There are a few NBA veterans this upcoming season that should be shaking in their boots coming draft night, because in this year's draft there are plenty of prospects that could steal their starting spot from day one. But there are also plenty of NBA veterans that should rest easy, at least for the time being. It appears that their starting gig will be safe for at least the next season.
Of course, that still all depends on who they draft. But based on where I think players will be drafted, let's discuss five NBA vets that won't need to hand over the reigns just yet. They may have to in the future, but for now, they can consider their jobs safe.
Damian Lillard is project to be drafted by the Raptors with their No. 8 overall pick, according to ESPN's most recent mock draft by Chad Ford. But at this point, Jose Calderon is still suiting up for Toronto at the point guard spot.
Jose Calderon is probably one of the most underrated point guards in the league, often putting up double figures in both points and assists, but because he plays in Toronto, we don't hear about him much. If Damian Lillard ends up in Toronto (which I don't think will happen), I don't foresee him starting right off the bat. If Jose gets shopped around early, I expect the Raptors to hand Lillard the reins early. Whatever team Lillard lands on will definitely see a superstar emerge from him eventually. You can count on that.
But, next year at least, I don't think Jose has much to worry about. He may be on a different team in the fall (Utah perhaps?), but if not, he still has plenty left in the tank, and Lillard will need a year to learn under the wing of the mighty Calderon.
Nikola Pekovic was a revelation for the Minnesota Timberwolves this past season and will be pretty much guaranteed a starting spot on the Wolves' starting lineup this upcoming season.
According to Ford, Syracuse' Fab Melo is expected to be picked by the Timberwolves with the 18th overall pick. While I don't really understand this pick (they already have Darko Milicic as well), don't expect Melo to immediately challenge Nikola's spot in the starting lineup.
I don't envision Melo being anything more than a solid role player off the bench, and he could definitely provide some valuable minutes if Pekovic goes down again with an injury. Other than that, expect Pekovic to be one of the reasons Minnesota makes the playoffs this next year. He and Kevin Love will form an imposing and formidable duo in the frontcourt.
Wesley Matthews started the majority of the season for the Portland Trailblazers and will be looked upon to play a larger role on the team going forward, especially now that Jamal Crawford appears to be headed elsewhere.
But with the 11th pick of the NBA draft, Portland is expected to take Jeremy Lamb out of Connecticut. Wesley Matthews should rest easy. Trust me.
Lamb was expected to take over the UConn team once Kemba Walker left for the NBA, but he wasn't nearly as effective as many hoped he would be. Often seeming disinterested and not willing to put in the extra work, Lamb has seen his stock fall dramatically ever since the college season ended.
Players like him don't make it very far in the NBA. You have to have that heart, that will to win, that desire to succeed or else you'll get nowhere as a player. Ask Eddy Curry.
For the time being, expect Lamb to ride the pine early on in his NBA career. Hopefully he'll figure it out before he's out of the league.
Mike Conley Jr. was downright unstoppable in the Memphis Grizzlies' first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. Unfortunately, the rest of the team wasn't able to pick up the slack, resulting in a first-round exit for the upstart Memphis team.
With the 25th pick of the 2012 NBA draft, many seem to think that Memphis will go with another point guard—Tony Wroten out of Washington. A backup for Mike Conley is a definite need for the Grizzlies, but don't expect any Isiah Thomas-type stories coming out of Memphis.
Conley has been dominant for the Grizzlies recently, and their core of Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and OJ Mayo has been nearly unbeatable. Don't expect some young rookie to crack that rotation unless he plays at an elite level. Wroten is only the fourth best point guard in the draft. It won't happen with him.
It's becoming more and more likely that Eric Gordon will suit up in New Orleans for the 2012-2013 season, especially now that the Hornets possess the No. 1 overall pick. With Anthony Davis down low alongside Emeka Okafor and Eric Gordon manning the scoring alongside Trevor Ariza, New Orleans could look, and play, mighty different in November 2012.
But the Hornets also currently hold the 10th overall pick in the NBA draft, which many people expect them to trade. If they don't trade it, Chad Ford has them selecting the young Austin Rivers out of Duke, a guy I think will most certainly be a bust.
He may be a valuable commodity off the bench for this team, but if New Orleans can manage to convince Gordon to stick around, they won't be relegating him to the bench anytime soon. Austin Rivers will just have to wait his turn.
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