Tuesday, September 20, 2005

30 Reasons to Get Fired Up For the 2005-06 NBA Season - #22

Houston's backcourt rotation is one of the cloudier situations to be figured out in training camp next month.

#22 - Training Camp Battles

It's a topic that often goes overlooked in the NBA, but is of frequent discussion in both the MLB and especially the NFL. Perhaps it's because Spring Training and NFL Training Camps take precedence over the NBA's exhibition season, or maybe it's due to the fact that there's much less change over in the NBA compared to the other two leagues. Whichever the case, there appears to be a lot of intruiging inter-team battles for starting positions in store for us this October. Let's take a closer look at five worth keeping a keen eye on...

Lakers Starting Point Guard - Aaron McKie vs Sasha Vujacic

This certainly isn't the prettiest of training camp battles, but it's still going to draw a lot of attention because we're talking about the starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. The free agent signee McKie holds the edge right now because of his experience, defense, and shooting touch-- all staples for the triangle offense.However, McKie will be 33 next month and is coming off his worst season ever (16.4 MPG, 2.2 PPG) in which he struggled to cope with lingering knee issues. The upstart Vujacic showed flashes of promise at the end of last season, but still has a long way to go before he's capable of running a complex offense. Look for McKie to assume the starting spot early on, but if the Lakers struggle, for Vujacic to settle in to the role later in the season.

Cavaliers Starting Power Forward - Drew Gooden vs Donyell Marshall

Most people don't expect the newly acquired Marshall to wrestle the starting spot away from Drew Gooden, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the former Raptor push for serious minutes during training camp. Both of Gooden's most apparent strengths, offensive rebounding and scoring in transition, Marshall does just as good, if not better. Couple that with the fact that Marshall is also a supreme defender next to Gooden, and that he can extend defenses with his deft shooting touch, and I think playing Marshall 30-35 minutes a night is a no-brainer. Whether you're on the floor to start games really doesn't make much of a difference as long as you're out there to end games, and I think this is a concept Donyell Marshall understands. He might not take over Gooden's starting spot, but he will steal a significant chunk of his minutes-- enough so that he'll be a major contender for 6th Man of the Year.

Bulls Starting Small Forward - Andres Nocioni vs Luol Deng

The Bulls have had one of the stangest offseasons of any team, and aside from the Sonics, are the one team still with a significant amount of work left on their hands. While Jim Paxson has been quiet and deliberate with his maneuvering, it's beginning to look as though the Bulls will bring back every essential player from last season's squad-- this could make for some captivating training camp competitions. Most people just assume that because last season's stud rookies Ben Gordon and Luol Deng are a year older, that they'll both be inserted into the starting lineup and play larger roles for the team. Not so fast. Gordon appears to be a fixture as the Bulls' 6th Man, while Deng is going to have to outplay Nocioni in October to convince Scott Skiles that he deserves the starting role. Skiles loves the grittiness and unselfish play Nocioni brings to the lineup, but Deng is only going to get better with experience and might just prove to be too talented to start on the bench.

Mavs Starting 2 Guard - Doug Christie vs Jerry Stackhouse vs Marquis Daniels

Anyone who thinks the loss of Michael Finley is really going to hurt the Mavericks this season is fooling themselves. Before Cuban even brought in Doug Christie, Dallas was already well-equipped to sufficiently dole out Finley's minutes to Stackhouse and Daniels. Now with Christie on board, the situation gets more interesting. Stackhouse went public last week about his desire to claim the starting spot after he heard talk that Christie was arriving in Dallas to fill Finley's spot in the lineup. "I'm not conceding anything", said Stack. Meanwhile, Marquis Daniels is not to be forgotten. The 3rd year guard battled injuries all of last season and is expected to come back this fall in tip-top shape.

Miami Heat Starting Power Forward - Udonis Haslem vs Antoine Walker

With this particular case, I'm not sure it's going to come down to who's a better fit in the starting lineup, but who's more aptly suited to come off the bench. The answer seems easy-- 'Toine, but for the amount of money Miami is paying him (6 years, $53 million), they might feel relegated to hand over the starting role to him. Haslem seems like a more natural fit-- he worked well alongside Shaq last year, he's willing to do the dirty work, and he accepts his role as the guy expected to clean up everyone else's scraps. The Heat don't necessarily need more offensive firepower in their lineup and would be better served allowing Antoine to do his thing (clang 3-pointers, throw up airballs while being double-teamed) with either Shaq or D-Wade resting on the bench. One thing is for sure, 'Toine has as much pride as anyone in the league, and he won't simply accept a 6th man role without a fight.

Other Battles to Watch:

Cavaliers Starting Point Guard
- Damon Jones vs Eric Snow

Celtics Point Guard Rotation - Marcus Banks vs Dan Dickau (if he lands with the Celts) vs Delonte West vs Orien Greene vs Will Bynum

Grizzlies Starting Shooting Guard - Eddie Jones vs Dahntay Jones

Warriors Starting Small Forward - Mike Dunleavy vs Mickael Pietrus

Blazers Starting Small Forward - Darius Miles vs Travis Outlaw

Kings Shooting Guard Rotation - Bonzi Wells vs Kevin Martin vs Francisco Garcia

Rockets Guard Rotation - Bob Sura vs Mike James vs Derek Anderson vs David Wesley vs Jon Barry vs Luther Head

Knicks Power Forward Rotation - Channing Frye vs Mike Sweetney vs Malik Rose vs Maurice Taylor vs David Lee

Bucks Starting Point Guard - T.J. Ford vs Maurice Williams

Suns Starting Shooting Guard - Raja Bell vs Jim Jackson vs Boris Diaw


At 7:02 PM, Blogger Samone said...

Maybe I'm just confused but I thought Damon Jones and Eric Snow were on the Cavs not the Heat.

At 7:38 PM, Blogger The Cavalier said...

The Heat play in Milwaukee. Am I the only one who head this?

At 8:48 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

Paul was on a booze cruise last night, give him a break

At 12:09 AM, Blogger asdf said...

I think you are right about snow and jones samone. in regards to the battle in chi town, i think it'd be beneficiary to bring nocioni off the bench. he brings a ton of energy and hustle on those nights when the bulls might start off slow.

At 3:04 AM, Blogger Paul Benedict said...

Oh, man. Like Anthony said, I was on a booze cruise last night. And I went to the 'From the Big Apple to the Big Easy' benefit concert at MSG tonight, so excuse me for any idiotic typos and errors. I guess that also explains why I'm responding to these comments at 3:03 A.M. with my head about to explode. Thanks as always for the comments.

At 5:33 PM, Anonymous Joe said...

I think Phil Jackson is going to use the PG who can convert the most long distance shots. I think in Kobe and Odom the Lakers have two players who like to have the ball and could easily play as a "point forward", somewhat like Pippen did as a Bull. If Aaron McKie shoots the ball like he did in season 03/04 he will be their PG I believe.

At 7:35 PM, Anonymous TTG said...

Good insight. Thing with the Lakers is, they now realize Vujacic is a bust and McKie is too old and good for 20 minutes max. Phil loves Luke Walton (for reasons unbeknownst to me) and Devean George for his athleticism. Those two will share the fifth spot on the floor after Mihm, Brown, Odom, and Bryant. He also likes big dudes who can shoot, so Brian Cook will get minutes. Unless they successfully trade Jumaine Jones, as has been rumored, he'll play a lot too. Doesn't leave a ton of minutes for the McKie/Vujacic tandem.

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Joe said...

I think that McKie wasn't brought to the Lakers for nothing. Jackson will get him in better shape this off season, he will be their starting pg and playing 25-30 mpg.

He's not quick and doesn't need to be when playing the triangle, not good ballhandling but Kobe can handle the ball better and he will, McKie has experience, he's a good passer, and very good shooter. He played 28 mpg in season 03/04. He can do that again.

His job as a Laker is to convert shots, make solid passes. He could be a valuable asset.

Jackson likes Walton for his excellent passing and understanding. George has defense, experience and athletism.

I think McKie will start, with Vujacic hardly playing at all. Jackson doesn't rotate player's position a lot but Kobe can handle the ball. Its just the same as Jackson did with the Bulls. Playing PG who could shoot (BJ Armstrong, Paxson, Kerr etc. and Fisher with the Lakers) but MJ and Pippen handled the ball and had the job of PGs.

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I think you meant John, not Jim Paxson. ;)

At 12:48 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Sorry Paul, I just noticed your comment. Didn't mean to nitpick. As for Deng vs. Noce, Deng was the starter until going out with the wrist injury. Supposedly he grew an inch this summer and improved his skills with his left hand while the right one was healing. I'm pretty sure he'll get the starting spot back. Noce is a great option off the bench though.


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