NBA Rumors: Updates Around Preseason Depth Chart Battles
With both the trade and free agency rumor mill dying down and rosters set, it's become the time in the NBA preseason where players jostle teammates for minutes within the rotation.
As most coaches eventually settle into an eight- or nine-man rotation, these practices and preseason games can often be the difference between becoming a vital cog and simply a glorified cheerleader watching from the bench.
That means the preseason, while ultimately meaningless to top-tier players, is nearly as important as the regular season to the middle and lower class of the NBA.
With so many of those players jockeying for position, here is a look at all of the latest news on those depth chart battles.
Harrison Barnes Gaining on Brandon Rush for SF Spot?
Selected seventh in the June draft, most expected small forward Harrison Barnes to eventually join the Golden State Warriors' starting lineup.
Nonetheless, with incumbent Brandon Rush, who is coming off a career-best season, back and freshly minted with a new two-year deal, it seemed like Barnes would at least start the 2012-13 campaign on the bench.
Seems battle for SF job is a 2-man race: Brandon Rush v. Harrison Barnes. Sources say Rush has advantage because Rush is clearly the better defender at this point. The starting lineup needs someone who can really make it tough for opposing perimeter stars, and Rush is even better with Andrew Bogut backing him up.
Since that report, Barnes has actually moved into the starting lineup (at least temporarily) to mixed results. The former North Carolina star dropped 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting against Maccabi Haifa, but flailed for just four points when facing an actual NBA team, the Denver Nuggets.
Despite the starts, it seems like Rush is still the present while Barnes continues his status as the future.
Jannero Pargo & Bradley Beal Emerging in Wizards' Backcourt?
After struggling early to create any offensive explosion, Washington Wizards coach Randy Wittman decided to change that by bringing Bradley Beal and Jannero Pargo into the starting lineup, according to the Washington Post's Michael Lee.
Bradley Beal, Martell Webster and Jannero Pargo will start along the perimeter for the Wizards tonight as they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. The trio helped ignite a stagnant offense in the second quarter of the Wizards’ 108-101 loss to the New York Knicks on Thursday and Coach Randy Wittman decided to see if it could stop the team from having so many slow starts.
In the two games since moving into the starting lineup in place of A.J. Price and Jordan Crawford, Pargo has struggled while Beal has continued to thrive.
One on hand, Pargo's struggles are understandable. As a late offseason signing after starting point guard John Wall went down with injury, he hasn't had time to get properly integrated into the offense.
Nonetheless, the fact that Pargo had six turnovers in 16 minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers cannot help his cause.
On the Beal side of things, it should be apparent by now that the rookie is deserving of a starting spot. Crawford is a solid player, but has always been best served as a bench option, and Beal could become an All-Star down the line.
Jared Sullinger Carving out a Niche in Boston?
Though he plummeted on draft night to the 21st pick, no one has ever doubted Jared Sullinger's ability. The risk has been and seemingly always will be with the power forward's health and how long he'll be able to stay effective in the NBA.
However, by taking a risk, the Celtics put themselves in a position to reap the massive reward if Sullinger panned out. Thus far, things are working out swimmingly as point guard Rajon Rondo has effusively praised the former Ohio State star.
Via Scott Souza of the Metrowest Daily News:
He’s probably the smartest rookie we’ve had since I’ve been here. He’s very intelligent. He has a high basketball IQ. He’s very unselfish. He doesn’t need a play called for him. He’s getting his points off the little dirty work.
With Rondo slowly taking over the role as the team's No. 1 option, that can only mean good things going forward.
Sullinger is already averaging 10.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in the preseason. Considering his ostensibly growing relationship with Rondo and the fact there should be some rotation minutes available in the frontcourt, Sullinger should be able to find a more expansive role than expected this season.
Hawks Down to Three Players for Final Two Roster Spots?
While it doesn't make the biggest headlines, often the most voracious position battles are between players simply vying for a roster spot.
That's certainly the case with the Atlanta Hawks, who have three unique players vying for two possible roster spots. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore, those final spots will be filled by some combination of James Anderson, Damion James and Anthony Tolliver.
The Hawks’ final two roster spots – should the team elect to keep the 15-player limit –appears to be a three-man battle between James Anderson, Damion James and Anthony Tolliver.
The Hawks have a training camp roster of 17 players after the release of forward/center Keith Benson and guard Isma’il Muhammad Thursday. With 13 guaranteed contracts, a maximum of two sports remain.
The number of players on the roster has changed down to 16 since the release of Cardell Johnson (via NBA.com) on Wednesday, but the candidates stay the same.
From a logical perspective, it seems like Tolliver should be a lock. He's a defense-minded big man (a need for Atlanta) and was highly sought after on the bargain-bin free-agent market.
That means it's all-or-nothing for Anderson and James in the coming days. At one point, both were highly touted prospects, but both have flailed in their young careers.
With the 2012-13 NBA season about to begin, it could be the end of the line for the player cut.
Orlando Magic's Roster Still in Massive Flux?
When you gut a roster and trade away a franchise star like the Orlando Magic did this offseason, there tends to be an adjustment period.
Unsurprisingly, that certainly seemed to be the case when coach Jacque Vaughn addressed the media after Tuesday's preseason loss against the Detroit Pistons.
Here is what the first-year coach said, via the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins:
I am completely honest when I say I have not filled out my top 10, top nine, top 12 guys on the team yet. And guys should take advantage of that, and tonight was a night that guys should’ve taken advantage of that opportunity.
With a long season almost certainly coming in Orlando, it's likely that Vaughn will have plenty of time to sort out his rotation.