Everyone needs the preseason.
On paper, the NBA elite made up of the Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat look ready to compete for a title right now. Despite the fact that each boasts a starting lineup that makes dominance seem inevitable, all still need the preseason to work out the kinks in their rotations.
Here are the battles for minutes that’ll begin in the preseason and carry over to the 2012-2013 campaign.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
Backup Point Guard: Steve Blake vs. Chris Duhon
Steve Nash is still an elite point guard, but at 38 years old, he can’t average 35 minutes over an 82-game season anymore. Whoever is Nash’s backup will play a major role.
And given that Blake and Duhon are both mediocre talents at this point in their careers, it’ll be interesting to see which spot-up shooter is less of a liability. If either proves that he’s capable of consistently hitting a wide-open three in the preseason, it’d be a huge boost for the bench.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
Frontcourt Priority: Veterans vs. Young Guns
Kendrick Perkins is the Thunder’s starting center and Nick Collison is the first big off the bench.
Perkins is a top-notch post defender, but he struggled mightily in the playoffs last season and finished second-to-last in the league in turnover ratio for the second straight year. And while Collison is the plus-minus king, he’ll turn 32 years old this month.
Attempting to take their playing time will be third-year center Cole Aldrich and rookie freak athlete Perry Jones. If Aldrich and Jones prove that they’re pro-ready this preseason, OKC could opt to steal a handful of Perkins and Collison’s minutes to feed the players with the higher ceiling.
1. Miami Heat
Backcourt Priority: Ray Allen vs. Shane Battier vs. Mario Chalmers
Whose minutes will be reduced the most?
John Hollinger of ESPN expects the Heat to begin 2012 with a starting lineup of Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. But considering that James complained about the wear and tear his body took at the power forward position this past postseason, it’s difficult to imagine him not spending plenty of time on the perimeter at the three as well.
And on that note, James at the three would create a logjam on the perimeter with him, Wade, Chalmers, Battier, Norris Cole and the newly acquired Allen (and Mike Miller and James Jones). Wade’s minutes won’t be touched, Cole’s (and Miller and Jones’) will vanish, but who gets priority among Chalmers, Battier and Allen?
It isn’t as simple as playing small the entire season. Someone will be forced to take a major cut in PT.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.