Predicting the Best NBA Rookie: Veteran Training Camp Battles, Post-Draft

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IJune 29, 2012

Predicting the Best NBA Rookie: Veteran Training Camp Battles, Post-Draft

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    After months of analysis and predictions about which players would go to which NBA teams, the NBA draft is all over.

    And what fun it was.

    It was anything but predictable, as mock drafts were blown up almost immediately.

    In the end, the selections set up for some very interesting player position battles between incoming rookies and established veterans.

    This list takes a closer look at the best potential rookie-veteran training camp battles.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Dion Waiters vs. Daniel Gibson

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    Daniel Gibson only technically started seven games for the Cavs last season, but he was certainly important for the team early in the season. Gibson played 26.2 minutes per game, averaging 7.5 points and 2.9 boards per game as a point/shooting guard combo player, and he actually played even better in 2010-11.

    After tearing a tendon in his ankle and missing the second half of the season, Gibson will have to win his spot back in training camp—which he'll be ready for according to reports (h/t Foxsports.com).

    He'll be contending against incoming rookie Dion Waiters at the 2-spot for Cleveland.

    Waiters was a solid shooter for Syracuse, hitting 36.3 percent of his shots from behind the arc and scoring 12.6 per game. He's an explosive scorer who will have to improve his consistency on his jump shot and his effort on the defensive end.

    If he does, he could take Gibson's job.

Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes vs. Dorell Wright

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    Wright's been essential in Golden State the last two years, starting all 143 games he played in for the Warriors.

    Two seasons ago he enjoyed his best year as a professional, at 16.4 points and 5.3 boards per, and his 10.3 and 4.6 last year was second-best for the eight-year NBA baller.

    But with the Warriors selecting Harrison Barnes No. 7 overall, Wright's starting spot isn't safe.

    Barnes excels at scoring from the perimeter and at the rim with putbacks off offensive rebounds, scoring 17.1 points per for North Carolina last year.

    Besides being able to knock down pull-up and catch-and-shoot jumpers—even in the clutch—Barnes has a great work ethic and plays solid defense due to his 6'8” size and 6'11” wingspan.

    He's got to bulk up this offseason, and if he does, Wright better watch out.

Toronto Raptors: Terrence Ross vs. DeMar DeRozan

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    DeRozan has grown into the starting shooting guard in Toronto, performing at a high level the last two years.

    He's scored 17 points with 3.5 rebounds and two assists per contest on average the last two seasons and looks to only have more room to grow.

    But Thursday night, the Raptors selected Terrence Ross out of Washington.

    Ross has that explosive three-point shooting the Raptors were lacking last season, hitting 37.1 percent during the season and 40.5 percent in the NIT, both much higher marks than DeRozan averages.

    He's highly athletic with the potential to be explosive on the offensive end, scoring 16.4 per, and will look to do the same at the NBA level.

    Ross has got to get into the gym before the season starts, as he stands 6'6”, 190 pounds out of college.

New Orleans Hornets: Austin Rivers vs. Marco Belinelli

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    Belinelli's been big for the Hornets the last two years, starting 124 games and averaging 11.1 points and 2.3 boards per.

    He's a three-point sharpshooter, knocking down 39.3 percent over his career, and he's only getting better after being in the league for five seasons.

    Austin Rivers will look to take his job, though, starting in training camp.

    Austin Rivers, the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers, has all the swagger and confidence of an NBA player, and he just completed his freshman year at Duke.

    Rivers is a sharpshooter in his own right, making 36.5 percent of shots from downtown, while he's also a great ball-handler and can create off the dribble as well.

    Simply stated, he's a polished offensive player and will improve greatly the next few years.

    Where he must improve is his decision making, and developing the basketball IQ could be a slow process or it could be expedited once he reaches the professional level.

    Either way, he will compete for the starting shooting guard spot in New Orleans.

Philadelphia 76ers: Maurice Harkless vs. Andre Iguodala

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    Iguodala is a star in Philly and it will be difficult to unseat him.

    Iggy's started each and every one of his 615 games in Philly since they drafted him in 2004, putting 15.3 points, 5.8 boards and 4.9 assists on the board per game.

    In recent years, his scoring has diminished a bit, opening the door for younger talent to possibly get playing time.

    Maurice Harkless, who the 76ers took at No. 15, could be that player.

    Harkless is an amazing athlete, just as Iguodala was years ago, and although he's a good scorer, it's not his biggest strength.

    Harkless is a great rebounder, with 8.6 per for St. John's last year, and runs the floor well for a man who's 6'9” tall.

    Weighing in at only 190 pounds, he's got to get stronger in the offseason, and he needs to work on his shooting and ball-handling as well to become elite.

    If he does, he'll be the starting small forward in Philadelphia, one day.

     

    Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist. You can follow Rich on Facebook and/or Twitter.