. 2 selection in 2011. If he can’t win the backup PF position over Cunningham, he’ll probably be trade bait early in the season.
Ronny Turiaf vs. Gorgui Dieng
Gorgui Dieng has a lot of defensive potential, but anchoring a defense in the is a bit different than what he did at Louisville. This leaves the door open for Ronny Turiaf to win the backup center position this preseason.
This team will be a lot of fun on offense if everybody stays healthy, but it’s hard to buy into them being a good defensive team just based on how the team looks on paper. The return of to full strength, the big contract given out to this summer, and the first healthy (we hope!) year from this season will set the expectations high for this team making the playoffs.
Steven Adams, Andre Roberson,
Kevin Martin, , DeAndre Liggins
One of these guys has a chance to fill the /Kevin Martin Sixth Man role from the past couple seasons, but which one will it be? The scoring potential people see in Lamb suggests he’d fit better as the backup shooting guard, but Jackson is a much more proven commodity that has improved a lot the past year.
Ryan Gomes vs. III
Perry Jones III is another one of these young guys with potential the Thunder have assembled, but we didn’t even come close to seeing if he was ready to contribute last season. A veteran forward like Ryan Gomes is a lot easier to trust if you’re a coach with championship aspirations.
Steven Adams vs.
That’s probably what this position battle will end up looking like.
returns from his playoff injury and is ready to keep showing us why he’s the best scorer on the planet. But outside of that, they need a third option on offense to be reliable, much like we saw from James Harden. You can’t expect him to be as good as Harden was, but can they get 60 percent of that from either Lamb or Jackson? If that happens, this team will look as strong as ever. If not, questions about that ielder has professed his desire to leave Tottenham for a “new challenge” this summer.Spurs are still hopeful of re-signing the Dane to a new contract, with his current deal set to expire in 2020.Despite signing Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot, Juve boinfamous trade will continue to rule the conversation around this team.
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J.J. Hickson, Eric Maynor, Luke Babbitt, Nolan Smith, Elliot Williams
Mo Williams vs. C.J. McCollum
The fan vote would likely go to C.J. McCollum as the Blazers see if they can go back-to-back with Rookie of the Year winners. But Mo Williams is an established veteran on a team with playoff aspirations this season. Could be easier for Terry Stotts to choose Williams as the secondary ball handler after .
Thomas Robinson vs.
If Robin Lopez isn’t the improved center we saw last season and he bogs down their attack on offense, do the Blazers move Aldridge to center position for stretches and put Thomas Robinson next to him or do they keep Aldridge at the 4 at all times and have Meyers Leonard out there? Robinson is likely the call regardless of Lopez’s impact but the battle is there.
Dorrell Wright vs.
It’s almost a certainty that Dorrell Wright will win the backup wing position behind and , but the long and athletic Victor Claver could steal some minutes if he shows to be a decent 3-and-D option. Wright is the better shooter and a solid defender, but Claver looked improved during his FIBA play and that could carry over to training camp, in theory.
One of the hardest things to do is to transition from a team acquiring assets to a playoff team. For the Portland Trail Blazers, they’ve completed step one of this process and now have to figure out how to make the leap. Part of that will be getting their role players to accept roles and with their incredible depth in the backcourt, egos will have to be checked at the locker room door. We should see them figure out how to fit the pieces of the puzzle together during the preseason.
, , Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, III, , Scott Machado
Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Raja Bell, Jamaal Tinsley, Mo Williams, Earl Watson, DeMarre Carroll, Randy Foye, Kevin Murphy
Brandon Rush vs.
Jazz fans have been waiting to see if Alec Burks can become the answer at shooting guard for the Utah Jazz. If he’s not careful and Brandon Rush is fully recovered from his gruesome knee injury, then Burks may not find himself with consistent minutes this season.
Ian Clark vs. John Lucas III vs. Scott Machado
The backup point guard position behind rookie Trey Burke is wide-open for anybody that wants to take it. John Lucas III is the frontrunner for the position, but Ian Clark’s fantastic summer league performances have a lot of people high on him and everybody’s favorite backup prospect in Scott Machado was just added to the training camp roster.
Andris Biedrins vs. Rudy Gobert
Have you ever seen two giraff… ah, never mind.
I’m not sure if this team can surprise anybody and compete for a playoff spot in the West, but the excitement should be there plenty in the preseason and training camp. We get to see what it looks like when the paint belongs to . We get to see what it looks like when plays extended minutes. We’ll get to see Trey Burke light up defenses early. There are a lot of young components to this core and it’s time to see how they perform on their own.
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O.J. Mayo, Elton Brand, Jared Cunningham, Darren Collison, Chris Kaman, , , Rodrigue Beaubois,
Gal Mekel vs. Shane Larkin vs. Devin Harris
Who wants the backup point guard position? Gal Mekel showed a lot of promise in summer league, Shane Larkin was a mid first round pick, and Devin Harris has history and the best qualifications for the job. But it should be wide-open with Larkin and Harris coming off of injuries from this summer.
vs. Wayne Ellington
The Mavericks aren’t desperate for 3-point shooting, but they’ll need a consistent shooter as a role player this coming season. That battle is likely to come down to Crowder and Ellington, two guys that are capable of pouring it on from downtown. Which player wants to defend to go with the shooting threat?
DeJuan Blair vs.
, Samuel Dalembert, and are three locks for big men in the rotation. Who wants to be the fourth player? Bernard James needs to be consistent and DeJuan Blair needs to pretend to play some defense.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the Dallas backcourt with so many options for small ball and a potential scoring juggernaut between Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon. The problem with that pairing though is you’re not going to get any defense and that could put a lot of pressure on an interior that has little depth available. They have to find their depth early in the preseason process and get comfortable with all of the new parts.
Dwight Howard, Ronnie Brewer, , , , ,
Thomas Robinson, Royce White, James Anderson, Carlos Delfino, Tim Ohlbrect
vs. Aaron Brooks vs. Isaiah Canaan
shouldn’t have much of a problem retaining his starting point guard position, so that leaves the backup battle to three intriguing options. Patrick Beverley emerged in the playoffs as a pest on the court, Aaron Brooks is the most reliable veteran they have, and Isaiah Canaan is a deadly outside shooter that can help this team toss up more 3-pointers.
Donatas Motiejunas vs.
Is going to be the starting power forward or will they go to the winner between Donatas and Jones? Jones is a better option for their up-tempo style of play that was so hectic last season, but Donatas is a much more well-rounded power forward option. Which one fits the best next to Dwight Howard?
Omer Asik vs. the world
Omer Asik may not be happy with the Rockets going out and grabbing Dwight Howard, but Kevin McHale doesn’t care. He wants last year’s starting center to figure out how to complement this year’s starting center. If Asik complains about his lessened role, it could kill chemistry and his trade value.
Things might be awkward for a little while. It’s not always easy to bring in that big piece and get things to streamline right away. However, this is the time for the Rockets to work out all those kinks and figure out how to bring their fast style of play into a zone that Dwight Howard is comfortable playing in. Regardless of how tough it is to fit together at first, excitement should be plentiful in Houston.
, Kosta Koufos, ,
Darrell Arthur, Tony Wroten, Austin Daye, Donte Greene,
Tayshaun Prince has to knock down jumpers this season from midrange and downtown in order to help spread the floor to free up the interior for the Grizzlies’ great big men. If he’s not a reliable safety valve, the outside shooting of Quincy Pondexter will fit nicely into that role at small forward.
Nick Calathes vs.
Bayless will likely be used more as a scorer off the bench than a point guard, but the options in the backcourt are a little limited. is likely to play a lot of minutes this year, but being able to trust Calathes with combo guard duties would be huge for this team.
There is no way Ed Davis and his minutes get screwed this year, right? No Lionel Hollins. No real depth at the power forward position outside ost Christmas period as a Manchester United player.Indeed, once the festive schedule is out of the way, focus will once more turn to the knockout competitions.An FA Cup third- round trip to Wolves and a two-legged League Cup semi-final blockbuster agaf using as a stretch-4. And that giant chip that resides on Davis’ shoulder is still there.
It seems like we should see some veteran get invited to camp or signed during the preseason in order to give this team more depth at point guard. Keyon Dooling and Tony Wroten sort of split the duties last season and just having Calathes out there doesn’t seem to be enough. We should expect them to find one more minimum option out there in order to help round out the potential rotation.
, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Morrow, Greg Stiemsma, , ,
Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez, Terrel Harris, Roger Mason, Jr., , Xavier Henry
Tyreke Evans vs.
I know the plan is to play these guys together but getting them to share the ball properly might be an issue. It wouldn’t shock me if we see these guys butt heads stylistically a bit as they learn to play together and share the ball.
Austin Rivers had an encouraging summer league and said all of the right things about his role this coming season. He still has to prove his historically bad rookie season isn’t what his career is going to be and that he’s a more reliable option in the backcourt than Brian Roberts.
Greg Stiemsma vs. Jeff Withey vs.
The battle for center could be pretty physical with these three. Greg Stiemsma and Jason Smith have been very physical players in their careers and aren’t aomeu has lifted the lid on their signing of Antoine Griezmann.He revealed the details of Griezmann’s move from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona earlier in the summer.”His release clause was paid with a bridge loan of 60 million euros and subtracting paymfraid of knocking guys around. Jeff Withey was a big-time shot blocker at Kansas. All three have big limitations but similar skill sets for being a defensive option next to .
The biggest thing to take from this team’s preseason and training camp is what Anthony Davis looks like. He was impressive as a rookie and shows to be a future franchise player, but you’re already going to want to see what kind of strength he’s built in the offseason and if he’s added anything to his game. The play of the Holiday-Evans-Gordon trio will be important but it’s all about the Brow.
Gary Neal, DeJuan Blair, Tracy McGrady
The battle for the backup point guard position should be between De Colo and Joseph with Joseph probably having the upper hand. De Colo played a lot more minutes during the regular season, but Joseph was the one Gregg Popovich trusted in the playoffs.
Jeff Ayres vs.
Jeff Ayres, the power forward formally known as Jeff Pendergraph, is the type of tough defender Popovich could use next to either or . He doesn’t have nearly the offensive versatility that Diaw provides but the defense and rebounding could make up for it in spurts.
Spurs vs. Game 6 questions
There just isn’t much drama within the construct of what the Spurs are right now as a roster or what they will do in their system with the players they have. The only thing still staring them in the face is giving up a seemingly insurmountable lead at the end of regulation in Game 6 against the Miami Heat. People will still ask them about that failure until we get some real basketball to talk about.
Robotic answers. An offense being finely tuned. A defensive system being checked regularly with all options. And another thoughtfully paced march through preseason and the next 82 games before the playoffs begin.