NBA Training Camp Battles Part 2

September 30, 2009

by Pete Toal… Here is part two of my series of Training Camp Battles: Starting Lineups Edition.

Minnesota T-Wolves:

Starting SF:  Ryan Gomes V.S. Corey Brewer

Gomes is an all around versatile forward who is able to post up and rebound while also being able to step out and hit the three if needed. Brewer is coming off a major knee injury and will look to establish his place in the lineup and will look to provide instant defense while also displaying his improved jump shot.

Winner: Ryan Gomes

Starting PG: Ramon Sessions V.S. Jonny Flynn

Sessions signed after a long battle of wondering where he would end up, but there is no denying his ability to pass the ball and fill up the lane quickly and draw the foul. Flynn is looking to prove that he is the right choice at point guard after a strong showing during summer league play, he can fill up the scoreboard in a hurry and also make the extra pass when needed.

Winner: Ramon Sessions

New Jersey Nets:

Starting SG: Chris Douglas Roberts V.S Courtney Lee

Lee comes over from Orlando where he was a huge contributor last season during his rookie year and will look to build on those numbers as he looks to become more aggressive on the offense end. Douglas Roberts is looking to prove that he is capable of stepping up big during his 2nd season as he has improved his outside shot and will also look to be more aggressive on offense.

Winner: Courtney Lee

Starting SF: Bobby Simmons V.S. Jarvis Hayes

Simmons showed last year that he was finally healthy and showed increased range on his jump shot while providing solid defense, Hayes played the 6th man role well and really helped the flow of the offense off the bench but will look to gain increased minutes this season by continuing to show strong hustle and offensive prowess.

Winner: Bobby Simmons

New Orleans Hornets:

Starting SF: Peja Stojakovic V.S. James Posey and Julian Wright

Stojakovic is a deadly outside shooter but overall the 82 game schedule and wear and tear is getting to his body rendering him ineffective during the playoffs. Posey is more suited as the 6th man who hustles off the bench, while Julian Wright is able to change the game with strong hustle and defense while gaining easy buckets running the floor.

Winner: Julian Wright (noted that he will start in order to rest Stojakovic’s back throughout the season, but Stojakovic will play more minutes)

Starting SG: Morris Peterson V.S. Devin Brown and Marcus Thornton

Peterson is looking to regain his form from his days in Toronto and will be a veteran presence again on this young hornets team. Devin Brown is a versatile guard who is more of a defender than an offensive weapon but can score when needed. Thornton is an exceptional shooter who is only a rookie and will look to gain substantial minutes as a spark off the bench early.

Winner: Morris Peterson

New York Knicks:

Starting Center: Darko Milicic V.S. Eddy Curry

Curry is said to be in great shape this season and looks to regain his mark as the starting center while being a dominating force in the lost post, Milicic is coming into a system where he finally will be able to display his unique blend of shooting and potential that he was drafted for in 2003.

Winner: Eddy Curry

Starting SG: Wilson Chandler V.S. Larry Hughes

Chandler is coming off a great season where he was a focal point later in the season on offense and will look to continue his rise as a leader this season. Hughes is a veteran presence who has the ability to score and defend but is more suited as a backup than a starter.

Winner: Wilson Chandler

Starting SF: Danilo Gallinari V.S. Al Harrington

Gallinari will look to prove that despite injury last season, he is an exceptional shooter and will look to develop the large potential that follows him this season. Harrington is more of a PF but with David Lee and Eddy Curry back in the fold he may be asked to slide over to SF as he is a legitimate 3pt shooter and will look to gain major minutes again this season.

Winner: Danilo Gallinari

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Starting SG: James Harden V.S. Thabo Sefolosha

Harden comes in a herald rookie who will be asked to play within himself and do many little things to help the team win while playing strong defense. Sefolosha has a year experience as a spot starter and displays ruthless hustle on the defensive side of the ball, but must improve his offense if he plans to regain his role this season.

Winner: James Harden

Orlando Magic:

Starting SF: Matt Barnes V.S. Mickael Pietrus

Barnes comes in as a free agent signing and will supply the team with unlimited hustle and a spark on defense while offering plenty on the offensive end as well. Pietrus is coming off a season where he was injured but played well during the playoffs and will look to use that motivation to capture the starting job.

Winner: Matt Barnes

Phoenix Suns:

Starting Center: Robin Lopez V.S. Channing Frye

Lopez is a project center who is full of hustle and defense, who often does not look to score around the basket. Frye is a spot up big man who can fill it up on offense but outside of blocks does not offer much on defense. It will come down to who is a better fit beside Amare down low.

Winner: Robin Lopez

Portland Trailblazers:

Starting PG: Steve Blake V.S. Andre Miller

Blake is last season’s starter and a very good shooter who did a fine job facilitating the offense last year. Miller is a pass first point guard who will look to gain the starting role after signing in the offseason, he is more of a penetrator on offense and has stated he views himself as the starter.

Winner: Andre Miller

Starting SF: Nicolas Batum V.S. Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw

Batum is coming off a very good rookie season and is also playing well in the euro tournament this off season and will look to regain his starting role with tough defense and an improved aggressiveness. Webster is coming off a lost season with injury, but offers instant offense and athleticism and will be hungry for a rotation spot. Outlaw is in a contract year and will look for major minutes again despite being a prime trade candidate at the deadline, he will play minutes at PF as well, using his hustle and athleticism to out hustle defenders.

Winner: Nicolas Batum (Webster will start by January in my opinion)

Sacramento Kings:

Starting PG: Tyreke Evans V.S. Beno Udrih and Sergio Rodriguez

Evans is by no means a pass first point guard and is better slated at SG, but with Kevin Martin there he will be auditioned at PG. Udrih is coming off a down season and will look to establish his role as the starter once again. Rodriguez is a promising player who will look to gain many rotation minutes with his strong passing skills.

Winner: Tyreke Evans(although Udrih may share minutes with Evans)

Toronto Raptors:

Starting SG: Marco Belinelli V.S. DeMar DeRozan

Belinelli is a sharp shooter from outside and will look to use those skills as a way to gain the starting role but must first learn to play defense as well as he provides offense. DeRozan is the much hyped rookie who is able to provide highlight reel athleticism and solid defensive play, while continuing to develop his offense.

Winner: DeMar DeRozan (will play around 18 minutes per game)

Washington Wizards:

Starting SG: Mike Miller V.S. Randy Foye and Deshawn Stevenson

Mike Miller and Randy Foye come in after a trade with the T-Wolves, both provide instant offense but little on the defensive end. Miller is a spot up shooter while Foye is more of a slasher who is a combo guard and could easily slide over to PG when Arenas is out. Stevenson is the returning starter and will look to provide his trademark defense and an improve offensive arsenal in order to win the job in camp.

Winner: Randy Foye

Next in the series I will go team by team and look at each reserve position battle and pick my winner of the training camp battle. So Stay Tuned!!!!!

Also feel free to suggest any position battles in which you see a training camp battle happening…..

NBA Training Camp Battles, Part 1

September 29, 2009

by Pete Toal… Here is a look at Pt. 1 in a two-part series that I call NBA Training Camp Battles.

It is where I look at each team and analyze the battles for rotation spots at certain positions and give my opinion on who will win the job.

Pt. 1 will look at each team’s starting lineups and give you analysis on who will battle for each open position in training camp.

Starting Lineup Battles

The long-awaited segment of Training Camp Battles is here. I will go through teams in the league that will have a flurry of rotation battles as the season approaches.

Atlanta Hawks

Starting PG: Jamal Crawford vs. Mike Bibby

This should be interesting as Jamal Crawford is the big addition to the Hawks this season and most likely will back up the shooting guard spot while playing spot minutes at the point, but one has to wonder if the Hawks don’t view Crawford as a way to reduce Mike Bibby’s minutes during the season in order to keep him fresh during the playoffs. Crawford played point guard in Golden State and New York and can score in bunches but, as said earlier, is better suited as a scorer; it will be fun to watch the battle in camp.

Winner: Mike Bibby

Charlotte Bobcats

Starting PG: Raymond Felton vs. D.J. Augustin

Raymond Felton is still without a contract and will likely sign the club’s one year offer and bolt next season in free agency, but he faces stiff competition in second-year guard D.J. Augustin for the starting point guard spot.

Felton brings more experience and better passing skills, but no one can deny that Augustin is a speedster who can fill up the lane in a hurry and get quick points. The question is can Augustin develop more of a pass first role in order to win the job over Felton?

Winner: Raymond Felton

Chicago Bulls

Starting Center: Brad Miller vs. Joakim Noah

Brad Miller is more experienced and now with more time in the system can look to challenge for the starting center spot with last years starter Joakim Noah. Noah possesses many skills on the defensive end and has endless hustle but is limited on offense, while Miller is more of a offense first type center who is healthy after injuries hit last season early on.

Head coach Vinny Del Negro will have to ask his self if he needs more scoring up front with Miller alongside Tyrus Thomas and Luol Deng or will he rely on the other starters to supply offense and let Noah start and do all the dirty work.

Winner: Joakim Noah

Cleveland Cavaliers

Starting SG: Anthony Parker vs. Delonte West

Returning starter Delonte West will battle the newly signed Anthony Parker for the starting 2-guard spot and it should be a tough battle as West knows the system and performed well there last season supplying solid offense alongside Mo Williams but also combined with him to be one of the smaller back courts in the league. Parker brings leadership and tough defense along with very good outside shooting and is a bigger guard to pair with the smaller Williams.

Winner: Delonte West

Detroit Pistons

Starting Center: Chris Wilcox vs. Kwame Brown

Kwame Brown will look to secure his starting center spot over newly acquired Chris Wilcox as he will be asked to rebound and hustle while not having to score much. Wilcox brings a legitimate scoring threat to the post and a strong rebounding prowess that will be needed upfront but will often be needed off the bench with a young core in place.

Winner: Kwame Brown

Golden State Warriors

Starting SG: Stephen Curry vs. Kelenna Azubuike and Anthony Morrow

Stephen Curry faces a uphill battle to start as a rookie despite being a favorite of coach Don Nelson and having a tremendous shooting stroke. Kelenna Azubuike is also a system favorite who displayed solid defense and showed he could score as well last season. Anthony Morrow is a sharp shooter who is better suited for major offense off the bench and will look to lock up the sixth man role.

Winner: Kelenna Azubuike

Houston Rockets

Starting C: Chuck Hayes vs. David Andersen

David Andersen is newly signed out of Europe after his rights were traded from the Hawks, he is more of a spot up big man than a low post threat but will look to prove his worth in the league as the fill in for Yao Ming, but will be challenged by undersized veteran Chuck Hayes who is a tremendous rebounder for his size and supplies hustle and solid defense and may be better suited sliding over to natural PF spot than center but won’t give up without a fight.

Winner: David Andersen

Los Angeles Clippers

Starting C: Marcus Camby vs. Chris Kaman

Marcus Camby is in a contract year and is again healthy and will look to supply game changing blocks and again be a the top of the league in rebounding but will face stiff competition from Chris Kaman, who is also a good rebounder and one who provides solid low post skills as well. The question will be who fits better next to top pick Blake Griffin, as both players will play big minutes this season.

Winner: Marcus Camby

Memphis Grizzlies

Starting SG: O.J. Mayo vs. Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson will look to fight for the starting role occupied by last season’s starter at shooting guard, O.J. Mayo, who will look to develop after a very good rookie campaign. Iverson is better suited as a player who can come off the bench and mentor the young players while still playing a bunch and maintaining his role as a scorer in bunches.

Winner: O.J. Mayo

Miami Heat

Starting SF: James Jones vs. Quentin Richardson and Michael Beasley

James Jones had wrist surgery in the offseason but is one of the best three-point threats in the game and will use that to his advantage against newly acquired Quentin Richardson, who is another long-distance threat, and second-year player Michael Beasley, who is better suited for power forward.

Richardson has more experience but is more of a shooting guard; he will face competition there as well, though, since Dwyane Wade will own the bulk of minutes there. Jones is a natural shooter who can score but must learn to defend as well. Beasley will look to rebound from his offseason woes and pick up where he left off last season after a solid rookie year.

Winner: James Jones

Milwaukee Bucks

Starting SF: Joe Alexander vs. Carlos Delfino and Luc Mbah a Moute

Joe Alexander will look to prove he belongs in the league after a poor rookie season and a so-so summer league; he will battle newly signed Carlos Delfino and returning second-year standout Luc Mbah a Moute for the starting role.

Alexander is more of a small forward than the other two but must gain confidence and become more aggressive on offense and learn to play defense before he is handed the role. Delfino is coming back to the league and provides solid offense and playmaking, both areas which the bucks need help and is best suited as a role player. Mbah a Moute is all defense and limited offense which will hamper his chances at starting unless Coach Skiles employs a defense first lineup.

Winner: Carlos Delfino

Starting PF: Ersan Ilyasova vs. Hakim Warrick

Ersan Ilyasova is returning to the bucks after two seasons away overseas and will provide scoring as a spot-up shooter who can occasionally mix it up down low, plus he is an improving rebounder. Hakim Warrick brings freakish athleticism and solid rebounding and solid starting experience. Neither player provides much on the defensive side of the ball but will look to fight it out in camp as the starter, although both will receive plenty of minutes throughout the year.

Winner: Hakim Warrick

Starting PG: Brandon Jennings vs. Luke Ridnour

Brandon Jennings is the much hyped pass-first rookie who will look to supplant Luke Ridnour as the starter, he will face the challenge of changing coach Skiles mind about playing rookies and also gain the teams confidence by playing tough defense while involving the offense with his savvy passing skills. Ridnour is also a pass-first guard but is one who struggles on defense, but does have a year in the system as a starter.

Winner: Luke Ridnour

Stayed tuned tomorrow for Pt. 2 of the Starting Lineup Positions edition of Training Camp Battles…

Toronto Raptors (09-10) Season Outlook

September 1, 2009

by Pete Toal… The Raptors return Jay Triano as Head Coach (25-40 as interim head coach) and will look to run and score in bunches. The Raptors will look to return to the top in the Eastern Conference after injuries struck the team drastically last season.

Bryan Colangelo made a controversial trade for Hedo Turkoglu after he first signed with Portland as a free agent (later deciding he didn’t fit with them) and signed free agent guard Jarrett Jack to bolster the defense and scoring while providing insurance in case of injury to Calderon.

Colangelo also acquired Evans and Wright through trade in order to provide toughness and improve the defense, he also drafted DeRozan to bring athleticism and hustle with loads of potential on both offense and defense.

The Raptors will look to improve both Bosh and Bargnani’s numbers with the up-tempo style on offense and will look for the addition of Turkoglu to do wonders for the offense with his playmaking and scoring. Colangelo has also built a solid core that should with a successful season make Bosh think twice about leaving next offseason in free agency.

Question marks for the team are: Will Turkoglu provide positive results and be a better choice than when they traded for Jermaine O’Neal?

Another question mark will be if the Raptors free agent acquisition of Jack will sit well with Calderon as he sets in to remain healthy and play big minutes at point guard.

Lastly, will the Raptors be able to turn potential into contributors (Johnson, DeRozan, Belinelli and Bargnani) and become one of the better perimeter teams in the league and a top four team in the east?

Starting Lineup

PG—Jose Calderon—Jose spent last season as the full time starter at point guard, he posted career highs in almost every statistical category—points per game (12.8), assists per game (8.9), minutes per game (34.3), steals (1.1), and rebounds per game (2.9)

He also led the league in free throw percentage at 98 percent. Jose will look to share duties this season with Jarrett Jack in the backcourt as they will both look to play a up-tempo style while constantly involving the offense and playing tough on defense.

SG—DeMar DeRozan—DeMar was drafted ninth overall after one season at USC by the Raptors based on the freakish potential he exhibits on offense. DeMar comes in with question marks surrounding his shooting touch, but with the ability to dunk at will and run the floor efficiently and effectively rebound should be given a strong chance to show what he can do in a solid 16-20 minutes of real game action with the starting unit.

SF—Hedo Turkoglu—The Raptors prize transaction this season, Turkoglu will provide the Raptors with a tremendous playmaker (4.9 assists per game last season) who will become the immediate second option on offense. Hedo is a threat on the perimeter (38 percent from three-point land in his career) while also being able to post up smaller defensive players and score on the easy turn around shot.

He will be relied on less to score as the team has many scoring options, but will be looked upon to provide solid play making skills as he is capable of playing point forward when needed.

PF—Chris Bosh—The four time All-Star will look to improve on last season’s career scoring year (22 points per game) and return the Raptors to playoff form. Bosh added 20 pounds of muscle to his lanky frame in the offseason in order to help him with post position and also to endure the rigorous test of the season.

Bosh is a solid defensive player (1.0 blocks per game) and rebounder (10.0 per game) who will thrive off of a playmaker such as Turkoglu and the addition of former Georgia Tech teammate Jarrett Jack.

C—Andrea Bargnani—Andrea is a outstanding perimeter shooter (40 percent last season on three-pointers) for his size (7’0”) and the former No. 1 overall pick will look to expand his game this season after posting career high’s in points per game (15.4) and rebounds per game (5.3) in 31.4 minutes per game.

Andrea has also improved his defense each season (1.2 blocks per game last season) and will also look to partner with countryman and new teammate Marco Belinelli to improve the Raptors energizing outside shooting attack.

Bench

G—Marco Belinelli—Marco is a fantastic outside shooter (39.7 percent from three last year) who was stuck in Golden State where he was never really given a consistent chance to show he could do more than spot up. Marco will provide loads of offense off the bench and will look to play big minutes and work on his playmaking skills as posted career highs in scoring and passing last season (9.0 points per game, 2.1 assists per game).

G—Jarrett Jack—Jack spent last season in Indiana and will look to continue his role as a tough defender and a spark plug off the bench as a sixth man. Jack is a score-first point guard (13.1 points per game last season) and must improve his assists per game (4.1) for the Raptors to be an effective second unit. Jack will along with Evans, Nesterovic and Wright provide one of the better defensive second units in the league.

G—Quincy Douby—Douby is a fantastic outside shooter (44 percent on three-pointers last season) and will look to win the third-string point guard job in training camp over Banks. Douby will provide solid offensive impact in the limited minutes he receives but will not offer much on defense.

G—Marcus Banks—Marcus is a mixed bag, he can excel in one game and then look lost the next, although he is a point guard, he fails often to make good passes and lacks consistent shooting. Banks will again be a candidate for limited minutes and although he is a tough defender is not a part of the teams plan.

G—Sonny Weems—Weems did not play much last season, instead was relegated to the D-League for seasoning. Weems has the ability to play both guard positions and small forward with is height (6’6”).While he is a terrific scorer and capable rebounder, he lacks defensive skills and will find it hard to win minutes off the bench with such a deep team.

F—Antoine Wright—Antoine is a terrific defender who excels as the perfect role player who will score in transition but counts more on his defense to make a impact. Antoine started last season for Dallas and will look to battle Belinelli and DeRozan for the starting two-guard spot but will most likely fit as a game changing defender off the bench along with Jack and Evans.

F—Reggie Evans—Evans comes over from the 76ers for Jason Kapono and immediately bolsters the Raptors rebounding and toughness off the bench. Evans will not look to score, but will fill the defense with hustle and plays that do not show up on the stat sheet while setting a veteran example for his teammates. Evans will battle Johnson for minutes off the bench at power forward.

F—Amir Johnson—Amir will get his first chance to be a energy and hustle player off the bench in more than spot minutes after being drafted out of high school by Detroit in 2005. Amir does not bring much on offense beyond hustle and highlight dunks, hence he will be the glue guy off the bench who produces blocks and rebounds as well as being versatile enough to cover all three front court positions.

C—Patrick O’Bryant—Patrick never lived up to the hype in Golden State and slightly improved last season with the Raptors after a unsuccessful season with Boston the year before. Patrick is very limited on offense and part of it is due to being in Nellie’s (Golden State) up-tempo style as a rookie as he is more of a half court post-up center. Patrick’s raw ability will look to thrive in Toronto as he is being looked at to become the backup center but must battle Nesterovic for minutes in camp.

C—Rasho Nesterovic—Rasho started last season for the Pacers and will provide solid rebounding and toughness off the bench this season in his return to the team. Rasho will help anchor the teams limited defense while providing  the Raptors with a big man to combat the better centers in the east or at the very least provide six fouls against them.

Season Record: 45-37 Overall and fifth in the Eastern Conference