Each NBA Team's Weakest Position Heading into Training Camp

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2012

Each NBA Team's Weakest Position Heading into Training Camp

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    The highly-entertaining 2012 NBA offseason is winding down, and teams are solidifying their rosters heading into training camp.

    Every team, including the defending champions, has weaknesses in its lineup.

    Some shortcomings are due to a simple scarcity of talent on the front lines at a particular position, while other positional weaknesses are due to lack of depth.

    One way or another, each franchise must work to compensate for these deficiencies as it pursues the Larry O'Brien trophy.

Washington Wizards: Small Forward

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    Wizards Small Forwards: Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesley, Chris Singleton, Cartier Martin

    Coming off a 20-46 season, the Washington Wizards are a franchise in flux and still in rebuilding mode.

    They have their backcourt of the future in place with John Wall and Bradley Beal, along with a couple of reputable bigs in Nene and Emeka Okafor.

    Unfortunately, the small forward position is stocked with a quartet of mediocre assets. The future might be bright with Jan Vesley and Chris Singleton, but for now, the combination of those two and Trevor Ariza doesn't make for ideal depth at the position.

    Washington's not exactly loaded at the low block, either, but at least they have impact players to start at those spots. The No. 3 slot, on the other hand, is underwhelming.

Utah Jazz: Point Guard

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    Jazz Point Guards: Mo Williams, Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley (FA)

    Who's running this show?

    From the No. 3 through No. 5 slots, the Jazz have the pieces to be a fourth or fifth seed in the Western Conference.

    At the point, however, Utah will be relying on a thin cast of veterans, most notably Mo Williams. Williams is a respectable combo guard who's put up consistent scoring numbers throughout his career, but he's not even close to being one of the better floor generals out west.

    His ball-handling and passing skills aren't bad, but they aren't dynamic enough for him to consistently create for his teammates every night as a starting point guard.

Toronto Raptors: Center

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    Raptors Centers: Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson

    With several of Toronto's post players hitting the free agent market, Jonas Valanciunas is the only true center currently on Toronto's roster.

    The lengthy Lithuanian should turn into a terrific pivot for the Raptors, using his size and soft touch to pile up points in the paint. He has a sharp awareness of his positioning in relation to the basket and has a developing jump shot.

    Despite his upside, the position looks fairly weak for the immediate future because he's so young and there's not much help behind him.

San Antonio Spurs: Center

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    Spurs Centers: Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw (F-C)

    Here we have a similar case of lack of depth at the center position.

    If Tiago Splitter goes down with injury, San Antonio will be stretched thin on the block. Tim Duncan, who's traditionally a power forward, is the only other true low-post scorer and defender.

    That being said, selecting "center" as San Antonio's biggest positional weakness isn't an indictment of Splitter, but rather a commendation of the team's depth at every other position.

    Gregg Popovich's squad could probably use one more tree in the paint, but other than that, it has all the pieces for another deep run (assuming good health).

Sacramento Kings: PF-C

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    Kings PF-C's: DeMarcus Cousins, Chuck Hayes, Thomas Robinson, Jason Thompson, James Johnson

    After returning the young core of the team and having a successful draft, it looks like Sacramento is primed to slowly work their way up the NBA food chain.

    The backcourt is young, but richly talented. Young guns Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Isaiah Thomas, Aaron Brooks and Jimmer Fredette are only getting better.

    In the frontcourt, the Maloofs are blessed with talent, but not enough of it. DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson are the only impact players in the post. In all likelihood, Cousins will start at center and Robinson will challenge Jason Thompson for the starting power forward spot.

    After Cousins and T-Rob, the King's bigs are far from royalty.

Portland Trail Blazers: Center

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    Trail Blazers Centers: Meyers Leonard

    Portland improved via the draft this summer, and they will improve substantially in the standings in 2012-13. They gave LaMarcus Aldridge a low-post counterpart in rookie Meyers Leonard, and Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard will thrive in the open floor.

    Leonard has the potential to be a versatile center and carve out a superb NBA career, but if the only true center on the squad is this untested rookie, then it's clearly the Blazers' weakest position.

    Less than two years ago, Leonard was a seldom-used reserve at Illinois. He made a colossal jump to NCAA stardom in 2011-12, but can he quickly make another big step into the pro game? He'll be counted on for heavy minutes immediately.

Phoenix Suns: Shooting Guard

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    Suns Shooting Guards: Wesley Johnson, Shannon Brown

    Outside shooting won't be an issue for Phoenix this season, with forwards like Michael Beasley, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley firing from all angles.

    Shooting guards? Well, that's another story.

    Wesley Johnson doesn't have the ball-handling skills to create his own opportunities and be a prolific shooting guard. Shannon Brown must continue to improve his mid-range game and scoring touch. Neither of them are sharpshooters from the outside.

    The frontcourt of Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola and Beasley will provide ample scoring, so the shooting guard deficiencies won't be a major issue. Nevertheless, it's a position that could use improvement.

Philadelphia 76ers: Power Forward

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    76ers Power Forwards: Spencer Hawes (F-C), Lavoy Allen, Arnett Moultrie, Thaddeus Young (SF)

    On paper, the Philadelphia 76ers have all the tools to compete in the Eastern Conference and give the upper-echelon teams a challenge.

    That's easier said than done, and forming the optimal rotation will be a tricky task for head coach Doug Collins. How will the new-look frontcourt mesh with the perimeter?

    Center Spencer Hawes will slide over to the power forward position to make room for Andrew Bynum, and he'll do just fine. The crew coming off the bench, however, lack the skills to hold their own against the strongest forwards in the league.

    It shouldn't be a roadblock as long as Collins manages the small forwards and guard corps efficiently.

Orlando Magic: Center

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    Magic Centers: Gustavo Ayon, Nikola Vucevic, Kyle O'Quinn

    The massive Dwight Howard trade left Orlando with a roster full of B-minus and C-plus players incapable of making the franchise a contender.

    Point guard depth is an area of concern for the club, but the fact that the Magic trio of centers has a combined two years of NBA experience is most troubling.

    Even though the Howard trade was an inevitable proceeding, it's still sobering for Orlando fans to see how things can change overnight. What was once the team's strength and identity is now its weakest spot on the floor.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Center

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    Thunder Centers: Kendrick Perkins

    Depth-wise, small forward is technically the Thunder's worst position. But Kevin Durant is in the prime of his career and plays nearly 40 minutes per game, so it's not a red flag.

    Center is the weakest position from a starter and bench perspective. That's no knock on Kendrick Perkins, who's played in three finals and does an admirable job anchoring the paint for OKC.

    It's just that the Big Four excel at the No. 1 through No. 4 positions (James Harden doesn't start, but he's the best shooting guard on the team). That leaves Perkins out as the weakest link.

    Heading into training camp, the center position is least potent. But if youngsters Cole Aldrich and Hasheem Thabeet develop this year, it could be one of the Thunder's deepest positions heading into 2013 training camp.

New York Knicks: Power Forward

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    Knicks Power Forwards: Amar'e Stoudemire, Kurt Thomas

    In an extremely busy offseason, New York has assembled a robust roster that's deep at every position except for power forward.

    Backing up the injury-prone Amar'e Stoudemire is Kurt Thomas, who will turn 40 before the season-opener. Thomas has made a living as a reserve due to his toughness and mid-range shot, but at this point in his career, he's a huge drop-off from Stoudemire.

    At the guard, swingman and center positions, the Knicks are two or three men deep. At power forward, they're not as fortunate.

New Orleans Hornets: Small Forward

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    Hornets Small Forwards: Al-Farouq Aminu, Hakim Warrick

    The offseason of 2011 delivered change for the worse for New Orleans, but they've quickly changed for the better in the summer of 2012.

    Through the draft, trades and free-agency, the Hornets have upgraded their collection of post players and gave Eric Gordon a backcourt mate in Austin Rivers.

    However, small forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Hakim Warrick lack swingman-type versatility and aren't above-average scorers or stoppers in the NBA. They boast a combined career points-per-game total of 15.3 points.

    New Orleans will move in the right direction this season, but not because of the No. 3 spot.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Point Guard

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    Timberwolves Point Guards: Ricky Rubio (injured), Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea

    Minnesota's strengths are easily identifiable: Kevin Love, Derrick Williams, Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko form a threatening cast of forwards and post players, and Ricky Rubio is a healing young gun.

    But until Rubio comes back from his ACL injury, point guard is the area of mediocrity for the Wolves.

    Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea are proven professionals, but they both have a low ceiling and limited playmaking abilities. Also, neither one is a great defender.

    By the end of the season, the point guard situation will be remedied by Rubio's return, but for now, it's a position being manned by veteran backups.

Milwaukee Bucks: Small Forward

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    Bucks Small Forwards: Mike Dunleavy, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Tobias Harris

    Let's be honest, Milwaukee's starting lineup isn't scaring anyone, despite the dynamic duo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.

    Their assemblage of forwards and centers lacks a strong enough bite to fight the eastern powers. Mike Dunleavy and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will get most of the playing time at small forward, which means the team will be outmatched almost every night at the position on both ends of the court.

    Dunleavy is primarily an offensive threat, while Mbah a Moute's forte is defense. Neither can be counted on to carry their fare share of weight on the other side of the ball.

    Milwaukee was a toss-up between center and small forward, but a lack of potency at the starting spot and a lack of depth led to the selection of small forward as the weakest link.

Miami Heat: Center

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    Heat Centers: Joel Anthony, Dexter Pittman, Justin Hamilton, Chris Bosh (PF-C)

    The worst-kept secret of the 2012 NBA champions is that they're fragile at the center position.

    Unless you consider Chris Bosh a viable option at center, Miami is still without a legitimate threat at the position.

    The Big Three often helped us forget that the Heat centers are woefully inept offensively, and not stellar enough defensively to justify the playing time.

    Erik Spoelstra figured out a way to compensate for the substandard pivot men last spring, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't want an upgrade at the position moving forward.

Memphis Grizzlies: Shooting Guard

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    Grizzlies Shooting Guards: Tony Allen, Wayne Ellington

    Memphis has a stellar starting lineup, so Tony Allen shouldn't be ashamed of being the least of the bunch.

    After all, he does provide the best on-ball defense of anyone on the squad. Unfortunately, his offense is so poor that he fails to match the overall value that the other stars bring to the table.

    Wayne Ellington brings a bit more offense, but it still doesn't boost the shooting guard position out of last place on the Grizzlies' roster. The team simply has a solid starter-backup combination at every other position.

    The loss of O.J. Mayo makes Memphis a little weaker at the No. 2 spot, but they got stronger at the point and at combo guard with the addition of Jerryd Bayless and Tony Wroten.

Los Angeles Lakers: Small Forward

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    Lakers Small Forwards: Ron Artest, Devin Ebanks

    After a glorious offseason that included landing Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, small forward seems to be the only Lakers position not filled by an all-world performer.

    Metta World Peace is declining, but he's still an effective defender, and Devin Ebanks showed glimpses of potential last spring. But they don't hold a candle to the rest of Los Angeles' Hall of Fame-caliber lineup.

    If the four superstars can all get along and figure out a way to coexist, the Lakers will march through the Western Conference and give Miami all it can handle in the NBA Finals.

    World Peace will just be along for the ride, and Mike Brown hopes he won't become a hindrance or distraction.

Los Angeles Clippers: Center

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    Clippers Centers: DeAndre Jordan, Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf

    Los Angeles has serviceable depth at every position, so determining the weakest position on the team comes down to the starting lineup:

    Point Guard: Chris Paul, A+

    Shooting Guard: Jamal Crawford, B+

    Small Forward: Caron Butler, B

    Power Forward: Blake Griffin, A

    Center: DeAndre Jordan, B-

    That's how close it was. Los Angeles' swingmen aren't fantastic, but Jordan's dearth of post moves, shooting touch, and free-throw shooting (career 44 percent from the line) sealed the deal.

Indiana Pacers: Shooting Guard

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    Pacers Shooting Guards: Paul George, Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson

    Although shooting guard is technically the weakest spot for Indiana, it's not an area of concern because they have a well-balanced lineup.

    Paul George is only two years into his career and he's already one of the best defenders in the game. He's drawn some tough matchups as a young guard, but he's been up for the challenge. Offensively, he improved drastically from his rookie to sophomore seasons.

    So why is shooting guard the sorest spot for Indy?

    Lance Stephenson and Orlando Johnson aren't exactly the best backups. At the rest of the positions, the Pacers have players like Tyler Hansbrough, Ian Mahinmi, D.J. Augustin and Gerald Green.

Houston Rockets: Center

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    Rockets Centers: Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas, Sean Williams, Greg Smith

    With Patrick Patterson manning the power forward slot, the Houston Rockets are left with a mediocre center situation.

    Omer Asik, previously a backup center in Chicago, is now a starter in Houston, and rookie Donatas Motiejunas is the backup.

    The team has an army of players after swinging so many trades this offseason, but unfortunately that's the best they can do at center heading into the 2012-13 campaign.

    Asik could grow into the role and be a serviceable pivot man, and Motiejunas has potential, but entering this season, these two present the biggest question marks on the roster.

Golden State Warriors: Small Forward

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    Warriors Small Forwards: Harrison Barnes, Richard Jefferson, Kent Bazemore

    It's more apt to designate "swingman" as Golden State's weakest position, rather than putting the negative spotlight on the small forward position.

    Even though he's a top-10 pick, Harrison Barnes is new to the NBA, and he's not a lock to be a star. Therefore, I gave second-year shooter Klay Thompson the benefit of the doubt and considered shooting guard to be a safer bet as we approach training camp.

    Barnes must refine his ball-handling skills and work on his pump-fakes and turnaround jumpers in order to excel as a forward in the NBA. His ceiling is pretty high, but for now, there's room for loads of improvement.

Detroit Pistons: Power Forward

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    Pistons Power Forwards: Jonas Jerebko, Charlie Villanueva, Kyle Singler

    Detroit doesn't have the deepest team in the east, but it does have some impact performers like Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Greg Monroe and Tayshaun Prince.

    At power forward, though, the Pistons are lackluster.

    The combination of Jonas Jerebko and Charlie Villanueva is vastly inadequate, as the two will combine for 15-16 points per game next season.

    Jerebko doesn't have a particularly lofty ceiling, and Villanueva has mostly been a bust as a pro.

Denver Nuggets: Center

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    Nuggets Centers: Javale McGee, Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos

    General Manager Masai Ujiri has assembled a squad that features evenly-spread talent and depth across all positions, but there's only one Javale McGee.

    He has all the size and athleticism that any NBA player would ever need, but it's often not enough to overcome his poor decision making and limited post game.

    To call the center position weakest position for the Nuggets is to insinuate that they have a glaring weakness in one area, which isn't true. They're solid in every area, and it's just a lack of super-stardom that has them sitting in the middle of the Western Conference.

Dallas Mavericks: Shooting Guard

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    Mavericks Shooting Guards: O.J. Mayo, Dahntay Jones, Dominique Jones, Vince Carter (G-F)

    A rocky offseason for Dallas was salvaged when they brought in Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard O.J. Mayo, who will help their perimeter scoring attack tremendously.

    So why is shooting guard the weakest position on the squad? Look who's behind him. Dahntay and Dominique Jones are non-factors, and Vince Carter will be spending more of his time at small forward.

    In the NBA, teams can get away with not having more than one true center, but they can't get away with a thin line at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots.

    A shortage of scoring pop off the bench could hurt the Mavericks over the course of the season.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Small Forward

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    Cavaliers Small Forwards: Omri Casspi, Kelenna Azubuike, Luke Walton

    Still on the mend from LeBron James' 2010 departure, Cleveland has several holes.

    Are there bright spots? Sure, several of them. Anderson Varejao, Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson will be a handful in the paint, while Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are back-to-back top-five picks.

    At the No. 3 slot, the Cavaliers aren't so blessed. Omri Casspi headlines an unimpressive crew of small forwards that's arguably the worst in the league.

    When Dion Waiters takes a breather, who is going to step up on the wing and make plays? This cast of swingmen won't get the job done. No one is capable of consistently putting pressure on the defense in a variety of ways.

Chicago Bulls: Point Guard

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    Bulls Point Guards: Derrick Rose (injured), Marquis Teague, Kirk Hinrich (combo), Nate Robinson (combo)

    Chicago's shooting guards aren't much to brag about, but the point guard situation is of greater concern at this point. It has the potential to be a bigger weakness throughout the first few months of the season.

    2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose is still far from being fully recovered, so the Bulls' point guard position will be a platoon of Kirk Hinrich, Marquis Teague and Nate Robinson.

    Hinrich is the most fundamentally-suited and experienced man for the job, but he's also the least athletic. Nate Robinson is a wild card (key word "wild"), and Marquis Teague was playing high school hoops a year and half ago.

    Until D-Rose gets back, the floor general will be a tenuous position in Chicago.

Charlotte Bobcats: Power Forward

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    Bobcats Power Forwards: Bismack Biyombo (PF-C), Tyrus Thomas

    When a franchise falls as far as Charlotte did last season, it's naturally going to have more than one weakness heading into the following year, no matter how well it does in the offseason.

    The Bobcats drafted an all-around performer in Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, secured an athletic point guard in Ramon Sessions and landed veterans Brendan Haywood and Ben Gordon.

    Lost in the shuffle was the power forward position, which will be filled by project Bismack Biyombo and one-dimensional Tyrus Thomas.

    Neither player brings advanced skills on the offensive end, although their athleticism lends itself to rim protection on defense and fast-break explosiveness. 

Brooklyn Nets: Small Forward

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    Nets Small Forwards: Gerald Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Tornike Shengelia

    Brooklyn made several bold roster moves this summer, including trading for Joe Johnson and re-signing Brook Lopez and Deron Williams.

    The Nets look set for the future in the paint and on the perimeter. But who's going to bridge the gap between the bigs and the guards?

    Gerald Wallace can defend and rebound well for a small forward, but his suspect ball-handling and subpar shooting make him a one-dimensional small forward.

    His backups are more disconcerting. Jerry Stackhouse and Tornike Shengelia? One is way past his prime, while the other years from reaching it.

Boston Celtics: Center

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    Celtics Centers: Fab Melo, Jason Collins, Chris Wilcox (PF-C)

    Most of the major culprits of the 2008 NBA title are still in Beantown, and Boston did a nice job of replacing Ray Allen with Jason Terry.

    But what about center? The Celtics have been shaky in the middle since Kendrick Perkins was traded in 2011.

    After grabbing Ohio State's Jared Sullinger to solidify the power forward spot, Boston took Syracuse center Fab Melo. Will Melo turn into a reliable big man in the NBA? He has the tools to make it happen.

    For right now, he's a work in progress with limited post footwork and touch. 

Atlanta Hawks: Small Forward

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    Hawks Small Forwards: Kyle Korver, DeShawn Stevenson

    Atlanta has a playoff-worthy roster, and even if Korver and Stevenson don't produce huge numbers this winter, Hawks fans shouldn't panic. Josh Smith has many of the skills of a small forward, and Anthony Morrow and Lou Williams will yield some perimeter scoring.

    Alas, there is still some reason for concern, because Kyle Korver is about as one-dimensional as players get. He's a below-average defender and is no threat to attack the basket.

    Can the team rely on a specialist like Korver to play extended minutes, or will Hawks fans see more of DeShawn Stevenson than they bargained for?

    Follow Daniel on Twitter: @Danielobleacher